By OPHELIA BENSON - FROM 50 VOICES OF DISBELIEF
Added: Wed, 02 Dec 2009 00:00:00 UTC
One compelling reason not to believe the standard-issue God exists is the conspicuous fact that no one knows anything at all about it. Thatâs a tacit part of the definition of God – a supernatural being that no one knows anything about. The claims that are made about God bear no resemblance to genuine knowledge. This becomes immediately apparent if you try adding details to Godâs CV: God is the eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient creator of the universe, and has blue eyes. You see how it works. Eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient are all simply ideal characteristics that a God ought to have; blue eyes, on the other hand, are particular, and if you say God has them it suddenly becomes obvious that no one knows that, and by implication that no one knows anything else either.
We donât know God has blue eyes – we donât know God has red hair – we donât know God plays basketball – we donât know God drinks coffee. We have no clue. But then, how do we âknowâ God is omnipotent, or eternal? We donât. Itâs just that the monotheist God is supposed to have certain attributes that make it a significant grown-up sophisticated God, better than the frivolous or greedy or quarrelsome gods like Kali or Loki or Athena. (Oddly, this does leave room for one particular: we do âknowâ that God is male. God is more ideal and abstract and generalized than Aphrodite and Freyja and heâs also not that particular, earthy, blue-eyed, coffee-drinking sex, heâs that other, general, abstract sex: the male.) We donât know that God is omnipotent, we simply assume that anyone called God has to be omnipotent, because thatâs part of the definition, and we know that God is called God, so therefore God must be omnipotent. Thatâs a fairly shaky kind of knowledge. It also provides hours of entertainment when we ask ourselves if God has the power to make a grapefruit that is too heavy for God to lift.
The knowledge is shaky, yet itâs common to hear people talking as if they do know, and can know, and have no reason to think they donât know. A lot of people think they know things about âGodâ which they have no good reason to think they know, and even which seem to be contradicted by everything we see around us. Itâs odd that the discrepancies donât interfere with the knowledge.
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MORE BY OPHELIA BENSON
Ophelia Benson - Butterflies and... 39 Comments
The Vatican feels really really really really bad about what its priests did in Ireland. Really it does. It’s so so so so so sorry. It’s wounded to the core; it’s devastated; it’s super-upset; it’s crying into its pillow every night; it can hardly eat.
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'... the backlash itself is so full of strawmen, which get recycled with each new instantiation and then harden into the conventional wisdom.'