Eschatological Verification Reconsidered

Religious Studies 13 (2):189 - 202 (1977)
The world in which we find ourselves is religiously ambiguous. It is possible for different people to experience it both religiously and non-religiously; and to hold beliefs which arise from and feed into each of these ways of experiencing. A religious man may report that in moments of prayer he is conscious of existing in the unseen presence of God, and is aware - sometimes at least - that his whole life and the entire history of the world is taking place within the ambience of the divine purpose. But on the other hand the majority of people in our modern world do not participate in that form of experience and are instead conscious of their own and others' lives as purely natural phenomena, so that their own experience leads them at least implicitly to reject the idea of a transcendent divine presence and purpose. If they are philosophically minded, they may well think that the believer's talk is the expression of what Richard Hare has called a blik , a way of feeling and thinking about the world which expresses itself in pseudo-assertions, pseudo because they are neither verifiable nor falsifiable and are therefore factually empty. 1 The religious man speaks of God as a living reality in whose presence we are, and of a divine purpose which gives ultimate meaning to our lives. But is not the world the same whether or not we suppose it to exist in God's presence; and is not the course of history the same whether or not we describe it as fulfilling God's purposes? Is not the religious description thus merely a gratuitous embellishment, a logical fifth wheel, an optional language-game which may assuage some psychological need of the speaker but which involves no claims of substance concerning the objective nature or structure of the universe? Must not the central religious use of language then be accounted a non-cognitive use, whose function is not to assert alleged facts but to express a speaker's, or a community of speakers', emotions within the framework of a factually contentless blik , ‘slant’, or ‘onlook’?
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412500009975
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