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Realists, as used in this context, are those who hold that their religious beliefs are about what actually exists, independent of the persons who hold those beliefs.
An important figure who had much influence on the development of religious non-realism was Ludwig Wittgenstein.
In his later works, Wittgenstein understood language to be not a fixed structure directly corresponding to the way things actually are, but rather a human activity susceptible to the vicissitudes of human life and practice.
After the collapse of positivism, two streams emerged in philosophy of religion regarding what religious language and beliefs are about: realism and non-realism.
The vast majority of religious adherents are religious realists.
Non-realists are those who hold that religious claims are not about realities that transcend human language, concepts, and social forms; religious claims are not about realities “out there”; they are not about objectively existing entities.
Religion is a human construct and religious language refers to human behavior and experience.The language games of the religions reflect the practices and forms of life of the various religious adherents; religious statements should not be taken as providing literal descriptions of a reality that somehow lies beyond those activities.Some non-realists have been highly critical of religion, such as Sigmund Freud (1856–1939).Many religious statements, including those about God, are neither tautological nor empirically verifiable.So a number of religious claims, such as “Yahweh is compassionate” or “Atman is Brahman,” were considered by the positivists to be cognitively meaningless.Language does not provide a picture of reality, he argued, but rather presents a set of activities which he dubbed “language games.” In learning language, one needs to be able to respond to words in various contexts; speech and action work together.In many cases, then, the meaning of a word is its use in the language.Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of the meaning and nature of religion.It includes the analyses of religious concepts, beliefs, terms, arguments, and practices of religious adherents.Others, such as Don Cupitt (1934–), have sought to transform religion.Cupitt, a philosopher, theologian, and former priest in the Church of England, rejects historic religious dogma for, he maintains, it encompasses an outdated realist metaphysics and cosmology.