Does God Have To Be Perfect?
Note from George: This is a response to a comment and new post over at my friend Kate’s blog Just Another Inkling. For a reader seeking the full context of this discussion between our blogs, it will be necessary to read these posts in this order. I will attempt to give context where possible. I want to seize on a few things Kate has said recently….
The central theme of our discussion has revolved around the following questions:
(Kate should indicate if I stand corrected or need to expand this list)
- Is there a difference between the way in which a theist and atheist think which predisposes someone to that line of thought? Does the theist gain some advantage in trusting intuition more than the atheist?
- Is it possible to be both a skeptic and a Christian?
- Is there a valid argument for a personal God in the Christian tradition? For any God period?
I believe we are at a bit of a logjam at question #3. I would like to hone in on a few points made in posts on her site.
Her newest post is Let’s Objectively Imagine the Perfect God where she begins to lay out a case for her personal God using an allegory. This stems from my comment of whether a case can be made for a personal God that is divinely inspired as opposed to man made.
I want to first question why her God need be perfect, and whether “perfection” is a state that can be gleaned from the evidence at hand.
From my comments:
I think that religious folks are always seeking a “perfect God”, and I don’t find that philosophically tenable. If there is one constant in the universe, one that has never been shown to have exception, it is the lack of “perfection”. In fact, I would say that the religious concept is partly born of the dichotomy between right and wrong, good and evil, moral and amoral and the lack of any semblance of perfection within those systems. We only have an abstract concept of perfection as a “lack of fault”, yet this state cannot exist.
What decision could be perfect? Is there not always a trade-off? I can make a decision that is better than another one, but we must always assume that there is some shade of gray to every choice. Perfection is an abstract, it does not exist.
So for me to imagine a perfect society of beings is also an abstract. It is also to my mind superfluous to a God concept. Why must a “God” be perfect? Why must a God be benevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent or any other concept we associate with a “perfect God”? God could be a petty creator, only capable of breathing life into an amoeba, perhaps with some ability to set the variables for life to favor our eventual arrival. Perhaps that “God” spoke to “Moses” and boasted pridefully that he created us ex-nihilo like a man taking credit for a twist of luck? Perhaps he is more powerful than us but no better morally. Why must God be perfect? Perhaps he is “benevolent” only so far that he has the power to control. Perhaps he is like me, and can be benevolent but is more often temperamental and harsh.
Does this make him less a “God”?
He is, under this scenario, our creator. Given that the bible tells us that He created us in His image, it certainly makes more sense to be so. It also creates a way for us to imagine a world with a God, because the facts now match the hypothesis much better. We do not live in a perfect world, and God is not perfect. We witness great suffering, and God is impotent to assist us. We are limited by the limits in which a limited “God” could create. We are the imperfect result of an imperfect god.
If you choose to breath perfection into your God then you must be held accountable for the logical consequences of that choice. He could create a perfect world and chose not to. He could make perfect choices and chooses not to. He created limits when he was unlimited. All these facts must be true and yet those choices must have a perfect answer?
I would argue that there is a reasonable dichotomy that can be reached with the evidence available without trying to make assumptions about what may or may not lie in a world beyond our perception.
1. God exists in the form I just mentioned. He is a fallible being with powers beyond ours but not limitless power. He is nothing we would call perfect, although you may rightly assume that He would prefer to appear that way to man. He is a God by some standards we would hold a God to, but in no way is the God of any world religion, except possibly through His deception.
2. Equally plausible is that no god exists. The world as we know it fits this conclusion as well. We are the product of a series of fortunate events in conflux with the inevitable conclusion of natural processes. Our limited brains create a god to explain phenomena that lie beyond our understanding. God in this case satisfies the human desire for causal explanations to semi-random or random events and evolved into the all encompassing control freak we know and love today.
Neither of these propositions require us to make propositions that are at the present time extra-scientific or subject to conveniently specious logic.
I will let you run with your premise, but I will argue that for one to imagine an actively participating entity as perfect, one must be able to quantify that perfection, which I am finding is an impossible task.
Why must your God be perfect? I don’t really understand the need for this concept. It requires so much extra legwork on your part. What makes this so important to theists? I could lay out a pretty good argument for an imperfect creator. Perhaps the problem with that is that it is equally a good argument for an anthropomorphic man made God. I think Kate knows this already, and has at time attempted to distance herself from biblical literalism and dogma. Yet she still holds firm to a Jesus concept.
This also comes back to the analogy she offers of the iceberg and seeing the other 90% of what lies below the surface. Here is her iceberg diagram from her site:
She has stated that as humans we are only privy to 10% of our world as illustrated by the “tip of the iceberg”. We must use intuition, imagination and deduction to visualize the remaining 90%.
If God is a perfect being, having all those attributes of a perfect being: omnipotence, omnipresence, omnibenevolence etc., why is there so little “trace evidence” in our “tip of the iceberg”? It is though the tip is completely severed from the “reality” below the surface. In your analogy, the tip, the part we can touch and describe is supposed to be our clue to the bigger whole. When the bigger whole is a rock pile several miles from our imagined iceberg, how are we to use the visible clue to steer our ship?
The bible paints a pretty vivid picture of the Abrahamic God. If I am to square the circle and assume Him to be a perfect entity I must answer a thousand questions:
- Why should He chose to reveal Himself to a single tribe of men?
- Why would He choose to reveal some truths in the Bible and yet have human evidence contradict other revelations?
- Why would He create a world of abject suffering just to punish mankind for the actions of a remote ancestor
- Why would he create a “single true revelation” that only a fraction of the world has access to while other peoples should be born to worship false Gods, even though he specifically condemns the worship of any God but He?
- Why should it appear to humans that we evolved from lower forms when He claims to have specially created us?
The list could continue in perpetuity. The evidence I see around me is not at all in favor of a perfect God. If it can be said to favor one at all, it is a God of diminished capacity.
I wish to question the religious need for an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing god. Would a moderately powerful, fallible yet noble Creator God not be equally worthy of your praise?