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A Disproof of God’s Existence

The traditional definition of God credits him with three attributes: moral perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence. These are supposed to be logically independent, with none entailing the others. But that is not obviously correct: How is moral perfection possible without omniscience and omnipotence? How is it possible to be omnipotent without also being omniscient? Isn’t omniscience a type of omnipotence—a power to see and know everything? In fact, can’t we simply define God in terms of omnipotence, since his other attributes flow from this? If God is omnipotent he must be morally perfect, since he has the power to be morally perfect, and why would he not exercise that power? And if he is omnipotent he must be omniscient, since omniscience is an epistemic power. At the least he has the power to be both morally perfect and all knowing, given that he is all powerful. Thus omnipotence seems to be basic in the definition of God. God differs from lesser beings precisely in having powers they do not have—moral powers, epistemic powers, and other powers (causing earthquakes, healings, etc.). God is replete with power, overflowing with it, by no means lacking in it. Any power there is, he has.

God essentially lacks certain powers as a condition of being who he is.

But is that right? Does God have every power? He has the power to create and destroy universes, but does he have the power to sneeze or digest food or pick his nose? Those powers require possession of a body with a certain anatomy, but God has no such body, being disembodied. Does he have the power to decay or split or emit radiation? How could he have these powers given his immaterial nature? Does he have the power to come down with a cold or be bed-ridden or have the runs? Surely not: God has the powers that are proper to his divine nature, not any old powers that things of other natures have—animals, plants, atoms. God essentially lacks certain powers as a condition of being who he is. He has the powers of a god not of a worm or cactus plant. Everything must lack something in order to be something, i.e., to have a determinate nature.

Does God have the moral powers of Satan or of a petty human sinner? Does he have the power to feel pleasure at the suffering of an innocent child? Does he have the power to relish the demotion of an office rival? Does he have the power to long for the death of an enemy? No: God has the power to feel only virtuous emotions and to perform only virtuous actions—he is incapable of petty jealousy or vindictive revenge. It is simply not in God’s nature to be subject to base feelings. Even to be capable of such feelings is alien to God’s nature. He exists beyond base emotions, being pure through and through. Certainly it would not make him more godlike to be capable of the lowest human failings. So it is wrong to say that God is by definition all powerful; he is only powerful within the limits of his nature. With respect to the powers he has by that nature, he is limitlessly powerful, but he does not have every power that everything in the world has—for that he would have to be the world. But God stands apart from the world, having a different nature from that of the world; he is a being unto himself.

If we want God to be literally all-powerful, we will end up with a Spinozistic pantheism, which is tantamount to the denial of God’s existence as traditionally conceived. But if we choose to restrict the powers that God has, then we can no longer define him as all-powerful. There cannot be a god that has all powers (and to the maximum degree): for such a god would not be a god but a strange hybrid of the mortal and the divine—a being of mixed nature, neither one thing nor the other. A sneezing, digesting, nose-picking god is no god. Nor can it be that God merely has the potential to do these things while never actually doing them: for first, to have even the potential is already to place God in the wrong ontological category; and second, if he were to exercise these powers that would immediately deprive him of his godlike status—he would become at best a godhuman hybrid (like Jesus). If God were to pick his nose one day, he would thereby cease to be God. So having that power is no part of his nature.

(We should distinguish actually having certain powers from the ability to transform oneself into an entity with certain powers. Maybe God has the ability to transform himself into a worm at will, but that doesn’t imply that he now has the powers of a worm. And if he did so transform himself, he would have converted himself into a non-god, because no worm is a god— though a worm might once have been a god.)

The difficulty for God is to specify what kind of omnipotence he is supposed to possess. And the dilemma is obvious: either he has powers that do not properly belong to his nature as divine, or he lacks powers that other things possess, thus being less than all-powerful. The concept of an all-powerful being is actually, when you think about it, incoherent. To be a thing of a certain type is necessarily to have a limited range of powers, because powers and natures go hand in hand. END

About the Author

Dr. Colin McGinn is a British philosopher who has been a professor of philosophy at University College London, the University of Oxford, Rutgers University, and the University of Miami. He is the author of over 20 books on philosophy, including The Character of Mind, The Problem of Consciousness, The Meaning of Disgust, Inborn Knowledge, Prehension, and Philosophy of Language.

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43 Comments

  1. Patrick Stirling says:

    I don’t like this argument, but can’t put my finger on its flaw! I think this line of reasoning says more about the limitations of language (and by extension human thinking) than about the existence or otherwise of god. McGinn is using semantics to support his argument.

  2. William B Pennock says:

    Proving or disproving God is a pointless task. You either believe or you do not. It is a fallacy to expect humans, with their limitations, to be able to grasp what came before the universe….if anything. It is unknowable.
    So, with respect to Mr. McGinn’s argument the definition of Omniscient in Webster is “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight”. Given that I would counter that if God is Omniscient that it has the power to do all the things that Mr. McGinnis claims can not be done by perfect awareness through the physical entities that it created. Can you rationally argue that if there is an Omniscient god it can not feel what you feel?
    The concept of God, by it’s nature, outside of the rational because it is beyond the human conscience. You might argue that since there is no proof it can’t be real. That flies in the face of a history of real things thought to not be so.
    So, argue away, or take time to actually debunk things that can be debunked like Conspiracy Theory or Ghosts or trilateral commissions (oh wait there is the Bank of International Settlements which is darn near the last one)

  3. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    This argument makes a lot of assumptions about god’s nature:

    We should distinguish actually having certain powers from the ability to transform oneself into an entity with certain powers.

    Why should we do that? Who said all godly powers must be manifest in any one form? Perhaps the omnipotence of god depends on god’s ability to transform into an entity with any given power. Perhaps the omnipotence of god depends on him being a *superposition* of all entities with various powers and thereby having all their powers – like schrodinger’s cat, god is both worm and non-worm. Who says god obeys classical mechanics – or any set of rules we’ve yet discovered? BTW: Who says god is incorporeal? Christians disagree on that.

    Anyway, arguing about god is like arguing about the Avengers (or Superman): mostly the points of contention stem from interpretations.

  4. A Non-Scientist says:

    Just as commentary, not argument, most ‘Christians’ believe in the triune God: Father (YHVH), Son (Jesus) and The Holy Ghost.

    Seeing that a Christian’s belief is that Jesus was and is (He rose) God Incarnate, it is indeed possible for God to pick his nose.

  5. dave says:

    All powerful or omnipotent means power over everything, not necessarily ability to do everything; for example, God isn’t be able to do something logically impossible because logic is necessarily essential to God’s nature. An immaterial being doing something only a material being could do is incoherent, so a merely divine being doing something only a human being could do is a logical impossibility. Contradictions would be impossible for God and, by extension, for created reality..

  6. Dr Michael W Ecker says:

    I think I had to read this again, because this article proves absolutely nothing – at least to me.

    First, the ideas in this article and elsewhere about limitations of a deity are childish and deal with linguistic nonsense. Mind you, as an atheist, I regard ALL such discussions in that same fashion! However, there have NOT been enough mentions of this point. If you don’t believe that, think of how many times a year you still hear the ubiquitous question “Can God create a boulder so heavy he cannot lift it?”

    Second, and more to the point, the author says things along the line of “If God is omnipotent then He is automatically moral”. What utter rubbish! There is absolutely no reason to accept that claim without requiring mountains of evidence. Likewise for the nonsensical last line about how contradictions are impossible for God (really? why?). More rubbish about the properties of a probably non-existent being.

    Third, even if I did not catch the drift such as to mock these arguments, such mockery adds little to the question of the existence of a deity.

    Finally, there are NO offerings of evidence of any kind herein or elsewhere. Ergo, the default position in response to any claim of existence of a deity remains to insist on extraordinary evidence to match said extraordinary claim. Nothing less will do – not the tingling you feel when you go to church (emotion, not logic), not how you got better from your cold after ‘just’ two weeks (faith-healing), not how your cousin’s wife swears she saw the sun move around the sky (anecdotal evidence is not evidence).

    I am still waiting to hear anything that even is average evidence for a deity, but I learned long ago not to hold my breath while waiting.

  7. Dr Michael W Ecker says:

    Oops… Apologies… In my long comment #7, I mis-attributed commenter dave’s last line by ascribing it to the author. Still, I don’t think there is any break in meaning or sense, however.

  8. Doug says:

    This type of reasoning and others such as the long fought battle to devise the “trinity” centuries ago,
    seems to me as philosophical and theological masturbation.

  9. John Little, Sr. says:

    I find the above arguments difficult to judge in that no attention has been given to establishing a definition of their central term. Also, the arguments presented here are only symbolic and have previously been presented.
    Go figure.

  10. Richard Harris says:

    “If God is omnipotent he must be morally perfect, since he has the power to be morally perfect, …” But wouldn’t it also have the power to be immoral?

    Here is a proof that ‘God’ does not exist. (This is a practical proof: absolute proofs are only possible within a formal system of logic, such as mathematics.)

    First, we must define the term ‘God’. It necessarily refers solely to a theistic god, (that is, one that interferes in human affairs). A deistic god doesn’t cut the mustard; it would be, with our present level of scientific understanding, indistinguishable from the unknown process that begot the laws of physics. The same goes for a pantheistic god, (that is, god as nature). So, we are therefore concerned with gods such as the Abrahamic god, Brahma, Gitche-Manitou, Wotan, Zeus, and many others.

    The first question to be addressed is whether these are one and the same supernatural being. From what I have heard, many of the followers of these gods would have it that they are not the same. This notion is reinforced by the consideration that, if they were the same god, then it wouldn’t reveal itself in different guises, not when that leads to warfare between opposing followers, and the appallingly sadistic treatment of those well-meaning folk accused of heresy. And it surely wouldn’t fail to reveal itself to all those folks who are, or were, followers of animistic religions, or who are just plain atheists. That just wouldn’t be fair when rewards in an ‘afterlife’ are held to be available to true believers, and sometimes, punishment for the unbelievers, whose only ‘crimes’ are being unaware of a revelation, or being rational, and truthful to themselves.

    The bottom line is that the various gods are deemed to have particular qualities, such as omniscience and omnipotence, if they are monotheistic. If they are, supposedly, members of a pantheon, (that is to say, polytheistic), then their attributes are more human-like, though to a superhuman degree. Even so, the polytheistic ancient Greeks, (including Socrates), sometimes referred to a singular “God”, (usually Zeus), who alone could embody the divine. It is therefore safe to conclude that the list of names quoted above, and thousands more that I did not name, refer to different gods. Now, it is obvious that they can’t all be running human affairs, (although there was a time when it was commonly believed that diverse local gods were trying to do just that, and were competing against each other). Ba’al and Yahweh and Moloch were supposed to be heavily involved in the human politics of Mesopotamia and other regions of the Middle East. But our modern understanding of physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, geography, history, and psychology, now preclude that sort of scenario. The evidence, as now interpreted, clearly rules out the existence of a host of competing gods, so we are able to conclude that there is either only one god, (or one group of related, co-operating gods, which is effectively the same thing), or else there are none at all.

    To determine whether or not there is a theistic god, the believer has either to point to its effects upon the World and the affairs of man, or define it as an ontic necessity. The former course is not tenable since Darwin clearly showed that the complexity and apparent design in living organisms is possible due to the effects of natural selection. Cosmology has shown us a universe of incomprehensible size and age; our sun one amongst hundreds of billions in our galaxy, itself one of trillions in the observable universe. And simply claiming that there is a god, according to a believer’s definition, no matter how theologically convoluted that might be, is no proof that such a being exists. Historically, all such attempts have failed. The devotee’s feeling of the immanence of such a being is also no proof, because that is merely a psychological state of theirs. The fact of the universe’s existence, that there is something rather than nothing, does not require a god. After all, a god would be a something too, and a very complex one at that, compared to hydrogen and helium atoms, bathed in energy, plus dark matter and dark energy. It is sufficient to say we do not presently understand why there is something rather than nothing, but we will try to find out.

    Another consideration is that the existence of a god entails an additional type of substance in the universe, namely ‘spirit’, in addition to matter and energy. Otherwise, any gods would simply be part of the natural universe, and wouldn’t be supernatural at all. There is, of course, no evidence of such a substance. Occam’s razor is not an irrefutable principle of logic, but it does suggest that explanations of the universe that specify the existence of a god, when such an entity isn’t necessary to explain what we observe, should be abandoned in favour of a less complex explanation. The godless explanation is actually more reasonable too, being more in accord with the Universe as we find it, that is to say, completely indifferent to the aspirations of man, or to anything else we know of.

    Since the Bronze Age, we have learned a great deal about the brain, which we now understand, controls human behaviour, mediated by the state of the body, principally through the hormonal or endocrine system. It has become clear that we are our brains. The neurons of the brain form circuits that process sensory input, store our memories, control our emotions, and think our thoughts, etc. Without the physical object that is the brain, there would be no memory, no personality, and no cognition. Alterations to the physical components of the brain, such as by drugs crossing the blood brain barrier, by electromagnetic stimulation, or by pressure from a growing tumour, can change behaviour, i.e., the output, as it were, of the brain. Without the brain, we cannot exist, and that is significant to all religions claiming an afterlife, thereby discrediting them.

    Another consideration is that any god, worthy of the name, ought to behave ethically. The random horrors of our world, “acts of god” such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, etc., killing and injuring indiscriminately, are hardly the providence of a loving god. And what of disease, now known to be caused by microorganisms or faulty metabolism, being the work of a conscious supernatural being? And what of parasites and predators causing their hosts often-grisly deaths, or extended periods of affliction? Surely, a god, as envisaged by the monotheists or polytheists, would not allow such tragedy and suffering? It would be a sadist. But evolution by natural selection does explain such horrors.

    It therefore follows that there is no evidence for the agency of any god that a theist might posit. A host of gods have been proposed, so, obviously gods are created by man, not man by god. From this it follows that there is no reason to believe that there are theistic gods that accord to anyone’s definition. It’s no good claiming that the deity is a trickster god, because that’s not what the faithful believe in. Admittedly, the polytheists’ gods were capable of trickery: consider, also, the minor god Satan in the Christian religion. But the boss god was supposed to maintain order, by being the most powerful.

    The concept of gods was invented in the Stone Age. Stone Age man, unable in his ignorance to comprehend naturalistic explanations for the phenomena of the world around him, necessarily resorted to supernatural explanations. Such explanations similarly appeal to the untutored child, who also is unable, in his ignorance, to understand naturalistic explanations. That is how primitive superstition is transmitted to the modern world, in the name of religion. Now that we are no longer Stone Age savages, we have many reasons to dispense with the primitive idea of gods. Consider, if there really were a god, (worthy of the title), would it allow the prevailing centuries-long confusion over its theological nature and purpose that has caused, and continues to cause, immense death and suffering? Surely not? We may therefore safely conclude that there is no “God”. This is as strong a claim as that made for the non-existence of faeries at the bottom of the garden, which is as robust a claim as can possibly be made.

  11. Stephen Anson says:

    I agree with some of the above post that this argument is merely semantics, and the Bible is replete with examples of God being jealous, petty and vindictive.

  12. Rachel Levi says:

    This question is not new, nor does this post present any new ways of thinking. The omnipotence paradox described herein has been discussed in similar terms since the Medieval era. All of the “God can’t make a square circle” or “God can’t make a prison so secure he can’t escape from it.” One of the most successful responses to this is to understand the linguistic difficulty of transposing the terms “power” and “God” to convey linguistic meaning. A nonsensical phrase doesn’t become sensical by adding “God can” or “God can’t” to the beginning of it. Ontological truths are necessary to communicate meaningfully in language, and this argument pretends that isn’t the case.

  13. Richard Baker says:

    Perhaps one should define what God IS before discussing his powers and what he can and cannot do? If he is everything which includes energy for example, the idea of him having power is trivial because he IS the power? There is nothing that he is not so there is no point in discussing some of the things he is because there are an infinite number of them. It all relies on the boundaries that I set for him in my imagination versus the boundaries you set in yours.
    And of course I know I am right!

  14. Erasmus says:

    These are very old, common, and easily rejected arguments, not quite worthy of a good skeptical inquiry into the existence of God.

    In the usual treatments, God is omniscient but we being non-omniscient have no way of recognizing that other than through faith. It would be like a kindergarten child watching a chemist at work in his lab and understanding the processes, the reasoning, and the intended end result of what he is doing. What looks like a destructive process might be constructive, and something that you see disappear has condensed elsewhere in another form that you do not see.

    From this omniscience is derived moral perfection, in that our morality is based on proximate outcomes, while perfect morality comes from knowledge of ultimate and universal outcomes. Again, a person with insufficient knowledge can see someone administering an electric shock to another, and not know if it is an act of torture or the treatment of a person in cardiac arrest. We live in a universe of entropy, the limitation of c, and 3 spatial dimensions. We have the privilege of a beating heart, and as a consequence of that, in our universe that heart must someday stop. A rock floating through space has neither life nor death, yet we do not see it as immoral that we are not that rock and comparatively immortal. To enjoy life, we must die and sometimes suffer too.

    Then there is omnipotence, which we also cannot understand or experience, except for that fact we are all able to do things that we choose not to. That I do not break all of the windows in my house does not mean I can’t, nor do I clean them often. I choose to leave them alone. Likewise God has chosen to leave us in this world of limitations, and it is within some religious perspectives that this is God’s way of experiencing limitation- through us. In the same way we might play a game with rules that limit possible moves and those limitations do not make the game less enjoyable but more so. It puts the confusing statement of Jesus “That which you do to the least of these, you do unto me” in a different light.

  15. Steven Podvoll says:

    According to whom is this, “traditional definition of God?” I think only one cult ascribes this definition in toto, i.e., the cult of Jesus AKA Christendom.

    Furthermore, it is meaningless to discuss the existence of a God in the dearth of a coherent and unambiguous definition of the term.

  16. Paul says:

    They say God made man in his own image – actually it is the reverse.

    The deity concocted by humans is every bit as cruel, petty, illogical and disgusting as humans themselves can be. And then the humans use that as an excuse and justification for whatever atrocity they want to commit.

    Works nice for them, doesn’t it?

  17. Miguel Delagos says:

    Meh, bit of a fluff piece from McGinn here, but good for clickbait, I guess. Write a weak argument requiring little serious thought and give it a provocative title and bam, folks from all over cyberspace will be flocking in.

    Yes, there are problems with the Thomistic, or “traditional”, attributes of God adopted by Western traditions; this has been known and debated for centuries. The serious and interesting theology being done today seeks to move past this old framework. Charles Hartshorne, Thomas Jay Oord and John Haught all had/have concepts of God that is nothing like what McGinn seeks to discredit here.

    It is easy to tear-down traditional concepts of God. The trick is to think through what to replace it with.

  18. Stav says:

    From the small personal perspective of an individual human, God is neither omnipotent, omniscient nor morally infallible. By our very existence we suffer. But from the perspective of the Universe the ineffable incomprehensible entity that is existence itself is of course absolutely perfect. This entity has an untold number of noses to wipe and pick. And this entity can both create and break laws of logic because it is the laws of logic themselves.

  19. Lin Zexu says:

    The OP’s argument is worthy of Oolon Colluphid himself. Good to see that an argument as convincing as what passed for a joke in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) is now a serious(?) proposition being made by a philosopher in 2019. Actually I may be confused – this is a philosophical argument and not an exercise in bathymetry, right?

  20. tvtaerum says:

    A very interesting argument and one which could inadvertently lend credibility to a particular religion… if sneezing is a requirement for being God, did Jesus sneeze? The weakest part of the argument is distinguishing between what one has the “power to do” and having the “power to not do what one has the power to do”. Might it be better translated, “and God sneezed, ‘let there be photons'”. I’m sure I’m not fully grasping the intent of the need for a sneeze but in the end, what difference does it make?

  21. John DeVera says:

    The concept of omnipotence, and actually every concept we can name (put a label on) is limited by the very nature of human language. A definition of “omnipotence” is only as good as our language; since language is inherently limited, and God is transcendent, which means our language is inadequate to describe Him. There is only one thing that God CANNOT DO. God cannot stop being God, even for an instant. Now you can parse that in a lot of ways. Goid cannot do evil. God cannot make a mistake. God cannot create a rock so big that He can’t lift it. All those things make the idea of omnipotence meaningless.

  22. Brian Battles says:

    Seems to me a semantics issue, too. Having the “power” to feel pleasure at the suffering…” etc. Seems like a poor use of the word “power”. Like saying does an omnipotent god have the power to not be able to do something. Kind of a word salad. You can write the words, but does it mean anything?

  23. Sam says:

    You can’t prove a negative. It’s a logical fallacy to begin with.

  24. jay frederick says:

    The problem with his line of argument is the same mistake all these know-it-alls make: His definition of God doesn’t line-up with the God of the bible. He wants to disprove the God of the bible, but he won’t let the bible define God.

    In the bible’s definition of God: He is all-knowing and fills the universe and has ultimate authority, He is the creator of the universe, He lives from everlasting to everlasting, He can not lie, He is jealous of our attention, He loves, He hates, He saves, He condemns, etc.

    Yet, the author views jealousy as “petty” – but who is the author to determine whether every form of jealousy is “petty” or not? Does the author think it is “petty” for a wife to be jealous for her husband’s attention if he is ignoring her?! If so, then the author is probably a terrible husband. Jealousy can, and is often, simply a product of unrequited-love, and in the case of God’s love, He gets jealous when we don’t love Him back, which is one reason why “Love God with all your heart” is the first commandment.

    But, I’ll step down off my soap box…

  25. HEVF says:

    Everything that exists must have a beginning.
    God does not have a beginning.
    Therefore, God does not exist.

  26. Steve Northrop says:

    This is the problem with atheist arguments. Those who attempt to “disprove’ he nature/essence/existence of God place their own prejudice and limitations upon the limitless. I can not claim to understand the nature of God, but everything I experience tells me there must be one. Religion, as a theory tries to define that which is indefinable, but everything we know about the universe and its makeup points to a design. The maxim, the more we learn, the less we know, also points to a Creator. To attempt to limit this to our limited understanding is futile, but essentially what we do when referring to God.

    He? She? It? We cannot know. What is the nature of the Almighty? Yes, wold be the best response. Anytime someone claims what God can and cannot be, all they do is illustrate human ignorance.

  27. God Himself says:

    Why is God by definition required to be ALL knowing and ALL powerful? Simply so that philosophers and theologians can twist themselves into logical knots as the author has done?

    Isn’t is merely sufficient to assume that God possesses powers and knowledge, that while perhaps not infinite, are nevertheless adequate to the task yet simultaneously beyond human comprehension?

  28. Roy Collins says:

    This is basically Anselm’s ontological argument used in reverse. It is embarrassing.

  29. Doug says:

    What men feared, they worshipped.

  30. Andrew says:

    This is very poorly argued, and frankly silly. As usual with atheists, the author accepts a view of God from a 10th grade theology class and then pokes holes in it. This argument can safely be ignored.

  31. Steve Mencius says:

    The author uses reducto ad absurdum to disprove God’s existence.

    You have to remember, though, that raa gives you the right answer only if you ask the right question. So I’m going to disprove the axiom.

    How many angels can stand on a tip of a pin?

    There it is, in a nutshell. The false equivalence of ‘spirituality’ (angels) and materiality (pin).

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  32. Constance Underfoot says:

    This is philosophical tripe. His argument is basically “because God isn’t flawed, he can’t be God.” Picking one’s nose, is more a flaw than a desirable attribute, and having to eat to survive is a condition of our existence, not his.

    By his own query,” does God have the power of Satan,” but the existence of power, of that ilk, can only exist if it is possible to wield it. Theoretical capability is only that if the very essence of the being is devoid of evil. So the author’s logic is that God could be God if only her were also evil.

    While not a church goer myself, I find the skeptics logic at disproving God not about God at all. It’s far more personal for them, a mental repression on themselves that they feel, like a teenager craving from being free of being judged.

    There is no esoteric man made argument to prove, or disprove God, or even the qualities of his being should he exist. The very argument is is more self-aggrandizing than contributing to anything.

  33. Roger Neufeld says:

    To me the argument feels like a spoof of some of the arguments for the existence of God. To that extent, maybe it’s a good argument.

  34. Jack says:

    Its clear the author has never spent much time honestly looking at Thomas Aquinas, or any serious theological thinker.

    I would have liked to read an objective and reasoned argument. Please post a new one when you’ve done your research, until then its a stereo typical sophomoric writing exercise.

  35. Eric Schulzke says:

    “Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that something so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

    “The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith, I am nothing.’ ‘But, says Man, the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’

    ‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and vanishes in a puff of logic. ‘Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

    “Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid from making a small fortune when he used it as the theme of his best-selling book, Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

    – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  36. Stx mahn says:

    Describe the taste of an apple and the words are poor reflections. Think of religion as a scientific experiment – wholeheartedly try one for a year and then see what happens in the lab of your life. Scriptures are poor reflections of seeing God in the bosom of your being.

  37. Bill McConnell says:

    Poor Dr. McGinn starts his disproof of God’s existence by citing the “traditional definition of God,” which conveniently allows McGinn to pick the attributes that he wants to deny. Needless to say, McGinn’s definition is not everybody’s definition. Then the author proceeds with masculine pronouns to describe God. I don’t know who, what, or if God is, but even if God possesses the traits that McGinn assigns, I doubt testosterone or male sex organs are relevant. All together Dr. McGinn’s essay shows the shallow vapidity of his thinking.

  38. Joe says:

    To say there is a god and he is omnipotent is a contradiction. His omnipotence means every fact is subject to change which means, then, that there are no facts. Aside from the reality that facts do exist (drinking water is wet and is always wet) even to claim that there is a god is then subject to change and cannot be factual. The claim contradicts itself!

    That the existence of an omnipotent entity such as god is a contradiction is no limit of language or human epistemology. It is simply the recognition that in reality there are no contradictions. Contradictions are man-made.

    Hold a contradiction if you like, but you’d be entertaining the unreal and the arbitrary and cannot claim to stand for intellectual honesty.

  39. Hugh Xiao says:

    You did not disprove the existence of God, you just showed the contradiction/confusion of the humanity’s perception of God.

  40. Joe says:

    The onus of proof is on he who asserts the positive.

    My claim was that to say an omnipotent entity exists is to state a contradiction. I showed how that is. Feel free to show the inconsistency and/or the “contradiction/confusion” in the argument.

  41. Jeff Lewis says:

    A few comments have already pointed out how silly this article is, particularly Dr. Michael W Ecker in comment 7, Steven Podvoll in comment 16, and Bill McConnell in comment 38. This article is little more than a more wordy version of the old saw, “If God is all powerful, can he make a rock so heavy that even he can’t lift it?” It’s semantics and word play. I wouldn’t dream of showing this article to my Christian friends and expect them to find it particularly thought provoking. And other people with less omnipotent conceptions of gods wouldn’t find it troubling at all.

    All you have to do fix the problem is get rid of the ‘omni’, which in practice, is how most religious people see their gods, anyway. I mean, the central tenent of traditional Christianity is the necessity of the crucifixion for forgiveness, which doesn’t seem particularly omnipotent. Add in the infamous iron chariots episode, God having to go visit Sodom and Gomorrah in ‘person’ to see if things really were as bad as he’d heard, or any manner of stories from the Old Testament, and the Bible itself doesn’t present a particularly omnipotent or omniscient God.

    There are plenty of good arguments in support of atheism. This article isn’t one of them.

  42. Joe says:

    Jeff Lewis says;

    “This article is little more than a more wordy version of the old saw, “If God is all powerful, can he make a rock so heavy that even he can’t lift it?” It’s semantics and word play.”

    The old saw illustrates a significant contradiction held by the claim that an omnipotent god exists. Where are the semantics and/or wordplay that disqualifies the old saw as serious and turns it into a quibble?

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