Sketches on Atheism

Yahweh’s Dreadful Power Problem

elephantCan an omnipotent god create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?

This phenomenally simple riddle is more than just a troublesome headache for the Yahwehist. It’s an utter nightmare. In one clean coup de grâce it renders the entire fanciful concept of omnipotence invalid, and by doing so obliterates one of the most treasured attributes the Yahwehist ascribes to their god: its omni-power.

This is not, however, to say the problem is unnavigable. It can be solved, but to negotiate around the paradoxes self-annihilating properties the Yahwehist has to swallow a tremendously bitter pill and concede that their particular Middle Eastern god is not actually omnipotent. That is to say, their god’s powers are limited to logical things only, meaning it cannot perform self-contradictory tricks. It cannot fabricate a square triangle, pit an unmovable object against an unstoppable force, pen a set of all sets, produce a married bachelor, or make the currently logical universe illogical as that would allow self-contradictory things, which the Yahwehist has already admitted their god cannot do. If it could, then it could create an un-liftable rock, and since the Yahwehist claims god can lift any object, “a rock so heavy it cannot lift it” cannot exist, and therefore their god cannot create it.

The monumental flaw in this rationale is that it accepts logic (which is a law) precedes god. If the Yahwehists god is limited to logic, then that god does not determine it, engineer it, or rule over it. In two words, logic exists before and without a god. Logic (the absence of self-contradiction) therefore exists objectively and does not require a law giver, rendering the Yahwehists Prime Mover god-hypothesis irredeemably crippled.

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165 thoughts on “Yahweh’s Dreadful Power Problem

  1. Dear Jon,
    If you were American you would get that bad joke.

    can I play advocate for a minute. Lets except hypothetically that all books are just books. I like classical philosophy and rhetoric, but I don’t treat 3000 yrs. old. books as divine.
    In fact, it was hard to find a book 3000 years ago.

    Do you think our world now would be different if Hammurabi could have put his laws on paper instead of stone. This obviously predates the religion we cope with, but we can find humanist values in Hammurabi’s code. Read it. He wanted fair treatment of the poor class. He wanted laws written in stone. Fuck, bro, the closest we get to writing in stone in the U.S. Constitution, and that is amendable by proxy of its authors.

    We don’t have written in stone values anymore. We are trying to accept all others and have them except us.

    If you mix oil and water, you get oil and water.
    If you mix fundamental suicide bomber, and fundamental suicide cult leader, you get a difference of opinion.

    We are not oil and water. We are not in or out. We are not one or the other. We are the same, no matter how you figure it, we are the same. To kill, hate, rape, hit, mistreat, name call, disrespect, however so slight, is to forget who we are.

    We are kin. Any if you need god for that, fine, but that is weak.
    We are kin, no god, no government, no trifle, no nothing.

    That is all we are. No magic, just us. Give me a hug, or call me an infidel. We are still just us.

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    • Indeed, more people should know of Hammurabi’s code, and the older Egyptian Middle Kingdom rules that pre-date it. They should also learn up on Taoism, Confucianism, Mohism, read the Mahabharata, Homer’s Odyssey, and read Pittacus. The themes are all very similar: try and be good to one another, and mindful of the other’s needs.

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      • Can we know to much, maybe you and I get it, but fuck, bro do we really want to be talking about this forever. It grows old.

        I am good at the ‘our’side, but I don’t kow?

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      • I find it entertaining, and its a necessary mental diversion for as long as Yahwehists take their supernal nonsense onto the streets, into the classrooms, the courtrooms and political chambers. If they could just keep their hands to themselves then this blog wouldn’t have a reason to exist.

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      • My diety, inclusing Hitch, s. Harris, and J. Zande.

        of course we can publish all of this, but there will alwalys be a RV. Wolpe who just wont sut up.

        He claims so much , but proves so little.

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      • Rabbi Wolpe, you mean? Nice guy. I’ve spoken with him a few times. His theistic position is rather odd, though. He admits the Pentateuch is myth, but then still believes in a god. His reasoning: the fact that the Jews are still around. That’s it. That’s his evidence.

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  2. I have a lame book that tried to cash in on this genre, but it’s basically a bio of the nine most popular faiths/religions. Tear for me, this is where I started…Well, obviously overcoming gay bashing, slave owning Jesus.

    The deal is, at least here, No-one will ever learn about the ‘old’, ‘middle’ and ‘new’ periods of ancient ‘war-torn beggers’. No body will ever know about the world that so called ‘Moses’ lived in and made up his stories from.

    No one will ever know that Homer is a half fake, half real guy because we can’t pin it down. My opinion, after reading both, not the same author. I appeal to the use of different names for the same cities, the same gods, and the same hero’s. It seems the author of the latter know the prior story, but he had a different story telling style.

    It’s like me telling a story, gaining a bunch a fans, and you coming along with your perfect skill and logic and stealing my fans. 1500 years from now, whom ever cares enough would have to figure out if you stole my fans, or maybe they were you fans from the start.

    If we go that way, the conversation seems even more upside-down retarded than any real talk I have ever had.

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  3. Yahweh Avocate:
    God is logic, God is Logos, God can not transcend himself — especially when that Self is perfection. Expecting otherwise is the pot feebly trying to understand the potter.

    Isn’t that how it goes?

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    • I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something like that. The counter-defence, though, is hitting upon an aseitic claim, which also negates the Yahwehists god hypothesis. An aseitic being demands that it is Absolutely self-originating and Absolutely self-contained, which is riddled with a self-annihilating pox. Being Absolutely self-contained means the creature in question is incapable of changing, which is to say, immutable. Change denotes development, and development indicates something less-than-perfect. If the capital “G” god is Absolutely Perfect there should be no requirement, or indeed capacity, for change… and Christian scripture confirms just that: (Malachi 3:6) “I the Lord do not change.” The problem here is that to be immutable nothing at all could ever happen. Nothing. Ever. Not even a thought, let alone a change of mind:

      “And it repented the lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:6)

      Also, an Absolutely self-contained creature cannot pen a set of all sets. Once again, it hits the wall of logic, meaning logic precedes it. If it does not create logic, then it is ruled over by logic, and is therefore anything but a Prime Mover.

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  4. I know you put this up for fellow atheists, but I thought it be fun to play advocate.
    In debating with theists, however, I think it is important to remember the realm of the debate.
    When Tibetan Buddhists debate subtle philosophy items, they call it ‘declaring the level of truth‘.

    So, we must consider what “God” we are discussing:
    (1) The Bible-literalist Yahweh
    (2) A Bible-figurative Yahweh/Jesus
    (3) The philosopher’s God

    You seem to drift between 1 & 3 largely: one minute trying to argue abstractly, the next quoting verses, taken literally, are pointing out inconsistency.

    So to be fruitful, we’d have to be clear on which domain you argue.
    I was not playing advocate for (1) –> that is way too simple to defeat, so I would collect no advocate fees.

    So, outside that realm, maybe perfection would involve change. Now the literalist clinging to Malachi and Genesis would not be pertinent to the conversation.

    Does that make any sense?

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    • Of course, and I understood you were just playing advocate for arguments sake. i appreciate it.

      You raise an interesting point in asking which god we are actually talking about. Therein rests one of the greatest problems. Depending on which theist you’re talking to the answer will change. This is yet another reason to dismiss most god claims. It’s such a poorly defined thing that it makes meaningful discussion almost impossible. To answer, though: I’m talking about the Yahwehists god; the god who appeared first in the Pentateuch, and is the central magical creature of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

      That said, if the theist ever wants to jettison this tremendously childish idea (of a cosmic father figure) and adopt a more pantheistic (or even panetheistic) god concept then the conversation can get very interesting.

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      • I think this gets closer to the point of the thought experiment. Aseity is more about completeness than perfection, if I understand correctly, so it does seem hard to square with temporal action. Isn’t that how all the sticky business about predestination got rolling, historically?
        The thought experiment would then seem to be an argument for monism and that’s all. Events, as we understand them, imply a shared context. I think there is still a response to the problem: ineffability. But when somebody plays that card, everyone must promptly sit down and shut up, and where’s the fun in that?

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      • Wouldn’t ineffability radically contradict the god of the Yahwehists; a god who does things, thinks things, changes its mind, has emotions? I agree, though: it is the ultimate raspberry!

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      • I’m not sure that it necessarily does. I think it simply requires an error theory regarding our experience. It may be a very difficult position to hold consistently, but not impossible. The relevance of the idea is another matter…
        Back to the problem at hand, I do see a problem squaring I AM with intentionality (God’s willing things, to borrow a defective phrase). Intentionality requires some divisibility of the world, some relative standing, at minimum. As a naïve statement, “the intention of I AM” is inconsistent. Again, I see a way around the problem, which is to simply call our notion of intentionality a flawed analogy when applied to God, but then we’re quickly back to the sit-down-and-shut-up scenario. The ineffable God and the I AM share the problems of solipsism, I think. Held cautiously, they are metaphysically unassailable, but they are vulnerable to the question, “So, what?”.

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    • Two points:

      (1) Just because different theists have different gods in mind, is no reason to dismiss any one theist’s claim. Instead, that reasoning can be dismissed. 🙂

      (2) Sure, I get it that you are talking about “the Yahwehist’s god”, but which one — is that your short hand for OT literalists? In which case, you are arguing against a very small set of theists. I thought you were shooting bigger.

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      • Ah, but there is no new god invented in the NT or in the Qur’an, therefore we’re dealing only with the OT god. In this instance, they (the Yahwehist) make the grand claims, and those claims are rebuked as a matter of course. Like I said, if the conversation could ever be moved onto a pantheistic concept (which adjusts with cosmology) then this discussion can get seriously interesting. That said, the god-hypothesis is still remarkably weak, and only getting weaker as we move beyond the question, does a god exist, to the more pertinent question of: why does the universe even require a god?

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      • The different writers of the NT had different god-concepts in mind. The Bible is not homogenous (link here!). To argue as if there is but one god discuss in ancient Jewish and even Christian literature is to buy into the agenda of literalists.

        So I think you are telling us that indeed you are only addressing literalists.

        If you want to argue against a Bible literalist about contradictions in their writings as to the nature of their Yahweh, this post makes sense. But I most Jews and many Christian non-literalist could embrace a changing God, a God only bound by logic because he is logic (Logos), and a perfect God without needing to worry about this post.

        You seem to quickly side track into your other arguments like (1) Why is a god required (2) Contrary theists views negate any theist view (3) Must not change and others when the point of this post is not those. This argument style is faulty, in my opinion. You should stay focused on the problems I point out with this post.

        Again, if you are only arguing against literalists theists, I will not try to advocate, but let’s not pretend that THIS argument (this post) reaches any further. Or if I am wrong, focus on that.

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      • I don’t see how it matters that “different writers of the NT had different god-concepts in mind.” None named a new god, a different god, therefore everyone is talking about the same god: the god of the Pentateuch. Opinions varied according to what? Their own thoughts? That means nothing in the larger scheme.

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      • No doubt about it, but unless the Yahwehist names a different god, or produces a document earlier than the Pentateuch (which stands as the single template) then they’re just talking to the wind.

        I had a wild, but frightfully frustrating conversation with a Yahwehist the other day on just this matter. For all intentional purposes this person was a Pantheist, and presented a brilliant argument for pantheism. His problem: he insisted the god he was talking about was the god of the Pentateuch. It was maddening, pointless, and ultimately futile.

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      • So let him use words as he likes, learn the jargon, use it with him and watch what happens. Sure, you can let him know what you are doing. “Don’t let words get in your way.”

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  5. In debate I often used a variant:

    “C’mon, God … if you’re so clever, can you not create a woman so frigid that even You can’t seduce her?”

    On some occasions this in-all-innocence query really livened things up …

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  6. I’m with the Yahwists on this one! As long as they have the wit to concede that God cannot defy logic and cannot self-limit; limitations on omnipotence which, as you say, is in any case a self-contradictory concept. This might imply an immutable God (I’m not sure) but don’t see why that should be a problem, given that God transcends time (whatever that may mean). It also implies that God can’t write down a rational value for square root 2, but does that matter? It still leaves God able to do everything they want him to.

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    • Ah, but an immutable good (an aseitic being) cannot change, so we’re no longer talking about the Yahwehists god then. I said it in another comment above, but if the Yahwehist jettisoned Yahweh and took on a more panthesitic concept then the conversation can indeed get interesting.

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      • Indeed, the OT Yahweh changes his mind at least twice (Noah’s Flood; appointing Saul as king). So he’s not omniscient about the future, or, if he is, he’s pretty incompetent. Actually, he’s pretty incompetent anyway. ANYONE could tell that a manic-depressive is not the right person to appoint as King in wartime.

        More generally, junking the idea of the Bible as more than the writings of mere mortals doing their best seems to be a precondition of any interesting discussion about anything.

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  7. In the Christian circles I ran in their claim was that the only thing God cannot do is tell a lie.

    He sure does like to josh around a lot, though. 😉

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  8. Logic is a feature of the human brain; it doesn’t exist outside it. It is a necessary tool that allows us to make sense of the world by defining cause and effect. In reality there is no cause and effect, they are both part same thing. The cats whiskers don’t cause the tail, anymore than a spark can cause an explosion. Since God is not human, such logic and its associated limitations are not his but that of his creation (us).

    The snag, I think, is that anyone that wants to give God a persona, i.e. make him a white bearded old man in the sky that can interact with our reality, is actually taking him down a few notches from omnipresent, infinite God to and earthly superpower. And with that s/he/it will fail all your tests. If you leave him in his virtual realm all is well with the world. Sadly, most believers want him to be real and ideally shake his hand.

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  9. I’m never particularly sold on these kind of arguments. When I was a True Christian I knew my god God was so amazing that fanciful ideas like this were like an ant imagining how to construct a plasma TV. If such an omniscient being existed, it would clearly be beyond time, weight and everything else we measure and understand.

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  10. “Can an omnipotent god create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?”

    Such a foolishly simple bit of absurdity was debunked centuries ago.

    Saint Thomas Aquinas, echoing Aristotle solved the riddle during the Middle Ages.

    Yes, the Middle Ages.

    Clearly, atheists need to get with the times.

    The riddle is solved easily when one realizes that it assigns finite attributes to an infinite being.

    Saint Thomas Aquinas says that assigning finite attributes to an infinite being leads to absurdity.

    Absurdity is the bread and butter of atheism, after all.

    For who else but atheists believe that everything happened all by itself.

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    • Describing an “infinite” being is rather absurd, don’t you think? 😉

      I’m afraid, though, SOM, you haven’t answered how logic precedes the Yahwehists god. Isn’t the very basis of the ontological argument (the greatest argument for god ever devised, so we’re told) that if you can think of a god then that god is real in some possible universe? So, following Christian philosophers own rationale, if i can “think” of the paradox then the paradox is real. This means the Yahwehists’ god doesn’t create logic, and that means its not a Prime Mover.

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      • John,

        It’s simple.

        By definition and nature, God is infinite.

        For God to create a rock too heavy for him to lift means that God is finite.

        Since God is infinite, not finite, the question is absurd.

        That atheists cannot understand such simplicity speaks to the profound damage that atheism does to the mind that otherwise is able to reason quite well.

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      • But infinity is not real, SOM. It is a mathematical concept. Can’t you produce something a little less vaporous? And while you’re at it, do please explain how logic precedes Yhwh. You seem to be avoiding this question.

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      • John,

        In the same tome, “Summa Theologica,” Saint Thomas Aquinas addresses the concept of infinite.

        There are different types of infinite.

        An example of mathematical infinite is the set of integers. The set of integers is infinite.

        In geometry a line is composed of an infinite set of points.

        But God is not mathematics.

        God, by nature and definition precedes mathematics.

        Therefore, the infinite that pertains to God is different from the infinite that pertains to mathematics.

        By comparing God to mathematics John the Great is comparing apples to oranges which is a logical fallacy.

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      • Ahhh, “definitions”:
        You’ve go to love word fights.
        To get along, boys, you’ve go to agree on usage — call it “definitions” or “temporary truce” or “contract”. But without word agreement, all we have is rhetoric and wasted thread space.
        I you both feel words have fixed definitions, you are both delusional.

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      • John,

        Word games are distinctly atheist and comprise the logical fallacy called moving the goal post.

        The content of my comments is either common knowledge or the result of a citation.

        I cited Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica,” with regard to the different and well known (except by atheists, apparently) definitions of the word, infinite.

        I also used simple common sense (God is different than mathematics) which seems like mysterious, high learning to atheists.

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      • “Word games are distinctly atheist”

        Really? Was it an atheist or a Christian philosopher who dreamed up this nonsensical word salad?

        1. It is possible that a maximally great being (AKA, the Hebrew god) exists.
        2. If it’s possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
        3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
        4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world
        5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
        6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
        7. Therefore, god exists!

        Voilà!

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      • “Infinity” is a very complex subject made almost useless in blogs because most people think they have an intuitively accurate notion of what it is, or means. I can’t imagine a productive dialogue around the concept of “infinity” on a blog thread. Even Mathematicians and physicist have a hard time with it.

        So filling a thread with soundbite rhetoric around it seems an odd use of time to me.

        I still don’t understand how saying “Look, ‘logic’ is a limited human understanding but if there is a pure logic, it is God. And since God is self-created (another concept bizarre only because of human ideas of causality), then Logic does not proceed or limit God since God is logic. God is Logos.”

        Unless you run to literalist interpretation of “God not Changing or Acting”, I don’t see how this does not answer your supposed dilemma.

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      • Oh, as a reader, when I read you write “omnipotent”, “create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?”, my mind too went to “infinite” and “infinity”. And my mind went there with all its lay intuitions. 🙂

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  11. Hey John – looks like a very interesting topic so I’m going to lurk along by subscribing.

    The idea of “laws of logic” existing objectively and without need for belief in gods seems sound and I believe can be applied to other areas as well – laws of physics for example. And the all popular and debated one – perhaps laws of morality?

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  12. Unfortunately, I was not trained to be a Christian or a Muslim. I like your blog because you only make fun of people when the fall short. It would be like me trying to dunk over a 6’9 black guy at my school. We both know it wont happen, but I try just to get a better jump, and he tries because if I ever scored, end of his career, kik, ”

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  13. I’m still wondering how many angels can stand on the tip of a needle. My guess is all of them if they stood on each others shoulders and watched their balance.

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  14. Can an omnipotent god create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?

    Isn’t this from Calvin and Hobbes? 🙂

    I could’ve sworn I read a theologically bent philosopher who addressed this issue. His response was that even G-d cannot do something that would be logically impossible.

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    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. C&H have some pretty impressive moments.

      But that’s it, that’s the solution! Logic is the speed limit for the capital G God. If you’re interested in such things (which i must admit i’m not, as a general rule) then the game follows that god doesn’t create logic, therefore god cannot be a first mover. Word games.

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  15. “Can an omnipotent god create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?”

    Not a valid question at all from the perspective of Quran.

    Now don’t be angry John.

    You asked it.

    Didn’t you?

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      • Remember, John: Muslims feel that the Pentateuch is corrupted. It was originally correct but changed by slimyكافر‎ kāfir (nonMuslims) over the years. So if the Pentateuch disagrees with the Quran on the nature of God, it is not the same as the present Pentateuch but only of the original reveal pentateuch.
        Muslim emphasize that over and over.
        Bottom line: ain’t the same god — both ORIGINAL writings revealed the same god, but now ONLY the Qur’an is valid.

        So the original god is the same, but the gods imagined now by Jews and Muslim are DIFFERENT gods.

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      • @JOHN ZANDE says:April 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm
        “Why’s that, Paar? Isn’t the god of the Qur’an (which is the god of the Pentateuch) omnipotent?”

        No that is not the perspective of Islam/Quran/Muhammad.

        One reason of the revelation of Quran was that the Torah was got corrupted by the Jewish clergy. This is clearly mentioned in Quran. Hence new revelation was needed for guidance.

        The other reason was that the Torah at the times of Muhammad did not contain the reason part. Quran provides the reason-content under an elaborate system. It is not commandments only; it is commandment with the wisdom.

        We, Muslims are in fact happy that the archaeologists have now proved the points that Quran had mentioned about the Torah.

        There is an elaborate system of explanations of the attributes of the One-True-God.
        One would observe that invariably Quran provides an attributes of God at the end of a verse; the event hints at the attribute under which action of God took place.

        In this meaning the whole Quran explains all attributes of God and as to how these attributes work without contradiction with other attributes; and which attributes overtakes the others.

        We can say that God of Moses,Buddha,Krishna, Zoroaster, Socrates, Jesus and Muhammad is the same God in attributes.

        Thanks and regards

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      • So, let me get this straight: You don’t think Allah is omnipotent? Interesting. In that case, what powers does this god actually have? What can’t it do? How do you know it can’t do these things?

        We, Muslims are in fact happy that the archaeologists have now proved the points that Quran had mentioned about the Torah.

        -Woooo there, Paar. You and I have had many discussions about biblical archaeology, and you really didn’t know anything about it in the past. Now you’re suddenly an expert and are happy with the findings? When did this happen?

        More importantly, if you accept the archaeology, then am I to believe that you now concede Abraham and Moses weren’t historical characters, and therefore Muhammad was a liar, and the Qur’an is a book of proven lies?

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      • I think I mentioned these things; but perhaps you did not get it.

        Should I quote as to what I wrote about it.

        I mentioned that all the archaeological excavations have been done with reference to the cities and places mentioned in the Bible; not with reference to Quran.

        There is not a single site that has been excavated with reference to Quran.

        Every branch of knowledge has its limitations; archaeology is also not 100% correct.

        Regards

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    • @ John:
      Do you really think that Allah and Jesus’ Father are the same god in that their followers describe them the same? Sure, big influence on Islam from Yahweh, but since they are both made up, I think we’d be more surprised if they were the same. They were constructed for some different purposes, even if some were the same. And since gods are invented, they would pick up the flavor of the culture. So we should only expect them to be different. Bodhisattvas change as they spread across Asia. Though Tara, Avalokiteshvara and Kannon are the same in the lineage thing, they are extremely different.

      ______
      The Qur’an continually states that Allah is able to do all things (omnipotent). 22:6, 46:33, 57:1-5, 64:1-4 ….

      The Christian Bible puts limitations on its god 2Tim 2:13 “cannot disown himself”, Heb 6:17-18 “can’t lie”, James 1:13 “does not shift”.

      And John you know that Paarsurrey’s flavor of Islam has their very own Messiah — from the 1800s. So with his writings they put yet another spin on Islam — a South Asian spin at that. So his hermeneutics are going to be different again. Expecting these all to be the same (albeit with huge overlaps) can be a mistake at times. It all depends on who you are talking to, eh?

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      • Understood, but i think this is splitting hairs. At the end of the day Islam worships the god of Abraham and Moses, yes? Both characters are mentioned dozens of times, and Abraham is even described as this Middle Eastern gods best friend.

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      • No, John,

        Jews around 100BC worship a different god than Jews down the street from me. They use the same name, perhaps, and identify with the label “Jew” but if you were able to get those folks together, they would totally disagree that they worship the same god.

        Evangelical Christians deny that Mormons worship the same Jesus — and they’d be right. Sure, the word is the same.

        Muslims may claim that their Allah was the same god of the mythical Abraham and Moses, but they do that for a legitimacy, they are worshipping different concepts. Heck the “Allah” in the head of Sufis is very different from the Wahhabi Allah.

        You are mixing up words in sentence with real people’s lives and ideas. I don’t think is is splitting hair — it is important.

        Heck, you probably value democracy but when a Republican in the USA says they value “democracy” they may have something very different in mind. Do they both value democracy? <– A misguided question which hides the important issues.

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      • I think you’re granting far too much leeway here to people’s beliefs. The simple fact is the Pentateuch is the only source for this god: the god of Abraham and Moses. Take the Pentateuch away and there is NO Abrahamic god. I’m not at all interested in peoples different (later) interpretations of what this god is. I dismiss it at the Pentateuch. Period.

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      • Well, there are some of our differences, John.
        (a) I think you can discount individual beliefs too much and over-generalize.
        (b) With liberal Christians, you take away the resurrection and they just keep going, you take away their literal Bible and they keep going. I think you’d be surprise how dependent Islam is on the Torah. Remember, they think it is totally corrupt today and the pure, accurate Torah is gone. So it is like the tablets of Joe Smith — not here to be criticized. The best of all immune systems.

        The religion of real people is specific and changes.
        You want the god of Islam to be the same as Judaism because you can disprove a story and see it all fall. Religion does not work like that.

        But I think you may actually agree with much of what I am saying. Maybe it is our emphasis, or maybe we think differently. I am not sure still.

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  16. Can’t resist. SOM says “For God to create a rock too heavy for him to lift means that God is finite. Since God is infinite, not finite, the question is absurd.”

    SOM says here that it is absurd to suggest that God could create a rock to heavy for him to lift, because he is not finite. But if it is absurd to suggest that he could, then he couldn’t. Game over.

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      • Naïve,

        Logic takes place 100% in the mind.

        That is why logic must always be grounded in reality.

        It is reality that informs logic, not the other way around.

        Therefore, the question of whether God can create a stone too heavy for him to lift is illogical because it contradicts reality.

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      • SOM, reality informs logic in a sense that we perceive a logical universe. Do absurdities happen or is there order out there? I think the latter is true. The Creator made and upholds these laws and is superior to them. It is trivial for the Creator to break them. The power to break these laws does not mean that the Creator will break them. It depends on the character of the Creator which according to Christianity is love and justice. 😀
        -B

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      • Naïve,

        God is not and cannot be subject to natural law.

        Natural law is for created things.

        Applying logic to the conundrum of God creating a weight that he cannot lift leads to absurdity.

        Like

      • Brandon, Hi.

        Nice maneuver, but wouldn’t the first statement ultimately mean it (The Creator) is not omni-powerful in the first instance? If it has to break laws to perform a trick then it’s illogical, and therefore we have to assume it is, once again, not the author of logic itself. As logic precedes it, then your example seems to be describing old Beelzebub as the actor in this scenario, not Yhwh.

        Like

      • John, I think the problem with the whole rock dilemma is that no one takes the meaning of omnipotence seriously enough, both theists and atheists. It means the Creator can do anything, absolutely anything. That means making laws, breaking laws, making absurdities true, erasing the past, pausing time, making the quarks of H2O into quarks of an aged wine, and so on.

        I don’t think initially making a too heavy rock is somehow a temporary limited power. The power was there the whole time to do anything.

        The maneuver here is to take omnipotence seriously.
        -B

        Like

      • It means the Creator can do anything, absolutely anything. That means making laws, breaking laws, making absurdities true, erasing the past, pausing time, making the quarks of H2O into quarks of an aged wine, and so on.”

        It can do all these things, yet it can’t seem to get its message across in a clear and coherent manner? Interesting….

        Like

  17. There is a very interesting disagreement lurking here. Are the laws of logic truths about this and all possible universes? Or are they merely rules regarding how we can meaningfully use language? If the universe did not exist, would it still be true that squareroot(2) is an irrational number? And is anyone maintaining that God could express squareroot(2) as an exact finite fraction? SOM, your views on this?

    Like

    • @Paul Braterman,
      Good point.
      Science and Mathematics have shown us over and over that our normal intuitions are often deceptive and mistaken – sensory and cognitive illusions. Statistics, for instance (probability) takes much training to undue our normal intuitions.

      Likewise Quantum science, Relativity and Cosmology have shown us that our intuitions of time, causality and even the “laws of nature” maybe wrong. If multi-verses are correct, there may be other universes with different working laws. How about different mathematics? Different logic? Such questions seem nonsensical, but so did doubt bending of time and space or entanglement.

      If a creator-god existed in realms where all universes are possible, then us trying to intuit his nature is pure foolishness.

      Does a miracle-causing, hell-casting, prayer-favoring Yahweh-type theist-god exist. Well, we have absolutely not evidence for that. But is there a potential rule breaking creator-deity is another question.

      Like

    • I think you’re right, Paul. Rationalism – the idea that the rules of logic are real properties of the world which we discover as we experience the world vs. empiricism – the idea that the rules of logical relationships are conventions for making better use of our experience (a gross oversimplification, but the relevant aspects at least). On one side are the presuppositionalists, on the other, the eliminativists. This conflict will never be solved conclusively; our epistemological optic nerve is in the way. Nonetheless, people will continue to try, and many will claim to have succeeded. Their claims are doomed to fail the sniff test one and all. From Bertrand Russell re: solipsism (the belief that all that exists is one’s own experience) – “…it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician…saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others.”
      I don’t think SOM has any serious views that he wishes to discuss. His mind is silent, or at least too preoccupied with Billy goats and bridges.

      Like

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  19. @SABIO LANTZ :April 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm
    Quote”@ John:
    They were constructed for some different purposes, even if some were the same. And since gods are invented, they would pick up the flavor of the culture. ”

    A totally wrong concept; I must say.

    Regards

    Like

  20. @SABIO LANTZ : April 4, 2014 at 10:38 am
    “If a creator-god existed in realms where all universes are possible, then us trying to intuit his nature is pure foolishness.”

    Quran clearly mentions that the One-True-God does not exist in these realms that we can comprehend; He is out of these dimensions; yet He is present everywhere with His attributes.

    [39:68] And they do not esteem Allah, with the esteem that is due to Him. And the whole earth will be but His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand. Glory to Him and exalted is He above that which they associate with Him.
    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?submitCh=Read+from+verse%3A&ch=39&verse=67

    Regards

    Like

  21. So…god is infinite, is the answer SOM? Really? Looks more like a dodge to me. Putting your god upon an invisible pedestal (the pedestal should be invisible too right?) of untouchable-ness is not a logical argument at all. It is running from an argument. Asserting this non answer as if it is the end all argument for this question is just the kind of bluff and bluster I have come to expect from clueless creationists. Bluff and bluster…and nothing else save name dropping of some supposed authority.

    The absurdity is you can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Like

    • Digger,

      Attributes are what defines the nature of a thing.

      So stating that one of God’s attributes is that he is infinite, isn’t a dodge, it’s critical information.

      The other bit of critical information is that the conundrum attempts to assign finite attributes to God.

      The two bits of information, that God is infinite and that the conundrum tries to assign finite attributes to him, are contradictory.

      And that is what leads to the absurdity.

      Like

      • Mmm, hmm, /rolls eyes.

        Asserting a claim, such as god is infinite, does not make it factual. I have yet to see anyone demonstrate the existence of a god yet. Let’s do that, then we can apply attributes to one.

        Till then you are just pissing in the wind pal, assigning attributes to that which has yet to be shown to exist. You creationists love to make these assertions, proclaim them true, then stand around acting all proud of yourselves for being so damn smart. You haven’t done anything, save for demonstrating the depth of your delusions.

        You are starting with zero information (god exists has not been demonstrated). Applying attributes to zero (this non existent thing is infinite), then attempt to apply logic to: zero + infinite = cannot be divided by finite, and THEN you want to argue that there is some sort of contradiction?

        Absurd isn’t quite the word I would use. Bovine excretement has a better ring to it.

        Like

      • Digger,

        Since God is the Creator of all things we can reason out that he is infinite, omnipotent and all-knowing.

        The atheist, bereft of the ability to reason, can only roll his eyes.

        Like

      • There you go, doing it again. Demonstrate that god is the creator of all things. Then you can begin your reasonings.

        “bereft of the ability to reason?” Isn’t the hallmark of a failed argument the slinging of insults?

        Sir John, I will take my leave and not continue with this guy. I don’t see any thing to be gained by continuing the conversation. Till next time…

        Like

      • Digger,

        If you deny the existence of God, then you deny the fundamental premise of this post.

        That God exists is a given.

        If God’s existence is a given then we must all accept God as he is: Creator, omnipotent, omniscience and all-knowing.

        Sorry, but your atheist buddy who wrote this post is the one who set the rules.

        Like

      • Oh, my mistake, I had no idea the entire argument was based on a false premise. Hell had I known that I would not have gotten involved. (take with a dash of sarcasm)

        While such thought projects can be useful in distinguishing interesting possibilities, I honestly find that engaging in an argument based upon a false premise pretty much a use of time that could be spent in a more productive manner.

        Though I do get why creationists spend so much time there…

        Like

      • I think it is a religious power trip, with a side of narcissistic OCD. But what the hell do I know? 😉

        Interesting that someone took the time to do an analysis…

        Like

  22. @SILENCEOFMIND : April 4, 2014 at 2:21 am

    “God is not and cannot be subject to natural law.

    Natural law is for created things.

    Applying logic to the conundrum of God creating a weight that he cannot lift leads to absurdity.”

    This is also a good argument.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

  23. @SABIO LANTZ : April 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    “The Qur’an continually states that Allah is able to do all things (omnipotent). 22:6, 46:33, 57:1-5, 64:1-4 …”

    Just to explain the verses quoted by you.

    I have checked all the above verses using the same attribute of God ”qadīr” with the word “shayʾin”.

    I take the first please mentioned by you “22:6”; and that will explain all the verses quoted by you.

    dhālika bi-ʾanna llāha huwa l-ḥaqqu wa-ʾannahū yuḥyi l-mawtā wa-ʾannahū ʿalā kulli *shayʾin qadīrun
    [22:7] That is because Allah is the Truth, and that it is He Who brings the dead to life, and that He has power over all *things;

    http://www.alislam.org/quran/search2/showChapter.php?ch=22

    *The Arabic word “shayʾin” is from the root word sh-y-e, means doing things which is unblemished to do and not doing a thing which is blemished to do.

    Since God’s attributes are holy, unblemished and perfect; He is above all such unwise questions.

    Thanks and regards

    P.S. Sorry John some words did not appear in the previous comments; so I have to post it again. Please delete the previous comments just posted by me some minutes ago.

    Thanks and regards

    Like

  24. Pingback: An unwise question : “Can an omnipotent god create a rock so heavy even it cannot lift it?” | paarsurrey

  25. Ok, this is gonna get a bit dirty; but when asking anything of an omni-god, the answer is always yes. And that’s just that because everything is possible, and the impossible is coexistent not contradictory.

    Like

      • Hahaha well, I wonder too. It seems to be that in all this bickering over the yes or no of it, most of the problem lies on human thinking, our need for square pegs to go into square holes. And that the same with terra firms arguments just as much as the metaphysical.

        So, if your answer to this question is yes, it would likely prompt another, and on and on until the human gives up because if every answer is yes, a human will eventually have to stop. Answering yes to any question about god makes it too circular in a humans head if he needs to plot definitions or descriptions on a logical straight line.
        However it never ceases to amaze me that we can accept the idea of circular time, other worlds and alien life, and the infinity of existence, but we have a hard time imagining that god can be all things, even things beyond human knowledge.

        So why couldn’t the answer to this question be yes, as well as the idea that he can also pick it up. Two contradictions should certainly be able to exist with an omni god if they can exist in human life (nature in general).

        I think the problem with god we have more than any other is trying to fit a the idea of everything into a compartmentalize this it that. The people who want to argue against or for god always want to out a square peg into a round hole rather than just accept that is and is not can certainly exist with god if it exists at all.

        Right?

        Like

      • If we were talking about a pantheistic god concept, then I’d certainly agree with you here. In fact, i wouldn’t even bother with this blog if theists embraced a pantheistic (possibly even panethesitic) god concept. That idea is not noxious. It is not regressive. It is also not what the Yahwehist posits. They make the omni-claims, and those claims should then be freely challenged, and, where possible, exposed as nonsense. If the Yahwehist loathes this attention then i can only remind them that if their beliefs can’t stand up to even mild scrutiny, then neither the scrutiny, nor the scrutineer, is their true problem.

        Like

      • Well yeah they’re insane to be sure, but just to toy with the idea between us, if the answer to everything was just yes, I think that’s graspable, yeah? I mean if I can think this shit up anyone can.

        Like

  26. @JOHN ZANDE :April 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm
    “Paar, you’re going to have to explain yourself, as I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    What explanations do you want and about what?

    Regards

    Like

    • You seemed to imply archaeology has supported the Qur’an, whereas it clearly demolishes all claims made in the Pentateuch. What are you talking about? What has it supported? Are you, or are you not conceding Abraham and Moses were not historical characters, as modern archaeology has concluded? Please name these archaeologists you’re talking about and cite what papers have been published on their findings.

      Like

  27. @JOHN ZANDE says:April 5, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    “You seemed to imply archaeology has supported the Qur’an, whereas it clearly demolishes all claims made in the Pentateuch. What are you talking about? What has it supported? Are you, or are you not conceding Abraham and Moses were not historical characters, as modern archaeology has concluded? Please name these archaeologists you’re talking about and cite what papers have been published on their findings.” Unquote

    Archaeology excavates sites; cities and or places; in this case they excavated sites mentioned in the Bible (not mentioned in Quran); if they don’t find any such cities or places , then they imply from it that the persons mentioned in the Bible also might have not existed.

    It is not that they excavated the sites to necessarily find names of Abraham or Moses written on a rock.

    And definitely they don’t have a list of persons that existed in the world from the date of inception to verity from it names of Abraham or Moses.

    I don’t know why you cannot get it.

    Do you get it? Please

    Like

    • What is there to get, you didn’t say anything.

      You made a claim that modern archaeology supported Islam, yet you have not established a single point of evidence to back up this claim.

      What are you talking about?

      Want to try again? Please cite what archaeologists you are referring to, what digs have been performed, and what conclusions have been made.

      Presently, as i have clearly stated numerous times, archaeology has established conclusively that neither Abraham or Moses were actual historical characters. They are myth. The Qur’an blunders terribly in naming Moses and Abraham as real characters. Please, therefore, demonstrate to me what archaeology you are talking about which proves Abraham and Moses were real.

      Like

  28. Pingback: Archaeologists don’t have list of persons existed in the world since inception | paarsurrey

  29. @JOHN ZANDE says:April 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm
    “I think you’re granting far too much leeway here to people’s beliefs. The simple fact is the Pentateuch is the only source for this god: the god of Abraham and Moses. Take the Pentateuch away and there is NO Abrahamic god. I’m not at all interested in peoples different (later) interpretations of what this god is. I dismiss it at the Pentateuch. Period.”

    I think you have little information about Quran/Islam/Muhammad; we Muslim have nothing to do with “Pentateuch”.

    Muhammad received Revelation directly from the One-True-God; our belief is not based on what you describe as “Pentateuch”.

    I don’t know as to why you don’t get it? Please

    Like

  30. @ SABIO LANTZ :April 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm
    Thanks trying to explain Muslim point of view to John Zande.
    But I think his mind is not ready to accept it.
    Please try to explain him again; If you would.

    Regards

    Like

  31. I’ll try to solve the paradox, John. Assuming God is omnipotent, i.e., has infinite strength, he can lift a rock of any finite weight. Therefore, a rock that cannot be lifted by God has to have an infinite weight. Since God is omnipotent, he can start with a finite rock and double its mass every second for infinitely long time. However, a rock of increasing weight will have increasing gravitational force, and when it becomes large enough, say, several Suns worth, it will collapse into itself, creating a black hole. Because this black hole’s mass continues to double every second, its event horizon will extend infinitely far from the center of the rock, and the entire Universe will eventually fall into the gravitational pull of the rock and will collapse into a singular point. However, since God continues to double the mass of the original rock, eventually the singularity becomes unstable and explodes.

    So… while it’s still unclear whether God can lift that rock, it’s now obvious that the Big Bang was the result of God’s attempt to solve the paradox.

    Like

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