I haven’t managed to get the whole essay done, but you don’t need that.
What I have done is to try to generate (as a sort of model/example) an opening that is confident and clearly targeted on the specific question set, but/and that leads the reader to the more pre-prepared material that will follow.
Anyway… here you are:
“To experience God is to know that He exists”. Discuss.
Genuine experience of any object is impossible unless that object exists. I cannot, for example, be experiencing a table if no table exists. In the absence of any table, I may, of course, have a hallucination in which I seem to experience a table; but to have such a hallucination is not to experience a table, but merely to have an experience as of a table.
All of the above is knowable a priori; for it is just an aspect of our concept of experiencing something. It is a conceptual truth that we cannot experience a thing that does not exist.
It is also possible to experience an object without knowing that one is doing so. For example, a person may suspect, falsely, that what is in fact her/his experience of table is really only a hallucination. (Perhaps the person has deliberately taken some hallucinogenic drug and is therefore inclined to believe that experiences which are in fact perceptual experiences of real objects are mere hallucinations.) The short answer to the question is therefore that to experience God is not necessarily to know that He exists. What is additionally required is that the subject of the experience should know that (s)he is experiencing God.
The real difficulty faced by the proponent of any argument for the existence of God that is based on ‘religious experience’ is that of showing that any seeming experience of God is really that.
The best reason for thinking that an apparent experience of God is what it seems would be one based on the similarity of such experience to ordinary perceptual experiences. There is good reason for thinking that perceptual experiences are in general veridical: they are the products of sense organs that have been developed, by processes of natural selection, precisely so as to tend to yield true beliefs about our environment.
This general reliability of perception underlies the plausibility of the so-called ‘principle of credulity’, according to which we should in general take our apparently perceptual experiences to be veridical. And that principle is in turn at the heart of the claim that experience as of God may be taken to yield knowledge that He exists. So the key question is whether and to what extent it is appropriate to apply this principle in the cases of apparent experience of God. And the central issue, in answering that question, becomes that of determining whether the experiences in question are to be likened to genuinely perceptual experiences.
[Then plough on into the prepared meat of the essay, beginning, roughly:]
Claims to have experienced God are of various different kinds. These range from claims to have had direct perceptual experience of God (e.g. by hearing Him (as, for example, it is reported that various biblical figures were addressed by Him)), through claims to have experienced other (natural) objects as having a divine significance of some kind, dreams, vaguer ineffable experiences of certain kinds, and mere numinous feelings.
[Then the rest: analysing the merits of these as claimants to being treated as perceptual in character... then positive challenges to the claim that the experiences in question are perceptual...]