Religion – it’s either true or it isn’t

Francis Sedgemore, Friday 8 February 2013 at 12:59 UTC

What is wrong with this statement?

“These new atheists remain incapable of getting beyond the question, ‘Is it true?’ They assume that by ‘true’ we agree them to mean ‘literally true’. They also assume that if the answer is ‘no’, then that closes everything. But it does not. Just because something is not literally true does not mean that there is no truth, or worth, in it.”

According to my understanding of the word, “literal” means taking words in their basic sense, without metaphor or exaggeration. This leaves open the possibility of what might be termed “metaphorical truth”, but try to define that and you end up going round in linguistic circles.

The concept of metaphorical truth is nonsense. Language is often metaphorical, and as such can have worth. Storytelling, for example, can help us make sense of the world in ways that pure logic cannot. Stories help in instilling a broad conceptual understanding and appreciation of the world, but they are not true in any definable sense of the word, and their content cannot be codified.

Religion, in contrast to throwaway concepts of disorganised spirituality, is nothing more than the codification of gut feelings combined with an ideology of social control. That is the essence of the ‘new atheism’ argument decried by religionists and their agnostic/woolly-atheist fellow travellers such as Douglas Murray, whose words I quote above.

Why on earth do we keep on coming back to this pointless debate? Of course religion remains with us, but its refusal to wither in the face of reason and modernity has nothing to do with any innate truth, metaphorical or otherwise. Appeals to Schopenhauer serve only to expose the bourgeois vacuity of those making them.

Richard Dawkins can be irritating at times, but so can we all, and Douglas Murray is no exception to this universal rule. Being annoying does not in itself negate what we say.

Atheists will never “call off the faith wars”. We are in this battle to the end of religion, which poisons everything.

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