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Critically Assess the Claim That the Religious Believer Dies a Death of a Thousand Qualifications

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Introduction

?Critically Assess the Claim That the Religious Believer Dies a Death of a Thousand Qualifications? The claim that ?the religious believer dies the death of a thousand qualifications? is one made by British Philosopher Anthony Flew. The meaning behind this statement is essentially that through constant qualification and amendment of the claim ?God?s exists?, by religious believers, it ultimately becomes meaningless because there is no way to falsify it. Flew illustrates his view by making use of John Wisdom?s parable of the gardener. He uses this parable and adapts it, to make an attack on the meaningfulness of religious language. In Flew?s adaption of the parable, two people spend some days in a garden. Unlike in Wisdom?s version of the parable, Flew?s sceptic (who doesn?t see any evidence of a gardener) views the claim that there is a gardener as a hypothesis that needs to be tested. Since they don?t see the gardener visiting the garden, the sceptic reckons there probably isn?t a gardener. However, his companion suggests that the gardener must come at night instead. So the two of the stay up all night keeping watch, however no gardener is spotted. Again the sceptic takes this as proof there isn?t a gardener. However, the believer then suggests that the gardener must be invisible. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore in that view, the religious believer does die the death of a thousand qualifications. Richard Hare responds to Flew by producing a parable of his own, known as the parable of the paranoid student. Similar to the person who believes in the invisible gardener, the paranoid student cannot imagine being incorrect. His claim ?my teachers are out to get me? is unfalsifiable. This view that the student keeps is called a blik. A blik is a belief that cannot be changed no matter what. However, Hare argues that this belief still remains meaningful, because it has an actual influence on how the student views the world, how he forms other beliefs, and how he lives his life. Although the statement operates very importantly within the students belief system, so that it cannot be falsified, and all the evidence is warped to fit with this belief; the very centrality of the belief means it?s very meaningful. This view is opposite to what Flew argued. Hence, Hare is arguing that it is possible to agree to a statement that is not falsifiable but which is none the less meaningful. According to Hare we all share some qualities with the paranoid student because most of us have fundamental beliefs or principles on which we base our actions on, and which we will never give up. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mitchell?s parable reflects the doubt that religious believers sometimes have when they encounter particular sufferings in life. Mitchell believes that these ?trials of faith? show that Flew is wrong to think that believers simply deny all evidence that goes against their beliefs. I think that Mitchell?s response is quite good because it seems the better example as to how life would be like for a religious person. There will be moments of doubts, but the idea of religion is to keep the faith. Mitchell?s parable also shows that belief can be falsifiable because of the facts that you might have doubts and hence there will be circumstances where you might give up your belief. In conclusion, I don?t think that religious believers ?die a death of a thousand qualifications? because although religious believers might make many qualifications to the statement ?God exists?, according to Flew the believers are essentially disregarding the evidence. However, I think Mitchell?s view is better because the idea that religious believers sometimes do have doubts is more plausible, but they normally still keep the faith. Yet, this also shows that the belief is falsifiable because you can imagine circumstances where you would give up your belief. Therefore since it isn?t completely unfalsifiable and unverifiable, then it isn?t meaningless either. ...read more.

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