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"All Religious Language is meaningless"

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Introduction

"All Religious Language is meaningless" Religious language poses a distinct and complicated problem for philosophers. At our disposal we only have human language and transient terms, which we use as tools to describe the world around us. How then do we use these tools, which relate to the temporary and spatial world, to describe that which is beyond the limits of space and time? Believers have strived for ways to talk meaningfully about God and many theories have been put forward to attempt at enabling us to discuss the transcendent, yet we are often at risk of anthropomorphising God with statements such as 'God Loves me' and even if we do not attribute human description to God there are still problems, the most prominent is whether any thing we say can actually be meaningful. We can look at language, especially religious language, from one of two stand points; the realist and the anti-realist. The realist understands truth as verification transcendent; a statement can only be held to be true if it corresponds to an actual reality, it does not matter if the statement cannot be verified as true, as long as it corresponds to the state of affairs it is referring to. ...read more.

Middle

It is non cognitive and its purpose is not to make factual statements, but to be used within a religious context and environment. Centuries before the works of the Vienna circle and of Flew, Thomas Aquinas sought to making religious language meaningful with the use of analogy. He first rejected univocal, equivocal and the Via Negativa. Univocal language is meaningless as it employs the same term in a completely different sense; it is ambiguous and therefore tells us nothing about God. The use of equivocal language, which is still often used by some believers, also fails to give us any real understanding of God, the words used to describe God's attributes share the same meaning when applied human beings and so we begin to anthropomorphise God. Thus we return to the original problem of using, transient language to discuss the transcendent. An answer to this could lie in the use of the Via Negative, or negative way, in which case we cannot say what god is but we can say what God isn't. Yet this isn't very useful and certainly is unhelpful if we aim to make any real meaningful statements about God, we may be able to state that God is not x, y or Z but we are still no closer to understand what god is. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite numerous solutions religious language still remains a difficult issue. All theories propounded to enable us to talk about God meaningfully essentially all come back to the same problem- interpretation. Human language is subjective whereas that which we wish to discuss is an objective reality. Religious believers do not deny that the problem exists and have strived to find solutions, whether or not God exists is unrelated; the point is that we need a common basis in which to discuss the ultimate human idea. However this is not so easy to achieve, the only thing we have at hand to discuss God is human language, there is nothing else we can use beyond this. But as Wittgenstein puts it, we are misunderstanding religious believers; they are playing a different language game to that of science, with different rules. And so religious language may not be meaningful in the same way a scientific fact meaningful and true, but, as the anti realist would state, this is irrelevant. In terms of the community the statement affects their lifestyle and beliefs and so is in every way significant. The meaning of any given statement is contained in the way it is used and its context, we may not ever reach a fully agreed, universal way, to discuss God, yet that does not inhibit a religious statement being personally meaningful for the individual. ...read more.

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