Monday Meslier: 55- God Can Not Be Called Immutable


You pretend that God is immutable!

Jean Meslier Portrait

Your host, Jean Meslier

But what is it that occasions the continual instability in this world, which you claim as His empire? Is any state subject to more frequent and cruel revolutions than that of this unknown monarch? How can we attribute to an immutable God, powerful enough to give solidity to His works, the government of a world where everything is in a continual vicissitude? If I think to see a God unchanging in all the effects advantageous to my kind, what God can I discover in the continual misfortunes by which my kind is oppressed? You tell me that it is our sins that force Him to punish us. I will answer that God, according to yourselves, is not immutable, because the sins of men compel Him to change His conduct in regard to them. Can a being who is sometimes irritated, and sometimes appeased, be constantly the same?

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Believers like to come up with fanciful attributes and assign them to god. One of my favorites is that “god is infinite.” Well, how would a finite human know something like that? Unless god is goddy by induction (and therefore infinitely goddy) I don’t see how we don’t wind up with a sort of Hilbert’s Deity. And god is perfect! Yet, wouldn’t a perfect being have no wants or desires? (per C.S. Lewis) If god were perfect, it wouldn’t want to push us around as much as it does, since it would want nothing from us. It wouldn’t punish us for transgressions against it, either, since we couldn’t transgress against a perfect god.

God’s immutability, which Meslier attacks here, is also problematic: an immutable being would be incapable of changing its desires. So if god is happy, it would never be able to become unhappy (therefore: do whatever you want, god can’t get unhappy with you!) or if god is unhappy and immutable, god will be permanently pissed off and can never be appeased. An infinite, immutable, pissed off god: sounds like Sithrak!

I guess it’s important for god to be immutable, otherwise we could find it and kill it with nuclear weapons and free ourselves from its tyranny.

Comments

  1. sqlrob says

    And it’s still a problem if you stick entirely biblical. If god doesn’t change, how do you go from judaism to christianity?

  2. says

    And god is perfect! Yet, wouldn’t a perfect being have no wants or desires? (per C.S. Lewis) If god were perfect, it wouldn’t want to push us around as much as it does, since it would want nothing from us. It wouldn’t punish us for transgressions against it, either, since we couldn’t transgress against a perfect god.

    I find it problematic to define what should be a perfect personality for a sentient and intelligent being. For example, Spartan ideas about what are perfect personality traits were very different compared to modern day Europeans. And even within a single culture people tend to disagree.

    Still, I find it easy to argue that God’s personality is anything but perfect. Christian God in unable to just forgive (he couldn’t just manifest his forgiveness, he had to sacrifice Jesus just to make himself forgive humans). He is angry and has serious anger management issues. He demands worship (it appears like he probably has a narcissistic personality disorder). He is jealous (“don’t you dare worship any other gods”). He seems to be perfectly fine with genocide, rape and infanticide. He is unable to treat all his children equally (Jews being the chosen people). He punishes people for what was not their fault to begin with (it is not a pagan’s fault that her distant ancestor Eve did something wrong and it is also not this pagan’s fault that she has never met Christian missionaries, yet she is still destined to burn in hell after death). I find it hard to find people who believe that vengeance, narcissism, jealousy and so on are all components of the perfect personality. God displays so many bad personality traits that everybody will agree that at least some of these traits are bad.

  3. says

    Of course God is infinite. God is “God of Divinity”, which is thus “(God of Divinity) of Divinity”. It’s an infinite regress and it’s God all the way down. QED.

    (Yes, I’m joking.)

  4. says

    sqlrob@#1:
    If god doesn’t change, how do you go from judaism to christianity?

    I believe the christian goddist would say the jews were mistaken. And the jewish goddist would say the christians were mistaken. God, meanwhile, remains a constant (that you can factor out using division!)

  5. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#3:
    Still, I find it easy to argue that God’s personality is anything but perfect.

    Agreed. Unless by “perfect” one means “perfect asshole.”

    I find it hard to find people who believe that vengeance, narcissism, jealousy and so on are all components of the perfect personality.

    Clearly, we should all be more like god! I guess that’s the message. Or something. “What would jesus do?” He’d mess you up, that’s what!

  6. says

    ahcuah@#4:
    It’s an infinite regress and it’s God all the way down. QED.

    That’s what I meant by Hilbert’s god. Since it’s endless, the universe is a subset of a subset of god (ad infinitum) so everything vanishes when compared to god. It’s not just god all the way down, it’s all god.
    I’m not sure how that works but clearly satan is just a subroutine.

  7. says

    Not my argument, but I forget the source (potentially Steven Law?). I may also have taken liberties with the form (I’m not a philosopher), but this reminded me of the following:

    If we define God as the archetype of perfection, then by definition anything that God creates must necessarily be less than himself, unless he is creating himself. Therefore God is incapable of creating anything which improves the state of nature, and necessarily by creating anything apart from himself is bringing about a state of less-than-perfection, which is a less-than-perfect thing to do. Therefore God would not create anything. But we know other things exist, therefore God (as defined) cannot exist.

  8. Owlmirror says

    I have to wonder if immutability was conjured up because of the bible. If you read the bible as a narrative, the character arc of God goes from being more powerful and interactive to less powerful and less interactive. It certainly looks like God is getting weaker over time. “But wait!”, say the priests. “God is immutable. Therefore, any appearances of weakening is our problem, not God’s”.

    It’s the specialness in the special pleading. Kind of like “incomprehensible”.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Purportedly, one attribute of “perfection” is omniscience.

    Omniscience includes knowing both all that exists, and all that will occur in the future – including one’s own actions.

    Thus, the supposedly all-powerful deity has no ability to choose, at all, but must follow its own foreseen path as mechanically as a player piano. Even with the ability to create galaxies, flood planets, and ignite & ventriloquize shrubbery, such a god can’t vary its actions by a yocto-Planck length throughout eternity.

    Wouldn’t you feel all grouchy too?

  10. cvoinescu says

    I find it hard to find people who believe that vengeance, narcissism, jealousy and so on are all components of the perfect personality.
    Apparently, enough of your compatriots thought such a personality might be just great. Again.

  11. says

    jrkrideau@#10:
    Possibly we are god’s version of an ant farm into which he pokes a stick to see what happens?

    The “trickster god” hypothesis is an interesting one. I think I first encountered it in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger – his god was a thoughtless jerk. Basically, like yaweh.

  12. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#11:
    Thus, the supposedly all-powerful deity has no ability to choose, at all, but must follow its own foreseen path as mechanically as a player piano. Even with the ability to create galaxies, flood planets, and ignite & ventriloquize shrubbery, such a god can’t vary its actions by a yocto-Planck length throughout eternity.

    Wouldn’t you feel all grouchy too?

    Wait, can’t the all-powerful god give himself free will? Arrrggghhh – that sounds like something out of a Harlan Ellison story. “I am omniscient and I must scream, but I can’t because I know I won’t.”

  13. John Morales says

    Owlmirror, spam filters presumably (and yes, I’m pretty sure you know more about that stuff than I do!).

    (Hopefully Marcus will attend to it by checking his spam queue)

  14. says

    Owlmirror@#17:
    I don’t know why the wordpress instance on FTB periodically loses its whitelist, but – it’s ineffable. I have re-whitelisted you. Sorry about that!

    Most amusing take I’ve seen is that YHWH in the OT reads very much as a super-powerful toddler with no foresight or impulse control.

    There is also the wonderful dig at the gods in Erik the Viking which I will not spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it. (If any of you haven’t seen it, what’s wrong with you?!)

  15. John Morales says

    [adds Erik the Viking to wish-list]

    Just super-slack — that’s what’s wrong with me. :|

    And thanks. Owlmirror is worth++ reading.

  16. Owlmirror says

    @Marcus: Is it possible that the site I linked to is marked as malicious [and therefore the comment was autobinned] because it was compromised? I have noscript, and adblock, and a hostname-siteblocker, so I might not see anything bad, but others might.

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