At the end of September (Man, I’ve been sitting on this one for a while), Frank J. posted a rant in response to this. I admit that it makes me pretty ranty, too. From the tone of the article, it shows me that conservatives can just stay on topic better. The survey was directed toward the ideological view of the world (conservative/liberal), and the conservatives talked more about how the people of the world would act in the absence of God, while the liberals seemed more concerned about how their own experiences would change. What’s interesting to note is how similar the responses really are: religious conservatives say that the world without God would be evil, while religious liberals say that the world without God would be bad. Given the differences in the way that we think, these are pretty much the same value judgement.
As a conservative evangelical myself, my gut reaction is pretty much the same as the outcome of the survey, but let’s look at this from two theological angles, shall we?
Angle 1: God Ceases to Exist Tomorrow
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16,17 ESV)
If god were to ceases to exist tomorrow, the world would not continue as it is (as the deist would have it), nor would it become more evil (as the conservative would have it), nor would it lose its color (as the liberal would have it). It would unravel. There would no longer be a world. No longer a universe. There wouldn’t even be space anymore, just nothing, and nobody at all to care.
Now, nobody was shooting for this one, but it’s still worth saying. Far more interesting is a world in which there never was a God.
Angle 2: There Never Was a God
We would be quite different. Let’s take a look:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiates 3:11 ESV)
We always worry about our legacy, because we worry about eternity. Who hasn’t thought about living forever? Many of us will have the idea mashed out of us by the worries of the world. Who would want to be here forever? Yet we still have that hole. We want to live forever, in one state or another, even though it’s both impossible and distasteful. Animals don’t seem to have this problem.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26a ESV)
Fascinating. We could go on in-depth about even the basic the nature and attributes of God for pages, but instead, I’ll be brief. God is eternal, a creator, infinitely loving, infinitely just, and omniscient. Being made in the image of God would make us: immortal (dying perhaps, but never completely going away), creators, loving, moral, and curious. Not fulfilling any one or all of those causes dissatisfaction, and this is why being human seems to entail pushing beyond your boundaries and not living within them, and we have a lot of words for such things, “comfort zone” and the scorn thereupon being the best known.
So, assuming that we’re here (and we are), and that you’re reading this on the internet (and you are), and that animals are capable of affection (I’d say so, but others are more cynical), only the last two would likely be different. Animals don’t care about justice, only survival, even if that means killing off their own kind if they become too weak to support themselves. In this case, morality really would be a societal construct, and would not resonate with nearly as many people as it does. Death wouldn’t be so frightening. It would be sad, of course, and we would still want to avoid it as much as possible, but the disproportionate terror and loathing of death would be gone. Moreover, human history is only five thousand years old: from writing and the wheel to the internet and the space shuttle, and human interplanetary travel is only just over the horizon. If you thinking terms of it taking three billion years of the highly conservative process of evolution to build the first humans, and then it took two million years for humans to start writing, and then a further five thousand to render evolution moot, what’s next? Rather, if you look at human advancement as a product of rather unreserved dissatisfaction, the continued acceleration of human innovation makes sense.
Dissatisfaction drives the Edisons, the Trumps, and the suicides of the modern age alike, and if there were no God, then, assuming that we’re here, human advancement would have been conservative, not nearly so driven.