Robert Howard Kroepel
20 South Shore Road
New Durham, New Hampshire USA 03855-2107
Many atheists object to the use of the term god because, they say, the term has not been defined in such a way that it is not self-contradictory, thus, to atheists, the term is meaningless.
The problem atheists refer to is the problem of the omni-everything God and the existence of Evil. [A capital G is used to designate the omni-everything positive being, God, and a capital E is used to designate the negative being, Evil.]
The omni-everything God is supposed to be omnipotent, translated as all-powerful [can do anything], omniscient, translated as all-knowing [knows everything], and omnibenevolent, translated as all-caring [is perfectly compassionate].
Evil is considered to be a negative being, or force, in contrast to the positive being, or force, of an omnibenevolent God.
Here is how the concept of an omni-everything God and the concept of an Evil conflict:
IF Evil exists [as a being or as a force], THEN one
of these possibilities is true [assuming, of course, that gods/demons exist]:
(A) God is not omniscient – does not know evil exists, or did not know Evil would exist.
(B) God is not omnipotent, because it cannot control Evil.
(C) God is not omnibenevolent, or, otherwise, is evil, because, being the creator of everything including Evil, God must have created Evil.
Against the self-contradictions implied by the omni-everything concept of gods, atheists have a valid argument that the omni-everything concept of gods is meaningless. It is not possible to discuss a concept of a god without having some sense of his/her/its characteristics, and if there are logical contradictions/inconsistencies among those characteristics, then it is not possible to talk about a consistent god, a logical god, a rational god, a god who/which might actually exist, be true.
But what about the possibility of a lesser god, a god that is not necessarily omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent? Could such a god be rational, meaningful, perhaps even true?
Or, what about the possibility that Evil does not exist as a being or as a force, but, instead, when bad things happen to humans, including good humans, the cause is natural, as in the case of natural disasters, diseases, accidents, or attacks by animals, or the cause is man-made, as in the case of humans wanting more than they can have and choosing inappropriate means of reacting to not getting all they want, or as in the case of criminal activities.
If we eliminate the possibility of the existence of Evil as a being or a force, then the omni-everything concept of gods is certainly less self-contradictory, and perhaps not contradictory at all. Bad things happen to good people because of nature or other men.
We could, of course, get grumpy and complain that a truly omnibenevolent God would protect us from natural and man-made negatives, but there is a counter argument, proposed by theologians, but, nevertheless, having merit, that God gives humans a chance to prove themselves worthy of entrance into a positive afterlife in Heaven and, as such, God cannot or does not interfere in man’s challenges, whether natural or man-made. Thus, a lesser god would be non-omnibenevolent, not all-caring, certainly not as benevolent as men would like it to be.
A concept of a lesser god might include the possibility that it is not omnipotent, because it did not create anything from nothing, or the possibility that it created by re-arranging what is already there in the universe – the matter and energy of which all things, including gods, and events, including the activities of gods – are comprised. This would be logical, because, following the logic that something cannot come from nothing/something can only come from something/nothing comes from nothing, then, a lesser god would be a causer but not a creator, or would be a creator only in the sense of causing things/events by re-arranging the natural matter-energy of the universe. Thus, a lesser god would be non-omnipotent – not all-powerful.
A concept of a lesser god might include the possibility that it might not know everything, at least in the sense of being able to predict the future with 100% accuracy. A lesser god might know the existence of all things/events in the current timepoint, but not necessarily precisely what will be the things/events in existence at a later timepoint. Or there is a possibility that it might not know all there is to know about the things/events of the current timepoint. Thus, a lesser god would be non-omniscient – not all-knowing.
But if a lesser god knows more than man individually or collectively, and if a lesser god is more powerful than man individually or collectively, and refrains from being completely benevolent by giving man a chance to deal with challenges of nature and other men, then that lesser god is more likely to be a reality than an omni-everything god, and, thus, the concept of a lesser god is not totally irrational, and, in fact, becomes rational in the sense of being a possibility, though, to be certain, that concept still remains a concept to be proven, by the required logical/rational proofs of (A) physical evidence consisting of things/events who/which can be seen/heard/touched/smelled/tasted directly or by the use of machines such as telescopes, microscopes, audio amplifiers, etc., (B) eyewitness reports from credible witnesses and corroborated by credible corroborators, or/and (C) logical arguments based upon premises which are verifiable/falsifiable/verified, leading to conclusions which are true if the premises are true/verified and the conclusions are not present in the premises.
We thus see the possibility, at least, that whereas a concept of an omni-everything god is self-contradictory and therefore illogical/irrational that a concept of a non-omni-everything god is not necessarily self-contradictory and is, therefore, logical/rational, or, at least, not totally illogical/irrational.
Thus, a being who/which is more powerful, more knowledgeable and more caring than man could well be a god.
There are perhaps other qualities/characteristics we might expect of a god, namely, that it is immortal, cares about mankind, involves itself in human affairs, listens to and answers prayers, requires worship from mankind, etc., but these are all subservient to the general concept of a logical/rational/self-consistent/non-self-contradictory god.
We thus have a rational concept of a god, true, a lesser god, but a god concept which is logical/rational.
We still have the problem of proving that a god of any kind exists, regardless of its qualities and characteristics.
Theists can now have a concept of a god that is not self-contradictory. Atheists must now use other reasons than self-contradictory concepts of gods to prove gods do not exist. Agnostics can now have a concept of a lesser god to use for their quest for ultimate truth, no matter what it is, but conclusive proof of a lesser god ought to be easier to find than conclusive proof of a greater but self-contradictory god.
All of this searching would be relieved if the gods would simply show up and prove they are in fact gods.
Thus, the slogan of atheists and agnostics, as a challenge to theists, ought to be thus: Show us the gods!!!