Discuss the suggestion that it is pointless to analyse religious experiences


The point is to show the examiner you understand the requirements of the question. You do this by briefly showing you are able to recognise that there are differing viewpoints which are supported by different scholars.

Religious experiences are generally, although not always, personal and individual – they rely on one person’s testimony and there is no empirical proof that they are genuine experiences of God.  This applies equally to corporate religious experiences.  Scholars like Freud would regard all evidence of religious experiences as neuroses. However, William James would argue that it is perfectly possible to analyse them and provided a framework for doing so, while the Logical Positivists argued that all religious experiences are meaningless and therefore analysis would not only be pointless but irrelevant.

In the main body of the essay you develop the points you made in the introduction, always, always keeping the question in mind and referring back to it in each paragraph to show the relevance of those points. Give a point of view and then show how a different scholar or angle can challenge it – say whether you think the challenges are strong or weak.


The Logical Positivists believed that statements are only meaningful if they can be verified (proved true or false) either analytically or synthetically –either the truth or falsity of the statement is clear in its own terms or you would know what to do in order to verify it.  Since religious statements could not be verified in either way they were meaningless. Therefore they would have said it was indeed pointless to analyse accounts of religious experiences. However, since huge numbers of religious people do use religious language and describe religious experiences it can be argued that they must convey meaning, and thus that they are capable of analysis.

William James would have supported this view since he did believe it was entirely possible to analyse such accounts …..

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