- Religion and Philosophy
Omnipotence: God and Freedom
The following hub is going to be a response to a hub by the user GodTalk but is not a direct response in the traditional sense. The hub in question is called Are You Really Free and can be found here. In this hub GodTalk argues that freedom is an illusion, in a sense, but rather than attempting any deep philosophic dialogue on the matter he merely argues that God is the slave-master of the Universe and that we must surrender our freedom to God in order to be free from sin.
In this hub I want to explore my own objections to the Christian God's omnipotence and touch upon the idea of God as King and slave-owner.
The God Between a Rock and a Hard Place
GodTalk argues that human beings SHOULD be free, or at least he seems to:
“We are living in a country that values our freedom. And that is not a bad thing, unless you believe freedom means that absolutely no one tells you what to do, including God”
But GodTalk also thinks there should be limits on that freedom, namely the limit of God's authority. What GT seems not to be aware of is that if his God did exist freedom would necessarily NOT. It is often argued that God created human beings with free will to make their own choices but this puts God in a funny place, because God is also against sin, and in the Bible God lays out his plan to punish unrepentant sinners.
In the Old Testament God seemed to take a much more hands-on approach to enforcing his rules, going so far as to directly smite people who disobeyed him. God sent war, famine, drought and disease often against his own people to pay them back for their sins. In the New Testament however God's immediate wrath seems lessened so that God is keeping track of your sins to hold them against you at a later court date.
So then, if God is less effective than the police then it would seem his authority is entirely ineffective. Why would we need legislatures to sit down and reason out the law if it was handed down from a divine and absolute authority? If God's law was in-line with nature's laws than naturally we wouldn't be able to act against God's will – we would be incapable of sinning.
So it follows that God wants us to have the freedom to sin, he wants us to have free choice. So God's will both wants us to be able to sin and wants to prevent us from sinning. God has a conflict of interest with himself?
And thus we have God between a rock and a hard place. Many will argue that God simply “doesn't want robots” and therefore we have free will, but lions and tigers don't sin, and yet they aren't robots either. And what of the angels? Apparently 2/3rds of them stayed on Yahweh's side during Lucifer's rebellion and never sinned and angels are not robots. So God specifically set out to create beings capable of sinning, even going to the trouble of making sure his new creations had no prior knowledge of good and evil the way angels who lived through the rebellion did.
Why would God create beings with free will so that they could make their own choices independent of his will and then punish them for making those choices? Surely he understands that free will is a guaranteed recipe for disobedience right?
(As an aside, if God wants people to be free, why does the First Commandment of the ten actually directly OUTLAW Freedom of Religion?)
Apart from God
There is a verse in scripture which says that 'apart from him we can do nothing...' meaning that without God we literally cannot act. This implies that any act, be it sinful or saintly, must be condoned by God. So God is an accomplice in every misdeed the human species has ever undertaken and he must be for he possesses all power and thus possesses all responsibility. The Bible even go so far as to say that we should obey earthly authorities because they were appointed by God and how could they not be? After all God is complicit in anything human beings do, and is aware of everything we do and is PRESENT when we are doing it.
And yet God allows sin and does not act despite his power to do so, he gives sin permission. That hardly seems like a benevolent and active God ready to help his followers, ready to heal the sick and let them move mountains with their faith. Every dark deed committed on this planet happened under the watchful eye of a super-hero more powerful than Super-Man could ever hope to be, yet he does not intervene.
An earthly authority, say a policeman, can stop a crime he sees in progress knowing that to usurp the criminals freedom does more good than harm. A man is being stabbed, the cop as a clear shot, he takes out his pistol and fires and suddenly he has taken away the criminals free will but in the process he has potentially saved the helpless victim. Meanwhile a God who could stop genocides with a mere thought looks on with sadness, caught between his desire to give people freedom and his desire to control everything. (of course the Biblical God often ENGAGES in sinful behaviors, such as killing innocent people, condoning slavery, etc, thus compounding the problem).
God is a Slave Master
Control. God is always in control so they say. So then why is there ever anything happening that is counter to God's will? How could it even be possible for a God to have control and not have control at the same time, especially one who is OMNIPOTENT? In GT's hub he describes God as a slave-master who we should all be serving, the irony being that if his God existed we wouldn't have a choice on who to serve. God is depicted as a King in the Bible and the imagery fits such a being perfectly because if Yahweh did exist he would essentially be the dictator of the Universe and thus the ultimate authority figure. Freedom from such a being would be impossible.
Even in the twisted world of Christian apologetic freedom exists only because it was given to us and even then it is conditional. God can revoke it at any time smiting whomever he chooses whenever the mood strikes him (Job learned that the hard way). Freedom is a merely a slightly longer length of chain attached to the end of our shackles. The fact that someone can think of God this way and not grow instantly disgusted is frightening yet GodTalk appears to like the idea.
“Let us this day choose whom we will serve. Those who choose Christ will never regret it, either now or in eternity.”
Well first of all we can call bullshit on the notion that no one regrets accepting Christianity, I know plenty of former Christians that would disagree with GodTalk there. Nothing against GT himself, I'm sure he's a fine person, he apparently has a blog about healthy living and weight loss, but to someone on the outside of Christianity telling people to choose who they want to be enslaved by is disturbing, AS IT SHOULD BE.
The equation of God to a slave master is one that I am familiar with and it proved to be one of my first faith-shaking realizations when I was only a teenager. I can recall being perhaps 16 or 17 and realizing that there could be no freedom, no escape and no peace.
Already at that point I was at odds with the idea of Heaven, it frightened me just as much as hell to think that I was never again going to feel sorrow, but be forced to feel joy with no context to put it in. Even more frightening to me was the idea that heaven never ended, here I was a young man who could barely fill up a weekend with things to do without growing bored asked to live for eternity with no conflict or emotional depth and essentially lounge beside the tree of life in between worshiping God.
Now I was faced with the realization that the God of the Bible wanted a servant, someone to bend to his will, someone willing to give up all their possessions, dreams and aspirations if God wanted them to. In fact Jesus even says that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light”, so you're a slave, but you're a well-treated slave. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a slave to anyone and I was pretty sure that ANY decent LOVING God would want his creations to be ACTUALLY free. That was one domino that eventually lead me farther away from the Biblical God and more towards my own version of God before eventually all the dominoes and gods fell by the wayside.
Last but not least one of the big problems with monotheism and Christianity in general is the characteristic of omnipotence often attached to God. I've talked about this before I believe but it bears repeating that omnipotence is logically nonsensical and impossible no matter how you look at it.
Omnipotence as Infinite Power – One version of God's omnipotence stipulates that God has limitless or infinite power. The problem with this is that there is no way for God to know his power is infinite or for us to know that either. Infinity destroys the idea of quantity, it cannot be measured. Just as we could not measure time on an infinite scale we cannot measure power on it either.
If God were to show up tomorrow, heal the sick, raise the dead, or even create new Universes before our very eyes, we would not be able to declare said deity omnipotent.
Omnipotence as being All Powerful – The other version of omnipotence merely grants God all the power in existence, which would be a limited quantity of power but so much that God can essentially do anything. Again if this God were to show up we would be unable to measure his power as we have no accurate measurements about how much power is actually in existence.
God's omnipotence can never be proven, it can only be disproved by another God showing up and turning out to be more powerful. God cannot be sure whether a God more powerful than him exists as that God would necessarily be powerful enough to keep said information a secret. The same can be said for omniscience as well, since the only way to know whether or not God knows everything is to meet a smarter God, until then the first God is just the smartest SO-FAR.
It never ceases to amaze me the disturbing teachings Christianity gets away with in the 21st century and yet many of them I was subjected to as a child. Are we really free and if so in what ways are we free? In what ways are we constrained and in what ways SHOULD we be constrained. Does free will even exist? I don't know. What I can tell you is in what ways we are not constrained. There is no all powerful King to which you must submit and in the end submission to such a being is merely submission to self-delusion.