A black and white image captures a solitary figure standing at the edge of a vast chasm, symbolizing the existential divide between humanity and the divine, evoking contemplation and introspection.

What Separates Us From God?

Since the beginning of human civilization, humanity has pondered the differences between mortal man and the divine. This existential question cuts to the core of what makes us human. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the philosophical, theological, and scientific perspectives on what separates humankind from the realm of the divine.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Humans are limited by mortality, imperfections, and lack of omniscience and omnipotence. In contrast, God is seen as eternal, perfect, and all-knowing and all-powerful.

We’ll examine the core attributes of humanity and godhood from religious, philosophical, and scientific viewpoints. Key topics will include mortality, omniscience, omnipotence, the problem of evil and suffering, the origins of life, consciousness and the soul, morality and ethics, and the limits of human perception and cognition.

Mortality and Eternity

Humans Have Finite Lives

Unlike God who exists eternally, we humans live for a limited period of time. Our lives begin at conception and end when we die, usually around 70-90 years on average at present (1). This finite existence gives a sense of urgency and meaning to our brief lives.

According to psychologist Soren Kierkegaard, facing death and finding meaning despite mortality is central to human existence.

Knowing that our time is limited motivates us to make the most of the years we have through building relationships, achieving dreams, raising families, learning and growing, and leaving a positive legacy.

The brevity of life can inspire us to live fully, love deeply, forgive freely, and pursue our purpose wholeheartedly.

God is Seen as Eternal and Everlasting

In contrast to fleeting human lives, God is believed by religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism to be eternal, existing forever outside of time in a constant present. As the Bible states, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2) (2).

Such an infinite, never-ending state of being is utterly unlike our temporal existence.

This eternal nature ascribed to God signifies qualities like permanence, consistency, inexhaustibility and completeness unlike the changeability of mortal life. God’s unending presence grounds concepts like hope, truth, love and salvation with an ever-present source and anchor point for human existence in flux.

Ultimately, God’s eternity both contrasts and completes our mortality.


(1) https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy

(2) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalms+90%3A2&version=ESV

Omniscience and Limited Knowledge

Humans Have Limited Perspective and Understanding

We humans have a very limited perspective and understanding compared to an all-knowing God. Our knowledge and experiences are restricted by our finite minds, short lifespans, and inability to be in all places at once.

We can only directly observe and learn about a small part of reality during our brief time here on earth.

In contrast, God is believed to transcend space and time. He can see the past, present, and future all at once with total clarity and comprehension. As finite beings, we lack God’s infinite wisdom and point of view. Our perceptions are narrowed by our physiological limitations and personal biases.

We must rely on limited sensory input, data, testimonies of others, and reason to try to make sense of the world around us.

The extent of human ignorance can be summarized in this quote from Socrates: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. “ We have made great advances in science, technology and knowledge, yet there is still infinitely more that we do not understand about the universe we live in and even about our own minds and bodies.

God is Believed to be All-Knowing

Most major religions teach that God is omniscient – all-knowing across time and space. Nothing is hidden from His vision or outside the realm of His understanding. He knows every detail of the past, present and future simultaneously.

God’s knowledge is complete and infinitely surpasses anything we as humans could ever comprehend.

There are over 7 billion people on Earth and God understands each of our personalities, lives, thoughts, and intentions perfectly. He knows every language, culture, and epoch of human history. Beyond humanity, God knows the identity and location of every star in the universe and every subatomic particle.

Every hair on every head is accounted for.

This omniscience gives God a perspective on reality that we cannot replicate or fully understand. It influences theological concepts like fate, free will, sin, judgment, grace, and salvation. Human spiritual beliefs must account for the gap between our limited mind and God’s unlimited comprehension if we are to establish a proper relationship with our Creator.

Omnipotence and Limited Power

Humans Have Restricted Abilities and Influence

We humans have very limited abilities and influence compared to the concept of an all-powerful God. As mortal beings, we are constrained by time, space, and our physical forms. Our abilities and knowledge have boundaries based on our experiences and perceptions.

We exert influence over small parts of the world but cannot control nature or humanity as a whole.

For example, the average human cannot predict the future or know a stranger’s innermost thoughts. We cannot see into the distant past or make accurate forecasts about events years down the road. Our perspective and foresight are limited. We also cannot control fundamental forces like gravity or time.

As much as we have advanced scientifically and technologically, humans still face disease, aging, and mortality.

Likewise, no one person rules the planet or shapes humanity’s direction singlehandedly. Kings and presidents have sway over their citizens, and influencers impact trends and behaviors. Still, no one human is omnipotent enough to alter the laws of physics or eliminate problems like poverty globally.

Our individual free will prevents any one person from controlling the masses.

According to a Gallup poll, about 75% of Americans believe we each have a soul living on after death, which implies human existence has limits even beyond our earthly lives. So while we can work to better our small corners of the world, humanity’s powers are meager compared to religious ideas of God’s unlimited capabilities.

God is Seen as All-Powerful and Unlimited

Across faiths, God (or gods in polytheistic religions) is seen as all-powerful, eternal, and without limits. The extent of God’s presumed powers varies somewhat across sects and individuals. Still, God is generally thought to have abilities infinitely beyond any human’s comprehension or mortal limitations.

For example, God lives outside the boundaries of time and space, existing before the universe’s creation and stretching across all realms of reality simultaneously. There are no physical or temporal constraints limiting God like aging or death.

This perspective of God contrasts sharply with the finite human lifespan lasting around 70-90 years on average.

In addition, God can see across time and space—into each human heart and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. God knows the past, present, and future without having experienced them sequentially like we do.

This omniscience contrasts human’s narrow views constrained by our senses, lifespans, and planet-bound existence.

Furthermore, the faithful see God as directing the path of existence itself. For the religious, God crafted the physical laws of the universe and sustains their continuity. God guides the overall flow of events while still allowing individual free will.

So unlike any one mortal, God has ultimate influence over reality, humanity, nature, and even life and death—either directly or indirectly depending on one’s specific faith.

In many belief systems, no event occurs without God’s approval or willful allowance. To the faithful, God can intervene miraculously in our lives and world while also giving us self-determination to make choices. Ultimately, God’s powers oversee humanity’s, much like a creator oversees its creation.

Imperfection and Evil vs. Perfection and Goodness

Humans Are Flawed and Capable of Evil

Human beings are inherently imperfect creatures. Unlike God, we lack key divine attributes such as omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection. As the Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Here are some examples of common human flaws and evils:

  • We make mistakes and erroneous judgments due to limited knowledge
  • We act out of self-interest rather than purely moral motivations
  • We engage in destructive behaviors like violence, cruelty, greed, and hate
  • According to one 2019 Pew Research study, 76% of Americans believe human morality has deteriorated over time. Where does this immorality stem from? Human free will, some argue, allows us to make evil choices.

    God is Seen as Perfectly Good and Just

    God, on the other hand, is believed by many world religions to be a morally flawless, perfectly compassionate being. Attributes of divine goodness include:

  • Omnibenevolence – God is all-loving and all-good
  • Justice – God is said to be fair and impartial
  • Righteousness – God is morally right in all His ways
  • Forgiveness – God shows mercy and is willing to pardon sin
  • To religious believers, God epitomizes ethical perfection. Even the problem of evil in the world does not negate God’s goodness for many. They argue that human free will, not God’s character, is the source of sin and suffering. Others see adversity as part of God’s wise and inscrutable plan.

    So while mankind grapples with moral failures, the Divine is seen as holy.

    The Origins of Life and Consciousness

    Human Life Developed Through Evolution

    The origins of human life and consciousness have long been a subject of fascination and debate. According to the theory of evolution, human life developed gradually over millions of years through natural selection and adaptation.

    Primitive life forms evolved into more complex organisms, with modern humans emerging as the most intelligent species. This process involved key developments like the growth of larger brains, opposable thumbs, bipedalism, communication through language, and advanced cognitive abilities.

    There is strong scientific evidence that supports evolution as the means by which humans came into existence. Fossil records provide insights into our ancient ancestry, showing how humanoid species evolved over time. Genetics also demonstrates that humans share a common ancestor with modern apes.

    Evolutionary principles can explain many human traits that enabled our survival and success, from our social nature to our ingenuity and creativity.

    While gaps remain in our full understanding, most scientists agree that evolution by natural selection provides the best explanation for how human life emerged and developed on Earth. The evolutionary view holds that our existence was not designed by a higher power, but rather shaped by natural forces and adaptations over eons.

    This lends an awe-inspiring perspective on just how far humanity has progressed from our humble beginnings.

    God is Believed to be the Prime Creator

    In contrast to the scientific theory of evolution, many philosophical and religious traditions posit that an intelligent supernatural being is responsible for the creation of human life. The major monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – teach that God designed and shaped humanity in his image.

    In the biblical Genesis narrative, God forms Adam from dust and breathes life into him. Eve is later created from Adam’s rib. This view holds that humans have a divine essence breathed into them by their creator.

    Our advanced abilities and moral capacity reflect our special status among God’s creations.

    Belief in God as the designer of humanity persists today for a number of reasons. Some find evolutionary explanations inadequate and assert that life’s complexity points to an intelligent plan. Many also believe that our consciousness and spirituality could not be mere accidents, but gifts from a higher power.

    Additionally, faith in a personal God provides a reassuring sense of meaning and purpose.

    While the origins debate continues, both perspectives offer thought-provoking visions of humanity’s journey. Whether molded by divine hands or sculpted by nature over eons, our advanced capacities for reason, creativity, and morality remain sources of wonder. Ultimately, our shared humanity and potential may be more important than precisely how we came to be.

    The Soul and the Divine Spark

    Humans Have a Mortal Consciousness

    Many spiritual traditions teach that human consciousness is mortal and temporary, bound to the physical body during life. Consciousness arises from the brain and nervous system, so when the body dies, our consciousness also ceases to exist.

    Science generally supports this view – there is no evidence that personal consciousness exists without a functioning brain. Some studies show that altering the brain through injury, drugs or disease also alters consciousness.

    This suggests our awareness relies completely on a physical organ we cannot live without.

    The Soul is Seen as God’s Immortal Creation

    In contrast, most faiths teach that the essence of a person is an immortal soul, created by God to exist forever. The body and consciousness are temporary vehicles for the soul during its earthly life. So while the physical brain dies, the soul lives on and returns to God or an afterlife realm.

    Belief in the existence of the soul often comes from religious revelation and mystical experiences that transcend physical reality. Some report out-of-body experiences, past-life memories or communication with deceased loved ones as evidence that some essence survives death.

    While scientifically controversial, billions consider such phenomena as clues to an immortal soul.

    So a key difference between secular science and faith is the understanding of consciousness after death. While science says it ceases, religion says the soul continues its journey as an eternal spark of the divine.

    Morality, Ethics and the Knowledge of Good and Evil

    Humans Grapple with Moral Complexity

    Humans have struggled with moral and ethical dilemmas for millennia. Unlike God who is omniscient and defines absolute morality, we humans have limited knowledge and grapple with moral complexity. With our imperfections, we try to figure out right from wrong, wrestle with ethical grey areas, and make judgements despite our flawed nature.

    Philosophers have debated ethics and morality for ages, from Aristotle to Kant to the existentialists. Books have been written examining morality from religious, philosophical and psychological perspectives. Yet even with so much discourse, humans still disagree on many moral issues.

    Abortion, war, capital punishment, euthanasia – these remain divisive topics with reasonable arguments on both sides. Our moral compasses clearly differ.

    Making moral choices involves weighing competing values and duties. Often there are good arguments for multiple options, with potential benefits and harms for each. We must use wisdom and judgement to make difficult decisions, even when the right path is unclear.

    Our morality develops over a lifetime of accumulating knowledge and experience.

    Humans also struggle with moral hypocrisy and inconsistency. We often hold ourselves and others to different standards, letting emotions cloud our ethical reasoning. Living virtuously requires constant introspection, humility and integrity.

    We must have the courage to admit our mistakes, forgive ourselves and others, and continually recalibrate our internal compasses.

    God Defines Morality for Believers

    For people of faith, God defines absolute morality and serves as the ultimate ethical authority. Divine commandments in scripture make moral truth clear and unambiguous. When believers follow God’s decrees, they can be assured of righteous conduct.

    However, even for the devout, applying God’s morality to modern life can be complex. Sacred texts written millennia ago do not explicitly cover contemporary ethical dilemmas like genetic engineering, AI, and environmental crises.

    Interpreting ancient scripture in a modern context requires wisdom and nuance. Differences in interpretation can lead to schisms within and between faiths.

    Some believers stress that morality comes directly from biblical literalism – taking sacred texts word-for-word as moral imperatives. Others highlight context and intent, using reason alongside faith to adapt God’s ethics to current times.

    But all agree that morality originates from God, not flawed human minds. For the faithful, moral truth lies in ancient holy scripture, even if applying it today remains challenging.

    Ultimately, the chasm between human and divine morality is vast for believers. Unlike God, we lack omniscience and must muddle through with partial knowledge. But by following their faith, people can strive toward the divine ideal. Scripture lights a moral path through life’s darkness.

    The Limits of Human Perception and Cognition

    Science Continues to Unravel the Mysteries of the Universe and the Brain

    Modern science has made tremendous progress in understanding the vast intricacies of the universe and the human brain, yet there remains much that eludes human comprehension. Powerful telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope have allowed astronomers to observe hundreds of billions of galaxies across nearly 14 billion light years of space.

    Meanwhile, advanced brain imaging technology can visualize neural activity down to the level of individual neurons. However, as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson remarked, “The cosmos is full beyond measure of things we do not yet know.”

    According to a 2020 estimate, the human brain contains about 86 billion neurons that communicate through an estimated 150 trillion synapses. While remarkable progress has been made in mapping the brain’s connectivity and functions, many experts believe we have only begun to scratch the surface.

    As neuroscientist David Eagleman put it: “We stand where the ancients once stood with the sea. We have learned much, but the full breadth of the mystery yawns still before us.”

    God is Believed to Operate Beyond Human Comprehension

    Most major religions posit the existence of God – a divine being or supernatural power that created and governs the universe. God is generally conceived as omnipotent, omniscient, and operating beyond the limits of time, space, and human understanding.

    As the Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas concluded: “We cannot know what God is, but only what He is not.”

    The belief that God’s essence and judgement transcends human knowledge and perception is embraced by faiths from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism. As the Bhagavad Gita states: “Unmanifest beyond perception, beyond conception, the omnipresent yet exceedingly subtle, God dwells within all beings.”

    Most mystical religious traditions emphasize the need to look beyond physical reality to intuit the divine nature. As the Sufi sage Rumi wrote: “The eye of the heart, by which He sees God, needs to be cleansed of impurities.”


    This examination of the core differences between humanity and godhood underscores why this existential question has fascinated philosophers, theologians, and thinkers for millennia. While a definitive answer may remain elusive, exploring this question sheds light on the essence of human nature – our mortal constraints, desire for knowledge, and struggle between good and evil.

    Our conception of the divine reflects our never-ending quest to understand our purpose and place in the cosmos.

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