Dang! We were this close to proof of heaven


People often ask atheists what it would take for them to believe in the existence of god. I for one can think of an infinite number of things that would persuade me that god exists. When asked I say that if god commandeered all the TV stations in the world to announce that at a particular time the next day s/he would appear in the sky simultaneously all over the world to be seen and heard by everyone and that it indeed happened as promised, that would be pretty conclusive.

What I tell believers is that it does seem a little odd that their god wants us to believe in his/her existence and yet the supposed signals sent to us are so weak and ambiguous that they are hardly persuasive. In fact, believers seem curiously unimaginative at collecting evidence even when an easy opportunity presents itself. You may recall my story of chatting with a street evangelist who told me that he and his wife actually heard the voice of god several times and he was surprised when I asked him why he did not record such a momentous event.

But it appears that believers are realizing the need for evidence. Prophet Paseka Motsoeneng (also known as Mboro), founder and leader of the Incredible Happenings Ministries in South Africa, claims that he went to heaven and, showing great presence of mind, took along his smartphone and took some photos of what he saw there. He initially offered people a sneak preview of them in return for a fee and was later going to upload the photos to Facebook. That was good thinking because clearly Facebook is the best place to provide proof that heaven is for real, concrete reassurance of what people have sought for millennia. But sadly, he lost his smartphone containing the pictures. He thinks someone stole it while his car was at a car wash.

“The pictures were really there, I saw them. We suspect one of the boys washing the Prophet’s car took the phone. But they all denied taking it, even after we threatened them,” said one of Mboro’s body guards. “All those who have deposited money will be refunded.”

As if losing the proof of heaven was not bad enough, Mboro is also facing fraud charges relating to the finances of his church, preposterous as it is that someone who was taken to heaven and returned would be a cheat and a liar.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    Obviously the phone was melted by the wrath of God, and Mboro is too scared to admit it.

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    People often ask atheists what it would take for them to believe in the existence of god.

    Forget about the miracles. They can be faked (or I might be hallucinating). I want god to give me answers to the Clay Institute’s Millenium Prize Problems. http://www.claymath.org/millennium-problems

    Our mathematicians can check the solutions and if they are correct we can move on to the next test – where I ask god for the pin number to my bank account.

  3. sqlrob says

    When asked I say that if god commandeered all the TV stations in the world to announce that at a particular time the next day s/he would appear in the sky simultaneously all over the world to be seen and heard by everyone and that it indeed happened as promised, that would be pretty conclusive.

    You don’t think this could be done through technological means? Why does this prove a god, versus someone with some cool tech?

  4. Turi says

    @5. That is the problem i have in general: Every scenario i thought of “proving” the existence of a god could also be explained visiting aliens with superior understanding of science. Which is slightly more likely than the existence of a god.

  5. Mano Singham says

    sqlrob,

    That was just off the top of my head. One could make things more difficult, like asking god to stop the rotation of the earth for 24 hours or make the Moon come really close to the Earth and then move back into its regular orbit. Of course, god would have to also prevent the severe cataclysms that would result from the sudden shifts in the gravitational fields.

  6. sqlrob says

    @mano:

    Again, what prevents those from being done with cool tech? It’s just playing with gravity above what we can do, what makes that god vs so much better than us it looks godlike?

    Basically, how do you differentiate magic from “a superior technology indistinguishable from magic”? I don’t think you can. You can raise the bar on the level of technology, but when does it really and truly become magic? How do you tell Q apart from God?

  7. Peter the Mediocre says

    Any god worthy of the name would know what it would take to convince me, and promptly do it. I don’t know, but then I don’t claim to be a deity.

  8. John Morales says

    As noted above, any conceivable intersubjective experience can be provided by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien. And they’re far more plausible than gods.

    So, it’s simple for me: the one thing that would make me believe in some god would be to find myself believing in that god.

    (It would be a miracle!)

  9. John Morales says

    Peter the Mediocre, don’t mind my muttering…

    <muttermuttermutter>

  10. says

    The Babel Fish proves that God exists, but unfortunately (at least for God) He (She, It of Thems) promptly vanishes in a puff of logic…

  11. sonofrojblake says

    If an alien is sufficiently advanced, then I’d have no particular problem calling it God. If they’re functionally indistinguishable, why not?

  12. Dunc says

    Which god? The requirements for the Christian god are usually omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. The first two can be faked through Sufficiently Advanced Technology, but the third poses all sorts of problems, both practical and philosophical…

    Of course, there are other gods with different requirements.

  13. John Morales says

    sonofrojblake:

    If an alien is sufficiently advanced, then I’d have no particular problem calling it God. If they’re functionally indistinguishable, why not?

    Heh. Because, to goddists who worship their god-concept, God is not just an entity that’s sufficiently powerful to manipulate human perception, but the reason for the nature of existence.

    Even for Abrahamic goddists, the existence of God is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the notion of the existence of a Heaven and a Hell.

    So, you would call it God, but would you worship It?

  14. says

    John Morales writes:
    Even for Abrahamic goddists, the existence of God is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the notion of the existence of a Heaven and a Hell.

    I doubt they think of it anything close to that carefully. Every time I’ve ever tried to enquire of a goddist about their theory of heaven, it’s hopelessly muddled even before getting to the question of evidence.

    Mark Twain did his usual delicious hatchet-job on many of the key concepts of heaven, in “Extract from Capt Stormfield’s visit…” (available on project gutenberg) But you can have a great deal of fun asking questions like “how does heaven work? is it a prayer farm? why does god care about the prayers of dead people?” etc. After a while you can switch over to asking ‘how do you know?’ to pretty much answer. “Where in the bible does it say lucifer rules in hell? Are you maybe mistaking Milton for documentary?” Unless you are dealing with an extremely sophisticated or honest goddist they will make all kinds of claims that aren’t canon. FFS most of the goddists I’ve talked to mistake Cecil B. DeMille’s version of the 10 commandments for the ones in the bible (pick whichever set you like)

  15. John Morales says

    Marcus,

    I doubt they think of it anything close to that carefully. Every time I’ve ever tried to enquire of a goddist about their theory of heaven, it’s hopelessly muddled even before getting to the question of evidence.

    In relation to the vast majority of them, I concur with you.

    Exceptions exist.

  16. says

    I don’t think any miraculous “from the clouds” announcement in the traditional goddy style would convince me of God’s existence: it’s such a bad, nonsensical claim that several alternative explanations would still look more plausible to me (mass hallucination, fancy technology trick, madness-inducing virus, etc). Before I’ll fall for the God Hypothesis, I would have to completely lose my confidence in materialism and the regularity of the physical universe, possibly even in the existence of a stable external reality.

    As a mathematician, I agree with grumpyoldfart @4: the simultaneous solution of all the Millennium problems would be a good start to prove divinity. Pretty hard to fake that! Echoing other commenters: if super-advanced aliens did it, then to my eyes they would be pretty much indistinguishable from omnipotent gods anyway. If on top of that they also have a physical unified Theory of Everything, then as far as I’m concerned they may as well be the Creators of the universe…

  17. says

    When asked I say that if god commandeered all the TV stations in the world to announce that at a particular time the next day s/he would appear in the sky simultaneously all over the world to be seen and heard by everyone and that it indeed happened as promised, that would be pretty conclusive.

    Of course, that would only offer evidence that a really powerful being exists, not that said powerful being is the god of any of our world’s religions.

  18. Minus says

    The thing that would convince me would be if all the religions and all the religious leaders in the world would agree on the nature of god/religion and how best to practice religion (and who gets to spend the collections money).

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