Religious Language and religious belief

  • So specialised it can only be understood on its own terms
  • Many philosophers have argued rel lang meaningless
  • Believers would disagree
  • Anti-realist philosophers would argue rel lang does hold truths which can be discovered
  • Opponents would argue can only be understood by the members of the faith community
  • God talk is different from musical language or string theory because God is so different
  • It is characterised by its use of symbol analogy and myth to appeal to the affective (emotional) faculties
  • Rel lang reveals deeper truths than ‘my border collie is black’; ‘Jesus is the Good Shepherd’ has behind it a whole realm of historical experience
  • The dangers are that those outside the rel community misunderstand – bread and wine to Romans were a cannibalistic ritual
  • Wittgenstein said ‘for a blunder that’s too big.’
  • Those inside the faith community know when an assertion is symbolic or not and decode it automatically
  • Rel lang needs to be understood by its own rules and cannot be assessed by scientific criteria
  • Rel people are concerned to about ‘why’ God created; scientists are concerned with ‘how’; 2 different language games at work and participants must recognise the different rules
  • Truth becomes relative to the game being played
  • Non-believers can debate religious issues without holding to them as a matter of faith but believers find an emotional content which opens up a whole new level of meaning
  • Peter Vardy ‘the believer when he converts from non-belief comes to find a use for language about God where previously that language had not meaning in his or her life.’


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