Notes from the A2 conference – Religious Language

What is it?

The language of worship and dogma

Description of god such as omnibenevolent

Descriptions of beliefs such as Second Coming, Judgment Day

Descriptions of concepts such as Sin, Grace, Atonement, Salvation



Human vocabulary inadequate

God removed from our experience so how do we talk sensibly about Him?

Is it meaningless to try?


Two types of language

Cognitive –realist – factual, true or false statements

Non-cognitive – anti-realist – not to be taken actually, but interpreted symbolically


How do we find out if this claim is true? ‘Jesus died for me.’

Try the verification principle – 3 types of statements analytic, mathematical, synthetic


Religious language tends to express fundamental truths hence myths

Symbols enable us to participate in a shared experience or belief e.g. baptism, marriage


Bultmann felt that to believe in modern science (the light bulb) and the Bible, was incompatible.


Braithwaite: religious language claims mean something to the adherent; they express ‘an intention to follow a certain code of behaviour.’


A J Ayer – talk of a soul is meaningless because it cannot be verified

Talk of religious experience is meaningless, no empirical verification.

But emotional, ethical ‘be good’ statements are not verifiable which would make them meaning less. Did man walk on the moon in 1969?

Hick- some religious language, particularly historical claims, could be verified

Falsification principle – Hick believes if potentially falsifiable it is meaningful.

Flew felt believers would never allow anything to count against their faith e.g. Job

RM Hare – blik meaningful to the person in the context and it affects their life

Hick’s story of the toys in the cupboard is presented as an example of the kind of assumption we take for granted, that toys do not get up and dance around our bedrooms at night.


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