Dialogues in Philosophy and Religion Annual Lecture by Helen De Cruz featuring Helen De Cruz, Department of Philosophy, VU University Amsterdam, with commentary by Charity Anderson, Baylor University.
Under what circumstances does religious experience provide support for religious belief? Philosophers of religion have commonly taken ordinary perception as a relevant model for the epistemology of religious experiences, in particular mystical perception. For instance, Alston uses the term “doxastic practices” for forms of mystical perception analogous to ordinary sense perception. However, recent cognitive psychological and anthropological research shows that many instances of religious experience are more akin to skilled perception (as displayed by scientists and art connoisseurs) than they are to ordinary perception. In order to gauge the epistemology of religious experience, a closer examination of such skilled practices is in order. I discuss two cases—the practices of Evangelical Christians and of Latina Catholics—and examine how their religious practices are conducive to religious experiences. I argue that these practices exhibit some features characteristic of epistemically virtuous skills; however, the fact that religious skilled perception can support a very wide variety of religious experiences presents a challenge.