Friday, March 23, 2012

Pagan Blog Project: The Fallibility of our gods

This is one thing that I actually really, really like about paganism. Our gods are FALLIBLE. Let me explain.

The Christian god is said to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. (All-powerful, All-knowing, and All-present)

This has always bothered me. There's a quote attributed to Epicurus that states: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?"

I prefer my gods - they are fallible. They lie, they get tricked, they lust, they make mistakes. Certainly, they do this less than we mortals do. But they are not omnipotent, nor omniscient. They don't pretend to be. If an omnipotent god lets the horrible things happen that happen in this world, then that's not a god I want to follow! 

I much prefer the thought of gods that guide, and change what they can, but need us to work for ourselves as well. It makes far more sense to me. 


  1. Spirits are as well. :-) Great post. ~)O(~

  2. true that =) great thoughts. I have been thinking about that omnipotent-thing too. and also that "free will"...

    Have a lovely day!

    Blessed be!

  3. Agreed. I've always had trouble understanding omnipotence, so yes, fallible gods make much more sense to me.

  4. "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?"

    Ah. Willing and able, but won't because we learn from adversies, problems, crisis, difficulties...

    And what is "evil"? Bad things? Standing by and letting "bad things" happen? Is a person who does "bad things" because he/she doesn't know any better "evil"? Is a person who acts on fear "evil"? Is a person doing "stupid things" evil? Then I am evil, because I am guilty of all of these things. I do stupid things all the time, I make wrong decisions because I didn't think, or because I didn't know. I react on fear, shame, guilt, sorrow, and do things that cause problems and pain to me and my environment.
    What is God supposed to do?

    My God is not fallible. My God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. But I also believe in the free will of human beings.

    1. If we assume god is omniscient and omnipotent, we can rule out acting (or failing to act) out of shame, guilt, fear, and ignorance. To an omniscient being, these things don't exist. That leaves "letting bad things happen." Sure, maybe some people can learn from the bad things - but what does a tornado teach the people it kills? What does the baby in Africa learn when it starves to death? What does the puppy learn when it's abused? Evil things happen every day, and if God is omniscient, he knows about them. If he is omnipotent, he could prevent them. So why doesn't he?

      Sorry, I can't believe in a god that cruel. I can't believe in a god that chooses to let so much evil exist, and just stands back and says "Hey, free will, man, I can't do anything about that dude murdering you. His will to kill you trumps your will to remain alive!"

      No. Sorry.

    2. My God doesn't act out of shame, guilt, fear or ignorance. People do.

      My God sees the outcome of everything, and that outcome is always good. Everything will be fine. Everything will be good. Everything will be as it is supposed to be. So - what is "bad"? Things have to "die" to make room for other things. Everything changes all the time. What is here today, is not here tomorrow, and shouldn't be either. Everything passes, "good" as well as "bad", and this is a blessing, not a "bad thing".

      There is this story of a man. One day his horse ran away and his neighbors told him they were so sorry for his bad luck. He said "well, who knows whether this is good or bad."
      The horse came back and gave birth to an amazing colt. The neighbors were marvelling over his good fortune. He answered "well, who knows..."
      His son started training the colt and one day was thrown off his back, and he broke his leg. Neighbors were there, again, giving him their condoleances, and again the man answered "well... who knows..."
      A war broke out and all the young men were taken in the army, except the man's son, who couldn't, because his leg was broken...

      What does tornado teach the people it kills?
      Time to go. Obviously people who die are done with learning.
      What does the baby in Africa learn when it starves to death?
      How would I know. But - people who die are done with learning.
      What does the puppy learn when it's abused?
      Not to trust the abuser/all like the abuser.

      Look at the bigger picture.

      We live in a world where there are tornadoes. Tornadoes are 100% natural things that can be pretty much predicted with today's knowledge and technology. Now... one could ask why people are living in areas with frequent tornadoes. Why people don't take what's important and leave the area when they are told a tornado is coming? Etc. etc.

      We live in a world where there is hunger. Where there are people who have and who have not. I'm not suggesting the poor people are on this planet for the rich people to have someone to help, but it's a little the same as with tornado belt... Africa's Horn is a fertile area WHEN IT RAINS but it rains very seldom, and considering the history of the area, I don't understand why people still live there. Also, the child's parents, ancestors, neighbors are the very people who are responsible for the child's death. THEY chose to live in an area that cannot support the people. THEY chose to start warring. THEY chose to bring the child to this world, knowing there might not be enough food, and if the child was conceived through a rape, THEY chose to encourage such a culture that condones rape at some level. People are not born rapists, they are made so. People make rapists. People create the conditions that create rapists. These people could just as well choose to create different conditions. Also, WE are responsible for the child's death. We with our condescending white mindset, imperialism, colonialism, orientalism, materialism, chauvinism... We have more than we could ever use and yet we can't be bothered to help.

      We live in a world where there are people who abuse those they can abuse, whether it is a puppy, a wife, a child, a school mate... and it is just like with the rapist. WE created the abuser, through our chosen social systems, cultural structure, values, ideas... through shame, guilt, fear and ignorance.

    3. "Evil things happen every day"

      Again, what is "evil"?

      My God does know about everything that happens. Of course She could prevent them from happening, and if I was God, I would... but the thing is that I am not omniscient. I don't see what's happening in the mind of the abuser, or the puppy. I don't see the silver lines leading to the situation, nor the silver lines leading from the situation. God does. God sees the whole tapestry... From our limited and self-centered point of view we see only a tiny fragment, and we see it's ugly... but it's like looking at a painting through a tiny rip on the wrapping paper.

      Let me tell you another story about my God. There was once a farmer who used to leave a plate of milk to God every night. In the morning the plate was empty and the farmer was happy. One day an educated idiot came to visit the farm, and laughed at the farmer who believed in God and a God that would drink milk. He persuaded the farmer to hide with him and see what happened to the milk, and sure enough, after night fall a small fox jumped on the stone fence and lapped up the milk. The farmer was really disappointed and swore never to leave milk out again, as there was no God. In the night he dreamed... God came to him and said "What have you done? I used the milk to feed that orphan fox..."

      I believe in free will. I don't believe we are mindless puppets following the predestined paths. Because of this we have the opportunity to choose to do things that are "bad" or "evil". Sometimes we do it so knowingly, often not. God's omnipotence comes in the play when She sees there is someone to feed the starving child. When She brings fourth ASPCA to rescue the puppy and teach it all humans are not like his abuser. When She brings forth new life after natural catastrophies, when She gives people hope and courage to carry on, when She reminds you of that in spite of bad things, the world is a beautiful place and most of the people are good. Most of the people would not just sit by and watch a child starve to death. Most people would not just sit by and watch a puppy being abused. Most people would not sit idle and do nothing when natural catastrophies hit their communities - or unknown places on the other side of the world. Because of the God given free will, God cannot make you chance your mind when you have decided to do "bad" things, but God can inspire others to come and "clean up" the mess.

      I have heard people tell the story of Adam and Eve being thrown out of the Paradise as an example of incomprehensible cruelty. I don't see it that way. To me it was a blessing. You see, nothing ever happened in Eden. It was... a fairy world where nothing ever died, grew old, developed, evolved, grew in any way, learned anything... I think it's better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all. I think we cannot appreciate light without darkness. In Paradise everything is light. I know I would not appreciate our dog as much as I do, if I didn't know he's just visiting my life, and any day could be the last day of his visit. It makes me very sad, but also immensely grateful, grateful to him who chose us to live with, grateful to God who gave him to us... who made the threads of life run so that we met...

    4. "Hey, free will, man, I can't do anything about that dude murdering you. His will to kill you trumps your will to remain alive!"

      Well... I remember a story of a woman who was severely beaten and raped and left unconscious lying in a pool of her blood. She should have died. After having bled a couple of HOURS she woke up, got up, managed to get among people, was taken to a hospital and rescued... There are thousands of "I should have been dead" stories. I believe these people are not dead because it was not their time to die. No-one dies before their time, and I believe God is the Lady of Life, who decides who lives or dies.
      No, God "cannot" do anything to change the mind of the "dude murdering you", but She can keep you alive. She can send help. She can remind you of what you need to do to get away. Unless, of course, it is your time to die...
      Sometimes She even interferes... like 9/11. Are you aware of that "something happened" to an unusual amount of people. Buses were late, accidents happened, the alarm didn't go off, coffee maker at Starbucks wasn't working properly, so people had to wait... a lot of people were just enough late so that they were NOT in WTC when the planes hit it.

      "No. Sorry."
      No need to feel sorry about seeing this issue from your own point of view. I'm not asking you to agree with me, I'm just sharing how I see it.

  5. I agree. The fallibility of the gods makes them relatable to me, while at the same time my chaos magick mindset cannot accept anything else. There are simply too many problems with omniscience and omnipresence, logically speaking, for me to buy into that. The same reason I can't buy into a place of everlasting harmony and stasis as an afterlife: it throws itself in the face of the nature of the astral and life on the higher planes.

    I also like to think about what if I was a deity who was somehow omniscient. Wouldn't you get bored immediately? If the purpose of lives is to learn, what do you do when you've immediately learned everything? Doesn't that prevent said deity's soul from evolving? Are they forever trapped, stuck in a state of constant knowing where the pleasure of learning and experiment has been robbed from them? What a sad existence...

    1. I actually know of a really cool short story about that! It's called "The Egg" by Andy Weir. You can find it here:

      It's not terribly long, and it has a fascinating premise. :)

  6. The state of perfect omni-ness fosters lazy faith, in my opinion: if God is everywhere, I don't need to go anywhere special to worship. He's here! If God knows everything, he knows I didn't mean to do that, so he'll just forgive me or whatever. If God is all-powerful, then He would have stopped me from doing it if it was reeeally wrong, so obviously He thinks it's OK. And, well, He knows why I did it. He was there. Whatever.

    Beyond that, when people fall in love, we often hear them talk about how they "love him, despite his flaws", or even that they "love him -because- of his flaws". If this sentiment is valid, and even considered beautiful and poetic, between two people who have promised themselves to each other, why wouldn't we accept the same from someone who gives themselves or even a part of themselves to Deity?

    A falible Deity requires you to really get to know them, and to understand their motivations and their lifestyle. An infallible God seems stagnant and one-note to me. For example; Dionysus has myths where he is honourable, keeping promises to people even after they have died. He is portrayed as inspiring and an emancipator. But, he has also been tricked and trapped, he has been manipulative and he has sent people to their frightening deaths out of jealousy and indignity.

    Now, for me this means that I have to sit down and look at my life, my values, and my choices and say "Is this a god that I want to follow? He toyed with mortals, and then killed them. Why?" and in the end, if I stay on his path I do it with love and acceptance, having come to better understand my deity. With an omni-whatever god, there is no need for that reflection. You simply know that he is all around, knowing everything, and making everything happen, and so you might as well worship him.

    We should choose our deity (those of us who are not chosen by them. But if we have been, they must have seen something in us worth choosing, and so this reflection is still necessary) the way we choose our lovers and life partners; we should stay with them because we understand them and love them, despite their flaws, not because we've been told that they are flawless. Our relationship with our deities should be as important and honourable as any marriage, and should be just as rich. Who wants to be married to someone who can always say to you "No. Really. I'm always right. I just let you say the wrong thing to prove my point"?

    1. I see my God as a parent, not as a spouse. I wouldn't want to be married to a God. I want to be married to my best friend. I don't want my God to be a friend, I want my God to be God.
      I want to be able to trust in something bigger than me, bigger than life, bigger than everything...
      I want to be able to believe there is a meaning behind everything. I couldn't trust to a God who says "oops, sorry, didn't mean that!"
      I want a God who says "what ever happens - and there are some really bad things coming - know that I will be here with you. Everything that is beautiful, everything that is true, everything that is good, I have made for you, look at those things and remember that I love you."
      I want a God who says "I'm sorry your brother is hurting you. I try to teach him better, but you know, everyone's different and learn things in different pace. I might need a couple more lifetimes with that one..."
      I want a God who lets me make my own mistakes and when I have burned my hand, is there to kiss the wound and put some honey on it, and hug me and comfort me.

      But - that's me :-)

  7. What a really great post... and some excellent conversation to follow! I think I'm somewhere in between. While I think that my Gods are omniscient, I also believe that they are aware of everything that goes on, and there is a purpose to it all. Its not that we aren't suffering for nothing, we just can't see the whys from this vantage point.

    Thank you so much for linking up to Pagan Pages Blog Hop!