Saturday, August 09, 2008

P.2. The Validity of Religious Language

I’m not necessarily an advocate of GOD, but I’d like to comment on a particular argument. That is, that God exists only in the mind. I don’t disagree with this by any means, but I’m forced to ask myself the question then, what doesn’t just exist in the mind?

Surely we can make the usual arguments for the objective world and I won’t dive into all of that at this point, but only to say this; certainly what exists in the mind is somewhat a product of what exists in the world, unless of course we’re a brain in the vat (which I don’t advocate either). Having said that, surely all ideas come from the world, yes? Does David Hume’s senseless individual have ideas? Does he have any idea that he’s alive? Who knows I suppose.

The idea of God, you could say, also comes from the world. It’s not something fabricated by the mind, how can fabrication take place without stimuli. Is it possible that people are right or wrong? And in what sense is this possible? If I say for example, that 2 + 2 = 6, you’d say I was wrong. But why am I wrong? Typically (we could say) it’s because one doesn’t completely understand the symbolism. Surely if you set one apple in front of me, then a second apple a minute or so later I would understand the change. One might not be able to communicate it logically (as in 1 + 1 = 2), but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen or understand my change in reality.

Mathematics, science and logic are (to me) nothing more then a language whose goal is painting a picture of the world that is homogenous. One in which we all “agree” to objectively, with special attention to the quotes there. When an individual is found to be wrong after proposing a certain thing, it’s not because his eyes deceived him, or that reality somehow shifted its focus for him; what we see is what we see, the world is as it is. What’s wrong is what we *say* about what we experience relative to our communal language. What was communicated was not accurate relative to the rules of language.

That said, the language of religion is simply not compatible with the language of science. They both deal in two separate realities. The basis with which they may be wrong is not relative to reality, but relative to the way we speak about reality. Part of the problem that I see today, is that religion is starting to borrow from science to validate its own existence, and this is a problem due to they’re incompatibility. Creation again (following from below) is a scientific idea, not a religious one; religion should leave it at that. Furthermore, to say that God exists in the mind is just as ridiculous as saying science exists in the mind.

The ultimate question will be then, what does religion talk about and what is God anyway?


  1. While I sympathize with your assessment that religious language is another way of describing reality, it does not follow that it is has the same useful consistency and truth preserving qualities of scientific language. It also seems that religious thought allows for presumptive leaps in conclusion that science would never allow. Science only allows you to assert no more than what you are justified empirically and logically to conclude.

    What it comes down to is whether or not we are describing a fiction to assuage our fear of existential absurdity, or are we describing a reality as honestly as we can in a humble awareness of our limited ability to experience infinite possibility.

  2. These are certainly good points to consider. I have an idea that I've been as of yet unable to flesh out.

    It would be my aim to stay away from stating that religion is useful for describing objective reality. As well I would also not claim that religion allows for presumptive leaps. It's presumptive (in terms of God), only when one differentiates God. The moment you assign a characteristic to God that's meant to represent something specific in nature, you've gone off the deap end and entered into obscurity.

    Religion is simply not objective, that's my point. Not to go to the bottom of the barrel here, but imagine trying to tell a woman what an orgasm feels like. Words don't exist to communicate this idea and many like it.

    I would like to say that religion is an experience, a journey, and the language is simply a path, a means to an end. There's no truth there but what you find for yourself. Most Christians however, follow they're "words" dogmatically and want to say that the words speak the truth, as apposed to the words being a path to the truth. I’m very fond of the Buddhist saying, you can use your finger to point at the moon, but don’t mistake the finger for the moon. The meaning here is simple, the Bible is a finger; and most Christians can’t see past it. Not only that, but scientists say there’s something wrong with it; they’re also mistaking the finger for the moon.

    In science, the words are the truth; it's that simple. X means this, Y means that, everything applies to something in the world. Yet another question I have is; does science speak about the world as it is in itself, or does it simply talk about experience as we all collectively agree? My thought is the latter, and for this reason religion in some form or another will always exist. The question is in what context? What we have now in America is bullshit.