There are a lot of reasons to see Christianity as false. As an atheist, I usually have some semblance of a rebuttal for every argument I hear for the religion that everyone believes except me (or at least it feels that way). Of course, some arguments against Christianity are better than others, including “Science has disproved God” (sorry, but that can’t be proven or disproven) or “Jesus was copied from earlier deities like Osiris and Horus” (this is possible, but I’m not convinced by it). I’m generally not phased when an atheist argument like this falls through, because I feel as though there are others that simply cannot be refuted. Many of the solid arguments against the existence of the Abrahamic God involve the inherit contradictions of his character.
This is different from saying that the bible itself has contradictions; there are only a few hundred of those, and of course many Christians have done some mental gymnastics in order to try and untangle them all. So be it. Even without taking his mess of a biography into consideration, God himself has enough of his own contradictions, which makes his existence, as described by his followers and in his books, a paradox.
Supposedly, the Christian god is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. There are more characteristics, but these seem to be the most salient and all-encompassing. Just to cover my bases, I made sure that in addition to Christians’ constant proclamations of his perfection and transcendence, that their ideas actually have a biblical basis. Each one was referenced in several places through the canon, but I chose verses that seemed the most straightforward in attributing these characteristics to the deity.
God’s omnipotence is referenced in Romans 1:20, where he is described as having “eternal power.” In Psalm 147:4-5, God’s understanding is said to have no limit; thus, he is omniscient. Proverbs 15:3 emphasis his omnipresence, saying that God sees everything. And finally, he is described as being perfect, merciful, just, almighty, and the like throughout the bible, specifically in Psalm 145:17, where he is said to be “righteous in all his ways / and faithful in all he does.”
To take it a step further and to avoid any straw man accusations, I’d like to point out that if the Almighty Christian God was not considered omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then many arguments for his existence would inherently fail. Consider the moral argument, sometimes overlapping with the ontological argument. If God were not entirely perfect, a standard to which we hold all good, then the arguments from morality and ontology would point to someone more perfect than he is or nothing at all. Additionally, if the Christian God cannot do the impossible then the Kalam argument as well as arguments from miracles fail. Many Christians view the “creation of something from nothing” (which seems to be not quite the case but still what they believe) as impossible, yet God is said to be the solution to this quandary.
I’m always finding new paradoxes that come with having all four–or any–of these attributes, especially with observable truths in the world around us. Some of these include:
- Omnipotence – Can God create a boulder so heavy he cannot lift it? Before you say anything: no, I don’t like that overused cliche either. But… it’s something to think about. Especially when it’s re-worded into a less tired phrase. Can God create a being powerful enough to destroy him? Can God reconcile a paradox such as the question at the beginning of this paragraph? If you can “do anything”, does that include the impossible?
- Omnipotence and omnibenevolence – If you are all-perfect, then you are incapable of doing anything bad. If you are all-powerful, then you can do anything, whether it is good or bad. Logically, God could only be one or the other.
- Omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omniscience, and unbelief – If God exists and knows everything, can do anything, and is completely good, then he would not want me to go to hell. As a matter of fact, according to my family’s Lutheran beliefs, he wants unbelievers to convert and be “saved”, but somehow he can’t make us. Besides that little tidbit contradicting his omnipotence, he really should be able to make me believe, if he truly wants to, and if he is all-perfect then he should want to. And it wouldn’t have to be forceful; he would simply have to show himself to me or at least show me substantial evidence of his existence. What exactly would I find to be acceptable evidence? If he’s omniscient, then he knows. Yet here I am, unconvinced and hellbound.
- Omniscience, omnibenevolence, and prayer – This may be my favorite flaw of Christianity. I don’t know if having a favorite makes me a dork, but I’ll continue: people pray to God, asking him to do things for them. It’s not the only purpose of prayer, but it is one of them. People ask God for things, ask him to tell them things, or rattle off things they want as if he’s Santa Claus or something. It’s a popular old paradox that I’ve written about before, but if God is omniscient, then he knows what you want, then you shouldn’t have to tell him. If he just wants to watch you beg and prove that you really want it, then that’s pretty cruel, and not omnibenevolent.
- Omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omniscience, and horror – Cancer. Hurricanes. Disease. Even heartbreak. If a deity can prevent these things and he does not, he is not perfect or he is not capable of preventing them or he doesn’t know it’s happening. The problem of evil is talked about enough and has been maneuvered around enough times that it doesn’t need to resurface here, but it is probably the most famous contradiction of the Christian god, so I had to include it.
- Omniscience – This one’s interesting, possibly because of its subtlety. One of my Christian professors actually articulated his difficulty in comprehending this one. He asked, “Does God know what it’s like to be a strawberry?” Now that’s not something you ask yourself every day. But obscure things like this don’t seem like the type of thing that can be known. So can God know things that seem unknowable? Does he know what your life is like? Or mine? Does he know how we atheists have struggled with religion, and not being convinced, and how hard it is to be in the closet and come out? Is this really what he wants? If not, he’s not doing anything about it or reminding us that he’s there after all.
I hope you didn’t take away from this some kind of classic atheist-being-angry-at-God bit. If a deity like this existed, he would be legitimately illogical. I know that these contradictions are said a lot, but there is a reason for it. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence don’t work in theory, they don’t work for God in the bible, and they don’t work in reality.