Many atheists consider religious claims of the existence of a supernatural reality as unproven due to a lack of evidence. A central concept in the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses.
But what if the supernatural reality religion describes can't be proven empirically?
Religious people have said that the objective study of religion leaves out the very part of religion that counts - it analyses the externals but misses the core of the matter. Science may offer descriptions of religion that are meticulously accurate in external details, but in those descriptions people of faith don't recognise the substance of that in which they are involved.
Here is a quote from "The Meaning and End of Religion" by Wilfred Cantwell Smith
"This argument would have it that in some degree all religions deal with what is holy, transcendent, infinite; and that therefore the attempt to subject them to rational analysis, empirical investigation, comparison and human interpretation is not only impious but vain. By accusations of irreverence modern man, particularly scientific man, is not much deterred: he will scrutinise all that is before him, sacrosanct or no. But before the other half of this charge he must, if honest, pause: that his scrutiny of holy things is vitiated by the inherent inappropriateness of the method to the material"
Is the empirical scientific method capable of finding the essential substance religion deals with or is the method itself inherently flawed in the study of super-natural claims?