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Post No.: 0208omnipotent

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

We briefly queried whether there could be a creationist god after all in Post No.: 0074. For the sake of this post, we’re going to agree that God exists…

 

Well philosophers have similarly long pondered what type of god (or gods) She/He/It would or could be. This is understandably a controversial issue to explore for some people because the belief in an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God means so much and gives a lot of comfort to so many, so if you want to skip this post then that’s up to you. Yet it’s arguably not healthy to ignore things you might find uncomfortable exploring. Most of the following arguments did not originate from me but from other thinkers, yet I decided to open my fluffy mind and learn about them too…

 

Let’s make it easier and say or agree that there is only one god. If God was omnibenevolent (all-loving) then one may argue that all evil or bad things happen for an ultimately good reason (a teleological explanation). But others will question why can’t good things just be made to happen without bad causes if God was omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) too?

 

Some may counter-argue that by saying that we need some bad things to happen in order for us to realise and enjoy what’s good. Yet do we need quite as much evil or bad things to happen as we’ve seen and still see around the world? Where are God’s efforts in improving matters now after we’ve learnt what’s bad? And things being good every day won’t necessarily mean it’ll be boring (e.g. one day you’re in a glider soaring between the mountains, another day you’re playing golf in the sun, another day you’re chasing a laser dot, or whatever you like). Meow.

 

One may contend that if we could only do good things then we’d be robbed of our free will (having free will or not is another thing contested in philosophy but we’ll accept it as something that truly exists for this argument), and not having free will would arguably be worse than being forced to be happy, safe and good all of the time. Yet what about natural disasters, which aren’t anything to do with humans yet are destructive and bad for the unlucky people caught in them? And if an omnipotent god wanted us to have true free will with no constraints, such a god would’ve designed us to be omnipotent too! But in reality, we are restricted in many ways so why not also restrict our ability to do bad things too? Free will to merely want to do something also doesn’t mean the same thing as being able to do what one may want, so maybe God could preserve people’s free will to harm others yet not allow any harming to actually occur (e.g. a freak wind blows an aggressor down before she/he can stab a person)?

 

What if there is no best possible world? In other words, what if whatever we choose as our best conception, we could always add another thing to it to make it even better? Creating the perfect/best world is therefore impossible for even an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god, thus God cannot logically be that omnipotent and omnibenevolent at all. (Another line of argument is can an omnipotent god make something so heavy that even She/He/It cannot lift it? Well if this god cannot lift it then She/He/It cannot be omnipotent, and if this god can lift it then She/He/It has failed to make something heavy enough and therefore again cannot be omnipotent!)

 

And in the same way that, even if we develop perfect gene customisation technologies, whatever genes we will choose to have will still be shaped by whatever genes and environmental factors we never chose in the first place (the ones we were arbitrarily born and raised with in the very first place) and so strictly true free choice will always be an illusion – whatever God is or would want to be like will not be Her/His/It’s own strictly true free choice either, for such a god will need to behave according to whatever created Her/Him/It in the first place (be it arbitrary luck or spontaneity, or possibly an even greater creator who created Her/Him/It). God would not have been strictly free to have chosen to be benevolent, vengeful, all-knowing, elusive and/or whatever – meaning that God cannot ever truly be omnipotent. Nothing can consciously choose to create itself due to not having a consciousness yet, just like a baby cannot choose to be born and into what sort of being. And God would not be able to escape this logic either thus cannot truly be considered omnipotent (nor could anything else for that matter). God would need to have been subordinate to something else, even if it was just pure chance.

 

This is similar to countering Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways relating to God being the first cause of everything – what caused God to exist and why can’t the first cause of everything be mere chance rather than an intelligent designer or instigator? Or if God is this blind or random ‘chance’ then it’s not the kind of god most people are thinking about.

 

‘Omni’ is such an incredibly high standard if taken in its most strict interpretation, as is perfection, for which many people believe God is perfect. And of course, if there are multiple gods then they cannot all be omnipotent because who’d be more potent than another if they disagree with each other?

 

Another contention is that gods come in many different forms depending on the religion, if they are attributed a form at all, but in many popular religions they come in human or humanoid forms, even if their heads may be of different animals. But it seems conceited of humans to conceptualise a very human-centric god. If God created all life ever then, since humans only represent a small fraction of all life, such a god would likely have created another animal from Her/His/It’s own image.

 

It therefore seems like gods are created from the imaginations of humans rather than being divinely created. And this brings us back to questioning the existence of sentient gods. You may have heard of Pascal’s wager, but this is not an argument for the proof of the existence of God – it’s an argument to suggest that we might as well believe in a (Christian kind of) god ‘just in case’. If people were rational and used a cost-benefit analysis – because the costs of going to hell could be infinitely bad (potentially all the pain you can imagine for all of the rest of time) then for all the pleasures of sinning in this relatively short lifetime, and even if the probabilities of an afterlife existing are very slim, the argument suggests that it isn’t worth it to go to hell for an eternity and so we should all aim to be god-fearing and impeccably-behaved people in this life.

 

Yet even if it appears rational to believe in a god just to avoid eternal damnation, which would be worth avoiding if it truly exists – with all of the different gods conceived of in the world, and an infinite variety of not-yet-worshipped but possible gods, and all of the infinite number of appeasement rituals one could possibly perform – why not believe in all of them, just in case? Because the probabilities are, if you believe in a god, you are believing in the wrong one(!)

 

However, it’ll then become practically irrational to bother or simply impossible to try because chances are you’ll get it wrong. And which god would accept that a mere belief in any god is sufficient for them? Who arbitrarily said that the prize is an infinite number of days in heaven if one gets it right anyway? And would such a god be gullible to reward with heaven those who believe just for purely selfish reasons of wanting to be in heaven too? Plus what if there is a non-zero chance of there being a generous god who’d send people to heaven regardless of their faith or lack of, or a non-zero chance of there being a nefarious god who’d send a correct believer to hell just for the tricksy laughs?!

 

Anselm’s ontological argument contends that God must exist for God is the most awesome being ever, and things that really exist are more awesome than things that are merely imaginary, so therefore God must exist. But this presents a ‘begging the question’ fallacy i.e. in order to accept the conclusion (that God exists), one will already need to assume or accept that the conclusion is true (that God exists). It’s circular reasoning.

 

…All of this does not 100% rule out the possible existence of a sentient god(s) because such a thing is epistemologically impossible (to prove this negative, or to constantly claim that “absence of (positive) evidence is not evidence of absence”). But logic would dispute that such a god is, or could ever be, simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. And with regards to if you still want to believe in a god(s) ‘just in case’ then I guess that’s entirely up to you. I’m not preaching one way or another! However, if you want to convince others to do so too then you’ll need to come up with some sound arguments.

 

Meow. I’m no scaredy-cat to investigate any subject but I understand that this is a sensitive subject for some people so please tell us what you think by using the Twitter comment button below. Please keep it respectful and collaborative. Thanks.

 

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