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Scientific Explanations of Religious Experience and Their Implications for Belief

Patrick Richmond
S & CB 22 (1)
April 2010

Abstract

Leading contemporary philosophers of religion such as Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga have appealed to some sort of religious experience in defending the propriety of religious belief. Recently, best-selling atheistic books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell have popularised new scientific explanations that suggest that religious belief is a natural product of evolution. In this paper, I sketch the views of Plantinga and Swinburne, outline some of the recent scientific explanations of religious experience and belief and discuss their possible implications for the propriety of religious belief.

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