An Evaluation of Religious Sayings

An Evaluation of Religious Sayings
A plain factual statement is usually easy to understand for example; ?my dad is a man?, this is easy to understand because the listener would know what a dad is because they have one as well, and they know what a man is, and it shows that my dad is alive at the time of me speaking about him. People, may however, argue about the concepts behind every word, for speaker and listener, but common sense tells us that the majority of people would know what is meant by this. However, religious concepts are not bound by these rules; there can be no such thing as ?a plain factual religious statement?. There are two philosophers in particular that wrote about religious language in relation to statements such as; ?God is life? and ?God is love?, these are AJ Ayer and Anthony Flew. To answer this question it is necessary to bring in the verification principle.
This states that; a meaningful statement can be proven to be so by either being an analytical statement which means it is true by definition, or by being a synthetic statement which has to be verified by experience. If it cannot be subjected to either then it is meaningless. There are two possible ways in which to look at a statement like; ?God is love?. The first way is that it is meaningless and therefore a waste of time and effort, or secondly; that it is valid, but different in kind and effect from factual statements. Ayer took such statements in the first of the two ways, and said ?No sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent God can possess any literal significance?1. When Ayer said ?literal? he meant ?to do with the world?. Anthony Flew in Death by a thousand qualifications describes how language about God can reduce him to nothing. Flew went on to state a form of the design argument for the existence of God, but concluded ?What is left of your gardener? He is intangible, invisible, and elusive; we never see any evidence that he exists. Your gardener has been reduced bit by bit to nothing?. Flew claims that the same could be said for statements about God?s existence, love or power. You can qualify the attributes of God down to nothing. He says religious language reveals that God?s literal existence is not provable, literal in this sense means to do with the world. Therefore, some philosophers may agree with the statement ??God is life? and ?God is love? are meaningless statements?, because such statements are neither analytical (correct by definition) or synthetic (provable by experiment or experience). Thus such statements are impossible to verify. On the other hand, some may argue that, taking Flew?s conclusion to be correct; that religious language reveals that God?s literal existence is not provable, to back up their argument because if God existed in a literal way then he would not be God. Religious statements such as the ones in question are accepted as being different from verifiable ones. One thing that makes them different is the different use of vocabulary in them. According to St. Thomas Aquinas there are three possible uses of language; univocal, equivocal and analogical, the first refers to such words as zinc, which is only used to describe a particular metal. The fact that when thinking about this it is quite difficult to think of such words, this is because most words in the English language have more than one meaning. Equivocal, this is where the same word is used for different meanings. For example, the word bank, when used as a noun, can mean the side of a river, a place of storage or a money-making and money handling business. Finally, analogical Aquinas called this kind of use of words ?analogical predication?. We do this a great deal of the time with our language. A stone, for example, is a lump of rock. Logically, the phrase ?a stony look? would be absurd, but everyone knows the facial expression referred to. John Hick gave the example that God, man and Dog are all good; however they are all good in different ways. A good dog would be faithful, trustworthy and reliable, such as a listening or seeing dog for a disabled person. The fidelity of faithfulness is different from that of a good human being; the fidelity of a husband and wife to each other is not the same as the faithfulness of the guide dog to its owner. One assumes it is somehow on a higher plane. The same is true of God?s goodness ? it will be on a higher plane than ours, but we can appreciate it by analogy with our own lives. Wittgenstein made the same point, by using red; saying that red per se is ineffable. An idea of redness can only be illustrated by things that are red. The same is true for metaphysical, ethical and religious truths. Language cannot state something it can only show, or try to describe. Therefore, many believers may argue that such statements as the ones in question do have meaning for them, because they are not supposed to be taken in a literal sense. Believers in God; will realise that they are not supposed to be taken literally, unlike others who may not realise this. In the same way as metaphors and similes are used by religions to get their point across, but the problem with these are that some might not understand them

An Evaluation of Religious Sayings 7.2 of 10 on the basis of 1505 Review.