Argument from personal experience

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The argument from personal experience is an argument for God's existence on the basis of a personal religious experience. This argument is particularly common among certain branches of Christianity where things like possession and levitating have been reported.

An example: "Jesus appeared to me in a vision, thus I know the doctrine of Christianity is true."


  • Personal experiences are subjective, and are not evidence available to every person.
  • Personal experiences are used by believers of all religions, as well as believers in the paranormal and ghosts. It is thus impossible to tell if any religion is valid based on personal experience.
  • We know the the mechanics of the mind can mislead, and the intentional stance often leads people to see agency when there is none.
  • People never report these types of personal revelations from deities that they have had little or no previous cultural exposure to, for example a Muslim in Saudi Arabia reporting an encounter with the Holy Spirit, or a Mormon reporting a vision of Vishnu. This suggests that one's memory of such experiences is heavily influenced by one's pre-existing belief system.
  • Arguments from personal experience ask that others accept these argument on inferior grounds than the person giving their personal account. One person being told that another person was given a vision of "God and Heaven" is significantly weaker evidence than firsthand visions of "God and Heaven".
  • Daniel Dennett has argued that one key to the success of arguments from personal experience is that they are personal. One could invent a story and present it as a factual account of their personal experience and one must necessarily point out that the teller of this personal experience is delusional, a liar, or allow the story to stand as evidence. As generally speaking calling somebody a delusional liar is considered bad form, the stories are often accepted as true.

v · d Arguments for the existence of god
Anthropic arguments   Anthropic principle · Natural-law argument
Arguments for belief   Pascal's Wager · Argument from faith · Just hit your knees
Christological arguments   Argument from scriptural miracles · Would someone die for a lie? · Liar, Lunatic or Lord
Cosmological arguments   Argument from aesthetic experience · Argument from contingency · Cosmological argument · Fine-tuning argument · Kalam · Leibniz cosmological argument · Principle of sufficient reason · Unmoved mover · Why is there something rather than nothing?
Majority arguments   Argument from admired religious scientists
Moral arguments   Argument from justice · Divine command theory
Ontological argument   Argument from degree · Argument from desire · Origin of the idea of God
Dogmatic arguments   Argument from divine sense · Argument from uniqueness
Teleological arguments   Argument from design · Banana argument · 747 Junkyard argument · Laminin argument · Argument from natural disasters
Testimonial arguments   Argument from observed miracles · Personal experience · Argument from consciousness · Emotional pleas · Efficacy of prayer
Transcendental arguments   God created numbers · Argument from the meaning of life
Scriptural arguments   Scriptural inerrancy · Scriptural scientific foreknowledge · Scriptural codes
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