I've become increasingly frustrated with people's insistence that words can mean whatever they want them to mean, and whatever is convenient for them to mean. Words are meant for one thing: communication. Once everyone personalizes words and definitions, we lose that ability. If "to you" a chair is what the rest of us consider a table, you're going to lose us when you start telling about setting the chair for dinner.

Even more frustrating is when people, or Bibles, make absolute claims about their deity. If you tell me your god is perfect, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, and all-loving, I fully expect him to live up to the literal implications of those words... and because you tell me they are absolutely true.

If "God" is omnipresent, he is everywhere. Yes, everywhere. You cannot rationalize away the horror of Hell by claiming it's merely the place where "God's" present has vacated the premises. Yes, it's hard to imagine than a merciful and all-loving god would create a place like Hell, so instead of facing the reality that he may not be those things, a new definition of omnipresent is constructed. Somehow "omnipresent" can actually exclude one very special place in the cosmos: Hell. God is everywhere... except there. But that's not really omnipresent, is it? Apparently, to some, it is... but the word has lost its meaning altogether.

If "God" is perfect, then his creation should be perfect... yes, even when given free-will. I think when we simply blurt out that everything "God" made is perfect, we forget what that implies. Humans would have perfectly understood that remaining in "God's" grace would be the best choice; that "rebelling" would only hurt them. They would have perfectly trusted "God", and perfectly behaved. Threats would have been unnecessary because they would have been able to perfectly think-through disobeying and the consequences. The only way our free-will would have tripped us up is if we did not have perfect understanding... and apparently, we didn't. We hadn't yet had a bite of the fruit of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. So, without that essential knowledge, we were not "perfect", and to insist we were--despite a clear lack of perfect motives, thought-processes, and critical thinking--undermines the meaning of the word.

So, we've established that "God" is not literally everywhere, and did not literally create a perfect universe (because, even if people were the only thing wrong, that one blemish means the whole is not perfect). What other absolutes does "God" fail to live up to?

Well, he's not all-powerful. And do you know why? Because nothing can be all-powerful. There's the so-called omnipotence paradox: "Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?" Some Christians scoff at this paradox, but the reality is that it's very telling. This is actually just one simple thing an allegedly all-powerful god cannot do, and that actually does invalidate the claim he can do anything he wants. He can't. This paradox may sound silly and childish, but it's true... and makes the idea of all-powerfulness silly and childish. And I'm sure we could think of many other paradoxes that "God" could not overcome. If even "God" cannot crawl into the definition of "all-powerful" or "omnipotent", why use such useless words? It would serve theists much better if they just said that their god was "very powerful" or even "the most powerful". But they don't.

Also, an all-knowing, all-loving, and merciful god would probably forgo creating humankind altogether, rather than insist that the bloody drama on this planet play out to the bitter end. If we're now admitting "God" is not all-powerful, but trying to make the case that he's at least merciful, the fact we exist at all speaks against that idea. Sometimes, we mercifully put suffering creatures out of their misery. If we knew their existence would only be one, long, unending sequence of horror (even with a couple good days), we might just decide not to bring them into existence at all. Even if you make the argument that there's Heaven after death to look forward to, we all know not everyone makes it in (and so, we're not really all loved, either). A god who knows our fate, but chooses to let us suffer through it, is not merciful or loving in any meaningful or remotely literal way. A merciful, loving god could not possibly know what might happen were he to create us.

Just about every absolute claim made about "God", absolutely fails. Why bother speaking in absolutes if there are so many damn exceptions, rationalizations, and excuses? The fact that there are so many apologist apologizing for the failings and failure of their god to clearly communicate, speaks volumes.

Words have specific meaning so they can convey specific ideas. If your god does not live up to the literal definition of his supposed characteristics, stop singing his praises. You've been conned.

My worldview does not suffer from glaring inconsistencies or contradictions. I do not need apologists to explain away flaws in my logic. If someone points out a real problem, I can alter my opinion to reflect reality rather than concocting elaborate dance routines to remain at my preformed conclusion. It's not about insisting I'm right, but actually finding the truth. Sure, sometimes it's elusive, but I want truth... and I need words to have meaning. Communication is important. If what you mean by "perfect" is not what I mean by "perfect", we've failed. 

Views: 544

Tags: absolutes, words

Comment by CJoe on November 20, 2012 at 8:26pm

Hey, and... why did Jesus say he was returning "soon"? His apostles had to be a little miffed he didn't return in their lifetime, and here we are more than 2,000 years later. Why speak at all if you're going to only speak in "Heavenly terms"? Yeah yeah... so 1,000 years is like a day to God, and apparently only two days have passed since Jesus floated up into the clouds (and then into space?). But seriously. It's super inconsiderate of Jesus to use a word like "soon" while speaking to earthlings. He should have said what he meant, which is: I'm never coming back.

Comment by Ed on November 20, 2012 at 8:32pm

Cara,

You're being difficult as my religious minded aunt would say whenever examples of inconsistency in her belief system are brought to light. She's a very sharp intelligent woman but refuses to consider the shortcomings of her religion.  They refuse to take off the blinders.  Your observation about God's omnipresence requiring him to be in hell would cause her some major league gymnastics. I am so tempted.

Comment by CJoe on November 20, 2012 at 8:46pm

Right?!

I think we can debate what words should mean, but still continue to use them properly until there's consensus. I was in a discussion on Facebook, and someone made the case that "nature" and "natural" should include humans in the definition, but it specifically excludes us. I think the fact that we're excluded in the definition comes from the idea that we're "not of this world"; humans are set-apart by "God". That idea has been ingrained in all of us, even if we don't believe there's a god. Even environmentalists and people who care deeply about nature (here I'm using it in the traditional sense lol) think of humans as the "other". We should be careful not to disturb the ecosystems of different lifeforms, but we are part of nature; we are what we are because we evolved this way. But that's another can of worms altogether :)

Comment by onyango makagutu on November 21, 2012 at 12:09am

Cara, there is a friend of mine who keeps on changing the meaning of words whenever we are in conversation just to justify his christian worldview. This is so spot on

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on November 21, 2012 at 11:55am

 

Hi Cara – I love what the apologetics come up with whenever we point of any of the (glaring) contradictions in their definition of god. Ask a hundred theists in a room to define god and you will get a hundred different answers. I have yet to hear one definition that does not become null and void after the contradictions are pointed out. I do so love the apologetics even if sometimes my head gets melted a bit by them. My God is Omnipotent but they know his mind!! See this.

Comment by Dale Headley on November 21, 2012 at 3:40pm

I totally agree with everything you say.  Now let me inquire as to YOUR personal forthrightness.  Are you really as beautiful and intelligent-looking as the picture that always appears with your posts?  I myself am too honest to ever post a misleading photo.  And I’m too old and ugly to post an accurate one.

Comment by CJoe on November 21, 2012 at 4:46pm

Lol... well, it is a fairly recent photo of myself, so I hope I'm not being misleading. Thanks :)

Comment by CJoe on November 21, 2012 at 4:50pm

Reg, I've been beating my head against a wall in a debate recently. I threw in the towel. I just can't keep up with the cognitive dissonance gymnastics!! It's just... I mean... is there nothing their god can do wrong? Would there ever be a point that's too far, even for him? We never give humans that kind of leeway; we'd call someone who behaved in the fashion this god does a tyrannical dictator, or worse! When people can justify suffering on a mass scale, or genocide if "God" mandates it, then there really can be no mutual respect.

Comment by Obfuskation on November 21, 2012 at 6:05pm

Actually, the omnipotence paradox is a logically dishonest argument.  I used to use it, but have stopped after a series of conversations about it.  A lot depends on whether the believer thinks there are logical limits to omnipotence.  For example, can gods create squared circles, or married bachelors.

Instead of the “rock“ version, we can phrase it generally as, "Can god create a task that he can’t perform?”

The problem is that it becomes apparent that it is logically incoherent, and works more as a dishonest ‘gotcha’ argument, because from there it could be rephrased as, “Can an all-powerful being create a task that an all-powerful being can’t accomplish?”.  That brings us to the same type of argument as non-circular circles, and bachelors that are married.

If the believer believes in logical limits, then the paradox becomes useless.  However, it serves as a good tool against those who believe that gods don’t have logical limits to their power.

Comment by Obfuskation on November 21, 2012 at 6:10pm

With the exception of my comment on the omnipotence paradox, I agree.  My last big conversation was with an evangelical christian who insisted that the bible was divine truth handed down directly by Jehovah. 

After raking him over the coals for an hour about the scientific ignorance and immoral savagery of the old testament, he conceded that the old testament was "outmoded" and "irrelevant".  However, even after I pointed out that the OT was 75% of the bible, he somehow managed to mentally loop around and still insist that the bible (in it's entirety) was still the divine truth handed down directly by Jehovah.

Some people's kids.

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