• Douglas Adams claimed that the funniest three-digit number is 359.
  • Romeo has more lines than Juliet, Iago than Othello, and Portia than Shylock.
  • Friday the 13th occurs at least once a year.
  • “By nature, men love newfangledness.” — Chaucer
  • John was the only apostle to die a natural death.

The Paradox of Dives and Lazarus


The Gospel of Luke contains a parable about a rich man and a beggar. Both men die, and the rich man is consigned to hell while the beggar is received into the bosom of Abraham. The rich man pleads for mercy, but Abraham tells him that in his lifetime he received good things and the beggar evil things: “now he is comforted and thou art tormented.” The rich man then begs that his brothers be warned of what lies in store for them, but Abraham rejects this plea as well, saying, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”

Now, writes E.V. Milner:

Suppose … that this last request of Dives had been granted; suppose, in fact, that some means were found to convince the living, whether rich men or beggars, that ‘justice would be done’ in a future life, then, it seems to me, an interesting paradox would emerge. For if I knew that the unhappiness which I suffer in this world would be recompensed by eternal bliss in the next world, then I should be happy in this world. But being happy in this world I should fail to qualify, so to speak, for happiness in the next world. Therefore, if there were such a recompense awaiting me, its existence would seem to entail that I should at least be not wholly convinced of its existence.

“Put epigrammatically, it would appear that the proposition ‘Justice will be done’ can only be true for one who believes it to be false. For one who believes it to be true justice is being done already.”

Faith No More

Kurt Gödel composed an ontological proof of God’s existence:

Axiom 1. A property is positive if and only if its negation is negative.

Axiom 2. A property is positive if it necessarily contains a positive property.

Theorem 1. A positive property is logically consistent (that is,
possibly it has an existence).

Definition. Something is God-like if and only if it possesses all positive properties.

Axiom 3. Being God-like is a positive property.

Axiom 4. Being a positive property is logical and hence necessary.

Definition. A property P is the essence of x if and only if x has the property P and P is necessarily minimal.

Theorem 2. If x is God-like, then being God-like is the essence of x.

Definition. x necessarily exists if it has an essential property.

Axiom 5. Being necessarily existent is God-like.

Theorem 3. Necessarily there is some x such that x is God-like.

“I am convinced of the afterlife, independent of theology,” he once wrote. “If the world is rationally constructed, there must be an afterlife.”



In The City of God, Augustine raises a curious question: How did Methuselah survive the flood? According to the Septuagint, the patriarch was 355 years old when Noah was born, and the deluge occurred 600 years later. Thus Methuselah was 955 at the flood–yet he lived to be 969. He was not aboard the ark, and the deluge destroyed the rest of humanity. How did Methuselah survive?

“This is a celebrated question,” wrote Jerome, “and one which has been publicly aired in argument by all the churches.” It’s largely obviated today: Most modern editions of Genesis are translated from the Masoretic text, which has Methuselah dying in the year of the flood.

Knee Service

In 1978, Baptist minister Hans Mullikin arrived at the White House after crawling 1,600 miles from Marshall, Texas.

An aide told him that President Carter was too busy to see him.

“I just wanted to show America that we need to get on our knees and repent,” Mullikin told reporters. “This is something I had in my heart and wanted to do for my country.”

He added, “A lot of people tell me I’m crazy.”



All rational beings believe in their own existence, whether or not they actually exist. Sherlock Holmes believes that he exists, but he is wrong. God too believes in his own existence–and his omniscience makes it impossible that he is mistaken. Therefore God exists.

On the other hand: Perfection is essential to godhood, and a perfect God must be perfectly virtuous. But virtue implies overcoming pain, fear, and temptation, and a God who is subject to these ills is less perfect than one who is not. Thus perfection is impossible, and God cannot exist.

Asked what he would say to God on Judgment Day, Bertrand Russell said, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!”

The Bodhisattva Paradox

The bodhisattva cannot pass over into Nirvana. He cannot because, were he to do so, he would exhibit a selfishness that a bodhisattva cannot have. If he has the selfishness, he is not a bodhisattva, and so cannot enter Nirvana. If he lacks the selfishness, again, he cannot enter Nirvana, for that would be a selfish act. So either way, the bodhisattva is impotent to enter Nirvana. … So no one can reach Nirvana; we cannot because we are not bodhisattvas and the bodhisattva cannot because he is a bodhisattva.

– Arthur Danto, Mysticism and Morality, 1972

Takeout Food


Here’s a theological poser: What happens to cannibals on Judgment Day? If I eat you and assimilate your flesh, how can we both be resurrected?

“It is not possible for two men to be resurrected with the same flesh at the same time, and nor is it possible for the same limb to have two different masters,” writes Athenagoras of Athens. “How can two bodies, which have successively been in possession of the same substance, appear in their entirety, without lacking a large part of themselves? In the end, either the disputed parts will be returned to their original owners, leaving a gap in the later owners, or they shall be fixed in the latter, leaving in this case an irreparable loss in the former.”

Augustine answers, “The flesh in question shall be restored to the man in whom it first became human flesh; for it is to be considered as borrowed of the other man, and, like borrowed money, to be returned to him from whom it was taken.”

I guess we’ll find out.