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Gospel Disproof #26: No excuses

Here’s an interesting thought experiment, especially for Christians. Imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if Christianity were a myth. How would it be different?

People would not suddenly become omniscient, would they? Of course not. Why would God’s failure to exist suddenly improve our mental abilities? A world in which God was a myth would still be a world where people don’t fully understand the world around them. That means believers would still have plenty of opportunities to superstitiously ascribe things to God, and to defend their faith by pointing to things and saying, “You can’t explain that!” Even if God never existed, we could still have creationists and philosophers building detailed apologetics out of what we don’t know.

Coincidences would not stop happening, would they? Of course not. The world is a complex place, with complex and subtle interactions. We can’t trace back every chain of cause and effect, even for relatively simple processes. To follow all the complex social, economic, and physical factors that influence our lives would be humanly impossible. We can’t predict our own futures with 100% accuracy, and consequently we will not uncommonly encounter things we didn’t expect. There would still be plenty of room for superstitious people to take those unexpected outcomes and call them “miracles.”

Could people pray to God if God were not real? Of course! Even from a Christian perspective, people pray to false gods all the time, and always have. If Christianity were just another myth, that wouldn’t stop Christians from praying for things. And since they can’t predict their own futures with 100% accuracy, some of those prayers will turn out just the way they had hoped, allowing them to still keep calling them “answers” even without God. In fact, if they don’t turn out as hoped, believers can still invoke the “God works in mysterious ways,” and “were your motives pure?” and “thou shalt not test the Lord” excuses, so even the failures can continue to be “God’s will.”

Could we have a Gospel story with a resurrection and other miracles? Sure: look at voodoo, and Hindu fakirs, and snake oil salesmen. People love to believe they’ve seen genuine evidence of the supernatural and/or extraordinary. Look at Bigfoot and UFO’s and the Loch Ness Monster. Look at all the people today who convince themselves that they’ve “seen” visions (when there was nothing there physically to see) and “heard” God speaking (when there was no audible sound). Look at people who believe, in all sincerity, that Jesus has entered into their hearts. All you need for a “resurrection” story is for early believers to be like modern believers: willing to accept “spiritual” experiences as being genuine truth, and not entirely averse to “improving” the story as it gets passed along.

In short, if you look at what kind of world we would expect to find if Christianity were a myth, you get a world that’s identical to the world we happen to have. You can’t do that with the premise of a loving, omnipotent, Christian-style deity. Think of all the things a genuinely real and genuinely loving Heavenly Father would do, by His own initiative. Christian apologetics is filled with excuses for why He does not do them. But the atheist hypothesis doesn’t need to make excuses, because the real world is already consistent with what we would expect to find if Christianity were a myth.

 

Comments

  1. kraut says

    “Think of all the things a genuinely real and genuinely loving Heavenly Father would do, by His own initiative.”

    If all the bad things happen even if a “loving” but apparently powerless god exists (oh yeah, the stupid argument god not interfering because he has given us free will, but then there are “miracles” that to all intent violate that free will), then what use is this god for?
    Only to provide a home for after this shitty life ends, according to the teachings. That is all that this xian god really promises. Shit will happen, I do not interfere, but you get your just reward in the afterlife.
    Good luck with that one, and keep your harp strings dry.

  2. Bertram Cabot says

    If Christianity is a Myth, then there will be nothing to stop Atheism from eventually dominating the world.

    In that case, we can expect hell on earth, because every Officially Atheistic Government has tried to establish exactly that condition.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Hello Bertram, thanks for stopping by. If it’s any consolation, there have been a number of secular governments that have done reasonably well. The trick is to achieve godlessness through understanding rather than by replacing God with a human tyrant. And remember, theism has its share of “hell on earth” regimes as well, which again is exactly the sort of outcome that we’d expect if the Spirit supposedly guiding it were merely a myth. Christianity has excuses for it, but like I said, they have to make the excuses, and atheism doesn’t.

  3. Shawn says

    I find it difficult to understand the mind of the theist in everyday life but here goes anyway: the belief in a personal god gives form to everlasting hope in favorable outcomes. Consider a person plunging off a high cliff. Imagine he could flip a coin, heads he lives and tails he dies. Would that person prefer to flip the coin? He should, it is the best chance at survival he would get. But no one would want to flip that coin because the appearance of “tails up” is the end of all hope…too much of a gamble. Instead place your hope in the limitless power of a god that must be at heart loving and able to be reasoned with and that essential hope will last right down to the rocks below. Or alternatively, the materialistic hope that, by chance, a stick will snag your pants in the nick of time, like in a cartoon. It is possible. But doesn’t it make more sense to place your faith in an all-powerful and loving god as opposed to a lousy stick? Of course it does!
    The unfortunate, sad, maddening, unfair, unjust, and just plain shitty kicker though: only the stick is real. Oh, and that damned infernal (metaphorical of course) coin, too.

    • oswade says

      If the god really was all caring/loving, he wouldn’t care whether you worshiped him or not. Although one may legitimately have hope that a “god” exists that will save him or give him an afterlife, there is no reason to believe in any specific god of any religion as none is demonstrably more real than any other. In addition it is pretty unlikely that you will pick the right one (if a correct religion does exist on earth) and if you pick the wrong one, you’re probably more likely to go to hell. Pascal’s wager is easily debunked.

      In essence, I can’t see how it is a sensible decision to “hope for” or “believe in” an invisible savior (when about to die), but instead make the most of your time and expend all possible actions that increase your chance of survival (ie. in your example clinging for sticks, however slim it may be). Rather than shutting your eyes and hoping for the best, it seems much more sensible to keep ones eyes open and cling to options that are reliable (as nature dictates). Real hope seems better than the artificial (religious) sort.

      I’m not sure if I quite got your example and I’m sorry if I’m in the wrong track, I wish you could word it better (maybe you can’t as it’s not your view per se).

      I don’t think it is a bad think that there is no god. I mean, it could have it’s advantages but probably just as many disadvantages too. And as Hitchen’s indicated (something like this), if we do find out there’s a god and he’s anything like what christianity/islam etc etc describes,then he wouldn’t worship him anyway, cause he’s a straight out bastard. I’m inclined to feel the same way.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        In addition it is pretty unlikely that you will pick the right one (if a correct religion does exist on earth) and if you pick the wrong one, you’re probably more likely to go to hell. Pascal’s wager is easily debunked.

        Even if you pick the right one, you’re still more likely to go to hell than to heaven. Read Matthew 25 sometime—there’s all kinds of ways God’s servants can end up just as damned as the sinners.

      • Shawn says

        Yeah, you know I am no biblical scholar but of the stories I have some familiarity with (in the old testament in this case), it seems the loving god had an uncanny penchant for taking actions guaranteed to screw people over and cause endless strife. I mean he/it/whatever seems like an entity that you would not want to encounter – a very high probability it would end badly for you or your family. This fictional Yahweh fellow was seriously out of control.

      • Shawn says

        @Oswade,
        Yes all your comments are fair. I was just ruminating in a convoluted way about why people have faith in god in perhaps a failed attempt to understand the phenomenon. I dont imagine our opinions about things are very different. I wont elaborate anymore about my original post as my caffeine-fueled opinions or thoughts are not that important in the end.

      • oswade says

        All cool. yeah i understood that we were probably of the same view, just thought you were sympathizing :P

  4. Bertram Cabot says

    My problem is not what Secular Governments want, although they are corrupt enough.

    The problem is what Offically Atheistic Governments want, and that is the elimination of Christianity from the face of the earth.

    They have tried it before. And they will again…its already happening in some places.

    • Tony says

      The forms of government you speak of wanted to eliminate all the religions so as to consolidate power for themselves. Clearly they recognized that religious organizations wield tremendous power and influence.
      Aside from that, what exactly would be wrong with Christianity no longer existing? After all, it’s just a myth (like Scandinavian, Egyptian, and Greek mythology; or Scientology, Mormonism, and Islam).

    • Shawn says

      Sure, the elimination of christianity and every other theological religion too. But you know why dont you? Its not the elimination of said religions per se, it is the elimination of any competition for reverence. The states you allude to are led by dear leaders who are religions unto themselves and will not risk and abide competition. As Sam Harris said, “…the other ideologies that inspire people to behave like monsters—Stalinism, fascism, etc.—are dangerous precisely because they so resemble religions”.
      It is the same with all religions; American Christians would eliminate all other competing religions were they able to do so.

      • Shawn says

        actually should not have necessarily said “American Christians” as just “Christians” would have sufficed but I presume (rightly or wrongly) that americans are the most frequent reader of this blog so that is why I used adjective American.

      • mikespeir says

        I wouldn’t have had any problem if you’d stuck with “American Christians.” It does seem to be largely an American phenomenon in this day and age. And then, once they had eliminated competing religions, they’d start in on each other. The Christian “cults” would be disposed of next. Then it’d be quasi-cults like Oneness Pentecostals and the more exclusivist variety of the Church of Christ. “Mainstream” Pentecostals such as Assemblies of God and Church of God would last longer. Methodism and Presbyterianism would be far tougher nuts to crack, and the more Evangelical Methodists and the American Presbyterians would likely be given a pass for a while. It’d probably come down, in the final round, to Roman Catholics vs. Southern Baptists.

        And then, 500 year later, some Christian and atheist would be in a debate:

        “But look at what your religion did 500 years ago!” the atheist would charge.

        “Southern Baptists? They weren’t real Christians!”

      • Shawn says

        yeah, a snakepit of nonsense involving money, power, and tribalism and, remarkably for all its passion, no actual truth whatsoever. I often think if we are ever visited by aliens the one feeling I will have above all others is simple embarrassment.

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