God talk is evidently nonsense – Ayer

Ayer regards God as a nonsense concept – starting from his belief that God doesn’t exist he explains that to discuss God’s existence is pointless as is discussing his nature – what is the point? He doesn’t exist. It is as meaningless to discuss the existence as the non-existence of God. Neither can be verified as neither claim is a significant proposition.

He allows that it might have been possible in the past to make some claims about gods which are meaningful e.g. that when one hears thunder then god is angry but suggests that it is merely the choice of words used; in other words the claimant is making a mistake because they are simply insufficiently sophisticated (or perhaps as Hume would have said ‘barbarous!’) so the noun god is okay because it is used of a very specific category of experience but the word God is not since it refers to a transcendent being.

People who therefore claim to have had some sort of religious experience by claiming that God is beyond description because he is some sort of transcendent being are saying ‘nothing significant’ i.e. he suggests theists are trying to have their cake and eat it – if God is beyond description then why are they trying?

And as for mystics – their claim that their knowledge is superior to any other is fallacious too. He does not regard intuition as a genuine cognitive state – in fact those who claim such do no more than reveal the state of their minds! He denies any sort of religious knowledge as different from any other sort of knowledge – if it cannot be verified then it isn’t knowledge.

He concludes by dismissing the idea of religious experience as a valid argument for God on the basis that it is irrational. A man who claims to have seen a yellow patch is making a synthetic proposition which can be verified by checking, whereas the same man who claims: ‘there exists a transcendent God’ is making a claim that cannot be verified in any way at all and is therefore meaningless.

Ultimately intuition about something which is not intelligible to reason can never reveal any truths because they cannot be empirically verified. Such is the nature of science


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