Another essay from my collection to chew on. Enjoy!
The Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, the Torah, and a good many other holy works all describe situations in which God/gods chooses things. When I’ve asked, most religious people have no problem with deities in general, and their specific God in particular, having choices and making decisions. In not a few cases, people have looked at me like I had lost my mind or that I was definitely impaired in some manner even asking such a ridiculous question.
To me, however, the idea that a god, particularly an omni-god, could even understand the concept of choice, let alone actually make a decision, is nonsensical.
Here’s the thing: having a choice and making a decision are both functions requiring linear temporal existence and linear temporal thinking, coupled with limited resources and capacities. In other words, we humans (and certain other animals for that matter) make decisions and choices primarily because a) we can’t do distinct tasks and activities and use multiple individual items simultaneously and b) even if we could, we have finite resources to devote to given tasks, activities, and items, and we don’t have the capacity to enjoy every task, activity, and item simultaneously anyway. And in fact, sometimes we make choices because tasks and activities and certain items are mutually exclusive. A person who has decided to be a vegetarian cannot choose to eat beef and still be a vegetarian for example. Similarly, no one can snow ski a mountain while simultaneously scuba diving in the Keys.
But, an entity that exists without time, or outside of time, particularly planet-bound, material, linear time, couple with unlimited resources and capacity would not only have no such constraints, but, I submit, would have no way of really understanding such constraints or any reason to try to understand them. By way of comparison, most people who go to a restaurant are faced with a menu of different meal choices, from appetizers, salads, and maybe soups, to entrees, sides, drinks, and desserts. Most of us go into such restaurants knowing we aren’t going to order ten of every item on the menu if for no other reason than few of us could actually eat that much. But, we likely limit our food choices also based on resources; even really wealthy people have finite money and so most make choices to some extent to avoid wasting their money on food they won’t or can’t eat. Further, no restaurant has limitless capacity, so even if someone could in fact order a thousand meals, the likelihood is that the restaurant would not have enough ingredients on that day to be able to make all that food.
In addition to resource and capacity limits, we also make decisions based on past experience and expectations. We get cravings for example. We get in the mood for certain types of comfort food. So, many times we get foods specifically to appease those desires and we really don’t want anything else.
However, there are also times when we have such desires, but for some reason we cannot seem to meet them. Part of the issue can be the result of our decision making process; our recollection of experience is never perfect and our expectations are seldom exact. That is to say, we generally recall only part of any given experience and while we can come up with some pretty good memories that feed our expectations, we are not aware of everything and we usually leave out some items we either are not aware of or that we’ve forgotten or simply miss the fact that conditions can change between the past and present. So, we may choose a particular appetizer and entrée combo because we had an enjoyable experience with something similar in the past and we may expect that this combo will be just as satisfying, and then find we are disappointed when, in some cases, our inaccurate memory or a difference in the items, means our expectations are not met.
An omni-god would have no such constraints however. Never mind that an omni-god would have no resource limits (there is no reason to think that an omni-god couldn’t buy everything on any given menu or even every item on every menu on the planet AND store all menu items ordered in infinite refrigerators over infinite years), the inherent conditions of being an omni-god would mean that said god would actually have full awareness of experiencing eating every item on any given menu long before the restaurants even existed. An omni-god would never have any expectations about how something might be; an omni-god would have automatically experienced everything that is and will be instantaneously and simultaneously before anything actually exists.
Let’s consider some other areas in which we make choices. Many of us choose to save some of our income for emergencies or in the hopes of using it for some special vacation or other type of event. We may choose to invest some of our income in the hopes of building some wealth for a more comfortable retirement or for a little extra income to help pay for home repairs or remodeling or better furniture and or our kids’ college funds and so forth. Or take car shopping. We make all sorts of choices about cars in terms of gas mileage, size, acceleration, cost, color, style, suspension, and accessories (sunroof, stereo system, cargo/trunk accessories, etc). We make these kinds of choices nearly every day on things like grocery shopping and weekly (or daily) meal planning, on clothes shopping and daily dressing, on toothpaste and dental hygiene, and on washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash. We make choices about doing certain activities or cancelling certain activities based on the weather, cost, needs of friends and family, driving or walking distance, crowd size, type of event, and a nearly endless list of other issues. And all of these choices are the result of just not being able to do or have everything and anything, right? We can’t have infinite clothes or wash everything we do have in one load. We can’t have every car ever made in every color and configuration. We can’t drive everywhere, never mind not being able to drive everywhere at once.
Omni-gods, however, clearly don’t have to save for anything. There can be no such thing as an emergency for an omni-god. Omni-gods can’t lose all their wealth in a bad investment. Omni-gods would never consider the issue of getting into transportation accidents, likely never using any forms of transportation anyway. Omni-gods aren’t concerned about college funds or retirement or fixed incomes or special vacations. An omni-god could, in theory, have a car that could become any and every car ever dreamed up instantaneously and (and this is a little hard to imagine, but I submit logical) simultaneously.
So then, in what sense would…no could…a God ever “choose” anything? What would such a god have to ever decide? Where would any such entity ever approach a situation of choice; of “either/or”? I submit such an entity could never have a choice; there could be no such thing. Such an entity could never have any constraints requiring a division of options and thus would never even have an opportunity to pause for such a condition, let alone actually understand considering such a condition.
Now I’m sure there are those who will quibble and say something like, “but clearly God can still understand the concept of decision making because Its omniscience would provide that understanding or it could be aware of how we make decisions.” Maybe, but that’s not really addressing my point. And even that has issues associated with it – such as whether some entity can ignore their knowledge and understanding of some subject in order to understand how some other entity thinks that does not understand a given subject – which I’ll touch on later.
My point here is that I do not buy into a god concept in which said god is said to choose something. I just can’t do that. It’s inherently illogical. If an omni-entity never has to make a decision, why would it? More so, if an omni-entity’s inherent characteristics make it impossible for it to ever arrive at an either/or condition, how could it? Given these points, I cannot accept the concept of an omni-god that is said to make a choice or a decision, particularly on the spot. To me, such an entity could never encounter such a spot. Such an entity would have already provided for any and all such situations long before they occurred. And further, Its very nature would make such situations moot; an omni-entity’s ability to create reality instantaneously would eliminate any and all alternative possibilities for the omni-entity (and frankly, anything existing within the omni-entity’s framework, but we’ll deal with that later. In other words, an entity worth describing as “God”, to me, could not be whimsical. Such an entity could not be arbitrary. Such an entity could never “desire” or “want” something more than something else. For one thing, as noted, an omni-god could have anything and everything It became aware of. For another, an omni-god could not recognize or understand “more than” or “less than”. It could not, for example, choose to arbitrarily heal one person from a particularly lethal form of cancer, but few, if any, others. I submit that such an entity would have no capability for such an action. Such an entity would not be able to have a “preference” for one thing over something else. Everything such an entity “wanted” in any sense would simply be, unless one can introduce some object or concept that presents an omni-god with a condition to consider. I cannot image what that could be. An omni-god could never experience being surprised. An omni-god could never encounter a situation and go, “Hmmm…I didn’t see that coming!” As such, such an entity could never consider anything, let alone change its mind about anything. It could never experience something and go, “You know…maybe that wasn’t the best idea.” An omni-god could not regret anything and thus, an omni-god would…no could…never change anything. I submit that the moment one subscribes to the concept of an omni-god as the creator of the universe, that entity is inherently banished from ever choosing to do anything further with that universe and, thus, is inherently banished from ever interacting with that universe in any way. And yes…this means I do not believe at all in miracles or the use of prayer or blessing of food and wine or communion or any number of other religious activities and claims of the supernatural. All such activities and claims would require such an entity to choose to change some aspect of its creation and I submit that such an entity could not, by inherent characteristic, do that.