Is God even probable?
- The existence of a being with the attributes of God cannot be demonstratively proved, or even shown to be probable
- If God were probable, the idea that he exists would be an empirical hypothesis - we could test it
- If we could test it, we could make verifiable statements about God - but we cannot
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- Ayer says that to say 'God exists' is simply to say that certain actions have occured in a particular sequence (Teleological argument)
- Believers say that God can be known through empirical manifestations, but is not defined by these manifestations
- Ayer says this means that God is metaphysical and cannot be proved to be true or false; therefore, we cannot talk meaningfully about him
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Atheists and agnostics
- An agnostic holds that God is a possibility. but there is no evidence to believe or disbelieve; for an atheist, it is most probable that God does not exist
- Ayer said that both views are based on unverifiable positions, so both are ruled out
- If God is a metaphysical term, then the atheist's claim about God's non-existence is as nonsensical as the theist's claim about God's existence
- Agnosticism makes no observations to verify their views, so agnosticism is "also ruled out"
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God and the empirical world
- The example of thunder and Jehovah - deities related to natural objects: does this have meaning?
- God is said to control the empirical world and is therefore superior to the empirical world yet he exists outside it - he has super-empirical attributes
- If he has super-empirical attributes, then God is an unintelligible notion
- If God is unverifiable, then 'God' is simply a word. It tells us nothing of him
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- Ayer claims that "there can be no transcendent truths of religion"
- If we say that God transcends human understanding, this is unintelligible
- If we say that God is an object of faith not reason, this is also unintelligible
- Therefore, "it is impossible for a sentence to be both significant and to be about God"
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The God of the mystics
- Mystics claim that God does reveal truths, but these truths cannot be explained to everyone in rational terms
- Ayer says this is nothing more than intuition and so isn't sufficient evidence for the existence of God - if the mystic had any real facts they would reveal them
- The same applies to religious experiences - anyone who claims to know something intuitively doesn't have true knowledge, but are "merely providing material for the psychoanalyst"
- Religious experiences don't imply that there is such a thing as religious knowledge
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- Religious experience is not valid proof of God's existence, nor does it provide religious knowledge
- This is because no intuition can reveal facts "unless it issues in verifiable propositions"
- The same problem arises in a consideration of moral knowledge
- Science is the only discipline which offers verifiable empirical propositions
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