Is there a common core of religious experience?

Ward, Keith (2005) Is there a common core of religious experience? In: Alister Hardy Memorial Lecture, 24th November 2004, Friends' Meeting House, Oxford.

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Abstract

In recent years many scholars in the study of religions have emphasised the differences between religions to such an extent that doubt has even been cast on whether it is useful to use the term 'religion' any more. It has been said that religious terms can only be properly understood within the context of their own 'language games', and that it is misleading to try to take them out of context and compare them with terms from very different traditions. If that is so, to speak of a 'common core' of religious experience, underlying the obvious differences between religious doctrines, is a doomed enterprise. It is such an enterprise upon which I wish to embark. I wish to argue that there is something common to a great many major religious traditions, a range of core experiences that are recognisably similar beneath many doctrinal differences. I will set out my argument by considering two religious traditions that seem almost as different as possible. I will try to establish that, beneath the doctrinal oppositions, there are clear convergences of experience. So I hope this test case will provide a pattern for similar studies with regard to many other apparently diverse traditions too. Religions are different, and they often disagree on doctrines. But it is possible to identify a set of religious experiences that are very similar across diverse religious traditions, and this may help to support the thesis that there are deep and important convergences underlying the obvious disagreements between religions. The two traditions I will consider are Vedanta and Christianity, both extremely complex and themselves containing many diverse strands. Nevertheless, they form identifiable religious traditions that are very often treated as in almost complete opposition. I will ask to what extent this is so, and to what extent they may rather be treated as complementary, or even as different ways of construing basically similar religious experiences and attitudes.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information: Series: RERC Second Series Occasional Papers;44.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Experience (Religion)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre > Second Series of Occasional Papers
Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2014 09:23
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2016 15:52
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/457

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