Re: Contacting God

Hal Finney (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 17:23:45 -0700

In the old joke, a boy asks in sunday school, "if god can do anything,
can he make a rock so big he can't lift it?"

Imagine what it would be like to be omnipotent. Suppose you are running
uploaded into a virtual world which you own. You have direct access
to the software which runs the world, including the software which runs
your own mind. Using this access, you can do anything to the virtual
reality, alter the laws of nature, alter your own mentality. You would
be omnipotent in that world.

Could you make a rock so big you couldn't lift it?

Suppose you set out to do so. Given that you were running with a simulated
physical body with some limitations, you could cause the creation of a rock
which your body could not lift in its current configuration. However,
you would then be able to alter your body so that it could lift the rock.

A different strategy is called for. You must suppress your ability to
alter your body. You create the large rock, and alter your own mentality
so that you will not be able to change your body to lift the rock, for
some period of time. You might even change yourself so that you will not
*want* to change your body to lift the rock, even under dire circumstances.

In that way you might be able to lift the rock in some hypothetical sense,
but under the circumstances you are effectivelly prevented from doing so.
So it would appear that you can create a rock so big you can't lift it,
at least by some definition of the words, without impairing your

Something similar seems to be done by the character of god in the jesus
story. In this story, which may be familiar to some readers, god chooses
to experience earthly life. He causes a woman to become pregnant, and
imbues her son, jesus, with god's own divinity. In a sense, jesus *is*
god. This divine power allows him to work various miracles over the course
of his life and he attracts a considerable following.

However, god's purpose (which is never made very clear in the story)
is apparently not merely to experience life on earth, but especially
to experience human suffering. He arranges for jesus to be arrested,
tortured, and killed. Jesus is shown as having something of a dual
nature. He has access to the divine power of god, but in his last days he
refrains from or is unable to use his power. He expresses understandable
fear about the torture which he knows he will experience, and which he
must withstand.

In the throes of hideous pain and near death, he cries out to god,
asking why god has abandoned him. It seems that at this point, if he
were able to, he would use his power to save himself from the pain.
In appealing to god he is appealing both to the power within himself
and to that aspect of god which is outside of him. However, there is
no apparent result, and presumably jesus/god has arranged to restrict
his own omnipotence as in the example above.

It is interesting how these old stories can shed light on some of the
problems and issues we will face as we become gods.