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Michael Lacewing Religious belief Michael Lacewing © Michael Lacewing.

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Presentation on theme: "Michael Lacewing Religious belief Michael Lacewing © Michael Lacewing."— Presentation transcript:

1 Michael Lacewing
Religious belief Michael Lacewing © Michael Lacewing

2 Belief-that Standard analysis: content + attitude
Content: what the person believes, given by a proposition E.g. ‘He believes that elephants are grey.’ Belief-that aims at truth: Beliefs are true or false (unlike desire) To believe that p is to believe that p is true. To say ‘I believe that p’ implies that you take p to be true.

3 Other types of belief ‘I believe him’ = Belief-in
‘I believe that what he says is true’ ‘I believe that he is trustworthy/sincere’ Belief-in ‘I believe in God’ = ‘I believe that God exists’? ‘I believe in love’ Not belief-that (no truth claim), but faith, trust, commitment

4 Religious belief Does belief in God presuppose belief that God exists?
Yes: you can’t believe in a person if you think they don’t exist No: you don’t have believe that love exists (literally) to believe in love What is more basic in religious belief? Should belief-that be analysed as (really) belief-in or vice-versa?

5 The religious ‘hypothesis’
Is ‘God exists’ a factual hypothesis about reality? Presupposes that the claim expresses a belief-that Empirical statements are capable of being false; the meaning of the statement is connected to this. What circumstances or tests would lead us to atheism?

6 Is the test correct? A statement can be empirical without us knowing what experiences would show that it is false. ‘God exists’ may help explain experience - it is tested not directly by experience but by philosophical argument. But philosophy is not what gives ‘God exists’ its meaning.

7 Does ‘God exist’ state a fact?
Not tested against empirical experience Not purely intellectual Theism not acquired by argument or evidence Religious ‘belief’ is belief-in, an attitude or commitment, towards life, others, history, morality… a way of living.

8 Objections Different religions can prescribe similar ways of life while arguing for different beliefs about God Orthodoxy (right belief) has been thought very important What supports or justifies the attitude if not beliefs about how things are? Perhaps religions distinguished by their stories But stories don’t justify commitments This approach makes religion too subjective

9 Wittgenstein on meaning
To understand language, we must understand how it is used. Compare uses of language to ‘games’ - rules that allow or disallow certain moves/meanings Surface grammar v. depth grammar ‘The bus passes the bus stop’ v. ‘The peace of the Lord passes all understanding’ Asking your boss for a raise v. asking God for prosperity Language is part of life, a ‘form’ of life

10 Wittgenstein on religious belief
So religious language takes its meaning from religious life Its surface grammar looks empirical, but its depth grammar is very different God is not a ‘thing’ like any other ‘a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it’s a belief, it’s really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. It’s passionately seizing hold of this interpretation.’ (Culture and Value, §64)

11 Implications The ‘Last Judgment’ is not a future event
Prayer is not asking to be given good things Talk of ‘God’ only makes sense in the context of religious belief - God does not ‘exist’ independent of belief in God Religious belief cannot be criticized by facts and ‘evidence’, although it must make sense as part of human life

12 Objection This interpretation contradicts what most religious believers believe! Suggestion: religious language is both factual and expressive

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