Religious language is meaningless, Discuss

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Caryl Williams 13E

“Religious language is meaningless.”    


Religious language is the communication of ideas about God, faith, belief and practice. The problem with religious language is that individuals have different interpretations of these concepts and will result in a difference in the use of everyday language. For some it is deemed meaningless because it is equivocal and the meaning is unclear. Yet, for some philosophers, religious language is meaningful and serves a purpose.  

Some deem religious language meaningless as there is no way of verifying the language. Others see the language from a different perspective to religious believers, and this allows non believers to have an open mind about religious language. There are several different types of language related to religion; cognitive and non cognitive, synthetic and analytical, univocal and equivocal. Synthetic, non cognitive and equivocal apply to religious language as everyone has a different opinion on things and we can gain a better knowledge to say what God is not rather than saying he is everything. Religious language is meaningful because we don’t know how to falsify it. John Hick mentioned religious language was seen as believing in something and experiencing something.

The logical positivists formulated the verification principle and they were concerned with the meaning of words and the way we use them in the context of God. They believe God’s talk was meaningless as they are metaphysical statements. They believed for a statement to be deemed meaningful we had to be able to verify the truth hood through our empirical senses.

A. J. Ayer, who was a supporter of the Verification Principle, said a proposition is meaningful if it is known how to prove it true or false. If such verification cannot take place, they become meaningless. He stated there were two types of the verification principle, the strong form and the weak form. The weak verification principle is knowing how to verify a statement. It would become meaningful if you know how to do this. The strong form of the verification principle was being able to prove something true or false through sense experience. Ayer also said to reject analytical statements would be illogical because you cannot try to disprove something that is actually true as you would be contradicting yourself.

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Many philosophers challenged the verification principle and rejected it. A main critic was John Hick. He said the principle itself is not meaningful because it cannot be verified using the verification principle. Hick argued when we die the truth of God’s existence will be verified either true or false. This is known as the eschatological verification. It can only be verified the day we die.

Anthony Flew put forward the falsification principle. Falsification means to prove something true or false. The falsification principle accepts a statement is verifiable if it is known what empirical evidence could count against it ...

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