Monday, May 31, 2010

What if...

...Christianity isn't true? What would change? I mean, what practical, visible, hands-on realities would change?

People would feel a loss. A tremendous loss, no doubt. I imagine it might be like an unbearable funeral where everyone is gathered at the six-foot plot weeping and gnashing their teeth, but with nothing to bury. The anxiety, the angst and confusion fixing everyone to their spots would seem at once tragic and amusing. Like watching a mime.

Would anyone feel relief after they buried their mistaken beliefs? I know I've never felt relieved when I've found out I've been horribly mistaken. I've felt awkward, socially spent, emotionally void, confused; I've wanted to hang on to my denial.

So, what if Christianity isn't true? Then what?

11 comments:

E said...

Hmmm. If Christianity is not true.... then maybe God is the "biggest & baddest" "thing" out there, who made a deal with America (in view of America's greatness) to protect America so long as Americans continue to pay special tribute to him?

Or maybe God is on mission to subjugate the world to a special devine law by conquering it?

Kane Augustus said...

E.,

Haha! I admit, I didn't expect a humorous retort to this article. But you rose to the occasion admirably.

I wonder, could you tell me more about this notion of God as just another 'thing' out there? You've mentioned that a few times in the past while, and I'm curious about your thinking on that issue.

Thanks!

Dr. V said...

Kane,

I'm pretty sure that Nietzsche addressed your question. I wrote an article on Nietzsche (last year) which should get published fairly soon in Christian Research Journal -- maybe what I've written will be helpful.

In the meantime, you might check out William Lane Craig's chapter "The Absurdity of Life without God" in the third edition of his Reasonable Faith plus take a look at Craig's chapter "What Difference Does It Make If God Exists?" in his new book On Guard.

Craig is a fine philosopher and can be a good guide even if one disagrees with him on some (or many) points.

Best regards,
Hendrik

E said...

Over the past year or so I've slowly morphed into a Thomist of sorts.

God isn't *a* being. God is pure being, or existence itself, full stop. We only exist insofar as we are graciously welcomed into being: into God.

According to the Thomists I've been reading, this is just good ol' classical theism.

Most folks today think that "believing in God" is a matter of believing there's one more gigantic fruit populating the fruitbowl of the universe, so to speak. That's why they look for evidence for this giant unseen fruit. "Why postulate the existence of this secret, magical fruit?" they ask.

But, according to pre-Enlightenment classical theism (and perhaps certains strains of classic Protestant orthodoxy?), such a "god", if it exists (a big if), would be either a demon or some sort of idolatrous false "god".

E said...

In this way, the Flying Spaghetti Monster joke is on to something. (Though classical theism -- of the Thomistic variety at least -- renders this joke irrelevant, and that's why it's not nearly as interesting as the usual suspects think it is.)

Randy said...

Nothing practical would change in daily life. We would continue doing daily things as we currently do.

Realistically we would even continue to hang on to the delusion of god itself. The truth of the matter means little, it is the belief of the matter that matters to all theists and an unfortunate number of atheists.

But if people admitted the God did not exist and let go of their beliefs...

Well it would be a great and grand day.

Less global conflict. Too many wars and lives lost based on varying theistic beliefs.

Most prominently though is confusion. Belief in God, Christianity or any religion is ultimately about answers. There are a great number of question that con not be adequately answered by today's scientific means. origin of life, existence of a soul, afterlife, etc..
I feel these questions are the basis of all religion. All religions of the past have been centered around answering questions that the period scientists could not answer.
Such as the rising of the sun. at one time a god pulled the sun across the sky. Eventually science got to a point where that could no longer be believed and that myth died. As well as too many of the other impossible questions. Eventually enough of the "impossible" questions are answered and the religion dies as well.
So confusion about how to answer those "impossible" questions.

Depression would also be rampant.


The other major foundation of religion in my opinion is to feel that there is more to life then what is apparent. For a Christian you have eternal peace and happiness in God's embrace. For the Norse it was Valhalla when you died in combat. For Muslim jihadists it is the promise of fourty virgins in heaven, the best in my opinion :)
The realization that this life is it, you only got one go at things, would be very depressing to those that have dedicated their lives to the afterlife.
In relation to that is emptiness. It would be akin to being suddenly orphaned. To lose the comfort and protection of your parents would be devastating and depressing.
This would be far worse then slowly making your own decision that religion was the wrong path because if that was the case it would be like slowly discovering that your parents never existed and you have been able to do everything in life of your own accord.

just my opinion :)

Kane Augustus said...

Randy,

I think you have some interesting speculations, and thank you for putting them out on the site. I think you give far too much lattitude to 'science', however. Much of what is propagated in popular science is just as speculative as religious theory (e.g., string theory). This does not wipe out the validity of speculation, but it does, at times, put science and religion on equal footing when it comes to deciphering certain aspects of reality.

I think you are right that there would be a mass depression far beyond the present mass depression. Sociologists and psychologists (at least in the U.S.A.) indicate that at least 22% of the western population suffers from depression of some kind or another. Episodic depression is normal, obviously, so we can reasonably deduce that such a statistic is not reflecting normal, episodic depression. Rather, that statistic is expressing an over-riding psychological condition, or state that as much as 22% of our present population lives out on a day-to-day basis.

Given that, if Christianity were shown to be false, I think you are right that depression would become even more pressing in our society. Some would experience that depression in an episodic fashion, while others would spiral into some form of chronic depressive illness.

So, if could be the case, would it then be ethically right to popularize the wrongness of Christianity (if it were found to be untrue, that is)?

Kane Augustus said...

E.,

"God isn't *a* being. God is pure being, or existence itself, full stop. We only exist insofar as we are graciously welcomed into being: into God."

Okay, but what does this actually mean beyond a fanciful academic estimation? How is such a concept correspondent with anything readily conceivable?

And how do you avoid the possibility of pantheism, or panentheism in the Thomistic scheme?

Randy said...

Kane

"So, if could be the case, would it then be ethically right to popularize the wrongness of Christianity (if it were found to be untrue, that is)?"


Now you got me thinking about past mythos and why the ended... At least mostly.

Why did Zues die for instance...

From pure speculation I think most religions die because the society that perpetrated that myth also died at the same time.
I feel fairly safe to say that the rise of Christianity and the fall of Roman gods came about at roughly the same time.

Just like Aztecs, Norse, Native Americans Paganism and so on also fell because their societies fell.

others are more resilient such as Judaism. The Jews instead of assimilating and vanishing had enough common ground with mainstream that they could simply move around.

So it seems less likely that the disbelief of a mythos is popularized then it is to think that it is replaced.

Take Pagans for instance. I mean cultures like Eastern European pagans. Those were decimated by crusades and the golden horde. Most of the elders and religious leaders killed or converted and the children sold into slavery where they were taught Christianity. Eventually converting and losing their original religious beliefs.
Same can be said for Aztechs, Native Americans, and Irish pagans. Convert or die basically.

So the only real end I see for Christianity would be a huge change in world politics.

Take America for instance where Christianity still has a serious political foothold. I doubt anyone other then a Christian will ever be voted president. At very least I doubt anyone that ever speaks any ill of Christianity will be voted into office.
Even in Canada where we are seeing a separation of god and state I don't think we are ready to have a muslim prime minister, or even an atheist one.

keep in mind I am not saying that western leaders need to be overtly pious but it would be politic suicide to be openly atheist, agnostic, or anything other then some form of mainstream Christian.

Randy said...

Kane

" I think you give far too much lattitude to 'science', however. Much of what is propagated in popular science is just as speculative as religious theory (e.g., string theory)."


The major difference I see here is that science admits to not knowing. The whole purpose of theories as opposed to scientific laws.

I am not aware of any teachings of Christianity that the church leaders admit to being a guess...

Quite the contrary actually, especially within Catholicism. Where whatever the pope says is true is unquestionably true. Deduced from skimming you articles....

E said...

Kane,

W/ regard to pantheism, is everything God? What could this mean?

Is everything pure act and first cause? is everything's essence identical w/ its existence?

The answer to these sorts of questions is definitely no.



W/ regard to panenthsism, is everything "in" God?

So much depends on what we mean by "in". We should proceed in the way of negative theology, I suppose.

God has no spacial location in the manner in which we do, and so God isn't somewhere that we can be "in" in that ordinary sense.

Being is said analogically of God and Man. Being is said properly and in the first place of God, and it is said of us only in an extended sense in relation to the first. (The same is true of all langage of God and Man.)

There is no neutral "metaphysical space" (to speak metaphorically) which God inhabits and into which we are created.

We don't raise our gaze to God by locating some particular being in the "great hall of beings" (so to speak) and then multiplying its properties (even to infinity). God is not a superCreature, not even an omnipotent superCreature, etc.

One reason I'd be reluctant to accept the label "panentheist" (I hear that some say Aquinas was one, but it'd be completely anachronistic to imagine he'd agree to the label, no?) is that, from what I gather, many modern panentheists say God had to empty himself in order to make room for creation. I'd say this is wrong - a mistake we are tricked into by our (inevitably) metaphorical language.