Religion in Society
Religion in Society

Atheist Asks: Is God Omnipotent or Not?

| by John W Loftus
Why is it that believers all say God can do anything until I suggest a scenario that they don't like? This is yet another reason why I think Christians are delusional. It's crystal clear that what they think God can do depends on whether a given scenario is something that they like or not. It's much like how they deal with unanswered prayer. They count the hits and discount the misses. And it's much like giving God the credit for the good that happens in life and blaming human beings (or the devil) for everything else. I don't get it. Is God omnipotent or not? Let me give just one scenario concerning earthquakes which cause massive amounts of suffering.

Several earthquakes have caused a great amount of carnage in recent years, including the Indian Ocean one in 2004 that created a tsunami which killed over a quarter million people, countless numbers of animals, and devastated the environment. There have been earthquakes in Haiti last year, in Pakistan and Australia this year already. We know that in the future there will be massive earthquakes in Los Angeles, along the San Andreas fault line, and also in Istanbul.

Now, could God have averted the ones in the past and continue doing so in the future? Yes or no? No fudging. No obfuscation. No red herrings. No sidestepping the question. No delusional dances. No gerrymandering around the question. Yes or no? I take it the answer will be a resounding yes. "Yes, praise Jesus, he can do this!"

Now let's also agree that the more power a person has then the more he is morally obliged to help avert suffering. If all it takes is a snap of one's fingers, or a signature on a piece of paper, to avert suffering then that person has a greater moral obligation to help avert suffering than a person who must die in the process of doing so. Agree? If a superman came upon a gang of thugs in Darfar who were pillaging a town, wantonly killing children, and repeatedly raping women, then does he have more of a moral obligation to help these innocents than a mere mortal who does not have the power to stop them and will surely die in the process? Again, Yes or no? No fudging. No obfuscation. No red herrings. No sidestepping the question. No delusional dances. No gerrymandering around the question. Yes or no? I take it the answer to this question will also be a resounding yes. "Yes, praise Jesus, God has more of a moral obligation than others to avert suffering because he has more power to do so!"

Put two and two together and there you have the problem. It's a serious one if you wish to continue believing in your delusion, and delusion it is. Why is it that an omnipotent God could not do a perpetual miracle by stopping plate tectonics from ever moving, especially if all it takes is a snap of his omnipotent "fingers"? Is he omnipotent, or not? Is this an easy task for an omnipotent God, or not?

You have only one reasonable way to escape the clear implications of this serious problem for faith in what I call the omniscience escape clause: "My ways are not your ways," we read in Isaiah. "How do we know what an omniscient God might do?" an apologist chimes in with an implied, "We can't." The answer is obvious. We must be able to understand enough of God's ways to know that his ways are good and that he knows what he's doing. It's that simple. If God does not act as a loving person would do then all we can reasonably conclude is that God is not acting like a loving person would do. And if God does not respond in discernible loving ways when tragic events take place then it looks entirely as if tragic events happen randomly without his ever-watchful eye.

So I put it to believers. If God is omnipotent then why does he not care? He could avert all earthquakes with a perpetual miracle quite easily. Why doesn't he do it? No fudging. No obfuscation. No red herrings. No sidestepping the question. No delusional dances. No gerrymandering around the question. Why doesn't he do it?

Then when you've come up with your answers look at them. Think about them. Ask yourself if these answers make sense apart from what you read in an ancient superstitious set of texts written by pre-scientific agency detectors. Do they really make sense give the omnipotence of God?

I have no hopes that what I've just written can shake you from your delusion, because you are deluded. Doubt is the adult attitude. Grow up.