Proof of God, continued

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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33 Responses

  1. Jason Kuznicki says:

    God could actually grant a human being temporary omniscience, then take it away. This would enable us to verify that He was really God.

    I had not realized they were even attempting film versions of the second and third books. The first film I found was a confused and confusing mess — and I’d read the books before I saw the film. I can only imagine what a non-initiate must have thought, and I’m not surprised that it bombed.Report

    • Plinko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, But if He took it away, how could a human differentiate between having been omniscient but no longer and having been merely tricked into believing he had been temporarily granted omniscience?Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Plinko says:


        Easy. God takes away all aspects of the mortal’s former omniscience, except for the knowledge and certainty of formerly having been so. A person in this state would no more doubt his former omniscient state — we could say his inspiration — than you or I would doubt that two and two make four.Report

        • @Jason Kuznicki,

          I dunno, Jason, any event of extreme improbability has many equally plausible explanations.

          If I experienced something like what you describe, I would be mostly convinced that someone was seriously fucking with my mind to the point where the entire experience would be qualitatively unreliable.Report

  2. David Schaengold says:

    Conventionally it has been considered a necessary truth that there is at most one omnipotent and omniscient existing entity. That is, omnipotence and omniscience must be essential and not accidental properties of an entity, and so they cannot be “granted” or “revoked.” This cashes out as “any omnipotent and omniscient being is already the one existing god.” I think some contemporary philosophers dispute these points, but at least traditionally in Western metaphysics the kinds of scenarios you guys are discussing are conceptually impossible for any coherent definition of omnipotence and omniscience.Report

  3. MFarmer says:

    “God could actually grant a human being temporary omniscience, then take it away. This would enable us to verify that He was really God.”

    This is why God led St. Owsley to do his good work with acid.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to MFarmer says:


      I had the same thought. Though I think it’s common for a non-drug-induced religious experience to include perceiving the nature of God in a way that can’t be fully recaptured afterward.Report

  4. North says:

    Golden Compass? Short answer E.D.; they won’t. The first one didn’t make near enough money to warrant sequels. If they were going to make a sequel we’d have seen it by now I dare say.Report

    • LawMonkey in reply to North says:


      Perhaps to the quiet relief of the producers. They managed to dance around the more anti-clerical bits of the first one, but I’m not sure they’d have been able to keep it up well enough to avoid noisy protests by the time the third film rolled around.Report

    • JosephFM in reply to North says:

      If they ever do, I imagine it would be following a remake of the first book (perhaps under its original title).

      Like with Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings.Report

    • @North, my understanding was that Golden Compass did pretty well in Europe. Still, I have a hard time seeing a studio putting money into a movie featuring some of the plot elements that just plain couldn’t be written out. As enjoyable as the books were, Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass are not destined for the silver screen.Report

    • mickah in reply to North says:

      The Golden Compass made quite a bit of money, enough to justify a sequel. The main problem was that the studio which backed it (New Line) sold off the foreign rights cheaply (which turned out to be very profitable), effectively relying on the US box office to make their money back. Which is a bit silly considering that the book is effectively an atheist tract. And now they’ve gone bust.

      I could never see the sequels being made in any case – since they involve children, and are set in a fairly tight timeframe, they really would have had to film all three books together. And seeing how the books are just quite popular (but not extraordinarily popular), it was always hard to see what was the attraction of spending so much money on the film in the first place.Report

  5. North says:

    Also, the Gifts of Gab seem to be broken? Which’s a pity because I find it indispensable on the league.Report

  6. Metamorf says:

    Of course, if He did that, He would no longer be a singular entity. We would all be gods, too.

    Well, if “we” are all omniscient, how are “we” distinct from one another? I.e., if He did that wouldn’t we all just merge into a singular entity?Report

  7. Alan Scott says:

    Isn’t all this sort of a moot point? Being Omnipotent, he could simply cause us to be unwaveringly convinced of his omnipotence without the requirement of proof.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Alan Scott says:

      @Alan Scott,

      It seems we are all operating on a definition of knowledge as justified true belief. This is a common definition of knowledge in philosophy, but not without its problems, even in a godless universe.

      Still, it’s interesting how so much of this discussion really has been predicated on it.Report

  8. ThatPirateGuy says:

    The granting of omniscience is totally unnecessary. All that is required is that it be possible to construct a valid argument that proves the existence of god.

    If that is possible then god could simply present it and the required evidence to the person or persons he wishes to believe. Then the person would believe it. As for emotional rejection, that shouldn’t be a problem as an all powerful entity could arrange the scenario such that the person would be in a receptive mood at the moment.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:


      Of course from my perspective ths whole infinite or merely really powerful debate is entirely premature as I have yet to see why one would think that there is in fact a powerful being that does the things we hear these god characters doing.

      It is like trying to solve the murder of Steve when Steve is standing right next to you perfectly healthy.Report

  9. Robert Cheeks says:

    Hey, I thought yous guys didn’t believe in God? Or, is it you wanna believe in God but you’re the unfortunate victims of a pernicious immanentization?

  10. Jaybird says:

    There is an old legend that when Jesus died and descended into Hades to take the keys from Satan, he told the folks down there who he was, what was going on, and so on. The legend has it that the Jews politely declined as this was an obvious temptation and they were totally going to wait for God to show up.

    For some reason, the modern updating of such things always seem to lose their lustre.Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Jaybird says:

      I would believe him.

      Not least because the mere existence of an afterlife of damnation -which isn’t really part of Judaism- would clearly be evidence enough to tilt things in Josh’s favor.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to JosephFM says:

        @JosephFM, when I first wrote the post, I wrote “Hell”, then backspaced and wrote “Hades” which did a better job of communicating the idea.

        One was not “damned” there, one was just dead. Heck, even if you died and went to the bosom of Abraham, it’s not like you got 72 Virgins and ate grapes all day. You were just dead in a nicer piece of real estate.

        It wasn’t until we got to the organized persecution of Christians that the idea of eternal torment started to take off.Report

  11. So, in a sense, the only way for God to prove Himself is to annihilate Himself – or to create an afterlife wherein we became infinite but not necessarily omnipotent.

    If it’s the first alternative, how do we know that it hasn’t happened? That would explain a few things, wouldn’t it?

    If it’s the second, then why have the first life at all, and why not simply create everything in the eternal afterlife?Report

  12. stuhlmann says:

    If God cannot prove His omnipotence , to humans or to anyone else, then is He really omnipotent?Report

  13. Ryan Davidson says:

    Congratulations! You have learned that you can do silly things with language. Have a cookie.Report

  14. Kyle Cupp says:

    If a being is created and sustained in existence, then it cannot be an omnipotent being. Being created and dependent on another for existence rules out omnipotence.Report

  15. Jaybird says:

    The worst part is that you can use this *EXACT SAME ARGUMENT* to explain away absolutely *ANYTHING*.

    Space Aliens? How do you know it’s not just George Lucas playing a trick?

    Cure for cancer? How do you know the cancer patient wasn’t just pulling your leg? And if you were the cancer patient, how do you know that the doctor wasn’t pulling your leg when he said that you had cancer?

    Barack Obama is president? How do you know that the media isn’t in some vast conspiracy and Dick Cheney isn’t still running things?

    You had a dream you were a butterfly? How do you know you’re not *REALLY* a butterfly having a dream that you’re a dork?

    You’re not a dork?


  16. Pat Cahalan says:

    I was thinking to myself the other day that, aside from thought constructions, was there any empirical evidence that I would accept as proof of God. Yanno, if I was entirely a rational empiricist.

    As has been pointed out, many of the proposed solutions suffer from the magic technology solution alternate explanation. However, I can find at least one set of data that I would regard as compelling evidence to the existence of miracles, which one would presuppose are a requirement to a miracle-producing entity.

    We know the age of the Universe is roughly 13.75 billion years, presuming our current estimates of the age of the Universe are reasonably accurate. Assuming Einstein is more or less correct and the speed limit in reality is the speed of light, there’s more than half of the Universe that we’ll never be able to explore. So, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just call it half.

    Thus, one can deduce that the *upper* bound for the expectation of intelligent life being produced by non-intelligent natural forces is very likely to be under once every 13.75 billion years; the actual probability might be as high as once every 27.5 billion years, but who’s quibbling.

    This implies that, assuming we neither exterminate ourselves or are destroyed by some cataclysmic event like the Milky Way – Andromeda collision which is looming large in our immediate future (about 4.5 billion years or so), at some point we’ll probably have a much higher level of knowledge about the existence of life (intelligent or otherwise) in the Universe than we do now.

    If we’ve explored a sizable portion of the Universe and found *no* evidence of intelligent life having *ever* existed elsewhere, at some point we’ve passed the expectation and we’re looking at a compelling body of evidence that the evolution of intelligent life represents a bona-fide unique event in the history of the Universe; or what we would call in the vernacular a real miracle.

    I’m not knowledgeable enough to work out reasonably accurate numbers, but I imagine someone with a better body of astronomical knowledge could produce a reasonable SWAG within short order.

    Of course, someone like me can jump the gun and point out that there already is reasonable evidence to support the existence of a singular event in the history of the Universe, but one can argue that the Big Bang doesn’t properly qualify as rightly speaking the Universe didn’t exist prior…Report