Let’s continue with our critique of Eric Hyde’s analysis of atheist arguments, “Top 10 Most Common Atheist Arguments, and Why They Fail.” (Begin with part 1 here.)
“3. God is not all-powerful if there is something He cannot do. God cannot lie, therefore God is not all-powerful.”
Just for completeness, I’ll share Hyde’s response even though it makes little sense. Hyde argues that God’s properties are subordinate to his free will. He doesn’t lie because he wills to not lie, and he could just as easily will to lie. While we’re at it, God could also will to not be good or to not exist . . . which raises more questions than it answers. As for the “Can God make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it?” category of paradoxes, he says that God can’t “overpower Himself.”
Much has been written about the contradictions that arise when pitting God’s perfect qualities against each other, and there are lots more examples than “God can’t lie, so he’s not all-powerful.” For example, if God is omniscient (knows everything), he knows the future. But how can he be omnipotent (can do anything) when he can’t change the future without violating his omniscience?
How can there be “necessary suffering” when God is omnipotent? Isn’t he powerful enough to achieve his ends without causing suffering? Or is he just not omni-benevolent?
Does God have a personality? How can this be when personality traits have a negative side? For example, there’s no pleasure in victory without the risk of defeat, and an overabundance of kindness makes you a doormat. But if a personality is an odd thing for God to have, what would a personality-less god be like?
Our universe isn’t eternal. Before God created it, reality was either perfect or not. God wouldn’t have allowed an imperfect reality to exist. But if it already were perfect, what motivated God to create the universe? How could the universe have satisfied a need of God when a perfect being wouldn’t have needs? And if creating the universe satisfied no needs, why would he create it?
How can God be all-just (that is, giving everyone precisely the punishment they deserve) and merciful (giving less punishment than people deserve)?
How can God have a purpose? A purpose implies goals and unfulfilled desires. But that’s impossible for a perfect being.
If God is all-powerful, he can just forgive our sins, which sounds reasonable since we’re imperfect and sinful because he made us that way. That would eliminate the bizarre tale that God had to sacrifice himself to himself to make a loophole in a law that he made himself so we could get into heaven. (And, in fact, God has forgiven sins and then forgotten them.)
We typically give Christians a pass when they list God’s properties—it’s their religion, so why not? But the Bible gives some very human limitations on God.
- God changed his mind: “The Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (Exodus 32:10–14). He dithered about whether Balaam (the one with the talking donkey) should go on his trip or not (Numbers 22).
- God doesn’t know everything: “I will go down [to Sodom] and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me” (Genesis 18:21).
- God isn’t all-powerful and is defeated several times in the Old Testament.
- God isn’t especially moral.
- God regrets.
- God lies.
“4. Believing in God is the same as believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”Hyde says that God is different from the other three. Christianity has developed over thousands of years, it’s had martyrs, and it’s endured religious persecution. The Bible has “historical and geographical corroboration.” Compare that against fairies, Santa, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which no adult believes in. “It’s strawman argumentation at its worst.”
Yes, Christianity is old. Hinduism is older. That doesn’t mean that either one is correct. And look what longevity has done to Christianity: there are now 45,000 denominations of Christianity. Christians can’t even agree what their own holy book says, and the religion is becoming more fragmented, not more coherent, with time.
Yes, there have been Christian martyrs and Christian wars. Some evaluations of the Thirty Years’ War, in which Catholics and Protestants fought in Europe in the early 1600s, estimate that it killed up to two percent of the entire world’s population (I explore the deaths due to religion here). Religious violence is no evidence that Christianity is correct.
Yes, the Bible does refer to some places that history or archeology have corroborated. This Argument from Accurate Place Names isn’t much to brag about. Getting the basics of history and geography correct—countries, rivers, kings, cities, and the like—earns you no praise. It simply gets you to the starting line. No one would say that The Wizard of Oz is likely true because Kansas really exists.
And speaking of Kansas, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may sauce be upon Him) was invented by Bobby Henderson in 2005 in response to a proposal by that state’s board of education to include intelligent design along with evolution in biology classes. He concluded his argument:
I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.
Yes, Pastafarianism was deliberately made up, and Christianity wasn’t. Doesn’t matter—if the evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Yahweh are equally weak and we are certain that one of them is false, what does that say about the other?
Continued in part 3.
but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.
— Jules Renard
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/29/15.)
Image from Dr. Partha Sarathi Sahana, CC license