Contemporary Critiques of Religion by Kai Nielsen

By Kai Nielsen

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Even if we only take it -as indeed it should be taken - as a criterion of factual significance, as a litmus-paper test for determining which of the various statements we make have factual significance and which factual-appearing statements are without such significance, we still have to ask about the status of the principle itself: 'A sentence is used to make a factual statement only if the 40 statement it makes is at least in principle confirmable or infirmable'. Is that statement itself verifiable (confirmable or infirmable)?

With the statements of logic and mathematics we have non-empirical statements but we still have a determinate method for establishing the truth-value of these statements. Why could not something 26 similar hold for religious propositions? If it did, we would have solved our perplexity about their meaning by showing that, after all, they do make a truth-claim, though not an empirical truth-claim, but still a kind of truth-claim that modern empiricists find legitimate. Braithwaite argues, as does Ayer, that if 'God exists' is logically necessary, it would follow that it makes 'no assertion of existence'.

If we use the method of challenge on the believer and ask him what would you take - if it were to occur - as a refutation or as a disconfirmation of your claim, he cannot say what he would take as a disconfirmation. And many would even regard the question and B 25 the challenge as irrelevant. But this clearly shows that 'God' does not function like a theoretical concept in an explanatory hypothesis. Such religious propositions are not empirical hypotheses. Flew, I should add, goes on to make a more sweeping challenge, which would put in question the very assertive status of such God-talk.

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