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John Hick has expressed the premise as an allegory of a quest to a Celestial City. In this parable, a theist and an atheist are both walking down the same road. The theist believes there is a destination, the atheist believes there is not. If they reach the destination, the theist will have been proven right, however if there is no destination on an endless road, this can never be verified. This is an attempt to explain how a theist expects some form of life or existence after death and an atheist does not. They both have separate belief systems and live life accordingly, but logically one is right and the other is not. If the theist is right, he will be proven so when he arrives in the afterlife. However, if the atheist is right, they will simply both be dead and nothing will be verified.
This acts as a response to Verificationism. Under Hick's analogy claims about the afterlife are verifiable in principle because the truth becomes clear after death. To some extent it is therefore wrong to claim that religious language cannot be verified because it can (when you're dead).
- Alston, William P. "Functionalism and Theological Language." In Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989a. 33–34.
- Hick, John H. Faith and Knowledge. 2nd ed. London, UK: Macmillan, 1988. 177–178.
- Hick, John H. Philosophy or Religion. 4th ed. London, UK: Prentice Hall, 1990. 82–89, also see 135–136.
- "The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy". 2006. University of Tennessee, Martin. 21 June 2008 http://www.iep.utm.edu.