Kai Nielsen on God-Talk

In arguing that the concept of God is incoherent, I am not claiming that “God” is utterly meaningless. Surely “God” has a use in the language; there are deviant and nondeviant bits of God-talk. If I say “God is a ride in a yellow submarine” or “God brews good coffee” or “God dieted,” I have not said something that is false; I have not even succeeded in saying something blasphemous; I have rather indicated, if I make such utterances with a serious intent, that I do not understand God-talk. In saying something such as “God is a ride in a yellow submarine” I have said something closer to “Quite grounds calculated carefully” or “Elope sea with trigonometry.” In short, my utterances are without a literal meaning.

“God is a ride in a yellow submarine” could indeed be a metaphor. In the context of a poem or song, it might be given a meaning, but just like that it does not have a meaning. But even out of context – say in the middle of a commencement address – “Pass me a peanut butter sandwich” would be perfectly meaningful, would have a literal meaning, though the point, if any, of uttering it would remain obscure.

Kai Nielsen, Atheism and Philosophy (Promotheus Books: 2005) p. 120

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One response to “Kai Nielsen on God-Talk

  1. I correctly am driven by the yellow machine that once it tows green shoes it sallies forward a bunch more than intended. Great quote.

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