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Metalinguistic Agnosticism, Religious Fictionalism and the Reasonable Believer

Jacob Hesse


With the position, he labels as “new” or “metalinguistic agnosticism” Robin LePoidevin can avoid some problems with which fictionalists about religious language are confronted. Religious fictionalism is a position according to which all religious claims[1] are considered to be false when taken at face value. But because fictionalists about religious language think that certain religious worldviews have pragmatic benefits, they interpret several claims in such worldviews as true in fiction. This enables them to gain pragmatic benefits because they live as if a certain religious worldview were true. Nonetheless, they don’t believe that the respective worldview represents the non-fictional reality.[2]

[1] In the following I understand a “religious claim“ either as the claim that God exists or as a claim that presupposes the existence of God. Since also Le Poidevin focuses on theistic religions I want to keep this focus in my response. Nonetheless, it should be kept in mind that religious fictionalism is not restricted to theistic religions. I also think that metalinguistic agnosticism and the argumentation in this paper could in principle be extended to non-theistic religions.

[2] A defense of religious fictionalism can be found in for example Andrew S. Eshleman, “Can an Atheist Believe in God?”, Religious Studies 41, no. 2 (2005) and Andrew S. Eshleman, “Religious Fictionalism Defended: Reply to Cordry”, Religious Studies 46, no. 1 (2010).

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Cordry, Benjamin S. 2010. “A Critique of Religious Fictionalism”. Religious Studies 46, no. 1: 77–89. doi:10.1017/S0034412509990291.

Eshleman, Andrew S. 2005. “Can an Atheist Believe in God?”. Religious Studies 41, no. 2: 183–99. doi:10.1017/S0034412505007602.

—. 2010. “Religious Fictionalism Defended: Reply to Cordry”. Religious Studies 46, no. 1: 91–96. doi:10.1017/S0034412509990333.

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