Proof of God
Ned Resnikoff poses a pretty intriguing question at his blog: How could a Deity prove its omnipotence? This, of course, assumes that a Deity is omnipotent to begin with. I’m not sure a Deity needs to be, personally, though certainly monotheistic religions all strongly imply that their Gods are (and omniscient, too, for that matter).
I think this question might actually be a good example of why the concept of an omnipotent being is logically incoherent. It’s sort of a variation on the old, “Could God make a boulder so heavy he couldn’t move it?” question. Presumably, an omnipotent being would have some way of conclusively demonstrating His omnipotence, but the manner in which He would do so eludes me.
Julian Sanchez thinks the answer is no:
It would require a good deal less than omnipotence to make a human perceptual system experience any demonstration of omnipotence you might care to suggest. So we might imagine God zipping you back to the dawn of creation so you can watch him summon all the galaxies into existence, then mold the earth and breathe life into the first humans, and so on. The trouble is that if you’re aiming for parsimony, the simpler explanation will almost certainly be that you’ve encountered a being capable of simulating all these experiences to your primate nervous system. That is, of course, a hell of a trick—a being who can do that is certainly pretty potent!—but still pretty far short of complete mastery over all space, time, and matter. Even assuming that problem away, the tests would be limited to those feats observable by (and comprehensible to) humans.
Julian goes on to say that even God couldn’t really be sure He was God, that He would be undermined by the very things that define Him: His omnipotence and omniscience. He imagines an ‘agnostic God who sometimes doubts Himself’.
Of course, faith should not require proof – and cannot really, no matter what contortions great religious thinkers have done in order to attempt to prove the existence of a God, or what lengths unbelievers go to disprove Him (a similarly difficult task, I would say). But what if God stopped believing in Himself?
This reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods a bit, which dealt quite a bit with belief and deception.