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View Full Version : Would a world with a known, confirmed god necessarily stagnate? And its corollary . . .


Koxinga
08-12-2011, 10:12 PM
. . . would a world entirely bereft of any sort of faith in God fall into despair and also stagnate? I'm thinking if there really is a God, he can't do too much, or people would get dependent on him. And if he did nothing, they'd lose hope. I'm thinking he'd have to use a light touch, like a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money, if he makes it look like an electrical thing -- done right, people wouldn't be sure God has done anything at all.

Odd analogy. I'm not sure why it popped into my head.

Trinopus
08-12-2011, 10:25 PM
. . . I'm thinking he'd have to use a light touch . . .

Perhaps comparable to being a King...or, say, a billionaire who lives in a small, poor town... You have tremendous power...but, as you say, have to use it lightly...

There would inevitably be some resentment, when bad things happen that the god (or God) could have prevented. Little by little, people would fall into (human!) habits of complaint, disaffection, criticism. It would be hard to maintain the kind of religious enthusiasm that promotes worship.

If it were known *for certain* that there were no gods, no spirits, no souls, no afterlife, no miracles, no magic.....I think that society would not change much. The priestly class would be unemployed, but would probably adapt well as insurance salesmen... People would still play the Lottery, and, while they wouldn't pray to God to let them win, would still have unreasonable expectations and faulty estimates of the real probabilities.

Even if all magic were disproved, "magical thinking" would still be prevalent; it seems to be hard-wired into our brains.

Trinopus

Der Trihs
08-12-2011, 10:50 PM
That would depend entirely on the nature of the god in question. A god that commands everyone to kneel and worship him while avoiding new thoughts or who sits and does nothing would have a different effect than one that gives everyone a direct brain-to-god link and access to limited divine power.

randomface
08-12-2011, 11:32 PM
. . . would a world entirely bereft of any sort of faith in God fall into despair and also stagnate? I'm thinking if there really is a God, he can't do too much, or people would get dependent on him. And if he did nothing, they'd lose hope. I'm thinking he'd have to use a light touch, like a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money, if he makes it look like an electrical thing -- done right, people wouldn't be sure God has done anything at all.

Odd analogy. I'm not sure why it popped into my head.

Didn't god tell Bender something like this on an episode of Futurama?

Koxinga
08-12-2011, 11:42 PM
That would depend entirely on the nature of the god in question. A god that commands everyone to kneel and worship him while avoiding new thoughts or who sits and does nothing would have a different effect than one that gives everyone a direct brain-to-god link and access to limited divine power.

For the sake of argument, let's say it's like Eywa in Avatar, since this discussion (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=619720) that brought my current question to mind. People in that thread seem to agree that the Na'vi constitute a stagnant society, in part because they already have all the answers about their God(dess).

ETA: and even Eywa seems to have an explicit non-intervention policy, IIRC.

Koxinga
08-16-2011, 08:40 AM
Exercising my privilege of a one time self-bestowed courtesy bump. A rule I made up, because that's the way I roll.

I'm genuinely curious though if any serious, or semi-serious philosophers beyond Sir Bender Bending Rodríguez have advanced this theory as to why we seem to be hardwired to believe in a God so conspicuously absent from our world most of the time.

Bryan Ekers
08-16-2011, 11:12 AM
Heck, if we get to the point where we have unlimited access to information, unlimited access to energy and unlimited access to creation (i.e. everyone has internet, a Mr. Fusion and replicator)... who cares if God exists or not?

Koxinga
08-16-2011, 11:17 AM
Huh? Don't know what that has to do with the OP.

ETA: In any case, there's always death. Don't see that problem being solved any time soon.

Bryan Ekers
08-16-2011, 11:41 AM
Huh? Don't know what that has to do with the OP.

Very little, I'm sure.

ETA: In any case, there's always death. Don't see that problem being solved any time soon.

Really? The science magazines are all-a-twitter about medical advances that may lead to immortality. I figure anyone who lives til 2050 has a good chance of living on indefinitely afterward.


But, really, what would happen in the society depends entirely on the nature of the god-entity and the degree to which it intervenes in human affairs. If it is some kind of Eywa and all it did was, say, prevent huge natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes and whatnot, I figure humans would just carry on as we do now, with perhaps even more people living in California and Japan and Indonesia and the Caribbean and such, where the weather is nice and nature won't turn on you.

mrklutz
08-16-2011, 11:45 AM
. . . would a world entirely bereft of any sort of faith in God fall into despair and also stagnate?
<snip>

Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer: There are plenty of atheists in the world. Despair is not our defining characteristic. People who believe that this is the only life we get are at least as inclined as believers to make the most of life, and arguably have even more motive to do so. Atheism is not nihilism.

Building a better life for oneself and one's descendants is in no way dependent on a belief in god. All it takes is caring about life and family -- traits completely based in our own humanity. Carpe diem is the kind of sentiment one expects from a person who believes life is a finite, one-time deal for each of us. It's also the kind of sentiment that causes people to build something that will outlast them. (Related comic) (http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2299#comic)

Koxinga
08-16-2011, 11:51 AM
Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer: There are plenty of atheists in the world. Despair is not our defining characteristic. People who believe that this is the only life we get are at least as inclined as believers to make the most of life, and arguably have even more motive to do so. Atheism is not nihilism.

Building a better life for oneself and one's descendants is in no way dependent on a belief in god. All it takes is caring about life and family -- traits completely based in our own humanity. Carpe diem is the kind of sentiment one expects from a person who believes life is a finite, one-time deal for each of us. It's also the kind of sentiment that causes people to build something that will outlast them. (Related comic) (http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2299#comic)

Good on yer as an individual, but if you could show me an example of an atheistic society, I might be more persuaded.

mrklutz
08-16-2011, 12:05 PM
Good on yer as an individual, but if you could show me an example of an atheistic society, I might be more persuaded.

You're kidding me. Because atheists are a minority, you are going to assume that an atheistic society would be defined by despair and stagnation? Based on what reasoning?

The fact that neither you nor I can come up with an example of an atheistic society means that we have no direct evidence one way or the other regarding your assertion. I have illustrated (very briefly) why an atheist viewpoint would not tend toward doom and gloom an nihilism. I'd really like to hear your reasoning that leads you to believe it would.

Koxinga
08-16-2011, 12:27 PM
Well, by your own admission (I think?) every society that has ever existed has had belief in some sort of god or gods playing a role. I'm not sure what would happen if a society were utterly removed from all reference to spiritual belief, or whether that'd be possible in the first place since it seems to come down to individual attitude and experience. But it's a moot point: even official repression of all religion has never lasted more than one human lifetime as far as I know. That's why it seems to me that there's something hard wired that calls for *some* sort of belief. Whether the beliefs people come up with to fill that hole arise from their own heads or not may be a separate question.

mrklutz
08-16-2011, 04:16 PM
If it's a moot point because you believe an atheist society is impossible, why include it as the corollary in your OP? If you really don't want to discuss that scenario, just don't bring it up.

Crikey.

monavis
08-29-2011, 07:34 AM
Humans lived for thousands of years before they began to believe in A God. Goddesses were worshiped first.(At least that is what I have read many years ago.)

JRDelirious
08-29-2011, 08:50 AM
Humans lived for thousands of years before they began to believe in A God. Goddesses were worshiped first.(At least that is what I have read many years ago.)

Speculative and hard to prove or disprove. Anyway, as mentioned above, there seems to be a hardwired urge to identify patterns of cause and effect that has resulted in some sort of religious or magical thinking in every recorded society.

Like some above said, in the case of the knowable god(s) it would depend on the nature of the deity/ies. Do the gods tell you that what they're giving you is everything you need and you should seek no more? Or do they tell you you have the task to build paradise in this world and if you excel at it during this lifetime you can progress to your own next level of theosis? Is the God capable of everything and anything everywhere, always and at once, or is he constrained, more of a Batman type who can do great things IF he's prepared?

IMO neither the certainty of existence of the divine nor the certainty of its nonexistence would alter the likelihood for progress or stagnation, after all, throughout history there has been both stagnation and progress in societies that devoutly believe, and I've met both driven and lazy atheists.

monavis
08-30-2011, 08:17 AM
Speculative and hard to prove or disprove. Anyway, as mentioned above, there seems to be a hardwired urge to identify patterns of cause and effect that has resulted in some sort of religious or magical thinking in every recorded society.

Like some above said, in the case of the knowable god(s) it would depend on the nature of the deity/ies. Do the gods tell you that what they're giving you is everything you need and you should seek no more? Or do they tell you you have the task to build paradise in this world and if you excel at it during this lifetime you can progress to your own next level of theosis? Is the God capable of everything and anything everywhere, always and at once, or is he constrained, more of a Batman type who can do great things IF he's prepared?

IMO neither the certainty of existence of the divine nor the certainty of its nonexistence would alter the likelihood for progress or stagnation, after all, throughout history there has been both stagnation and progress in societies that devoutly believe, and I've met both driven and lazy atheists.

I doubt that God (or gods) said anything, it came from the mind of humans. If the psalmist is correct then all are gods and sons of god.

JRDelirious
08-30-2011, 08:32 AM
I doubt that God (or gods) said anything, it came from the mind of humans. If the psalmist is correct then all are gods and sons of god.

AIUI, the OP question is about a universe in which the existence of god(s) is a known, verified fact vs. one in which the NONexistence thereof is a known, verified fact; as opposed to ours in which it's (so far) unfalsifiable. If you are posing that even in Case 1, teachings would most likely still be based on doctrines originating in the human clergy and not come from the (real, existing, verified) god(s), how conducive is that universe to "progress" would still depend on what are the teachings.

monavis
09-01-2011, 08:23 AM
AIUI, the OP question is about a universe in which the existence of god(s) is a known, verified fact vs. one in which the NONexistence thereof is a known, verified fact; as opposed to ours in which it's (so far) unfalsifiable. If you are posing that even in Case 1, teachings would most likely still be based on doctrines originating in the human clergy and not come from the (real, existing, verified) god(s), how conducive is that universe to "progress" would still depend on what are the teachings.

Existence is varified,but not a supreme being that some call God. That is why it is called faith or belief. It is the desire of many to want there to be a supreme being who they can depend on,and that is their right,belief is a personal thing, and if it doesn't harm others it can be a help to a person to get through life, but that shouldn't be forced on others who think differently any more than none belief...to each his/her own!

JRDelirious
09-01-2011, 08:50 AM
Existence is varified,but not a supreme being that some call God. That is why it is called faith or belief. It is the desire of many to want there to be a supreme being who they can depend on,and that is their right,belief is a personal thing, and if it doesn't harm others it can be a help to a person to get through life, but that shouldn't be forced on others who think differently any more than none belief...to each his/her own!

You are talking about something entirely different than the proposition in the OP, then.

kanicbird
09-01-2011, 09:40 AM
My own faith answered this question on one side. We are not subjects of God, but children of God, as such we are gods too. God loves His Children and teaches them to be God and to eventually have their own children who are also God, and they must be raised up.

So God has a 'paternal (and maternal) instinct' to raise His children, it is what He does, and He raises them to rule worlds.

God's ways is to live with man, coexist in the same flesh of man and to help man on his way to the stars. As such all inspiration, insight and advancement is from God who wants to help us.

The stagnation comes from not acknowledging God and trying to do it on our own, in doing so it makes it very difficult for God to have humanity advance because we have blocked many channels of God giving us the advancements, due to God respecting our free will (which God does because we are also God).

It is my belief and contention that the God I know can be known and active in a person's life as stated in the OP, so the answer to the OP is with God we would be exploring the stars by now. Note what I am talking about is not 'religion' - as religion is a force generally opposed to a person knowing God and must be put aside to know God.

---

In a world without faith in God, God will still get through some channels, such as inspiration and dreams, just the credit would be given to bio-chemical processes, This would be a back door that God can use, though the person may think of it as natural inspiration, it would advance man, but at a slower pace. But a world devoid of God would have no inspiration at all, so no advancement. It would be a very gray world emotionally.

Blaster Master
09-01-2011, 10:08 AM
. . . would a world entirely bereft of any sort of faith in God fall into despair and also stagnate? I'm thinking if there really is a God, he can't do too much, or people would get dependent on him. And if he did nothing, they'd lose hope. I'm thinking he'd have to use a light touch, like a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money, if he makes it look like an electrical thing -- done right, people wouldn't be sure God has done anything at all.

Odd analogy. I'm not sure why it popped into my head.

In my view, it depends upon the properties of God that you're assuming. Personally, I do believe in an omnipotent God, but it's his intention behind creation that necessarily prevents stagnation. As such, I view creation as much like a work of art, except unlike some works of art like a painting or a sculpture, creation includes a temporal element, so it is much more akin to music or film.

And this is where I think the idea of stagnation incorrectly enters. We perceive the idea of perfection being like a sculpture where, once it is created, it remains unchanged and perfect in that sense. The entirety of that piece of art remains unchanged in time and, thus, implies that perfection results in that sort of single point of creation and eternally unchanging. But that doesn't account for the temporal element and, compared to a temporal form of art, change is an inherent part of those forms of art, just as it is creation. In fact, it is that change that makes those forms of art interesting. In a film, we see the characters experience hardships, develop relationships, in music we have similar aspects. But the case is true that, for both, neither can be experienced or viewed without the context of time.

Creation is very much the same way, like a temporal form of art, and we're like observers of this universe. Expecting stagnation would be like watching a film where the characters have no growth and no challenges or music composed without dynamics.

And so, it does sort of lead back to that light touch. Just like the director or composer could make works with those properties, God didn't make a universe that is already "perfect". Instead, it is one in which we learn and grow and his light touch is only in making sure that we do ultimately reach the satisfying conclusion.

kanicbird
09-01-2011, 10:37 AM
. As such, I view creation as much like a work of art, except unlike some works of art like a painting or a sculpture, creation includes a temporal element, so it is much more akin to music or film.

I like this, thank you :)

Koxinga
09-01-2011, 11:34 AM
Lot of interesting responses to a variety of questions nobody asked, as far as I can see.

monavis
09-02-2011, 07:47 AM
My own faith answered this question on one side. We are not subjects of God, but children of God, as such we are gods too. God loves His Children and teaches them to be God and to eventually have their own children who are also God, and they must be raised up.

So God has a 'paternal (and maternal) instinct' to raise His children, it is what He does, and He raises them to rule worlds.

God's ways is to live with man, coexist in the same flesh of man and to help man on his way to the stars. As such all inspiration, insight and advancement is from God who wants to help us.

The stagnation comes from not acknowledging God and trying to do it on our own, in doing so it makes it very difficult for God to have humanity advance because we have blocked many channels of God giving us the advancements, due to God respecting our free will (which God does because we are also God).

It is my belief and contention that the God I know can be known and active in a person's life as stated in the OP, so the answer to the OP is with God we would be exploring the stars by now. Note what I am talking about is not 'religion' - as religion is a force generally opposed to a person knowing God and must be put aside to know God.

---

In a world without faith in God, God will still get through some channels, such as inspiration and dreams, just the credit would be given to bio-chemical processes, This would be a back door that God can use, though the person may think of it as natural inspiration, it would advance man, but at a slower pace. But a world devoid of God would have no inspiration at all, so no advancement. It would be a very gray world emotionally.

And you know this because?