I'm actually at pre-university level, but I hope you'll lend a hand nonetheless. I'm trying to boost my essay style, my current prose seems 'wish-washy'. Unfortunately I'm more adept at humorous content. The essay below was written in 45 minutes - test regulations.
Symbolism is the foundation of religious belief. It provides the 'spring board' to intelligent religious discussion, and allows for personal interpretation of worldwide faith. It is the predicate of a personal God.
The bible. Both the most complicated, and famous text. It leads the lifestyles of billions, yet is a lattice of metaphors and symbolism. Paul Tillich, Christian theologian, was the first to argue that religious language communicates religious experience through symbolism. He believed the bible was "closer to poetry than prose" and was a fantastic amalgam of heroism, mythology and phantasy. Fundamentally, Tillich believed that previous philosophers were wrong to accept religious language as brute fact. This, he believed, didn't do justice to the religious scriptures. Symbolic mythology was a window to a new level of reality and understanding. It paved the way to personal revelation that couldn't be articulated; it led the way to an ineffable truth. In his own words: symbolism..."unlocks new dimensions and elements of our soul".
Conversely, Paul Edwards - opponent to Tillich's fresh look at the scripture - believed any form of symbolism couldn't convey facts effectively. In fact, Edwards argued that symbols lacked any empirical foundation so failed to even be meaningful. Edwards went on to point out that symbols couldn't point to a supernatural entity because such 'supernatural' realities were outside humans' mental capability. Carl Jung, German psychoanalyst, disagreed that the meaning of symbolism couldn't be proved empirically. Jung believed he had empirical evidence for his own psychological theory. He showed that symbolism all over the world shared the same basic ideas, he put that down to the 'collective unconscious' that the world shared. That way, symbols had definite meaning.
Rodolf Butzman, Christian sceptic, believed that symbolism and mythology couldn't effectively express ideas about God because mythology was at odds with fundamentalism/biblical literalism. If believers were to become a follower of the faith they were required to reject any metaphorical understanding of the text because it compromised their beliefs. Many Christian's opposed this very nineteen-hundreds German perspective, notably Austin Farer in an "Englishman's" take on the argument. Farer argued that faith in the scripture doesn't require fundamental beliefs, but can be combined with moderate faith. Sam Harris in "The End of Faith" describes how moderation in religion is impossible; it's a choice between believing the faith whole heartedly or dismissing it in it's entirety.
Finally, a number of Christian theologians (J.R. Randell) argued that religious symbolism was necessary as it stirred strong emotions which added meaning to the religious message. It could be also argued that this emotional connection made it easier for the less agile minded to grasp the concepts of the religion at handed. Personally I'd argue that this attacks the vulnerable minded by stealing their beliefs to strengthen the religious community.
In conclusion, as a atheist, it's hard to understand the concept of language justifying a supernatural reality. Personally I feel religious meaning is totally independent of the language at hand because multiple languages are expressed in an unlimited list of languages. It follows that if language is independent of belief, none of the religious meaning can be conveyed by literary techniques such as personification, analogy or metaphor.