Friday, January 27, 2006

God, and the "perfect" example of an idiotic argument.

Not surprisingly, there are all sorts of amateurish theological arguments that totally grind my gears, and perhaps few more so than hearing some religious wank describe his favourite deity as "perfect" since, quite simply, this is an amazingly meaningless, content-free, vacuous piece of utter drivel. Let me explain.

People use the word "perfect" constantly, without appreciating that that word, by itself, means absolutely nothing. "That was the perfect action movie." "I had the perfect hamburger for lunch." "Grilled to perfection!!" Yeah, whatever. But what does any of that rubbish actually mean? In a word, nothing. The word "perfect" by itself isn't really meaningful. For it to have any meaning, it has to be applied against some property that you're trying to qualify.

For example, mathematics recognizes something called a "perfect number." But what does that mean? The adjective by itself tells you nothing, until someone explains that a perfect number has a precise definition -- it's any positive integer that happens to equal the sum of all of its divisors:

6 = 1 + 2 + 3
28 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14

and so on. So you see that a "perfect" number doesn't represent some sort of weird standard of goodness above all other numbers -- it's just a number that has a particular property that someone decided to define as "perfect," nothing more. Without that definition, it would be meaningless. "Perfect colour," "perfect book" ... same thing.

So what does it mean when some badly-educated religious wank starts yammering on about God being "perfect?" In a nutshell, nothing. It's a worthless statement since it makes no attempt to define what the adjective means in that context. But it's not as if they don't try sometimes. Check out this example of theological inanity, in which the author considers objections to the perfection of God:

Whether God is perfect?

Objection 1. It seems that perfection does not belong to God. For we say a thing is perfect if it is completely made. But it does not befit God to be made. Therefore He is not perfect.

Objection 2. Further, God is the first beginning of things. But the beginnings of things seem to be imperfect, as seed is the beginning of animal and vegetable life. Therefore God is imperfect.

Objection 3. Further, as shown above (3, 4), God's essence is existence. But existence seems most imperfect, since it is most universal and receptive of all modification. Therefore God is imperfect.

The responses are classic bafflegab in the sense of, well, just making shit up out of thin air. Like this one:

Reply to Objection 3. Existence is the most perfect of all things, for it is compared to all things as that by which they are made actual; for nothing has actuality except so far as it exists. Hence existence is that which actuates all things, even their forms. Therefore it is not compared to other things as the receiver is to the received; but rather as the received to the receiver. When therefore I speak of the existence of man, or horse, or anything else, existence is considered a formal principle, and as something received; and not as that which exists.

Really? Existence is the most perfect of all things? Since when?

But perhaps I'm being too hard on that author. After all, I exist. Therefore, I must be perfect. So all you wankers might want to treat me with a bit more respect. I'm just saying.

BY THE WAY, it's worth pointing out that, when it comes to perfection, omniscience isn't all it's cracked up to be. Consider the following, Genesis 2:8-13, after Adam and Eve munch out on the forbidden fruit (emphasis added):

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

10 He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

11 And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

12 The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Maybe it's just me but, for someone who's supposed to be infinitely omniscient, the Lord God of the whole freakin' universe strikes me as singularly clueless. I mean, seriously "deer in the headlights" kind of clueless. Hey! Where are you? What just happened here? You did what!?!?

If this deity were any less clueful, I swear, he could be Donald Rumsfeld.


Anonymous said...

"BY THE WAY, it's worth pointing out that, when it comes to perfection, omniscience isn't all it's cracked up to be. Consider the following, Genesis 2:8-13, after Adam and Eve munch out on the forbidden fruit"

You're obviously not a parent, CC. As a parent, I can tell you that many times I have known what my kids have done when they misbehave, yet I still ask them, "What did you do?" Does that mean I'm stupid and don't actually know what they did? Of course not! I ask because I'm giving them a chance to tell the truth, admit what they did and apologize for it.

CC said...

Uh huh. And, after they admit it, you cast them from your home and damn them and all their ancestors for eternity?

OK. That works for me.