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© Michael Lacewing Religious belief Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Religious belief 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 = –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 cant believe in a person if you think they dont exist –No: you dont 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 dont 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 its a belief, its really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. Its 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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