Is religious belief really true?
by Ken Myers
“G. Elizabeth M. Anscombe has summarized the views of her teacher, Wittgenstein, on this question [i.e., of truth in religion] in two theses: ‘1. There is no such thing as being true for a religion. This is perhaps suggested when someone says: “This religious statement is not the same as a statement of natural science.” 2. Religious faith may be compared rather to a person’s being in love than to his being persuaded that something is true or false.’ In accordance with this logic, Wittgenstein noted, in one of his many notebooks, that it would make no difference to the Christian religion whether or not Christ had actually done some of the things recounted concerning him or whether indeed he had existed at all. This corresponds to the thesis of Bultmann that believing in a God who is the Creator of heaven and earth does not mean that we believe that God really created heaven and earth but only that we understand ourselves as being his creatures and thereby live a more meaningful life. Similar concepts have in the meantime become widespread in Catholic theology and may be heard, more or less clearly enunciated, in preaching.
“The faithful sense this and are asking themselves whether they have been being made fools of. Living in beautiful fictions may be something that people who hold theories about religion can do; for the person who is asking himself how he can live and die, and for what, they are not enough. Renouncing the claim to truth, which would be a renunciation of the Christian faith itself, is here being sugared over by allowing faith to go on existing as a kind of being-in-love, with its lovely subjective consolations or as a kind of make-believe world side by side with the real world. Faith is transposed onto the plane of play, of make-believe, whereas hitherto it had mattered on the plane of life itself. Faith that is make-believe is at any rate something fundamentally different from faith that is believed and lived out. It does not show us the way but is merely decorative. It does not help us in living or in dying; at most it provides us with a little change, a little fine appearance — but only the appearance, and that is not enough for living and for dying.”
from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (Ignatius Press, 2003)