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Thread: Is the Concept of a Monotheistic God Self-Contradictory?

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    Is the Concept of a Monotheistic God Self-Contradictory?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pervitinist View Post
    because I find the very concept of a monotheistic God to be self-contradictory
    In what respect? Can you elaborate, please?
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    AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorburn View Post
    In what respect? Can you elaborate, please?
    Now you got me!

    No, I think to elucidate this point we would have to recreate endless scholastic debates about the reconcilability of the actual state of the world with the notion of an omnipotent, all-knowing, benevolent creator-God (the problem of theodicy). If there were such a God and if this God would care about us in the way described in the scriptures of monotheistic religions, the world would have to look very different from the way it actually does.

    Of course there are numerous traditional arguments (mostly involving speculations about the extent of logical and metaphysical possibility) trying to reconcile both things. But I still haven't heard any such argument that convinced me. So, until that happens, I see a contradiction between the notion of a Judeo-Christian / Islamic God and the state of our world that is said to be "His" (Her?) creation.

    Deism could be option, but if Deism is true, all the gospels, revelations, etc. are fake. And if they are, there's no reason to believe in a God that fits their descriptions (rather than those, say, of the Vedas, the Avesta or the Edda).

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    Re: AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Pervitinist View Post
    Now you got me!
    I know. Wasn't that mean?

    No, I think to elucidate this point we would have to recreate endless scholastic debates about the reconcilability of the actual state of the world with the notion of an omnipotent, all-knowing, benevolent creator-God (the problem of theodicy).
    Quite on the contrary. I'm rudimentarily familiar with the basic arguments concerning the logical contradictions in having a god that is omniscient and immaterial (or omnipotent) at the same time -- as they are frequently put forward in the atheist critiques of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim god.

    I merely wondered what's "self-contradictory" in "the very concept of a monotheistic god", as you expressed? The monotheism, I mean? A single, unique god with no other gods besides him could also be envisioned without the omni-what-have-you attributes the popular Middle Eastern desert religions ascribe to him. Would then, in your view, a contradiction in the very concept of monotheism still exist?

    (I got you! I got you!)
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    Re: AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Pervitinist View Post
    If there were such a God and if this God would care about us in the way described in the scriptures of monotheistic religions, the world would have to look very different from the way it actually does.
    So if I understand you properly, it's not a monotheistic god per se that you object to, but rather the traditional postulations of such a god within the major monotheistic religions, right?

    EDIT: But I think Thorburn put it better than I did.

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    Re: AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Leofric View Post
    So if I understand you properly, it's not a monotheistic god per se that you object to, but rather the traditional postulations of such a god within the major monotheistic religions, right?

    EDIT: But I think Thorburn put it better than I did.
    And the next step would be to ask if it is reasonable to assume whether some shepherds referred to a logically all-inclusive and absolute "omnipotent" when they referred to the "Almighty" in their prayers and songs more than 2,000 years ago?

    Do I catch the drift? One can be a Christian without believing in the most inflexible and rigid interpretations of certain divine attributes?
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    Re: AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorburn View Post
    And the next step would be to ask if it is reasonable to assume whether some shepherds referred to a logically all-inclusive and absolute "omnipotent" when they referred to the "Almighty" in their prayers and songs more than 2,000 years ago?

    Do I catch the drift? One can be a Christian without believing in the most inflexible and rigid interpretations of certain divine attributes?


    Well, that certainly is my drift, but I wasn't going to come into the Agnosticism & Atheism forum with my preaching, since I think it doesn't quite belong here.

    I was just going to leave the question on the table, see how it got answered, and then let whatever personal reflections happened inside the minds of Skadi readers do their work.

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    AW: Re: AW: Re: AW: Strong Atheism vs. Weak Atheism

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorburn View Post
    I merely wondered what's "self-contradictory" in "the very concept of a monotheistic god", as you expressed? The monotheism, I mean? A single, unique god with no other gods besides him could also be envisioned without the omni-what-have-you attributes the popular Middle Eastern desert religions ascribe to him. Would then, in your view, a contradiction in the very concept of monotheism still exist?
    Well it depends on what you mean by monotheism and which attributes you consider as necessary for such a God. When you define the Monotheistic God simply as

    "A single, unique god with no other gods besides him"

    this would include a God who
    • is not the creator of the universe
    • doesn't know anything about the world
    • can't be contacted by human beings in visions, prayers, etc.
    • did not reveal his will to anyone (perhaps doesn't even have a will)
    • is not "a person" in any meaningful sense of the word
    etc.

    I think such a God is possible.

    But is it a monotheistic God? And is it a God (theos) at all or just a Deistic abstraction or something like a demon from another dimension? And why should we care about discussing a concept like the "God of the Philosophers" which basically has no religious significance?

    What I was referring to was not such an abstraction but the concrete concept of God as it is found in the holy scriptures and theologies of the three major Monotheistic faiths. The concept of this God necessarily includes the "omni-" attributes. So if a contradiction between some of them (e.g. omniscience and unlimited benevolence) can be proven to exist and traditional harmonization attempts are discarded, the concept of the Monotheistic God as envisioned by the actual Monotheistic religions is indeed self-contradictory. This point can, of course be argued further because most believers will simply deny that there is an actual contradiction between divine attributes, between revealed word and historical fact (like in the problem of the eschatological "Naherwartung" ...). The last resort for the believer is always a new interpretation of his/her holy text of choice. In the end, criteria of consistency are also a matter of "faith" (or stipulation or creation of a Sprachspiel ...). So the debate is by definition endless.

    I know my argument is not really the strongest imaginable. But do you still think you got me?

    So if I understand you properly, it's not a monotheistic god per se that you object to, but rather the traditional postulations of such a god within the major monotheistic religions, right?
    Yes, exactly. But if you take the "monotheistic god per se" in the above (Thorburnian) sense, there's not much left in it except the "per se".

    Quote Originally Posted by Leofric
    And the next step would be to ask if it is reasonable to assume whether some shepherds referred to a logically all-inclusive and absolute "omnipotent" when they referred to the "Almighty" in their prayers and songs more than 2,000 years ago?
    Well, but they must have referred to something unless they were just babbling nonsense (which they probably did )

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    If a god created the world, he has to be omnipotent, because he has the power to create everything. Everything is his creation. If he isn't omnipotent, then the creation isn't his. If we've only one god, then he has to be the creator. Otherwise, where did everything come from? A monotheistic god which isn't like the Christian God doesn't make sense indeed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siebenbürgerin View Post
    If a god created the world, he has to be omnipotent, because he has the power to create everything.
    Could he not be omnipotent but not be the creator of the world? Can we say that the man who invented the first story and would have been capable of inventing speech automatically invented speech?

    Vice-versa, could he not have created the world but not be omnipotent? What if the man who invented speech was anything but a crafted storyteller, and it was his brother who came up with the idea to spin all these words together to make sense in a narrative?

    Do you catch my drift? Perhaps the god which the occidental tradition knows is omnipotent and omniscient, and even the creator of the world, and all these things. But is there not the very potential that he may have only been able to put the things in place which his creations could not put into place, etc.

    For example - just because the farmer can sow, grow and harvest the crop - does it mean that he can also cook them?

    Everything is his creation. If he isn't omnipotent, then the creation isn't his.
    How do we know that everything is his creation? Because he created us, and we created further things, people and concepts?

    Could it not very well be that his potential ends right where our potential starts? Compare it with a man, who with his semen is able to create a child ... but he does not have the potential to carry one himself, something which his seed - if it is a daughter - may well be able to.

    Perhaps it's not a good analogy ... but how do we know that his potential would transcend his immediate creation, rather than the potential being limited to creating worlds and living things, but not the items and concepts, which only they might be able to conceive?

    Otherwise, where did everything come from? A monotheistic god which isn't like the Christian God doesn't make sense indeed.
    But does the link of causation need to be complete? If we craft paper from a tree, then burn it in a fire, and the fire warms us - does it mean that the tree is capable of warming us, or is it necessary modification of the materials given?
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Since Christianity, Judaism and Islam are among the most numerous and popular monotheistic religions, ppl will inevitably make a connection between monotheism and the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent god. But that's not actually what monotheism is about. Monotheism is the belief that there is only one god. That's it. It doesn't say what kind of god. Also, not being omniscient doesn't mean that this god doesn't know anything at all about the world, not being omnipotent doesn't mean that this god doesn't have power over anything at all. To be omniscient is to have total knowledge. To be omnipotent is to have unlimited power. Theoretically, a god could create everything, but not also have the power over his creations, in other words be devoid of those omni- attributes.

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