T Nation

Believers: What Would You Do?


This post from Pat got me thinking:

I have a sincere question for the believers out there. Please take a few mins to think about it rather than shooting from the hip, because I'm genuinely interested in what you would do.

What if you learned that there was no god, and no afterlife? I realize we can't know this, but let's say you did.

How would this knowledge affect the way you live your life?

Would you start murdering people, robbing people, lying to people, etc.? What if you knew you could get away with it? Would anything stop you from doing it?

Would you still love people? Would you try to help others, even if there was no reward for doing so?

Would you spend more time with your loved ones, or less? Would you tell them you love them more, or less? Would you care about their happiness more, or less?

I'm genuinely curious, because I asked myself all of these questions after stepping back from my religious beliefs. I asked myself how the possibility of this life being all there is would affect my values, and the way I live my life.

Obviously the realization would be shocking, confusing, and dismaying. But what about after that? What would you do with the rest of your life?


If there is no god, good and evil and love don't exist, so your question is meaningless.


I don't know. I keep trying to picture humanity without humans or even human nature.


Would you be ok with murdering people? Would you still try to help people?


What would it mean to "be okay" with something?

I would only do what it is the natural world dictated I must, as would anyone.


It's like asking to pretend the background music isn't playing in our head. We're this way due possibly to nature, and most certainly from nurture (from ealier or later in life).

Ask me if I'd own slaves in the old South. Sure I could say no, but I couldn't really mean it with any certainty. This is just as pointless.


Can you clarify what you mean by doing what the natural world dictated?

Are you saying everyone would start murdering one another? Or would some murder and some not murder? What would you choose, and why?

Would your behavior toward your family change?


It's not an abstract thought experiment, I'm genuinely interested in knowing how that realization would affect the way you treat people.

I know how the belief affected my own perceptions and my own behavior, but I'm curious how it would affect yours.

For myself, I realized that not believing in a god didn't translate to feeling free to do whatever I want, as long as I could get away with it. I still valued honesty, treating others with respect, etc.

How would it affect you? Are your values 100% dependent on your belief in god and the afterlife, and would you toss away all of those values if you realized there is no god or afterlife? Why or why not?


Every actual and possible object of knowledge whatsoever conclusively establishes not only that God is, but what He's like and we are accountable to Him. Nobody can "find out" that the ultimate seminal fact upon which all else depends doesn't exist. Even their "finding out" is itself blinding evidence that He is there. I can't even intelligibly address this question phrased this way. I know what I'd do if I weren't a Christian and didn't believe if that's what you're asking, because I did it already.


I can't possibly know. See my reply about slave ownership.

I was raised in a world where religion IS human nature, despite my religiosity or lack of. Atheist or not, that culture is formative. And while one may reject this or that of this culture, how arrogant to say that one, deep down, achieved a blank slate, a reboot, by force of will, and developed morality (which is nonexistant without supernaturalism) from scratch completely free of human nature? I seriously, seriously, doubt it.

The study is done, posted, and it's human nature. If tomorrow an alien memory wiping beam made us all blank slates with regard to religion and any all mental connections to it no matter how tenous, religion would be just about the first thing to arise from the chaos.


I'd wager the belief(s), the formative impact, still affect your behavior more than you might like to admit.



I don't think forelife believes there is no god or has even come to the realization of what a godless universe even means.


It's a hypothetical question. I realize you are convinced there is a god and an afterlife, but can you answer the question as if there wasn't?


You are asking him what he'd do if he weren't himself. No, he can not reasonably answer.


Sounds like you believe the hypothetical example is impossible, because people are unavoidably religious by nature.

But I'm not asking if you think it's possible. I'm asking what you would do if it were actually real. What if people, in this hypothetical example, were not religious by nature and there was no god or an afterlife?


I couldn't with integrity believe there is no god(s), since it's certainly possible. However, I also couldn't with integrity dismiss the possibility of a godless universe.


I'm not sure why you think I would hesitate to admit the formative impact of my religious upbringing. As a psychologist with some understanding of human development, that would be dishonest.


But do you understand the implications?


Why not? People work through hypotheticals all the time. I can tell you how my life would change if I suddenly knew that there was a god and an afterlife, so why can't you do the same in the reverse?


Then the world would be an ugly, ugly, place.