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Even the cartoon character Homer Simpson (who posed this question) has a philosopher within. And though he is not exactly the paradigm of reverence, the question is a real one for any philosophically reverent person. For one of the first properties that believers ascribe to God is that He is omnipotent or all-powerful, which means at least that there is or could be nothing God cannot do. And here is where Homer’s question fits in—or at least a somewhat more reverent version thereof:

Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?

There are only two possible answers here: yes or no.

Suppose, first, we say no. But then there is something that God cannot do: create such a stone. And if there’s something He cannot do then He is not omnipotent after all.

So suppose we say yes. If God can create such a stone then there could exist a stone so heavy God could not lift it. But then there could be something God cannot do, namely lift that stone. And if there could be something God cannot do, then again He is not omnipotent after all.

Some try to avoid this conclusion by insisting that God simply never will make the stone, so there never will actually exist the thing He cannot do. But this doesn’t work. To be omnipotent, it’s not enough that there happens to be nothing He cannot do. Rather, there could not even possibly be something He cannot do. And if He can create that stone—even if He doesn’t— then there could be something He cannot do, namely lift it.

Since yes and no are the only possible answers and each leads to the same conclusion, then either way there is no omnipotent being. So if God is supposed to be omnipotent it follows that there is no God.

That’s some powerful burrito!

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