Unbelief As A Thought Experiment

Just something that popped into my head a few days ago:

To be an atheist, you don’t have to grapple with questions of the Bible or the provability of the nonexistence of God. You just have to perform a simple thought experiment: What if there were no God?

In larger society, that thought experiment has been done. In fact, there’s an entire culture, a incredibly powerful shared human endeavor, based on it. It’s called Science.

Someone asked “What would things look like if there were no God? How would things work? How would they fit together?” Out of that came biology, geology, physics, real medical science, so much more. The experiment was fantastically, astonishingly fruitful in providing answers that you could not just think about, but use.

Given that success in understanding and usefully manipulating the physical world, sooner or later someone had to insist that the same experiment be performed in human social terms.

That’s what modern atheists are doing. Insisting. Asking. What would society look like if there were no gods? What would it look like if there were no god-believers? What would goodness look like? What would government look like? What would social ceremonies and public meetings look like? What would schools look like?

What would a wedding look like? What would a funeral look like? What would Sunday morning look like? What would parenting and childhood look like?

What would everything look like if there were no gods?

Because this other thought experiment, the one where we ask “What would things look like if there were invisible, infinitely-powerful supernatural superbeings in the world with us?” … that question has been asked and answered a thousand times over.

What have we gotten out of it? Churches. Just a shitload of churches. And a lot of social baggage about the “right” way to do things, with threats ranging from death at the hands of your neighbors to sinister vagueries about what will happen to you later, if you don’t toe the social line.

And not one damned thing more.

Seriously. Point to anything, any solid invention or discovery or accomplishment done by churches and religion. There is no church radio, no religious medical research, no Southern Baptist carpentry tools or Mormon communication devices. No Scientology automobiles or Moonie moon missions.

In fact, a lot of the stuff we’ve gotten out of the question posed in the negative,  the WITAN (what if there are not?) question, has been opposed and stymied by the WITA (what if there are?) social faction. On balance, the productivity of the WITA experiment has been not just neutral, but negative – actually lessening the already-shown-to-be-positive effects of the other approach.

The WITA question is a useless question. Not only does it return confusing, fumbling, uncertain answers, it never even manages to define the central critical element of the matter — what is a god?

WITAs say you can’t prove there’s no God, and so they have every right to continue asking the question, insisting that it has useful answers. And they would be right about that right … if they kept it to themselves. But they insist that the rest of us – other people, other people’s children – must ask and answer it as they do. They insist the rest of us must suffer the effects of their asking.

WITA is sterile. It has bumbled around in society for thousands of years, but it has created nothing new.

WITAN, on the other hand, has been a firehose of invention, discovery, power. WITAN is a way of thinking that leads to a thousand ways of doing.

You don’t need advanced intellectual chops or an expert’s knowledge of the Bible or Koran to understand this. You don’t need a razor-sharp definition of “god.” You just have to look at human accomplishments over the past few hundred years.

Likewise, in your own life, you don’t need definitive proof. In either direction. You just have to perform this one simple thought experiment.

And then see where it leads.

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