Beliefs, Principles, and Reasonable Doubts

Religious Studies 23 (2):221 - 232 (1987)
Abstract
There are three well-developed sorts of answer to the question ‘What kind of meaning is possessed by religious beliefs?’ The first sort regards religious beliefs as truth claims of the kind encountered in the natural and social sciences and in everyday life. Religious beliefs are claims about how things stand in some part of the world. They are to be counted as true or false depending on whether those claims correspond with how things in fact stand. On this reading, religious beliefs are at least in principle verifiable or falsifiable through experiences of appropriate types. There are of course different notions of ‘experiences of the appropriate type’. A Russian cosmonaut returned from space saying that there was no God. He regarded religious beliefs as falsified by the observations he made when he went into the sky and looked around. Others think of religious beliefs as testable, not through ordinary sense experience, but through rather similar kinds of experiences after death. In either of these versions, the sort of meaning possessed by religious beliefs and the sort of truth or falsehood of which they are susceptible are not radically different from the sorts of meaning and truth typical of claims about empirical facts
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