Can God make a stone so big that he can’t lift it?
This seems to cast doubt on God’s omnipotence.
But suppose he can create such a stone but simply hasn’t. Does that solve the difficulty?
It’s an essential attribute of God that he’s omnipresent, and Thomas Aquinas held that he also stands somehow outside of time and is not bound by temporal considerations. But, Richard La Croix argues,
if God is indeed omnipresent then it would appear that he must have been in the United Nations building yesterday as well as the day before yesterday. And if God was in the United Nations building both yesterday and the day before, then it would appear that he is in time and that temporal predicates do apply to him. So, it would appear that God is not a timeless being if he is omnipresent and that two doctrines crucial to the theology of Thomas Aquinas are logically incompatible.
Omniscience poses further problems: If God knows all things, then he knows what both man and he himself will do. So how is free will possible?
Before eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve either knew that disobeying God was evil or they didn’t.
If they didn’t, then they can’t be blamed for disobeying him.
If they did, then they already possessed the knowledge that God had forbidden.
Either way, God could not justly banish them from Eden.
(Adduced by Richard R. La Croix.)
Brother Jacques Percher, “a very excellent man of the old time,” had a painting made for his chapel showing that good is the very opposite of evil. At one side was a picture of an angel, with the words “Read the right side and you will be saved.” Under that was this inscription:
Delicias fuge, ne frangaris crimine, verum
Coelica tu quaeras, ne male dispereas,
Respicias tua, non cujusvis quaerito gesta
Carpere, sed laudes, nec preme veridicos.
Judicio fore te praesentem conspice toto
Tempore, nec Christum, te rogo, despicias:
Salvificum pete, nec secteris daemonia; Christum
Dilige, nequaquam tu mala concupito.
Shun pleasures of the flesh, lest you be broken by crime; seek the things of heaven, lest your end be an evil one; consider your own deeds, and do not seek to slander someone else’s, but praise them, and do not suppress those who speak the truth; always realize that you must stand before a judgment; I beg you, do not despise Christ, seek him who gives salvation, and do not follow the devil; love Christ, and do not lust at all after evil.
At the other side was a picture of the devil with the words “Read the wrong side and you will be damned.” Here the first inscription was reversed word for word, producing an entirely different meaning:
Concupito mala tu, nequaquam dilige Christum,
Daemonia secteris, nec pete salvificum;
Despicias, rogo te, Christum, nec tempore toto
Conspice praesentem te fore judicio:
Veridicos preme, nec laudes, sed carpere gesta
Quaerito cujusvis, non tua respicias,
Dispereas male, nec quaeras tu coelica; verum
Crimine frangaris, ne fuge delicias.
Lust after evil, and do not at all love Christ; you follow the devil, do not seek him who gives salvation; despise Christ, I beg you, and realize that never will you stand before a judgment; suppress those who speak the truth, and do not praise the deeds of anyone, but seek to slander them; do not consider your own; let your end be an evil one, do not seek the things of heaven; let yourself be broken by crime, do not shun pleasures of the flesh.
“It must have taken the brother a long time to compose this,” writes George Wakeman, “but he probably did it with a holy purpose, and as a recreation from more onerous duties.”
See also A Bilingual Palindrome.
Thomas Tresham spent 15 years in prison for his Catholicism, and when he got out in 1593 he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Rather than convert to Protestantism, he designed the Rushton Triangular Lodge to reflect his belief in the Holy Trinity.
Each of the three-sided building’s three walls is 33 feet long and sports three gables, three-sided windows, a trio of gargoyles, and a 33-letter Latin inscription. Even the chimney is triangular.
Lest anyone miss the point, Tresham had the front door inscribed Tres testimonium dant. It means “The number three bears witness.”
Now the means usually employed by a witch to possess his victims with a devil is to offer them some sort of food; and I have remarked that he most often uses apples. In this Satan continually rehearses the means by which he tempted Adam and Eve in the earthly Paradise. And in this connection I cannot pass over what happened at Annecy in Savoy in the year 1585. On the edge of the Hasli Bridge there was seen for two hours an apple from which came so great and confused a noise that people were afraid to pass by there, although it was a much-used way. Everybody ran to see this thing, though no one dared to go near to it; until, as is always the case, at last one man more bold than the rest took a long stick and knocked the apple into the Thiou, a canal from the lake of Annecy which passes under the bridge; and after that nothing more was heard. It cannot be doubted that this apple was full of devils, and that a witch had been foiled in an attempt to give it to someone.
– Henry Boguet, Examen of Witches, 1590
Puritans in the 1600s gave their kids some memorably pious names — here’s a sample from a Sussex jury roll circa 1650:
- Accepted Trevor, of Norsham
- Redeemed Compton, of Battle
- Kill-Sin Pimple, of Witham
- Fly-Fornication Richardson, of Waldron
- Search-The-Scriptures Moreton, of Salehurst
- The-Peace-Of-God Knight, of Burwash
- Stand-Fast-On-High Stringer, of Crowhurst
- Fight-The-Good-Fight-Of-Faith White, of Ewhurst
Taken to extremes these could get unwieldy. Charles Bombaugh (1890) claims that “A Puritan maiden, who was asked for her baptismal name, replied, ‘Through-Much-Tribulation-We-Enter-The-Kingdom-Of-Heaven, but for short they call me Tribby.’”
In the late 17th century a member of the British parliament was named Praise-God Barebone, with brothers and sons named Fear-God Barebone, Jesus-Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save Barebone, and If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone.
The last changed his name to Nicholas.
“Moreover, the satellites of Jupiter are invisible to the naked eye, and therefore can exercise no influence over the Earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist.” — Astronomer Francesco Sizzi, on Galileo’s claim to have seen the moons of Jupiter
Between 1980 and 1993, 42 visitors to Israel experienced a peculiar psychotic episode with seven consistent clinical stages:
- Anxiety, agitation, nervousness and tension, plus other unspecified reactions.
- Declaration of the desire to split away from the group or the family and to tour Jerusalem alone.
- A need to be clean and pure: obsession with taking baths and showers; compulsive fingernail and toenail cutting.
- Preparation, often with the aid of hotel bed-linen, of a long, ankle-length, togalike gown, which was always white.
- The need to scream, shout, or sing out loud psalms, verses from the Bible, religious hymns, or spirituals.
- A procession or march to one of Jerusalem’s holy places.
- Delivery of a “sermon” in a holy place. The sermon was usually very confused and based on an unrealistic plea to humankind to adopt a more wholesome, moral, simple way of life.
These people had no history of psychiatric illness and arrived as regular tourists, with no special mission in mind. They recovered fairly spontaneously on leaving the country and were reluctant afterward to discuss the episode. No explanation has been found.
(Bar-el Y, et al. (2000) Jerusalem syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry, 176, 86-90.)
The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117. The longest is Psalm 119.
This knowledge can come in handy.
The sermons of London theologian Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) were always received with rapt concentration. Alas, there was a reason:
- “I suppose I must have heard him, first and last, some thirty or forty times, and never carried away one clear idea, or even the impression that he had more than the faintest conception of what he himself meant.” — Sir M.E. Grant Duff
- “I do not remember that a word ever came from him betokening clear recognition or healthy free sympathy with anything.” — Thomas Carlyle
- “I am never in his company without being attacked with a sort of paroxysm of mental cramp.” — Carlyle’s wife, Jane
- “Well! All that I could make out was that today was yesterday, and this world the same as the next.” — Benjamin Jowett
- “Frederick Maurice has philosophical powers of the highest order, but he spoils them all by torturing everything into Thirty-nine Articles.” — John Stuart Mill
“Listening to him,” wrote Aubrey de Vere, “was like eating pea soup with a fork.”
God can’t make a genuine $10 bill. Only the U.S. Mint can do that. Presumably God could make an atom-for-atom copy of one, but it wouldn’t be genuine because it wasn’t produced by the mint.
Therefore God is not omnipotent.
For an omnibenevolent being, God has a lot of legal trouble. Nebraska legislator Ernie Chambers sought an injunction against the deity in 2007, asserting that He had caused “widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.” And in 2008 a Romanian prisoner claimed that his baptism had been a contract that God had broken by failing to protect him from evil.
God escaped both suits on technicalities. Chambers’ action was dismissed because God has no address and thus couldn’t be notified, and the Romanian suit was deemed to be beyond the court’s jurisdiction because God is not an individual or a company. So that settles that.
This question was officially decided in the affirmative in the Court of Queen’s Bench, Dublin, on November 16th, 1855, in the Case of Beamish vs. Beamish, where the point came into direct issue.
– Frank H. Stauffer, The Queer, the Quaint and the Quizzical, 1882
Virginia Centurione Bracelli died in 1651, but her body was found largely uncorrupted when her grave was opened 150 years later.
She was canonized in 2003.
There’s a sculpture of Darth Vader on Washington’s National Cathedral.
During construction, a competition was held among children to suggest a carved grotesque, and Christopher Rader of Kearney, Neb., submitted a drawing of Darth Vader’s head.
It’s visible on the cathedral’s northwest tower — but you’ll need binoculars to see it.
Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, 2003-2007:
- Tree stump, Passaic, N.J., 2003
- Grilled cheese sandwich, Hollywood, Fla., 2004
- Expressway underpass, Chicago, 2005
- Pretzel, Nebraska, 2005
- Firewood, Janesville, Wis., 2006
- Chocolate drippings, Fountain Valley, Calif., 2006
- Souplantation restaurant, Grantville, Calif., 2006
- Pizza pan, Houston, 2007
- Watermelon, Arizona, 2007
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” — Pascal
What is it with salt miners? Apparently inspired by Poland’s Wieliczka mine, which features a salty Last Supper, Colombia has built an entire salt cathedral, complete with 14 chapels representing the stations of the cross. Don’t they have work to do?
The first chapter of Genesis, written on an egg.
From the Jerusalem Museum.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Says Tom to Bill, pray tell me, sir,
Why is it that the devil,
In spite of all his naughty ways,
Can never be uncivil?
Says Bill to Tom, the answer’s plain
To any mind that’s bright:
Because the imp of darkness, sir,
Can ne’er be imp o’ light.
– Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-Fields of Literature, 1890
- Douglas Adams
- Woody Allen
- Isaac Asimov
- Dave Barry
- Ricky Gervais
- Paul Giamatti
- Nadine Gordimer
- Katharine Hepburn
- Billy Joel
- Ian McEwan
- Ian McKellen
- Harold Pinter
- Kurt Vonnegut
“Atheism,” said George Carlin, “is a non-prophet organization.”
In 1394, a pig was hanged at Mortaign for having sacrilegiously eaten a consecrated wafer; and in a case of infanticide, it is expressly stated in the plaintiff’s declaration that the pig killed the child and ate of its flesh, “although it was Friday,” and this violation of the jejunium sextae, prescribed by the Church, was urged by the prosecuting attorney and accepted by the court as a serious aggravation of the porker’s offence.
– E.P. Evans, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, 1906