Monday, June 29, 2009

The 'What is God?' Challenge

I am putting-up NZ$1,000 to anyone who can explain to me, in terms I can understand…

“What is God?”

This is a genuine offer (refer conditions below)

I will keep-posting this offer, so there are no time-restraints or limits on the number of submissions, nor for that matter the entrants location.

I will act as the sole arbitrator – this is for my benefit.

Please do not confuse the question “What is God?” with “Is there a God?”.

For anyone to answer the question “Is there a God?” we first need to establish the definition of ‘God’.

So imagine you are describing a domestic cat to someone who has never encountered one.

Let’s not get bogged-down in platitudes or meandering philosophical abstracts.

Nor do I want-to-get involved in semantics.

A cat has teeth and claws, this we understand ,without breaking-down the teeth and claws into their make-up, functions etc - nor having to require a Biology degree.

Just stick to the basic ‘make-up’ of God.

For example since The Bible tells us believers will enter heaven to be by his side, clearly this means he has sides – right?

But is he a square of a hexagon?

Have I misinterpreted ‘by his side’?

Apparently humans are made in his ‘image’?

So if I bumped into God at the Supermarket, what would I behold? Would his male appendage be obvious?

We are told looks down-on us 24/7, so with all the activity he has to monitor it’s reasonable to think he has a multitude of eyes - a bit like a house-fly?

See what I’m after?

Keep referring back to the child-like domestic cat scenario when answering and you won’t go wrong.

Remembering a cat is more than an animal with fur.

Keep at the back of your mind, I am not one of the 3 billion humans that are 100% sure God exists, and have never to the best of my knowledge meet a God, nor encountered any of his magical powers.

You need to start from square-one with me.

Also peoples, please do not belittle me by calling into question my intelligence or open-mindedness with statements like “You won’t understand”. May be I will, when you use terms any layman will understand.

Further it was a God that saw fit to use words as the sole method to describe his workings in his manifesto. These words ‘of God’ are what believers follow. Not a DVD or You-Tube - a book called 'The Bible'. Therefore if it is good enough for God to use words to convey such crucial information like; man-kinds life-mission, creation, what happens when we die etc - then surely there is scope in the written language to describe this ‘God’? By stating there are no words to describe God you are in-fact bringing into question the writings of The Bible and Gods very existence.




I will donate the money (equivalent of USD 700)to go to a ‘Secular’ Non-Political ‘New Zealand Registered Charity’. Like say Child Cancer or Crippled Children Society etc. All of the winners own choice. Overseas entrants are fine. Those of you from overseas may prefer to opt for an International Charity organisation (without religious or political ties). I will act as the sole arbitrator. No correspondence entered into. Leave your answers in the comments section.The more pedantic in our midst can contact canterburyatheist at


peterquixote said...

I claim the $1000.
God isn't,
my bank acc number for direct payment credit is 12 3149 006876862

Burk said...

God is completely inscrutable, unconceptualizable, and unfathomable. And he makes it rain snakes and frogs!

bruddah said...

Yahweh is Spirit. He is also "Love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness,..". He is the transcendent, immanent, almighty Creator of all.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Boy, this is proving hard, like drawing-teeth. After 6weeks, not even one decent attempt to describe God in terms that would say ‘stand-up in a court of law’.

All I've got is something airy-fairy about 'spirits' which is like arguing if Superman will beat Batman in a fight.

The only spirits I know come with a Gordons label.

For believers in God or Gods this should be ‘money for jam’. This is an honest open-offer, yet it is proving impossible to solicit anything that goes even close for me knowing “What is God?”

Surely there must be one believer on the planet that can answer this question in a succinct fashion and for their trouble pick-up a grand for his/her favourite charity??

Dismal effort so far.



Anonymous said...

You're asking for a physical picture? Well, I can't pull out my wallet and show you the photo we took at last year's Christmas party. I can tell you that as we are made "in his image," I assume he is a two-armed, too-legged individual like us, like Jesus Christ. Therefore, I apologize for those who have cameras ready for the gates of Heaven, waiting to see God as a baboon-headed, eagle-winged, fish-tailed, lion-bodied thing. That would be weird! Na, He looks similar to us. Now, is he fat, thin, short, tall, et cetera? Well, I don't know yet, as I can't say what YOU look like.

God is a trinity--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--which sounds so unbelievable and crazy, I know! How is it possible to be three different things--and yet one thing? Well, it is like water, which can exist in three forms: liquid (water), solid (ice), and vapor (steam). These three substances are physically completely different--and yet exactly the same element we know as water. Or a man who is a husband to his wife, a father to his child, and a son to his father. Three different titles--yet it is the same man. Such is God, Christ Jesus (his son), and the Holy Spirit (God inside of us). And as the Bible says that Jesus is in Heaven preparing a place for us, I assume that is exactly where He is, while God (the father) is in Heaven watching over us, and the Holy Spirit is His spirit inside of each and every one of us, that conscience you have, that tiny voice inside that you feel rather than hear, and that little something everyone knows as "common sense."

As I've never personally seen God, just as I've never personally seen the wind, I can't tell you what He looks like exactly. I can, however, tell you of His actions, just as I can see the leaves tousled by the breeze. It is where faith comes in--and faith is not people pretending to be sheep, herded around by an invisible shepherd. No, faith is knowing beyond a doubt that no matter what happens, you will be held. God is love, and not the human-twisted love that mostly revolves around lust and selfish needs. God's love is unconditional, "I love you no matter what you do, whether you give anything back or not." And yes, that includes Jeffrey Domer. Unfortunately, even many Christians don't practice that love, like many preachers stuffing their pockets with tithe money, leading everyone to further believe Godly attitudes as no more than selfish past times.

So what is God? I can't give you physical proof, but that is what is amazing! It is up to God to show you who He is, all I can do is testify according to what I've read and seen. Faith and believe? I'm afraid that's all anyone can offer, really. Proof? Ask Him yourself, and He will give you proof.

Canterbury Atheists said...

No one alive has seen a Moa (a long-extinct large bird from New Zealand) But we know from cave-paintings, bones, feathers, archeological evidence etc what one looks like, what it ate, size, the different sub-species etc. So using simple quantifiable criteria you do not need to actually ‘see’ something to give a fairly accurate description.

How for example do you know God takes the form of a male (outside the anecdotal, and every word in The Bible is anecdotal) without using the similar research/examinations that tell us all about the Moa? That’s to say corroborated evidence.

No-one guessed what Moa looked like or any of the dinosaurs etc.

Now this thing about elements, which is a good point but it doesn’t go anyway to assisting your argument. Matter is made-up of atoms and molecules –so what is God made of? How can a God make the wind-blow etc when he is made of what I can only call ‘nothing’?

Thanks for your input but my $1,000 is still there awaited a good cause.

Keep them coming.


Unknown said...

God is white, fluffy, sticks his tongue out a lot and wags his tale, weighs 20 pounds and sits around all day trying to catch some sun.

Pictures are available upon request.

As for his omnipotent powers and unlimited strength over the world, it is my understanding that just like he came to earth as Jesus he came back as a fluffy white mutt and is spending a vacation on my couch maintaining the world by remote control and begging for leftovers every day.

As for the money, send it to any non-religious, non-political charity foundation near you.

Glenn said...

"The Bible tells us believers will enter heaven to be by his side" - Source?

Canterbury Atheists said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canterbury Atheists said...

Glenn mate, I only publish a fraction of the crap I get sent by nice theist folk (“you will find-out about God when you die and he sends you to hell” etc). Much of it, if I published it would shock you with its naivety and vitriol.

Here is an atheist wanting to know about God.

Not his actions and magical powers – first I want to know who he is?

Starting with his substance.

I’ve tried to avoid long-winded extrapolations by making this as simple as possible by giving some analogies as to format I am chasing.

If you have evidence that God doesn’t have sides, but is say circular, pink in colour, furry, with a row of big fangs - then please by all means I am happy to receive them.

My quest is genuine and my offer honourable.

I have no intention getting wasting time on pedantic folk who avoid the crux of the offer and want to embrace semantics or throw brick-bats in my direction.

A guy, doctor of all things, like you must be a cert for the grand I'm putting-up?

Surely the lecturers down at Otago Uni they taught you theology guys the answer to the question on the first day?

Gotta shoot.


Anonymous said...

Hebrews Chapter 1:
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word"

Canterbury Atheists said...

Hmmm…sorry mate, don’t get what you are saying?

What is this 'representation' and 'radiance'business you refer to?

They obviously mean something significant – so please elaborate.



Anonymous said...

You feel air, but you cannot see it. You taste things, but cannot describe it fully. What you do not know, you cannot tell. Some things you must just believe. You have lived your life thus far without the knowledge of what air "looks like" of what air is "made up of" completely. So why must you persist on knowing what God is? You believe he is real and you have heard many things of what he has done, but only you can decide for yourself what you think God is and what you think he is made up of. I chose to believe and many miracles have happened after praying to God for help in my situations. Even though i do not know what he looks like or what he is made up of, it doesn't matter. Because i believe in him, and he is my God, the God of all, who created all! That is good enough for me, when i get to heaven one day i will see him, and then know "what he is". But for now i am satisfied with what i know! You should be too!

Mike de Fleuriot said...

First thing people taking up this challenge must learn, is the difference in meaning between the words "Believe" and "Know".

Once you understand that, then you can continue on to the challenge. I believe I am smart, but I know I have a computer. It's that simple. You can believe you know something about god, but you don't. Of course one can know something about the belief in god, and that is nice.

Max said...

Hi Canterbury Atheist,

I will personally give you $2000 if you can give me a definition of a cat which meets my satisfaction. I will be the one who decides whether it meets my satisfaction or not. Should be an easy $2000 for you - you can use it to buy a billboard.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Hey that’s great Max I’ll take you up on your straw-man argument. Please send me your blog/details and the conditions and I’ll be in like Flynn!

In the mean-time why not try to answer the question in a meaningful way Max? A more cutting-individual than I would think you are avoiding the question altogether and haven’t got a clue as to what the God you pray to is?

Please send me you details and I will indeed take your $2,000 by explaining in both biological and layman terms what a domestic cat is - which I will donate to Medical Research (so you know your $ it’ll go to a good cause)

However I doubt your offer is a genuine one Max – unlike my own.

All the best.


UberApe said...

As made clear by this post, most retarded theists (tautology?) haven't a clue what their god is. It's this very fluffy thinking and warm and fuzzy emotional masturbation that allows rigour to be eschewed and for discussion to descend into semantic dissolution.

God is imaginary. Anyone who isn't emotionally invested in the absurd notion of a magical god or goblin or fairy would see just how stupid and desperate their wishful thinking delusions really are. Let some daylight in upon the magic, if you have the balls.

Phil C said...

God is not physical - he has no body. He knows everything, has the ability to do everything that is logically possible, is present everywhere, is wholly good, essentially simple (he has no distinct "parts"), and is outside time.

Max said...

My offer was as genuine as yours was I assure you. Just post a definition of a cat which meets my requirements and I will give you $2000. The fact that you have not replied says something I think.

bruddah said...

The Christians were gracious enough respond to Paul's faux "offer" with their perspectives, but have been met with insults and vitriol. Why bother with such rude and unreasonable people.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Ropata: As I said before I have no intention getting wasting time on pedantic folk who avoid the crux of the offer and want to embrace semantics or throw brick-bats in my direction. Stop poisoning the well by questioning my motives and simply answer the question.If you can't be constructive - kindly go somewhere else.

Max: I am too busy to correspond with anonymous bi-pedal chimps. Get your own blog and post your own 'What is a Cat?'challenge. The criteria I set out are simple and basic – clearly too simple & basic for you to answer. So stop wasting my time.

Phil C: Sorry mate I’m none the wiser. If god is not physical what is he made of?

Boy this is like 'drawing teeth'.

Just how basic do I have to make it?

Draw god in crayon?

See ya.


PhilC said...

"Sorry mate I’m none the wiser. If god is not physical what is he made of?...Draw god in crayon?"

I think you know that you are asking questions that can only be answered if God is physical. Which (as you also know) he isn't - so well done, you've come up with a way to hold onto your $1,000, and make the point that God isn't physical.

Out of curiosity, there is a guy who has set up a church in London who says that he met God in a near death experience. If he answered your question as to what God is like, on what grounds would you not pay him $1,000?

James said...

God is constructed of the imaginings,hopes,fears and frustrations of human beings....hence forth he/it is "made" of neurons and electrical impulces.View him via a brain scan.

Canterbury Atheists said...

No Phil I have not invented a question that can-not be answered as you claim.

It is actually a perfectly reasonable, rather basic question when you examine it.

Clearly you believe your god has seen fit to use the written language to communicate his doctrine and you are comfortable with this.

So why god should suddenly be unable to described in the same method is beyond me(?) – but clearly you guys are struggling and all you are capable of doing is attacking my integrity and coming-up with stories of near-death experiences.

More on near death here:

The inability of god to be described in words brings into question all his writings.

But let's now it's me that's getting side-tracked.

Please look at the question and provide me with an answer minus all these side-issues, red-herrings and semantic arguments.



Canterbury Atheists said...


Cripes peoples a major clue must surely reside in the opening pages of The Bible?

God created the first humans in the image of God, in the likeness of God (Gen 1:26-30)

But there is clearly some contention here so-far than God has any resemblance or make-up either anatomically or psychologically etc etc any-where like your average homo-sapiens?

Indeed many of the attempts seem to contradict this passage if you ask me.

So ‘get your act together’ and don’t get me to do your homework!

Kind regards.


Anonymous said...

The problem here is that you are looking for fish to put in a barrel so you can proverbially shoot them. Most believers aren't word smiths, yet their faith is genuine and real for them. Just because you could beat them down in a blog debate doesn't mean you're right. Having read your work for some time now, I don't find you particularly good at writing arguments. Sometimes you have a valid point that is let down by nastiness and a lack of theological knowledge.

I put you firmly in the troll basket because you aren't interested in reasoned debate as far as I can see, but in petty point scoring. However... you ask a valid question, albeit wrongly. God is not a what but a who. Who God is, is a question that can never fully be answered given he is infinite. Much theology has been applied to the question and let's be honest, you will never accept what anyone says no matter the quality of the answer because you already firmly believe that the question is unanswerable. It's a fool's game to try and convince you IMO.

Still, let's pretend you are genuine, or maybe someone reading this is genuine. I suggest you read the Confessions of Saint Augustine as an entry into who God is. Augustine struggled with the concept of a God that was spiritual rather than material. His erroneous conception of God delayed his coming into the Church. You could also try Augustine's work On the Trinity which specifically deals with the nature of the Triune God. Augustine's Confessions and On the Trinity are available to purchase or online for free. I'm happy to read slowly with you and discuss these works as you go.

Here are their links:

Of course, I've written nothing here to answer you question, but then why should I? I doubt that you would actually be interested in a serious and thoughtful answer. Still, I could be completely wrong, in which case you would be prepared to sincerely investigate the question and I would owe you an apology.

Aredhel said...

Not sure if this offer is still on, but I'll give it a try.

Essentially, different religions make different claims about God, so what I first have to establish is that what I am about to define is the broadly Christian understanding of God. (I'm a Christian myself.)

God is an infinite-personal, trinitarian being. Let me break this down for you so that there's no confusion.

By infinite I mean that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and omnibenevolent. I realise that some atheists claim that's contradictory, but I disagree, and regardless whether you agree that such a God could exist does not discredit my definition.

By personal I mean that which differentiates a human from a rock. It means that God has free will, has thoughts and emotions, and is able to communicate.

God is also trinitarian. I notice this has been covered in earlier posts, but I'll touch on it to make my definition complete. By 'trinitarian' I mean that God is three different personalities in something super-personal, which is ultimately one entity. It's a bit like a drawing of a cube. Two-dimensional squares are like each of the personalities that make up God, while a cube is comprised of multiple squares, like the unified God. Thus God is personal, and yet more than personal.

If you find my definition satisfactory, I request that you send the $1000 to the Liggins Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Auckland, and specifically to the LENS programme, which exists to promote science in schools and with underprivileged Maori and Pacific Island students from south Auckland.

Canterbury Atheists said...

Hey guys you don’t have to have won a Noble Prize for Literature for a novice to give a fairly accurate and apt description of a domestic cat to someone who had never encountered one – now do you? To describe a cat as a furry animal would be the first step. The fact your average moggy scratches and sleeps 23 hours a day is a reflection on the cats behavioral attributes and of no use to someone – unless you know what a cat was in the first place. Interesting you use a rock in your description - when most of us know what a rock is - not this god creature though.Thanks for your input but my $1,000 is looking fairly safe in the bank.

Rasu said...

ok here is my two cents, if you could able to create one particle and you also have the technology to duplicate them like 10^82 times i.e. 1 followed by some 82 zeros, that's virtually makes you GOD. no more and no less.