7. Why can’t God lift a penny?

Here’s a fun experiment you can do at home. Start by making up a new god, any god, such as the “God of Pizza.”  Place a penny on a table and pray that the God of Pizza will levitate it to confirm his existence. If it works, congratulations! You’ve found a real God! But if nothing happens, ask yourself why nothing happened. The answer is pretty obvious, the God of Pizza doesn’t exist, you just made him up!

Next, try the experiment with gods that other people have made up, like Zeus. People actually believed in Zeus at one time, so maybe there’s something to that. Did Zeus levitate the penny? Why not? Most likely, it’s because Zeus was made-up too.

Finally, pray to the God of Abraham and ask Him to levitate the penny. Did He do it? Why not? Our reasoning should probably be the same as with all the other Gods, but it’s often not.

If we ask a group of believers why God failed to lift the penny, they would likely be able to offer a myriad of excuses. But it’s just as easy to make up excuses as it is to make up gods, it’s much harder to do the impossible.

Good Excuses?

But are these excuses valid, or just excuses? One way to test it is to see if it can easily be applied to any other god, for example:

  • It is not Zeus’s will to lift the penny.
  • Lifting a penny is too trivial for the God of Pizza.
  • Ra would like you to believe in him by faith alone.
  • Brahma does not like it when you test him.
  • Lifting the penny would destroy our faith in Baal.

If we, as believers, permit these excuses to be used in defense of our God, then we must also accept them as valid defenses for other gods. If we don’t, then we are applying a double standard.

This is also a logical fallacy known as special pleading. It’s illogical to to accept an explanation as valid only when it helps your own case.


So why don’t these gods answer our simple requests? There are several possibilities:

  1. They don’t exist.
  2. They do exist, but are all ignoring our requests.
  3. One or more exist, but are ignoring our requests.

Believers will select option #3, but again, this same excuse can be offered in defense of any god (e.g. “The God of Pizza is the only real God, and the only one ignoring the request”).

But the real problem with ignoring these simple requests for verification of existence is that it makes it nearly impossible for us to tell the difference between made-up gods and real ones. We end up having to rely on other, more controversial, claims of evidence (the kind of evidence that many gods seems to capable of producing).

The truth is, many believers have asked God for a sign. My request was for God to levitate a penny, but He never has. So… I’m forced to explore the other evidence that has been offered to substantiate claims for His existence and the truth of Christianity. But it would certainly save me a lot of hassle, and be far more convincing, if God would levitate a penny for me… just once.

The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.
Delos Banning McKown

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28 Responses to 7. Why can’t God lift a penny?

  1. Judy Curbow says:

    Yes my friend….THAT is called faith! “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If you choose to believe that there is no God, then obviously that is your perogative; however, I don’t understand why you would make fun of people that do believe – on one of our most holy days of the year.

    • Howdy Judy, thanks for the post. It is never my intention to make fun of people, only to point out the absurdities in our thinking.

      If we strip away the poetry in Hebrews 11:1, it seems to say “Believing in things without evidence is a virtue.” I.e., God doesn’t lift our penny because, strangely, our blind faith is important to Him. The problem I see here is if no evidence is required for God, then no evidence is required for Zeus, Brahma, Ra, or even the God of Pizza (see Matt. 7:2). When no evidence is required, all explanations are equally viable. If God wants us to find truth, why deny us our best tool for finding it?

      I think, in lieu of evidence, faith became an odd virtue.

      Gideon had his fleece, Elijah had is fire, Thomas had his holes, I want my floating penny! 🙂

      • John says:

        Maybe he lifted the penny while your back was turned…just to mess with you😀

      • Anonymous says:

        Matthew 4:7 tells us not to put the Lord God to the test. The religious leaders of Jesus day also asked for signs. Jesus showed just as we can read the signs of the sky. They should have seen the prophecies that Jesus was fulfilling (the signs of the times). Jesus says blessed are those who without seeing do believe (John 20:29). Suppose I told my dad, “dad if you give me 500.00 I will believe you are my dad”, and then my dad didn’t give me the money, should I believe he is not my dad?

        • Anonymous says:

          Anon from Nov 2, 2013: major flaw with your premise here… You dad is actually in front of you, you can touch him, see him, and have a real conversation with him. He might not give you $500, but a paternity test would settle it. God on the other hand is invisible, no substance… Any “voices” you hear are products of your own mind!

      • consultgtf says:

        I agree with you, if there is God, he should lift the penny but in India, we don’t have pennies, but paisa. so do you want god lift penny in your country and paisa in my country, run to another country to lift the…
        Kindly understand the basics, HE IS GOD! not your servant? Just try with your servant, you will know the consequence…
        If you really want to know the existence of God, do a simple thing, stop your heart with your… what ever and challenge god to make it work! Can you?
        We are mere Humans fit for nothing… until we are alive we are President, Prime Minister, MD, Manager, Engineer… but once we are dead, we called as body.
        Ask your science teacher, how can a amoeba, exist, when an dinosaur is extinct?
        How can a pump work for more than 60-70 years without even over oiling, our heart.
        How can blood absorb only oxygen from air and make food?

        Now we need no proof for Gods existence, actually we need for ourselves, as ‘I am writing from one part of the world and you are reading from the other side, how can you see, feel, hear…
        He is our Creator! still need proof, kindly take a small pin and poke it on your skin, any where on your body, then stop it when it bleeds, if you have no feelings then then God exits, if you feel no pain, consult your doctor, asap… just joking.

      • Santa Cause says:

        This is good! I haven’t read all the posts but the ones I’ve read are fascinating and real. The challenge offered in the question is much like some of the challenges I received through the Holy Spirit at the time we first became acquainted in September, 1978, and it was not an easy time at all. Many highlights of peace, but the challenges I was being offered were very disruptive, however, very necessary in retrospect.

        I would say the challenge represented with the penny makes total sense and it is a must-have answer if you are to make any progress at all in your relationship with God. If you remove the penny from the scenario, you still have the essence a question that must be answered, and answered satisfactorily.

        I remember at that time in September, 1978 that there was kind of a communication protocol that God was setting up with me and if, in retrospect, I had a penny on the table that flipped, I would wonder afterward if I had done it with my own previously hidden levitation talents or if some other god (or God), other than Zeus, Ra, Satan or Jesus had done the flipping. Then I would have wondered if I had been seeing things when it flipped. Confusion would rule the day.

        However, the process that started me on the path toward proving to myself that God existed began, not with a penny on the table, but with an ernest, desperate prayer “God, I don’t know if you’re out there, but I could use your help right now”.

        The answers came rapidly after that but I had no idea it was God until years later looking back, and over the years my relationship with God has been expanded to where I can intelligently rule out Zeus, Ra, Satan, etc., in my dialogues with God through the Holy Spirit.

        Oh, and it was not just Thomas who doubted, they all did and were upbraided for it by Jesus, but Jesus did come to them. Even though they had seen the dead come to life, they were left unbelievers after the events of the crucifixion and it took Jesus’ presence in the room to probably bring them to a start of a new relationship with God that did not exist before, and then that was solidified with Pentecost.

  2. John Barron says:

    If you placed a penny in front of me and asked me to pick it up, and I didn’t. What does that have to say about my existence?

    Could it be that all you prove from your experiment is that whatever God exists is not prone to “hop to” when someone decides to concoct experiments designed to treat the God like a trained dog?

    • Howdy John, pleased to meet you.

      Funny story… before you commented, I had NO idea you existed. But now that you’ve spoken, I know you do. See how simple it is!? 🙂

      But seriously, I’m cool with God not wanting to “hop to” my experiment like a trained dog. But it would be nice if He would be willing to do something — ANYTHING — to separate himself from all the other imaginary gods… or from nothing at all, just like He did in the Old Testament.

      Otherwise, His whole cover story seems waaaay too convenient: “He” wants us to believe without seeing, He’s “no longer” doing any big miracles, we have to wait until we’re dead to see Him, His return is always just around the corner, etc. So… either God really likes surprises, or He never existed in the first place.


      • John Barron says:

        You seem to backhandedly admit that the God of the Bible has already seperated himself and has spoken, in the OT. Should this be a continuous thing?

        Do you know the context of miracles in the Bible? They werent dont as sideshow tricks. They were done as confirmation of true prophets of God. So when someone actually spoke for God, miracles would be involved. If no one is speaking for God in the prophetic sense, why should we expect miracles now? I’m not sure what it is you’re expecting.

        Would it be rude of me to ask hold you are?

        • Anonymous says:

          John: there’ve been plenty of people throughout history that have spoken for God in a prophetic sense. Just like in the days of jesus, nothing has happened either. I can only imagine the disappointment of his first followers, when they reached their own deaths and he never came back. Talk about being stood up by your date!

  3. Judy Curbow says:

    I’m glad to see that this string was revived. I wanted to respond last week but life got in the way. Here are some things for you to consider in your “proof-seeking” mission! God has revealed himself in a number of ways – he doesn’t have to move a penny for me or for you to prove that he exists. You see – at the end of the day – it’s a matter of faith – however God does not lead us blindly. You are looking to disprove. If you come to him in humility and earnestly look for him – you just might be surprised at what you find. I hope you do that!

    God has revealed himself to you through His creation – nature. You think the world around you and everything in it just “evolved“ over millions of years? Psalm 19:1-6 states, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Romans 1:18-21 declares, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” When you look at the oceans and the mountains and the natural beauty – I believe – no person can claim that he knows nothing about God.

    God has revealed himself to you through your conscience – your internal sense of right and wrong. Romans 2:14-15 states that every person has the Law of God “written in their hearts.”

    And then there is the question – Who do you say that Jesus is? Heb. 11:1–2 states, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 11:1-2).
    John 1:1 He is the “Word” because He is the complete revelation of the Father.
    John 1:18 He reveals what the Father is like.
    John 5:36-37 He reveals the Father’s compassion.
    John 6:63; 14:10 He reveals that the Father gives eternal life through the Son.

    The Bible is God’s written revelation to humankind. Complied by various men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), the Bible is the very Word of God. Most of what we know about God, including the person and work of Jesus, is found in the Bible. It reveals all the doctrine, rebuke, correction and guidance that is needed for godly living (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

    So ….. based on your comments above….the Bible to you is just a lot of nice words written by men? It has been mistranslated? It is not to be trusted? Or do you believe it is God revealing himself to us?

    Have a great day!

    • Hi Judy, you’re a sweetie! Sometimes I wish there was a heaven just so people like you could go there. 😉

      As a Christian for over 30 years, I’ve spent a lot of time defending my faith in God and the Bible (one of my favorite books was “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”). It took several years of looking at both sides before I realized the skeptics had it right. At least I think so, I’m willing to change my mind if other evidence comes along. (Still waiting on that penny.)

      With that, I’ll respond to a few of your points:

      At the end of the day – it’s a matter of faith… If you come to him in humility and earnestly look for him – you just might be surprised at what you find.

      A Mormon missionary once told me if I came to God in humility and earnestly prayed about the Book of Mormon, my spirit would confirm it was true. Sooo… apparently the same trick works for them, and proves nothing. I felt nothing, but I have no doubt that if I wanted to believe it I would’ve felt something. From that point on, church propaganda and confirmation bias would do the rest. We humans are nothing if not good self-deceivers.

      God has revealed himself to you through His creation – nature. You think the world around you and everything in it just “evolved“ over millions of years?

      Wow… it’s so weird being on the other side of this argument, lol. But billions of years, yes, I do now. Having been both a creationist (for many, many years) and now an evolutionist, I now see more truth on the side of evolution. I can’t “see” the DNA, but I can see evolution changes in dogs, the bones of primates, the rib cages of dinosaurs; the hands, wrists and arm bones of a whale; and in the tens of thousands of invertebrate-only fossils in Canada and China (and not a single fish… what the hell, God?). My search for equally compelling flood evidence has left me empty handed.

      For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

      You know what would really be great, is if God understood what He made, so He could be without excuse! He apparently has absolutely no knowledge of his creation: DNA, galaxies, bacteria, NONE of the things we know about today. (Yes, I know people try to make it look like He knows, but believe me, it doesn’t check out). Instead of casting out demons from lepers, Jesus should’ve taught us about bacterial infections and the importance of covering our mouth when we cough. THAT would be something.

      Ultimately, I find it more probable that a cell should come to life in an infinite universe of raw material, than an infinitely intelligent God should “just exist” and create one.

      God has revealed himself to you through your conscience.

      I believe morals come from instinct and environment. Even monkeys groom each other; and natural selection doesn’t carry on the genes of families that kill each other. When I see the sad hatred that Palestinian children have for Jews, it’s clear their morals are passed on from their parents. Even love itself is clearly material, as evidenced by a wife with amnesia who feels no love for her husband and children.

      Who do you say that Jesus is?

      If prophets like Muhammad and Joseph Smith can come out of nowhere without anyone seeking them, how much more likely is it that a prophet should come if eagerly awaited?

      Jesus is said to have done many miracles, but not one that left any evidence (like casting a mountain into the sea). Jesus fulfills the prophecies that are easily lied about, but fails all the others. It’s said “He’ll do them later,” but a 2nd coming was never prophesied, and never fulfilled. His own prophecies about the near-term events were very clear, but the future ones were vague and general. And again, he knew very little about his own creation. Jesus was a man, turned into a God.

      The Bible is God’s written revelation to humankind. Complied by various men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21), the Bible is the very Word of God.

      I think the Bible makes more sense when viewed as an evolving work of men (with all the limitations of men). This can be observed in the evolution of things like the character of God, the trinity, or the evolution of Hell. Again, just like Joseph Smith or Muhammad took an existing story and added to it, so did the “prophets” and other religious fanboys of the time. All the stories and prophets that sucked were left out, leaving us with some pretty good stuff.

      And that’s why religion works so well, because it has evolved over thousands of years to be very good at deceiving people.

      So, I still say a floating penny would be a big help. Or fire from heaven, or a river of blood, even the rapture.


      • Anonymous says:

        500Q: funny to think of the bible as being a collection of fanfiction… Like the obsessive writings of Supernatural or Twilight fandoms😉

  4. zqtx says:

    So Judy, am I to understand that you god has conditions that I must meet in order to communicate with him? I must be humble an not test him and I have to have faith in his existence. Sounds to me like proof for the flying spaghetti monster as well.

    You say he has revealed himself in nature and its beauty. It’s convenient to overlook all of the things in nature you would deem horrible and unjust, but I guess that’s just “god” too.

    What make you think the bible is so special? Because it says so?

  5. John says:

    Why would I need God to lift a penny or be some genie in a bottle that I order around? That’s not even what He’s all about.

    • Howdy John, it’s just an example — just need some kind of demonstration so we humans know we’re on the right path (fire from heaven, heal an amputee, anything really). No disrespect to God, but without some kind of modern demonstration, He’s no different than any other God. 😦

  6. scozta says:

    This post and the comments make me very giddy inside. As with the prior two posts this is something I’ve been curious of for a long time. (Since about age 5 I’ve attempted to force my “teachers” to explain where God came from, especially since I came from my mommy’s belly.)
    I normally keep my mouth shut, buuuut because of this:

    “When you look at the oceans and the mountains and the natural beauty – I believe – no person can claim that he knows nothing about God.

    God has revealed himself to you through your conscience – your internal sense of right and wrong. Romans 2:14-15 states that every person has the Law of God “written in their hearts.””

    I can’t. Somebody who was not forced to read the bible or believe in someone we didn’t know, (Didn’t your parents teach you not to speak with strangers? They could be killers, or rapists!) when they look out at the lake with the beautiful snow capped mountains behind it, with the pinkish sunset gleaming of the water, they will not think of God. Plain and simply.
    They will go, “Oh my gosh that is beautiful,” and leave it at that lol.

    I am really looking forward to more posts from you. 26 posts is just NOT enough. Thank you so much for this entertaining, educational, and well that out blog.

  7. joseph acha says:

    jesus is lord

    • Thanks Jospeh. I was really hoping to invoke some convincing and well reasoned rebuttals. Got anything more convincing than a religious mantra?

    • starandrock says:

      I just had to comment on this too… Mr. Acha, do you not realize that such a stand-alone slogan (whether true or not) is not very helpful in the context of this blog. In fact, I would propose that unless you would accompany it with some kind of philosophical support, it just makes Christians look silly. Not helpful to your cause.

  8. Enshalla says:

    My father said it best. While in a lunch room at work, he made many of your arguments. As he was saying such things, the true believers backed away as if they were afraid that God would strike with a bolt of lightening. He response, “Is your God that bad of shot?”

    • Your dad sounds like my kind of guy. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      This is an old post but it speaks to me! Yes, often when I talk about God’s existenace, people around me just shut-off (I can see it in their faces that they don’t want to hear these things), they feel uneasy, perhaps afraid that they may offend their gods). It seems to me that their FAITH is based more on the FEAR of God than their love for Him. They FEAR that God will sent them off to HELL after they die if they don’t have 100% FAITH in the human translations of the so-called Words of God spoken by self-proclaimed prophets, messiahs, sages, and the like. If they do talk, it will be a sermon of quotes from the scriptures, nothing original. What a relief that I can talk to some sensible people here.

  9. Pingback: Are we allowed to test God? | 500 Questions about God & Christianity

  10. consultgtf says:

    Why should HE? that why why HE is GOD? Does your manager clean your office just because they are the owner? Or get your personal work done for you, just because you are working for them? THE ANSWER WILL BE “NO.”
    Then how can we expect ‘THEE GOD” to become your servant?
    This means, that YOU DO NOT KNOW the what it means to be “GOD”.
    Just imagine, there are billions of people on earth now, each one in different time zone,though!
    Everyone of us are placing a demand! “EACH” second, what will be data per day,per week…

    What should be Hard disk capacity of God’s computer?
    Sorry we expect GOD to computer illiterate?
    Worst is we keep on updating our demands, I have, From cycle when I was kid to a bike as a youth, to a car as an adult, to a latest different car presently…This is only for a car! Imagine for all your needs then! Whow! what a data to be stored?

    GOD is NOT your servant, Your house servant does not listen to you, if you place more demands

    Now, let us come to reality. WHAT HAVE DONE, FOR WHICH YOU ARE ASKING RETURNS! count and publish for us to know, How God is bad Manager! I will support YOUR CASE!

  11. Dayle says:

    As a lifelong Christian who, like you, can also make a strong argument that all earthbound supreme beings are man made creations, I fall on the other side of the prime mover question.

    I find it more probable that the first uncaused cause is a supreme being that transcends our universe rather than an obscene amount of matter that just spontaneously generated.

    This creates quite a fork in the road at the starting point of our intellectual journeys.

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