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As far as I understand, many religions claim that God is perfect and unlimited in (almost) any way (e.g. the Christian God is often described as omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent, ...). Are there religions that allow for God to be limited in some sense (e.g. knows a lot but not everything, is good but not perfectly good, is powerful but not all powerful, ...)?

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    in greek mythology gods are sometimes temperamental, vain, petty, vengeful, ...
    – ac15
    Apr 1 at 18:07
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    on the egyptian side, seth cut up his brother! so maybe the 'pressure' for perfection is more characteristic of monotheistic religions
    – ac15
    Apr 1 at 18:11
  • ... because then you have to contend with the question of where God's limits are, and what God can and can't do, and does and doesn't do, and then you might accidentally conclude that you have no reason to think God does anything at all, and therefore that they probably don't exist at all. I'm being a bit facetious, but that's worth thinking about. In ancient times, you could more plausibly attribute unknown things to a god, but the gaps in our knowledge is getting smaller and smaller, and further and further away, so it's much less reasonable to conclude that a god did some specific thing.
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 2 at 2:20
  • You may be able to delay/stave off closure by making the title more in accordance with your second sentence. Maybe something like: What would it mean for God to be not omni-«everything» as in Christianity?
    – Rushi
    Apr 2 at 7:41

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Question: Are there religions that allow for God to be limited in some sense (e.g. knows a lot but not everything, is good but not perfectly good, is powerful but not all powerful, ...)?

A recurring motif in many Hindu mythologies is that a sage — rishi — curses God which can then change the course of the universe:

  • The Ramayana starts with the supreme being (Vishnu for the purposes of the Ramayana) being cursed by rishi Narada to be born on earth and suffer as Vishnu made him suffer. This is (one of) the factors precipitating Rama's birth.

  • The Mahabharata ends with Gandhari cursing Krishna

    After the Mahabharata War, Gandhari cursed Krishna that he, his family and his whole clan, would perish the way her children perished. Krishna accepted the curse and it came true 36 years after the war, when they were drinking and enjoying life and started teasing the rishis out of impudence.

  • In the Shani Mahatmyam — Greatness of Saturn — Shani (Saturn), who clearly and unambiguously accepts his subordination to Rama, Krishna, Shiva, still punctiliously punishes everyone including them and many others [Saturn is karma-deva the astrological factor that orchestrates the meting out of karma on an orderly basis]. Behind the superficial absurdity of a mere planet punishing the Supreme, the deeper lesson is that the law of karma spares no one, not even God!

  • A key theme in the Ramayana is that Shiva always worships Rama as the Supreme being (and Rama worships Shiva). When Shiva's wife fails to believe Shiva that Rama is the Supreme Being and should be worshiped, much grief follows for everyone including Shiva. One of the salutary consequences of that grief which includes the self-immolation of Shiva's wife is that she takes rebirth, and in her next wiser birth hears the story of Rama from Shiva. So the Ramayana is the consequence of this divine misunderstanding and temporary but consequential lack of devotion.

  • There is also the philosophical (rather than mythological) tradition of the Upanishads. In the Katha Upanishad, the young boy Nachiketas pesters his father, a rishi, who is performing a sacrifice Father! To whom will you give me? When he pesters him too much, the father loses his patience and yells: I give you to death! The modern version would be Go to hell!. The words fructify, Nachiketas makes a visit, has a coffee with Death so to say, and learns the highest wisdom. He returns to human kind with this wisdom in the form of the Katha Upanishad.


I've followed the usual pattern of translating rishi as sage. But in my view a translation that is more in accordance with the Judeo-Christian tradition would be prophet — the prophet speaks and the universe obeys — "prophesy" — even if we stupid humans cannot understand the utterances!

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The Hindu doctrine of transmigration states that humans can be reborn as gods in the realm of gods.

But after a finite time also these gods have to be reborn in a new incarnation. They do not exist as gods in eternity.

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  • this seems to make total sense. the same is true of buddhism. why -2/
    – andrós
    Apr 2 at 22:45

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