Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Your dog thinks you’re a wizard.  After all, you can do so many things that seem like magic to them.  But what level wizard?  Let’s investigate:

(I will use D&D 5th edition in what follows.)

Control flames.  (Cantrip) Your dog sees you light candles at will.  Impressive.

Create bonfire.  (Cantrip) Your dog is even more impressed when you light a bonfire in the back yard to make s’mores.  Can I have a s’more?

Dancing lights.  (Cantrip) Ever mess with your pets with a laser pointer?  Or even just a flashlight?  Apparently you know the spell dancing lights.

Light.  (Cantrip) You turn off the lights in your house instantly, with the flick of a switch.  But dogs don’t know about light switches.  You’re a friggin wizard!

Find familiar. (Level 1) Out of the blue, you get a new dog, or a new cat.  What’s up, hooman?  Didja summon a new familiar?

Alarm. (Level 1) I like how you wave your fingers in the air, hooman, and make beeping noises— and suddenly a magical alarm system is set!  Clever!

Sleep.  (Level 1) Remember that time you drugged Fido before that long car trip?  You know the sleep spell.

Silent image.  (Level 1) Ever turn on your TV without the sound?  What does your dog think of this?

Knock. (Level 2) Mysteriously locked doors are all just open to you.  Dogs don’t know about doorknobs, or keys.  They think you know the knock spell.

Phantom steed. (Level 3) It’s incredible how you can just animate that hrududu (i.e. car) and ride inside its belly, and then de-animate it when needed.  Might not be “phantom steed” precisely, but it’s at least a level 3 spell.

Summon fey/lesser demon/shadowspawn. (Level 3)  Argh!  You’ve invited a strange hooman into the house!  You’ve summoned a shadowspawn!

Scrying.  (Level 5) This is just turning on your TV.

Contact other plane.  (Level 5) The most impressive spell you can do: talking on your cell phone.  To other people.  Sometimes with pictures.  This is some high level wizard shit.

Conclusion.  You know at least two 5th-level spells.  If I am not mistaken, this means you are at least a 10th level wizard.  At least, to your dog.  No wonder your dog is so impressed.


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No god is perfect

I am an all-powerful being.

I write stories.  And in the worlds that I create, I am all powerful.  I can make planets, galaxies, universes unending.  I can bring forth, instantly, civilizations of staggering complexity.  I can create people as detailed as you like…fully-realized beings with thoughts as rich and varied as I can imagine.

I can destroy, too: I can, with a word, annihilate the world.  I can sweep away the minds of trillions of sentient beings, without so much as a moment’s hesitation.  To the worlds I create, I am a god.

Of course, in this world, I am flawed.  I can’t even fix a toaster.

Now, suppose there is a god that created this universe.  Suppose he is all-powerful, to us: suppose he can create or destroy with limitless power.  That does not mean he is all-powerful in the universe that he inhabits.

The logic is like this:

  1. Either a god exists wholly within the known, natural universe, or he does not.
  2. If he does, then he’s a natural being and bound by the laws of our universe. He’s therefore not all-powerful, since he cannot violate conservation of momentum, or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, or what have you.
  3. If he does not exist wholly within the known, natural universe, then he’s supernatural.
  4. A supernatural god inhabits a higher-level universe than our own.
  5. A supernatural god may very well be all powerful with respect to a lower-level world or universe, in the way that I am all-powerful with respect to a novel I write.
  6. Be that as it may, there’s no reason or justification to think that such a god is all-powerful in the world-level in which he resides.

Another analogy may help.  It is known that Conway’s game of Life is Turing complete.  Therefore, given a sufficiently large Life grid (running on a sufficiently large computer) and given a sufficiently long time, sentience would most assuredly evolve in such a game.  But, even if it didn’t, given enough time and patience we could (existing, as we do, “outside” this Life universe) create Life structures that can think.  For example, we could “just” program all the pixels in our Life grid with ones and zeroes in such a way that the Life structures were isomorphic to our own brains, perhaps.  (Hey, I didn’t say it would be easy.)  Does that mean we’re smart?  Perhaps.  Does that make us perfect?  Fuck no.

To say that a god is all-powerful just because he is all-powerful to us makes as much sense as saying that Shakespeare is all-powerful because he’s all-powerful to Hamlet.  Hey Hamlet: your god ain’t a loving god, you don’t have free will, and god doesn’t have your back.

That “undiscovered country” is just the bargain bin at Barnes and Nobles.

I’m tired of people ascribing properties to higher-level supernatural beings of which, by definition, nothing can be known.  There’s no conceivable way that Hamlet could know anything at all about Shakespeare.  Similarly, even if there were a god or gods existing outside of our universe, there’s no way we could know anything about them.  At all.  Maybe some supreme benevolent being exists, sure.  Or maybe there’s instead an omnimalevolent creator.  Or maybe there’s just some lobster-eating sadist who kills people with tiny forks.  Who knows?

You certainly don’t.



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