There is a rather strange notion among Christians that without god, nothing “good” would occur.
It’s as if every single good thing that happens is fine tuned to perfection. From that perfect day for a barbecue to that winning lottery ticket. Each of these things is often considered the act of a god rather than the act of chance or indeed a simple plan coming to fruition without a hitch.
It’s less seen in Muslims, I suppose their idea of a god does not prance for humanity. Allah doesn’t do miracles and far be it for him to involve himself with the weather for your barbecue.
It’s less in Hindus too but it is there.
And we see it manifest at Patheos with Karen Spears Zacharias.
We hear it all the time. How we’ve moved into a post-Christian era. A time and place where children are growing up far removed from the faiths of generations before them.
No we haven’t moved into a “post-Christian” era. We just realised that a secular world is a better world because it’s not the majority forcing minorities to do things according to the rules of the majority belief.
And that we decide to do things not on the basis of blind faith to a book but due to a rational discussion on why a specific thing is good or bad.
Imagine, John Lennon said, there’s no hell below us, no heaven above, only sky. Imagine a world of no religion, all the people living for today.
But that’s not something we imagine.
Imagine the whole of history void of Creator God.
It would be almost exactly the same as we see today. Maybe even better due to the fact that religion has been used to prevent cultures from adopting newer technology and has made ethical change slower due to it’s dogmatic approach.
Without any religion we may still have had the wars of “the past” but they may not have been carried out with such vigour and brutality that we associate with religious war.
What about the beauty?
To steal and modify Shakespeare, Knowledge of photosynthesis does not make the rose smell less sweet.
To understand the world through an understanding that the world is entirely natural in origin doesn’t mean we cannot have a sense of beauty. The idea of beauty has changed over the centuries to the point where we often do not understand the beauty of the past.
Let us take the classical idea of beauty. The “Greek” god. A sculpture of the ideal of Greek Human Aesthete.
We can recognise it as a human being. It’s got the shape of one anyway. Arms and Legs in the right number and facial features that we recognise as “wise”. We also like this aesthete.
But it turns out that’s what WE like. The Greeks would have probably painted it to look like this.
Gaudy and colourful
Beauty is incredibly subjective.
What about the goodness?
If you cannot be good without the threat of damnation and hellfire you were never good in the first place.
What about the creative?
One notices creativity comes from a variety of sources. One cannot say that the creativity of Oscar Wilde is divine. Or that of Stephen Fry since both men are (apart from being homosexual and an anathema to your god) incredibly witty, creative and atheist.
Imagine a world where there is no Sistine Chapel, no Florence Cathedral.
The art that wrought them was not the art of divinity but that of humanity. It is we who made them. That’s like suggesting that Harry Potter is the reason for the words on the book rather than human ingenuity.
And imagine a world where the Renaissance scientists did not have to hide their research lest they burn at the stake. Imagine a world with no need for a Renaissance since there was no stagnation of research. Imagine a world without the crusades.
No Michelangelo, no Makoto Fujimura.
Imagine a world where the artists of developing nations got the same billing as Michaelangelo instead of being destroyed as pagan.
And there is an assumption that Michaelangelo’s works would not have been so loved if there was no religion. Yet no religious reason made him pick up hammer and chisel.
No Dorothy Day, no Mother Theresa.
I can’t speak for Dorothy Day but by all accounts and indeed “Mother Theresa’s Own Accounts” she felt deeply alone in her work. She did not pray to any god and the sheer amount of despair around her made her realise that there was no god. Mother Theresa lived in fear that she may be outed as a hypocrite. A woman who became famous for her faith in a god but who in reality had none. She feared all the people who relied on her would go without if she stopped her pretence.
Mother Theresa did not do her work because a god told her to. She did it because she felt human empathy. A cloistered woman, she had no idea that her drive to help was not divine. Her actions are no more divine than mine.
And yes I have had many theologists INSIST that her work was better than mine. To which I say this.
Mother Theresa ran her hospice to help the sick and the dying. Oh Hitchens called her a vulture but frankly Hitchens is wrong. She at the beginning thought she was helping. She sat up with the dead and dying and was more compassionate than any such hospital. Money donated to her charity was mishandled. I assume by her superiors since she was not the head of any Charity but someone who literally enjoyed helping people.
She did so initially out of some divine drive. But she quickly began to question her actions. Mainly because things got worse. In her limited experience of the world she didn’t understand what fame was doing. She probably died doubting her faith. Her memoirs show an incredible struggle to comprehend a world where the Bible was simply not true. Now the Catholics say “See! Despite her doubts she did god’s work!” in order to make her a Saint. But you know as well as I do that just means that “She had incredible doubts and struggled to understand why she questioned her faith.
No Martin Luther, no Martin Luther King Jr.
This just indicates that you have not read Martin Luther. And Martin Luther King may have been driven by his faith but there would also be no Klan. The justification of slavery and the like was entrenched in the Bible.
No Protests on the Door of Wittenberg Chapel, no Letters from a Birmingham Jail.
Because Secular Pacifists don’t exist? Like Nehru, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Patel, Tagore and Mandela?
No St. Peter’s Basilica, no Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres.
No, they would exist for some other reason. The Taj Mahal was not built for the gods but for love.
No Saint John of the Cross, no “Dark Night of the Soul”.
No Inquisition, No Rice Conversion, No Stolen Generations.
No John 3:16, no Billy Graham.
No Genocides, No Opposition to Basic Medical Care, No Equality.
No Book of Common Prayer, no Scriptures, whatsoever
Scriptures of the Christian. It amazes me how many Christians expect me to have read their book but would not do the same courtesy for any other religious text..
No della Francesca Baptism of the Christ, no da Vinci Adoration of the Magi.
Indeed, but by that logic had the Church not been in power we would not have seen the halting of Galileo’s work nor would da Vinci have had to hide his work in code to prevent people from reading his work. Some of which like his “anatomical” work was rather blasphemous.
No Handel, no Hallelujiah Chorus.
And no notion that Western Classical music is superior to all other art forms without the destruction of “non-Western” art forms by the Church as sinful.
Imagine a world absent of inspiration and adoration.
Which seems to happen without the invocation of a magic being.
What need, then, would we even have of the word Hallelujah?
To whom would we utter our thanks?
The humans who do make the world work the way it is through hard work, skill and intelligence? The people who genuinely deserve thanks?
Would Praise even be a word we know?
Yes. Praise occurs irrespective of who you praise.
No. You wouldn’t pray in a world with no gods because there would be no point.
Yes. Because hope doesn’t come from the actions of any gods but by the actions of human beings.
Joy comes from a variety of sources but mostly from kinship and living life. Rather than from some divine source.
A world without god would look EXACTLY the same as what we have now except we would not be able to use god as an excuse to deny or force people to do things. That’s really it. There is little that would actually change.
You cannot white wash over the sins of Christians through the ages and assume they had nothing to do with the belief in a god since “they clearly were not real Christians”.