Religious Language

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  • Created on: 13-05-13 21:13
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RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE
Religious language is the communication of ideas about God, faith, belief and practice. The
problem with the communication of these ideas is that behind the words used are concepts.
Individuals have different understandings of the concepts and this might result in differences
of interpretation and meaning.
The problem of religious language
Some assert that religious language is COGNITIVE and therefore something about God may
be know
The problem with this is that religious statements are not about objective facts that
can be proved true or false.
Therefore, the argument put forward is that if we are unable to validate religious
statements based on objective facts that are open to cognition then religious
language is considered to be meaningless.
How God is to be described when nothing is known about God
Is it right to refer to a supreme being using human terminology such as `He' and
`Him'?
It is felt that the use of language in this way ANTHROPOMORPHISES (attributes
human form or personality to a God) or objectifies God.
Using words in this way appears to limit God's majesty or power in some way.
This has led to religious believed seeking way in which they can talking about God in a
meaningful way and some non-believers seeking to demonstrate why religious language is
meaningless.
THE LOGICAL POSITIVISTS
The fundamental principle was that only those propositions which can be verified empirically
or logically have meaning.
`The meaning of a proposition is the method of verification' (Moritz Schlik (1882 ­ 1936))
They only accepted two forms of verifiable language
Analytic propositions ­ by which knowledge is gained through logical reasoning.
Propositions that are true by definition.
Synthetic propositions ­ by which knowledge could be proved true or false by some
form of sense experience or experiment.

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The verification principle
This theory was developed by the logical positivists.
The principle is stating that we know the meaning of a statement if we know the conditions
under which the statement is true or false.
The logical positivists regarded religious language as meaningless because it is used to
consider things beyond human experience and this leads to problems in understanding the
meaning of any assertions made. Problems arise because:
Any discussion relating to God and belief cannot be based on common ground.…read more

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THE FALSIFICATION PRINCIPLE
This is another response to the verification principle developed by Antony Flew in the 1950s.
Flew applied the falsification principle to religious language, and concluded that religious
statements are meaningless.
He argued that this was because there is nothing which can count against religious
statements.
Religious statements can neither be proved true nor false, because religious believers
do not accept any evidence to count against their beliefs.…read more

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This resulted in philosophers who did not accept the verification principle seeking to prove
that religious language does have meaning even if it cannot be verified or falsified.
RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE AS MEANINGFUL
Many philosophers argued that religious statements are NOT COGNITIVE and it is wrong to
treat them as such. (Religious statements do not contain facts that could be proved true or
false.
There are statements that we cannot falsify, and yet we understand the meaning behind the
statement.…read more

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HICKS CHALLENGE TO THE VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE
Hick said that there are some propositions that cannot be verified by everyone, or to be
verified it is sometimes necessary to take action.
For example to verify a belief in life after death one first has to die.…read more

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RELGIOUS RESPONSES TO THE VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE
A major criticism of the verification principle is that it is developed by non-believers, who
have failed to grasp the meaning and purpose of religious language for the believer. Often
the believer is trying to convey revelations which are ineffable and therefore are aware that
the meaning is not conveyed using verifiable language.…read more

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IAN RAMSEY'S MODEL AND QUALIFIERS
Ian Ramsey developed the theory of analogy in the 20th century.
A model is an analogy to help us express something about God
For example, if we speak of `God as good', the model is the word `good'.…read more

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ARGUMENTS SUPPORTED RELIGIOUS LANGUGAE AS SYMBOLIC
J.R. Randall sees religious language as a human activity which makes a special
contribution to human culture. It is able to stir strong emotion and to bind
communities together through a common response to their faith.
Carl Gustav Jung argues that several basic ARCHETYPES (image generators) emerge
as we delve into the realms of the unconscious.…read more

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VIEWS OF THE USE OF RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE AS MYTH
Many philosophers have rejected the use of myth as meaningful because of the outdated
concepts that are often contained within them.
Scholars such as Rudolph Bultman argued that the language and imagery of the Gospel
accounts were outdated and it is only by rejecting this mythological language that the true
message of the New Testament can be found.…read more

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Non-believers might be able to understand religious language better than believer.
This is because non-believers have an objective view of the use of religious language.
RELIGIOUS LANGUGAE AS MORAL DISCOURSE
R.B. Braithwaite pointed out that the error of the verification and falsification principles has
been to treat religious language as cognitive language when in fact it is non-cognitive.
Religious language is moral discourse because it is about the way in which people should
behave towards each other.…read more

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