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. 

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Comment by CJoe on November 21, 2012 at 6:33pm

I guess my perspective is that most Christian don't believe there are logical limits. For instance, they insist that a universe so complex could not have come from "nothing", yet there's a special exception for their god. But, as I'm sure you know, a god who created a universe so complex must be that much more complex... which begs the question: where did HE come from? Annnd their argument falls flat once again. Who's being dishonest now? Maybe this example would have been a better one to use over the omnipotence paradox, but all their logical inconsistencies begin to sound the same after a while.

Ezekiel 18:20 says "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him."

But, somehow, we're all held accountable for the sins of Adam and Even, and born with "Original Sin". This is yet another glaring contradiction. We're born guilty of a crime we never committed! I've heard so many ridiculous rationalizations for this, and somehow this huge contradiction is swept aside. Apparently, people don't mind being punished for something they didn't do.

Obviously, I could go on with these. So many of them prove they're not interested in logical limits to the powers of their god, so why should I be? Yeah. That's definitely a crappy attitude, but maybe we can only fight fire with fire haha. Logic certainly falls on deaf ears.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on November 21, 2012 at 7:35pm

There was a picture posted a while back with the caption that read something along the lines of how the god most theists define happens to have the same beliefs as they do. On one hand they attribute all that is good to their God but refuse to contemplate the bad stuff as part of his creation too. I am reminded of a quote by David Attenborough in an interview:

‘When Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things.

‘But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind.

‘And [I ask them], “Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all- merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child’s eyeball? Because that doesn’t seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy.”’

Comment by Obfuskation on November 21, 2012 at 7:42pm

I look at the unreasonable zealots as a blessing to our cause.  Each time one of us makes arguments against them using calm logic and morality, everybody witnessing the exchange is struck by the contrast between us and them. 

That tiny minority helps us win over the more reasonable majority.  I like to think of them as a rather obnoxious gift.  :)

Comment by James Cox on November 21, 2012 at 7:46pm

I was of the impression that 'words' have changed useage as culture has matured, sadly I have no examples that come to mind..;p)

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on November 21, 2012 at 8:11pm

 Of course our most esteemed apologetic W.L. Craig did try to explain that the murder of the Canaanites in the bible (Book of Numbers I think) was justified because the adults were sinners and their slaughtered children would go to heaven anyway. He missed seeing the weakness in his own moral principles, even if they are only paltry Christian ones and was applauded for the statement by his audience who were already dribbling over him with the ecstasy of such large doses of confirmation bias. What happened – more Christian apologetics started to write and lecture to justify what Craig had said. Jesus wept!

I try to avoid debating with what I call the “dazed and confused brigade”. At least I can have a healthy discussion with a senior JW or Baptist. There are however certain fundies out there whose concepts of god are so confusing that I wonder if they even know what they believe themselves never mind WHY they believe it. I have made several vows to myself not to enter into a discussion with them (discussion???) because I too will end up thinking about my head and that wall. Of course I keep breaking the promise and dive straight in every time. Ok – I do enjoy it but I remember once thinking to myself after I let some Mormons in “If I could only remember where I parked my spaceship so I could get the flock out of here (as the shepherd said)”. Smiley face.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on November 21, 2012 at 9:21pm

I once told a theist that the word "gullible" was the only word not in the dictionary. My bad.

Comment by CJoe on November 21, 2012 at 9:25pm

^HAHA!! Nice :D

Comment by Unseen on November 21, 2012 at 11:49pm

You're right. The closer we stick to common usage, the more communication is possible. The more fanciful we get, the more we are just talking to ourselves or to our closed circle. Elsewhere, someone defined a foetus as a "parasite" though the word "parasite" in common parlance is always an interspecies thing. There is a sense in which we refer to a freeloader as a parasite, but that is metaphorical not literal use much in the way a "slave to fashion" isn't really a slave.

Comment by Ward Cressin on November 21, 2012 at 11:53pm

Cara, this is excellent: simple, clear and eloquent.


James, yes words shift in meaning but we can also try to resist stupid changes that make the word meaningless. Plus, resisting with these words can help highlight the mental gymnastics religious people go through to maintain their beliefs.

I'm all for some changes: like shifting the meaning of ethics to only mean "a code of behavior based on logic and reason" contrasted with morals meaning  "a code of behavior based on religion or beliefs". I contributed to a thread a while ago where others also echoed similar usage. It's not wide-spread yet but has had some usage for quite a while.

But I do think omnipotent should mean omnipotent. And omniscient, omniscient. Etc. Let's make them work even harder until their beliefs break and they become rational, or their minds break and they can be legally institutionalized.


Reg, love that.

Comment by Ryan B on November 21, 2012 at 11:59pm

This post reminds of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7jClyinERY


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