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Critically assess the claim that religious language is meaningless.

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Introduction

´╗┐Critically assess the claim that religious language is meaningless. The verification principle is a key argument for whether religious language is meaningful or not. Verification means a sentence can only be meaningful if some sense experience e.g. see, touch, and hear can count in its favour. This principle aimed to distinguish between statements that were factually significant and those which were not factually significant. If a statement could be verified then it was significant, or meaningful, but if not it was meaningless. Since religious statements, such as, god loves you, could not meet this principle of verification, they could not, on this view, have a truth value and were therefore meaningless. The verification principle treats philosophy like a science and argues that a sentence can only be meaningful if some sense experience can count in its favour. On this basis most religious statements cannot be accepted because they refer to things beyond sense experience. Even if it was claimed that God is experienced by miracles that is not meaningful because it is the miracle that is experienced and not god. Ayer argues that the language we use in the material world is informative- it gives us information. ...read more.

Middle

Strong verification is when there is no doubt that a statement is meaningful, as it can be conclusively verified from our sense experience. Weak verification applies to those statements that could not be verified in practice, such as a scientific laws (for example, all metals expand when heated) or a general assumption (such as, all leopards have spots), such statements are still meaningful because we know what sense experience would count towards verifying them, experience renders them probable. Nevertheless, for logical positivists, to speak about anything over and above the physical world, is, they claim, ruled out by the verification principle. To talk about God existing may look on the face of it like a factual assertion but God cannot be seen, touched, or even smelt. When people talk about God doing this or that, what they in fact observe is not God it all, some physical occurrence or event involving human beings. A major strength of the verification principle is that we often use it in everyday life, if someone says its raining outside then we automatically use our senses to verify that statement. Also, on the face of it, logical positivism is right to point out that for many people talk about God can be puzzling. ...read more.

Conclusion

Similarly, you can argue that although statements such as ?there is life after death? and ?the bible is the word of God? cannot be verified they still have meaning for believers. They may not be able to prove them via the senses but the statements are still meaningful to them. Why should religious statements be treated like other statements? By their very nature religious statements are special because they refer to another sphere of existence, on this view the verification principle can only be meaningfully applied to material objects. John Hick has argued that religious statements can be verified eschatologically (at the end of time). God?s existence could be verified by each of us after we die and go to heaven. The verification principle argues that religious language is meaningless, however with all its weaknesses it is difficult to say that it can be applied to religious statements and suggests that religious language is in fact meaningful. But this is difficult to accept for non-believers as for them, a lot of religious statements cannot be verified and so are meaningless. Perhaps a better way to conclude whether religious language is meaningful or not is to approach it in the way that Wittgenstein does in that religious language is meaningful to believers but less so to non-believers. ...read more.

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