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Old 05-24-2010, 07:54 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
2,108 posts, read 1,316,315 times
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Default God cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving

This topic gets visited on a regular basis, but I keep thinking that perhaps if we present it in a slightly different way, it will eventually resonate with those who don't currently accept it. So, here goes another try.

My argument is this: If god were all-loving, he would want to save us from needless suffering. If he were all-powerful, he would be able to save us from needless suffering. If needless suffering exists, either god is not all-loving or not all-powerful or not either. Said another way, if needless suffering exists, then god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.

It is beyond dispute that suffering does exist. What is in question is whether this suffering is needless. The standard apologetic argument is that we are not in a position to know whether suffering is needless or not; god could have a purpose for our suffering that we may not be able to comprehend. So, let us suppose that god does have a purpose for our suffering - if we suffer it accomplishes some end. Is there another way to accomplish that same end without our suffering? If god is all-powerful, he could accomplish that end without our suffering; if one suggests that he cannot, then one admits that he is not all-powerful and my point is proven. However, if one sticks with the idea that god is all-powerful, then he could accomplish the whatever end our suffering would serve, without us suffering. So, if the same end can be accomplished without suffering, then all suffering is indeed needless. Since we do suffer, we suffer needlessly if god is all-powerful, and if we suffer needlessly, then god is not both all-loving and all-powerful.

Suffering exists.
If god is all-powerful, then all suffering is needless, because he could accomplish whatever purpose suffering serves without our actually having to experience suffering.
If god is all-loving, he would have compassion on us and want to save us from needless suffering.
If god is all-powerful, he has the ability to save us from needless suffering.
Since we needlessly suffer, he either lacks the will or the ability to save us from needless suffering.
If he lacks the will, he is not all-loving.
If he lacks the ability, he is not all-powerful.
Therefore, the existence of needless suffering stands as a testament that god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.


Here are some common responses I've received and my replies:
Poster 1:
What if suffering isn't necessary and God is loving and doesn't prevent it?
I have considered this and reasoned through it, but I am open to revisiting it again.

In what sort of a situation can we consider a god all-loving if he does not save us from unnecessary suffering and is capable of doing it? I am sincerely asking that question. I presently think it is impossible short of changing the definition of all-loving so much so that it no longer means all-loving.

If there were a reason for him not saving us from unnecessary suffering, then the suffering would not be unnecessary. But, if were all-powerful, he would be able to accomplish the "reason for allowing the suffering" without us actually having to suffer.

You, see every mental exercise I try, keeps coming back to the same conclusion. You would do me a great favor if you can find a hole in my reasoning. Think through what I quoted of what you wrote and show me how that would be possible.
Poster 2:
Love, however, is a human emotion and as we all know, emotion does not obey the rules of logic and defies the constraints of a single definition. I would agree with the statement that a loving father would not want his children to have to endure any needless suffering, but this is my definition of loving. The easy answer here for the apologists is to simply state that we, as simple mortal beings, are incapable of understanding love on the same level as God and are thus not well positioned to impose our definition of love upon him.
It is true that I am using the human conception of love in its perfect form which we can only imagine. God cannot be both all-loving (the concept humans represent by the words all-loving) and all-powerful (again, what humans mean by those words). I have demonstrated that. Mine was a conceptual argument. Regardless of the human language, I was reasoning with the human constructs that are best represented in English with the words "all-loving" and "all-powerful".

You are positing that the teaching that "god is all-loving" is actually trying to convey something humans wouldn't normally think of when they read those words. That humans don't have the capacity to understand what that teaching is about. So, the meaning humans get from that statement is not correct. Love no longer implies the desire to allieviate the needless suffering of others. I ask what kind of love is that? It is not love at all, so why use the word. When the meaning conveyed by a word is not the meaning one is trying to convey then you would be misusing the word.

For example, the word "translate" conveys a certain idea to humans who speak English. Yet, to hear the apologists speak, they suppose Joseph meant something very different by that word than what your typical English-speaker means by it. I can show that Joseph did not "translate" (meaning the normal human understanding of the word) the Book of Abraham. But, I make no claims about whether or not he "translated" when one is intending some other meaning for the word.

Similarly, I have shown that god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful if we are talking about the normal ideas people think of when they hear those words. I have made no claims of what the results of reasoning would be when using an entirely different construct, that supposedly humans can't even understand. So, are you claiming then that preachers and Bibles don't make the claim that god is all-loving as humans would understand that statement? If so, publize that, that no one has ever meant to convey the human idea that god is all-loving, that everytime they said "god is all-loving" they meant something different that humans can't even understand. For, pity sake, they would do better to speak in tongues, at least then their words would not be misleading.

Now, lest you think I am getting hung up on the English word all-loving, the Hebrew and Greek scriptures also teach that god is all-loving, in their own way. It is the concept that is conveyed that is important, not the specifics of the language itself. But, evidently the human concept of all-loving isn't applicable when applied to god no matter what the language. Words are used to convey meaning, if the meaning that one is trying to convey is not represented by the word, then don't use the word, or say that it is close, but you humans couldn't really understand.

So, in a nutshell, most humans think all-loving includes a desire to end needless suffering of loved ones. That is the kind of all-loving that I have shown god cannot be if he is also all-powerful. I have no position on any other kind of "all-loving god" that isn't all-loving according to human meanings of that word.
Poster 3:
A loving parent lets their children make their own mistakes and learn from them.
Whatever it is we could learn from suffering (i.e., knowledge, wisdom, compassion, etc), an all-powerful god could give to us without our ever having to suffer. Can he not? If he is unable to, he is not all-powerful.

An all-powerful god could even implant memories and program our minds with all the "growth and development" we could gain from 1,000 years in an instant without us ever having to actually experience any pain. That makes all pain unnecessary.
Poster 1:

1) We are eternal beings in a temporary human form. We chose our lives and knew what it entailed. Thus the suffering may be pointless, but something we wished to experience. A loving God stays out of it as it was our choice.
My reply to "1": An all-powerful god controls all the variables. He can set up whatever rules for learning or growth or knowledge acquisition that he wants. He doesn't have to build a reality where suffering exists. Anything that he could accomplish with suffering, he could acomplish without suffering, so there was just no need to create or permit a reality to continue to exist that he did not create (if one wants to go there) a reality that has suffering.

If he had created a reality without suffering (all of which is needless), the option would not have been available for us to choose. We could still do whatever we want without being placed in a situation in which we could choose suffering. Choices are always constrained by what is available or possible; we can only choose among possibilities that exist in reality and an all-powerful god could create any kind of reality he wanted to. So, why would an all-loving god want to create a reality with suffering when it is completely unnecessary?
2) Free agency. God believes in our right of choice and interfering to remove the consequences of actions would in a way limit our free agency. These actions of course may not have been your own, or may be indirect.
My reply to "2": An all-powerful god can control not only whether or not we are spared consequences, but can determine what the consequences will be. So, he could still allow us to choose and experience consequences, while making sure that none of the consequences include suffering.
3) Suffering is only bad in our current perspective. If life is eternal, that makes this life very short compared to the expanse of eternity. Perhaps a miniscule amount of suffering doesn't amount to much compared to the expanse of our own eventual experience and just doesn't warrant interference.

My reply to "3": Needless suffering is needless suffering, regardless of whether it lasts only ten seconds or ten years. Ten seconds isn't very long when viewed from the perspective of a lifetime. Imagine me attacking your young child with a taser for no reason. She'll only feel it for a few seconds, which "doesn't amount to much compared to the expanse of her own eventual lifetime of experience". Does it just not warrant interference? It is purposeless suffering, don't you love your daughter enough to want to spare her those ten seconds of unnecessary pain?

If god really loves us, he knows we care about the pain we are in even if it seems small to him, he would want to spare us from needless suffering, even if it is only momentary.

Last edited by Hueffenhardt; 05-24-2010 at 08:12 AM..
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Old 05-24-2010, 07:57 AM
 
Location: southern california
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sure he/she is. its just when i dont get my 4th banana split and sent from the tablle for throwing a tantrum i feel that he/she is no longer all loving. when he gives others more than me he must be a jerk after all if he is all loving shouldnt i have more than them?
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:05 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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There is a temptation to get stuck looking at things from the way they are now. Anything is possible with an all-powerful god. If you truly believe that the only way god can enable us to learn and grow is through our suffering, then I submit that you do not believe in an all-powerful god, because an all-powerful god could enable us to learn and grow without suffering. I honestly don't know how to say it any more simple than that.

I am following all-loving and all-powerful to their logical end. I am not defining "all-loving" to mean "prevents all suffering", but I am defining "all-loving" to mean "desires to prevent needless suffering". An all-powerful god could accomplish every goal and purpose without us suffering (except the sole goal of us suffering); therefore, all suffering is in effect needless unless the sole goal is for us to suffer.

An all-loving being might not want to end or relieve needful or purposeful suffering. Because in loving the person, they would want what is best for them even if they had to endure some pain to get it. Are we on the same page? Nearly every objection you have raised was basically this point, that suffering has a purpose (one which we might not be aware of but that god knows), and god sees that in the long run it is better for us to pass through the suffering to gain the benefit than to not get the benefit even though we would be spared the suffering. Right? OK, now that we have that established that, follow my thinking closely. Whatever good may be accomplished by our suffering (regardless of whether we understand what that good is or not), if god is all-powerful, he could find a way for that good to be accomplished without our suffering. If god is all-powerful, he could make it happen. There is nothing we could gain from suffering that he could not make available to us through some other means if he is truly all-powerful. If you disagree, if you claim that suffering is the only way we could get some benefits, then you are suggesting that god is not all-powerful (that there are some things he can't do like teaching humans certain things without the use of suffering). That is not an all-powerful god if he can't teach us except through pain. Being all-powerful, he could design us anyway he wishes; he could give us the ability to learn through osmosis or telepathy or ways we have never dreamt of. But no, the impotent god you imagine can only teach us some things through one way only: pain. Do you get my point, yet?

OK, if an all-powerful god could teach us anything he wanted to without our actually having to suffer, then he did not have to set things up the way they are now (in which we have to suffer to learn some things). For an all-powerful god, things could have been set up some other way. All the same good could have been accomplished through any number of possible realities in which suffering does not exist. For an all-powerful god, he has all of these possible realities available to him, some include the concept of suffering, some do not. He could have chosen to construct one of the realities that does not use suffering and still accomplish every worthy goal and purpose he has. This makes suffering unnecessary. If all the same goals or purposes can be accomplished with or without suffering, then it is unnecessary for us to suffer, because whatever goal the suffering serves could be accomplished without suffering. This makes all suffering needless, pointless, and purposeless. God could have constructed things such that he could have accomplished everything he wanted without our suffering, so there was no need to have us suffer at all. Do you follow that? So, all suffering is needless. It didn't have to be this way, but god chose to create or permit a reality with suffering in it. Whatever reason he had for doing that could have been accomplished using a different reality that did not include suffering, if he were all-powerful. So, god if he were all-powerful had other options and no good reason to prefer a reality with suffering in it over a reality without suffering.

How can I say that? Because if he were all powerful, he could accomplish whatever reason he had for choosing suffering without our actually having to suffer. So, god chose for us to suffer when he didn't have to, when it accomplishes no good thing that could not have been accomplished without our suffering. That is not all-loving. That might even be sadistic, for he created needless suffering by choosing a reality for us that includes the possibility of suffering and doesn't care enough for us to save us from it. That is not all-loving. So, if god is all-powerful, he cannot be all-loving for needless suffering exists and he has the power to stop it and accomplish every good goal without the suffering. He has no reason to prefer a reality with suffering because whatever reason he might have could be satisfied through a reality with no suffering if he is all-powerful. Except of course, if he wants us to suffer for no reason, and if that is the case one cannot call him all-loving. The point is that growth could have come in an easier way if god is all-powerful. He could have created whatever learning mechanisms he wanted, designed our brains to learn without pain in an identical way as to how some of us learn through pain. God is supposedly all-powerful.

Defenders of God often forget that or limit his power. There is nothing god could not do. He could have accomplished every single thing that is accomplished right now without pain, but he chose to do it through pain unnecessarily. How can I say unnecessarily when I don't know what he knows?

Because if he is all powerful, then by definition pain is unnecessary. Whatever god's purpose for pain is, if he is all-powerful, he could accomplish that purpose without pain. It is quite simple, really. God invented pain, therefore we suffer needlessly at his hand. He cannot therefore be all-loving, because if he loved us, he would not make us suffer with no purpose. Again, all suffering, no matter what purpose we think it serves, is pointless, because there was another way to accomplish that purpose to an all-powerful god. I keep repeating myself because I repeatedly run into people who just don't get it, because they subconsciously don't want to get it. If an all-powerful god exists, he is a prick because he makes us suffer for no reason. God, it is so simple. Use your imagination; imagine a reality with no pain in which every lesson could be learned, every quality developed just as we have now. An all-powerful god could have made it happen; if not then he is not all-powerful. If he could not have done it without pain, then he is not all-powerful. I'll grant you that some pain feels good. I like to feel my muscles ache as I work them out. I like feeling the pangs of compassion for a suffering child, etc. But, an all-powerful god could make my muscles grow without pain and could make my heart tender with compassion without pain. Could he not? Then he is not all-powerful.

But, there is awful pain which the victims of rape, starvation, war, predator attacks, mutilation, torture, horrific accident, natural disasters, etc. God did not have to invent these things or make them possible. Whatever purpose they may have could have been accomplished without pain. God simply cannot logically be both all-powerful and all-loving given that there is human suffering. He can be one or the other but not both while needless suffering exists, and it is all needless if god is all-powerful. I don't know how to say it any plainer than that.

Last edited by Hueffenhardt; 05-24-2010 at 08:13 AM..
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:08 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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I'm going to try a different approach, a mathematical/logic hybrid. Let's assign the value of X to the reason why God chose to create a universe with suffering as opposed to the infinite possibilities available to him. We don't know X and may never know X, and if the theologians are to be believed, our brains can't even comprehend X. That is ok, because all that is important is that God knows X. We can all agree that if god exist, he knows X, the reason who chose to create suffering.
If god is all-powerful, he could satisfy that identical X without creating suffering. Agreed? If he is all-powerful, he could do it. If you claim that he could not accomplish X, but by designing a universe with suffering in it, then you are also saying that god is not all-powerful. The only goal that could not be accomplished by an all-powerful god if suffering were not to exist is the goal that humans should suffer. It stands to reason that we cannot suffer if suffering did not exist. But if our suffering was the sole purpose of our suffering, if suffering were the value of X, then we have a sadistic god who has as a goal our suffering. But, if instead our suffering is not the goal, but only the means to a goal, then an all-powerful god could arrange to have that goal accomplished in some other way besides suffering.

The "significant good" that some claim comes through pain and could not be achieved in any other way, only applies to the current set-up god created. That significant good could be achieved in another way if god had set it up differently. But for some reason, X, he choose this way. My argument is that whatever X is, he could have accomplished it by a set up that did not include suffering if he indeed is all powerful (unless the value of X is simple to have us experience suffering, then he is a sadist). If the point was to have us suffer because... Whatever follows that "because" could be accomplished without suffering if god is all-powerful.

Suffering cannot be inseperable from free will to an all-powerful god. An all-powerful god, by definition, must have the power to create free will with or without the suffering option. Are you saying he can't? Then you are saying he is not all-powerful. God controls all the variables here, he can specify all the rules. There is nothing that "must be" for an all-powerful god.

If suffering has an inherent value, god gave it that value, and he could have given something else that value and made it inherent to it. God can accomplish the value of suffering without the suffering. He could train us solely with rewards and no punishments. He could do anything he wants, and I do mean anything.

Pain is not inseparable from pleasure to an all-powerful god. Why couldn't an all-powerful god separate them? He created them in the first place. He created the ingredients of life and could have made things come in pairs/opposites or singlely.

Give an all-powerful god enough credit. He is all-powerful (don't limit his power). Nothing is inherent unless he bestows it. Nothing is inseperable unless he makes it that way.

So, again, god could have accomplished X without creating a universe with suffering if he were all-powerful. EVERY benefit that we now get from suffering could have been achieved in an alternative universe that does not contain suffering. Therefore, there is NO reason for god to create a universe with suffering. A universe with suffering has no advantage over a universe that accomplishes all the same advantages but without suffering that an all-powerful god could have created. Therefore, from the perspective of all possibilities available to god, suffering has no purpose because everything god had in mind to accomplish could have been accomplished some other way. He choose to create suffering when he did not have to. That makes suffering superfluous. It is not pointless in our universe, but since he could have created a universe that accomplishes all the same goals without suffering, suffering is pointless in the grand scheme of things. So, god makes us suffer when there was no reason for it. That at minimum means he is not all-loving. If he is all-powerful, he cannot be all-loving since needless suffering exists, and all-suffering is needless because whatever god's grand purpose for suffering is, he could have done it without suffering.

And to take it one step further. If god is not all-powerful, then that means something comes before or is greater than him. Well, where did that something that pre-dates or is greater than God come from? At that point the theist who believes in a god that is not all-powerful is in the same position as an atheist - both wondering at the existence of things that do not appear to have a Creator.

And if one maintains the belief in an all-powerful god, then one must accept that god created needless suffering when he did not have to or for the sole purpose of us suffering. That means that he is a sadist, worse than Hitler or Stalin, etc.

Last edited by Hueffenhardt; 05-24-2010 at 08:22 AM..
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:27 AM
 
Location: Earth
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Of course this whole argument assumes there is a god at all.
But if there is one, then yes Hueffenhardt I will have to agree with your argument.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huckleberry3911948 View Post
sure he/she is. its just when i dont get my 4th banana split and sent from the tablle for throwing a tantrum i feel that he/she is no longer all loving. when he gives others more than me he must be a jerk after all if he is all loving shouldnt i have more than them?
Huckleberry, if a child does not get a 4th banana split its not the same as if you stood by and watched as your child gets sodomized.

Last edited by Aeroman; 05-24-2010 at 08:28 AM.. Reason: BAD, BAD GOD. As aeroman hits god on the nose with a news paper.
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:29 AM
 
Location: southern california
48,890 posts, read 45,102,811 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeroman View Post
Of course this whole argument assumes there is a god at all.
But if there is one, then yes Hueffenhardt I will have to agree with your argument.


Huckleberry, if a child does not get a 4th banana split its not the same as if you stood by and watched as your child gets sodomized.
no that is what firing squads are for. you know-- the other thing americans think is unjust.
the mideast sense of justice is much closer to god than ours these days.
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:32 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeroman View Post
Of course this whole argument assumes there is a god at all.
But if there is one, then yes Hueffenhardt I will have to agree with your argument.
Yes, let me say that, if a god exists, it cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving. This is of course independent of whether a particular religion asserts a god with these qualities exists. I am not arguing against a particular religion, but simply saying that if a god does exist, it cannot have both these qualities.
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:37 AM
 
1,168 posts, read 573,490 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt View Post
This topic gets visited on a regular basis, but I keep thinking that perhaps if we present it in a slightly different way, it will eventually resonate with those who don't currently accept it. So, here goes another try.

My argument is this: If god were all-loving, he would want to save us from needless suffering. If he were all-powerful, he would be able to save us from needless suffering. If needless suffering exists, either god is not all-loving or not all-powerful or not either. Said another way, if needless suffering exists, then god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.


.

Your arguement is in error...

If God were all Loving and powerful he would save us from needless suffering ??

Yes needless suffering we create continually!
And it is not that God has not tried to turn us with his words, his signs, his own son...and they murdered him, so they could keep control and wealth in power over the people!

Now you have the word of God, and Christ, and the prophets and saints to read through...as witness, warning, and understanding...
And still it continues....

Who is making their own suffering constantly?...we are!
And what Is one of the commandments being broken, that Jesus was kicking around and out of his Fathers House?....So we know it is not wanted in God's house, nor in our houses...or even in use!
And yet the whole world is constantly using it....MONEY or the INgraven Imamed IDOL...

So We do not listen, we do not believe, and we do not do, what God has asked us to do...

Consequences are for those who do not do what is righteous and good...and that brings suffering and pain and death.

For the Wages of sin is death...and sin is the disobediance of God!
We can also say that the sin of wages brings death, if it is an ingraven Idol made way too important for Life...

Yes?

Now who is creating the suffering, the sickness, the pain, and the death of the multitutes??...Not God..but us!
And how can God who loves us, stop us, if we do not listen to his words, laws, and precepts and do them completely and fully?


Ah...that is the problem...humans don't listen to God anymore...and the whole world is suffering because of it!

And God is teaching us the only way we can understand...cause and effect..
And even though the same things happen over and over again in time...they do not change or correct their errors!
And they pass on the very thing that is causing the problems to the next generation of children!

And so how does God save us?

We have to save ourselves with the word, and will,,,and have it all done to the letter....nothing altared, nothing added, nothing removed...and do it sinlessly, and quickly before the end and final judgment!

That is what God wants!

Now when we start doing our part..and we tend and keep the Garden,...this world..this planet... and make it tame, and multiply the givens, and share everything with everything in harmonic existance and respect...
Then we are ready for the next level...

$atan cannot be sinless,,,and so he will remain in death with his sinners...but those who stop sinning do not belong in death...and death will not keep you...Like Jesus said...and that is when you can be raised up....

You have to try it to believe it.
And when you make that step out of the normal system they have imposed on us...and take that step of faith towards what God has asked of you and me and them...and go out to sow some seeds into the wilderness to tame it...and you have confessed your sins..and washed them away..and are sinless..and you leave that Idol behind you...You fulfill the service of God...
And for that service for God that You do sinlessly...God will do for you as promised!

Amen?
..Now that is a God I can agree with!...a fare and righteous one, who doesn't want evil nor sin to enter Life eternal!

Last edited by Sir Les; 05-24-2010 at 08:48 AM..
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Golden, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Les View Post
Your arguement is in error...

If God were all Loving and powerful he would save us from needless suffering ??

Yes needless suffering we create continually!
We could not cause suffering if God had not invented suffering in the first place. God made needless suffering possible. He did not have to, but he did.

If suffering did not exist, we could not inflict it on others or ourselves. God caused suffering to exist and made it an option for us. He did not need to. Anything we could have gained from the ability to cause suffering, an all-powerful god could have made available to us without the ability to cause suffering. If not, then he is not all-powerful.

Therefore, my argument is not in error.
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:44 AM
 
Location: The Netherlands
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I'm sorry but what does love has to do with power?
I would argue that an all-loving god (who is or is not also all-powerful) could only grant us free will, which negates power totally.


Originally Posted by Hueffenhardt
Quote:
We could not cause suffering if God had not invented suffering in the first place.
If there was no suffering, why would we be motivated to learn anything?
Besidez, without suffering there would be no good and evil.
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