Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do Paradoxes Disprove God?

It certainly isn’t hard to find a ton of God paradoxes out there, but do these paradoxes conclusively disprove the existence of God? Well, obviously Christians claim that no, they don’t -- and obviously I assert that they do.

The Christian Cop-Out

For Christians, it’s as simple as this: God is limitless and supernatural. There is no way for us to assess God based upon our logic, our physical senses, or our conception of reality. What seems to be a paradox to us is not in fact a paradox at all where God is concerned.

That is, of course, bullshit. It’s a cop-out. So you’re saying we can’t rule out God because understanding how or why God exists is beyond our capabilities? Then when we ask you how you know God exists, every example you give -- of course -- is based upon things that are within our capabilities to understand. So the same senses and mental powers you use to prove God you’re disallowing from disproving God.

Moreover, this is a cop-out because it can be used to justify the existence of absolutely anything that I could come up with. Common examples are the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Celestial Teapot, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn. The fact of the matter is that when you disallow logic, common sense, and the scientific method as valid means of establishing a fact, anything should be accepted as fact because it may be “beyond us.”

Obviously there are plenty of things that are beyond our comprehension right now that may nevertheless be natural realities of the world as of yet unknown to us. I guarantee that there are forces or phenomena that we haven’t seen or measured and don’t know anything about. Does that mean that we should start making things up that would explain some of the mysteries of the world to us and then assert those things as absolute fact without evidence, simply because they can’t be disproved? Of course not. We have not yet conclusively determined what causes gravity (although gravitons is the current prevailing theory), but that doesn't mean we can claim as fact that Robot Hitler controls gravity from his lair in the Third Reichmension.

God Paradoxes

So, let's say that we aren't allowing the intellectual cop-out given above. Most Christians give God the following properties:
  • Omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • Omniscient (all-knowing/all-seeing/prophetic)
  • Perfect (including, specifically, perfectly just)
  • Unwaveringly loving (specifically with regard to His creation)
There are a ton more examples, but those are the important ones. Let’s breeze through some simple explanations of why these are paradoxes:


Omnipotent

This one’s actually pretty simple. Omnipotent means that you’re all-powerful and can literally do anything you can think of. You can make whatever you want a reality. The problem is … no you can’t.

The classic example is this: Can God create a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it? Well, let’s say that He did -- creating a rock that He’s not powerful enough to lift means that He’s not omnipotent, because He can do anything … even lift the rock that’s too heavy for Him to lift. But wait, He specifically created it to be too heavy for Himself to lift, which is definitely within His power, because He can do anything.

See the problem here? Omnipotence isn’t possible. Something can be incredibly powerful, but nothing can be infinitely powerful.


Omniscient

Obvious problems arise with being both omnipotent and omniscient. If you already know what the future holds then you’re powerless to affect it -- everything you do is predestined. But if you’re all-powerful then you can do anything, even change the future. So … you’re at an impasse.

This also brings up the problem of free will, which God allegedly gave to His creation. The problem is, He can see the future since He’s timeless and omniscient, so even if every choice you make is your own, He knows what choices you’re going to make before you do. This butts right into how the final two items are paradoxes.


Perfection and Lovingness

So, God allegedly loves all of His creation and is perfectly just. (Let's set aside all of the easy disproofs of this based on His cruelty in the Old Testament.) He also gave His creation free will to make their own choices and has the omniscience to see what they’ll do with it, as well as the power to stop that future from happening if need be.

Now, let’s say you blaspheme -- say the Lord’s name in vain; something even as simple as saying “God is imaginary,” and meaning it. You’ve just committed an unforgivable sin. Read it for yourself:

Mark 3:29 -- "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

(There’s even something called the Blasphemy Challenge for atheists, telling them to post videos of themselves blaspheming on YouTube, thus theoretically condemning themselves to eternal torment.)

So, now you’ve committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God simply by saying three words, and He will give you absolutely no options to wash that sin away. In His infinitely just wisdom, He will banish you to eternity in hell for this sin -- because He just love, love, loves you -- a sin that He knew you’d commit even before you were born. So, He allowed you to come into existence knowing full well that He’d force Himself (they’re His divine laws after all) to be infinitely just and send you to hell forever for uttering some words -- but again, He loves you.


There couldn’t be more contradictions in there. He can’t be all of these things at once. The existence of hell is a big thorn in His side for many reasons, and free will simply doesn’t make sense. And we’ve already been over how it’s impossible to be omniscient.

The Paradox of God and the Science of OmniscienceThis all just barely scratches the surface, by the way. An author named Clifford Pickover wrote an entire book on just the paradoxes of God. (And, coincidentally, The Paradox of God is the title, too. Clever man.) I’m actually going to pick up that book and give it a read. After that, I hope to update this post with possibly even more clear, damning points of paradox.

-- The Atheist Apologist --

35 comments:

  1. First let me start by introducing myself
    My name is Aaron Aguirre
    I am a college student at CSUSM
    I am not majoring in religion and do not claim any extreme knowledge of christianity,
    now that that has been covered...

    Let's start with Omnipotent,
    you're logic of disproving this was a paradoxical question which had a paradoxical answer.
    An omnipotent God would create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it...and then he would lift it. I'm not quite sure where this paradox originated from, but it seems to me it was created because someone could not accept the idea of something being unlimited when we live in a world of limits. You dismiss omnipotence by two paradoxes that, from how I see them, cancel each other out. After all how can you have sound logic based on an argument that is, by all definitions, illogical. I do agree with you on one statement "Something can be incredibly powerful, but NO-THING can be infinitely powerful". God is not a thing, to say God is "a thing" would limit him and the God of the bible has no limits.

    now how about Omniscience...I do have a question about how you started this part. "If you already know what the future holds then you’re powerless to affect it, everything you do is predestined. But if you’re all-powerful then you can do anything, even change the future. So...you’re at an impasse." are you referring to God in this statement? If you are then your first misstep lies there. Because the God of the bible has no limits omniscience does not mean that he knows the future but IS. I believe the original translation for God's name in the bible is "I AM", the God of the bible has no limits so we cannot place him in our timeline. God never claims "to see the future" he simply claims: I am.
    If God is all things, everywhere, at once, then this explains our free will and his knowledge of our sins.

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    1. "An omnipotent God would create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it...and then he would lift it."

      ...which would mean that he hadn't created a rock so heavy he couldn't lift it. Understand how a paradox works? There's no "canceling out" there.

      As to omniscience, the problem many atheists have with that in regards to God is that him knowing everything (by being in all places, at all times) would mean that he knew before our creation and at the moment our sins that we would wrong. He knew that some of us would reject him, damning us to eternal hell...and he still made us, "because he loves us." Now you tell me, where is the love? "Love me or burn" is not love...that's blackmail

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    2. While Judeo-Christian beleif systems do have responses to your arguement, it might be easier for you to look into alternate forms of religion and viewing God.

      Deists, among them many of America's founding fathers, believe in the "clock work" theory. Mainly there was an all powerful force that created the universe (God) in science terms (Big Bang). This creation set all the laws of physics in motion and the work of God or this creationist force was over. As this universe ends that creationist force may return. This philosophy is useful for those who take issue with the idea of miracles and God not helping us.

      Transcendentalists like Emerson, who took many ideas from Hinduism (which is in fact monotheistic), look to nature for an explanation of God. Similar to Abraham's revelation, Emerson saw life as the greatest approximation of God believing all life was connected. Through this mindset, heaven is the ability to decompose when you die and lend your parts to all the life to come, essentially reincarnation. Thus God is the sum total of all life and its interconnections. I suggest reading the poem Brahma by Emerson.

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    3. thats like saying 'okay, you have a problem with morphine, maybe you should try heroin'. if the pursuit is truth, why say alright, a defined pink unicorn may not be visible, maybe you should try a more imaginary loosey goosey pink unicorn. is reality so troublesome to you that you cannot, absolutely cannot get through life without a placebo and an imaginary friend? we will never solve the real problems in this world so long as people insist on that the voices in their heads come from the divine creator of the universe who has totally got your back. its time to stop believing santa is real, and he wants you to invade that country where they don't see him.

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    4. Perfectly explanation! Thank you for sharing this! And I agree with your understanding of His Omniscience! He is the great "I Am"!!

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    5. God has limits, his limits are:
      He will always be a God
      He will always be all loving
      He will always be all powerful
      He will always exist
      and so on....
      God isn't a thing anyway he is a concept an idea even and like most concepts the idea is flawed in some minute way. God is a theory that can never be proved or disproved so why believe in him at all? If someone told you that there was a giant invisible thing that had infinite power can predict the future created the Earth and a place for good people and a place for bad people, the deciding factor whether you go to the bad place is if you disobey 10 rules in which he secretly revealed to a guy called Moses and if you disobey these rules then you burn in eternal flames for eternity...... but he loves you..... you would say hmmmmmmm I don't believe you.

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  2. Let's move onto perfection and love.
    what do his actions in the old testament "disprove"? I really can't say more without knowing what point you were trying to make.
    blasphemy is an interesting topic, I feel to understand the verse you use requires at least Mark 3:28-30
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark%203:28-30&version=ESV
    I don't believe blasphemy is as simple as: "saying 'God is imaginary,' and meaning it." What the religious leaders of the day were doing was a little more complex than that. Here is what I can say from what I have read...(Mark 3:22-30)Seeing that he was doing miracles the scribes came down from Jerusalem and started telling the people that he was possessed by satan or a demon. They were claiming God's work was nothing more than the tricks of a satan, by doing this they were trying to belittle the acts of God, so that the people would not value Jesus over them because of the things he was doing. Your next statement, "So, now you’ve committed an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God simply by saying three words, and He will give you absolutely no options to wash that sin away." actually explains Jesus' reason for being sacrificed. Jesus died on the cross to cover the debt we owed for our sins. I also want to adress the term "LOVE" here. I believe as American's we don't really hold the same significance to this word any more, now a days we "love" food, or "love" a sports team, or "love" some celebrity. But if you truly love something/someone, don't you want what's best for it/them and what will fulfill it/them? If we are talking about the God of the bible then that is the kind of love that is expressed. After all, doesn't a loving parent punish their child to teach them a lesson? (that doesn't mean that parents who don't punish their children don't love them). Love does not mean a free pass, it means that they care for them enough to do what they need to, even if that means finally giving the child what they want, Hell. I believe C.S. Lewis depicted Hell rather simply and well in the last book of his Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle. To paraphrase, The trolls, who do not believe in Aslan (C.S. Lewis' portrayal of God) , are captive along with the children, who do believe in Aslan. The trolls have decided to shut their eyes and wait for the end, suddenly the children realize they are free and are actually in a new amazing land with Aslan there to welcome them, they are overjoyed and notice that the trolls are not getting up, they try to get them to look around but they refuse to open their eyes and see the glorious land all around them, because they choose to believe that they are trapped in hut and nothing will change that situation.

    I have not read this book in a very long time so what I have said is from memory, but the point remains the same. God loves you and will give you what you want whether that is him or to be left alone to your own devices.

    well I believe that just about covers your post.

    By the way how was your book, The Paradox of God?
    I have another one you should try out and compare,
    The Reason For God by Timothy Keller. He makes some good points on subjects that most people can't get past.(example: "how can a loving God allow suffering in the world?", "If God loves people why would he send them to Hell?")

    Have a good day, and thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts :) God Bless,

    -- Concerned Christian --

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    1. You cannot compare God to a human father, in saying that his love is like a father's love (thus doing what's best for his children), because a human father is not all powerful. Yes, it is true that a human father would do what's best for his children if he loved them, but you cannot honestly tell me that an all-powerful human father would create a world without evil for his children. This is, after all, what would be best for them. Having to punish children is simply a response to the evil that already exists in the world because a father must teach his children "right from wrong." I know that if I could create a perfect world free of evil with eternal happiness for my children, I would (from the start, and not put them through a gauntlet of suffering in life to get there, and even worse eternal suffering if they disobey me).

      I am not belittling Christians here, but I have heard this justification every single time this question arises, and it just simply doesn't hold up. I am interested to hear your response to this (as long as you don't say "God works in mysterious ways").

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    2. Aguire

      Your parent anology is faulty. My child is hungry. I don't feed him for many days and then put a plate of freshly baked cookies on the table. "Don't eat the cookies son." I tell him. Now will that hungry child eat some cookies? Of course. Now I will banish my child from the house for disobeying me, forever.

      Choices in a controlled environment are not true choices. Your god is neither loving nor just. Why create beings born to be doomed? As a father I would never do that. Also parental bonds are strengthened by cntinued contact. Anyone "seen" Yahweh recently??

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    3. The old testament links the word love with life. The ultimate form of love for "God" was the creation of the universe and life. The problem here is personification. Using human terms to describe something that isn't human is inherently faulty. Our flawed approximation of what God feels for us is called love but we truly do not comprehend any emotion of God. So argue against our man made personifications of a incomprehensible force not God itself.

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    4. @6c841986-bcd8-11e2-8b8f-000bcdcb2996

      "I know that if I could create a perfect world free of evil with eternal happiness for my children, I would"

      The thing is you cannot. You simply cannot create a world in which we are eternally "happy" without 'evil' or suffering it isn't possible. Your idea is devoid of logic because joy and pain, happy and unhappy, good and evil are dualities, surely you know this?

      And also, surely you know that the thing about dualities is that one characteristic cannot exist without its opposite. You cannot have happiness in a world devoid of pain/suffering/unhappiness because the term happy is dependant on the existence of a lesser/opposing feeling to compare it to. Therefore a "world of eternal happiness" is not a world in which we are eternally happy, but rather a world in which we simply ARE. We do no experience the positive effects of being happy because they are the only effects hence, there's nothing to compare them to so that we can classify them as preferable over something else. If one emotion is all you know, then essentially you don't feel "emotion" per say because it is your normal state, you are neither happy nor unhappy.

      And in fact, if you think about it, this is really what being dead is like. Being asleep (and meditating to some extent) is the only "experience" we have where we do not "feel" anything or any emotions (forget about dreams, I'm talking about dreamless sleep). Therefore, heaven and hell are one in the same because both are centred around the idea of an eternity subject to only one side of a duality. This means, that both eternities are devoid of happiness AND sadness, joy AND pain, meaning AND meaninglessness for neither can exist without its counterpart. This is why being dead is exactly like being asleep and probably why meditation is becoming so popular because it attempts to consciously reach this state of not feeling, of being at the very centre of a duality, experiencing neither one side of it nor the other. It's very enlightening in the sense that it brings you closer to death, it's a way of coming to terms with death, of dispatching the anxiety around it and accepting its necessary yet beautiful consequences.

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  3. P.S. sorry I had to post twice it seems my reply was a little too long :)

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  4. This post is rife with problems.

    First off, the church traditionally describes God as "all-powerful," meaning He has power over all creation. Plain and simple.

    Second, your spiel about His omniscience and how it relates to His perfect judgment is not only naive, it's jaded. Sure, God knows how everything ends, but--here's the kicker--there isn't just ONE ending. There are MANY endings. There are endings where your decisions in life lead you to Him, and there are endings where your decisions in life lead you away from Him. Either way, they're YOUR decisions, not His. He may know where every path ultimately leads, but YOU are the one who chooses which paths to take. Therefore, it's not His fault when you make immoral choices.

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    1. So... he's not all powerful?

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    2. Ahh J. Your post exposes the real problem. There may be many endings, but as you said, god would know all of them. It would even know which ones you will make. Remember, even before you were created your life story was known. So in the end you are being punished for choices that were known BEFORE you even existed.

      Not only that but you were placed in a world with a supernatural enemy (biblically speaking) , without the skill set to combat it. Also this adversary was created with the knowledge that it would rebel and cause the fall of man.

      Talk about getting the shaft.

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  5. "Do Paradoxes Disprove God?"

    No, they don't.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Sorry, my sisters messed with my computer. So, nice post. Very nice. It was very fun for me to come up with ways to counter your ideas. Please take no offense, I respect your point of view. But it seems that the posts above me have already taken care of that. THANKS

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  8. It seems the ones seeking to counter this logic are not skilled at viewing an entire picture. They are only capable of seeing the trees, the sky, or the mountains separately, but never together in unison. Needs more practice in philosophical thinking. Spending days on end inside the mind is a good start. If this can't be done, this argument can't be disproven in a sensible manner. If it can, conversion is more likely anyway.

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  10. The bible is a Man written fictional story. Why does everyone always say "God said this and got said that". There is no reading it in another way than he meant... As much as I can't stand Islam I respect them a little more because they take their book how it is; not claim to know that their high and mighty enough to not take "GOD's WORDS" literally. I grew up Christian, read the bible, and prayed. Till logistic hit me in the face around 10 years old. The worst part I've always thought about Christians was how are you so arrogant to think your made after a God and should live forever? Grow up and exept death so you can live for now.

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  11. For the God-Man Jesus Christ everything is possible, as God Jesus can create any stone, and may lift it up but as a man He cant lift a heavy stone up.
    http://en.apologet.net/can-god-create-a-stone-that-he-cant-lift-it/

    ReplyDelete

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