When an atheist becomes involved in discussing religion with Theists they tend to find themselves confronted with many common questions from different believers of different religions. There are questions like ‘who created the universe?’, ‘who created the laws of physics?’, ‘who was the first human?’, as well as other similar ones. While atheism itself obviously has no answers for these questions, atheism simply being a lack of belief in gods, we can turn to science to find answers to these questions.
There are other questions, more philosophical questions such as ‘what is our purpose?’, ‘why are we here?’, ‘why is there good and evil?’ and similar questions. These questions of course have no simple answer. Many great minds have discussed and considered these questions, and not all of them have come to the conclusion of a god, and as we can see from history not all of those that concluded a god came to the conclusion of the same god. So while we can give our personal opinion about this, we do also have the opportunity to turn to other works to offer explanation or discussion.
Then there are also personal questions. These too are philosophical questions of course, but these are the kind of questions only a personal answer can be given to. When I get asked these questions during discussion or debate I rarely get a chance to give my full answer, as only a short reply is expected or will usually be read. One of these questions is usually ‘what if you’re wrong?’.
However, I have given this question a lot of thought, and while I can give a short reply it does not come close to covering just what I think of this question; because the question is not as easily answered as it seems.
There are several scenarios to this question. We can approach the question with the condition that I’ve died and ‘woken up’ in the after life, the condition that undeniable proof is shown while I’m alive (which itself has a couple of conditions), or the condition that we know just as much as we do now. So as there are different approaches to this question, I will approach the question in different ways.
Which God Is It?
If I was to ‘wake up’ after I die and be confronted with the afterlife, the first question I would ask is which god it was. Which is something I rarely find the people asking ‘what if you’re wrong?’ asking themselves. For all I know it could be a god that we have no idea exists, because, hypothetically speaking, a god could be true and none of the religions could be. So, before I could make a judgement about my error, I would need to get more facts.
I won’t go into the idea of a god that we have no idea exists though, because unfortunately this would take up far too much time. We would after all have to consider many other elements, why did the god create the universe, what type of afterlife exists, why it doesn’t get involved; there are just too many variables and combinations to go over. My main reason for writing this is to answer the many Muslims and Christians that ask me the question, so it would probably be best to focus on what I would do if it was the god of Abraham.
The God of Abraham
To which I could only give one reply, I would tell him to send me straight to Hell. Although this may sound like arrogance to a Christian or Muslim, it isn’t. Believe me, if Hell is a real place it isn’t somewhere I would choose to go to out of arrogance, or pride, or any other trivial emotional reason. No, this is a stance I have put great thought into. While a theist may simply see the never-ending joy of Heaven and the never-ending pain of Hell, I see much more than that. This is a stance I have chosen based on my ethics, a stance based on my reason, and most of all it’s a stance based on my humanity.
You see, when I look at the god of Abraham, the claims made about it, the religions based around it and the results of them, I don’t see what most Theists see. I’m not willing to make the excuses they make for it in order to gain that oh so important prize of eternal happiness. No, when I look at the god of Abraham I see hatred, destruction, anger, violence, immorality; and most importantly I do not see love. I don’t see this when I look at Judaism, I don’t see it when I look at Christianity and I don’t see it when I look at Islam. See for yourself here, my colleague at AIR presented the immoral nature shown true in the scripture of the Old Testament in an article last week entitled Jehova, The Immoral God
Follow The Religions
What I see when I look at the god of Abraham is a god that sent three different religions to teach mankind, and at the same time told each religion not to believe the other religions. Not only did it tell them not to believe each other, it told them to hate each other. Just to add some fun to the mix it told the second group of people to resist any violence, to ‘turn the other cheek’, and then told the third one that convincing the others through violence is acceptable; it teaches the complete opposite of the second religion. This is not a loving god, a loving god doesn’t tell one group of people to bow before another group of people’s swords. This is a bloodthirsty god, one who creates things just to watch them kill each other. This is a god that loves violence so much that it doesn’t even want to see the fight, it doesn’t do it for the thrill of combat; it does it for the love of death.
How can I be asked to praise this god? How can I be asked to call this god loving? While others may be able to overlook this for the bribe of eternal happiness, I cannot. While others may be willing to allow themselves and their loved ones to be pawns in what is essentially a blood sport for a bloodthirsty god, I am not. I cannot be asked to respect this god, and I don’t know how anyone else could accept this just for the bribe of Heaven. A bribe which could turn out to be false, after all this god of Abraham does appear to be a god of suffering and injustice as well.
We only have to look at the tales spun about it in the religions that it sent for our guidance. We only have to look at the tale of Job for injustice. Here we see this god whimsically killing people and taking away their livelihood just to prove how much a person loved it. This is not justice, this is not fairness, this is not love. This is a god treating its creation like an ant farm, like humanity is nothing more than a needy, bullying teenager’s science experiment. Not only do we see injustice in the story of Job, we see needless suffering. This god kills people in horrific ways, even though it could simply have stopped them living; but no, it had to do it with flair.
I could of course go on about other tales, the tale of Noah, the tale of Adam and Eve, and even the beloved tale of Jesus, but there are so many tales of violence, bloodshed, suffering and injustice I could probably write a book in support of this argument. You see, I haven’t even started on the state of the world, the problems the religions of the god of Abraham have caused, the confusion they have caused, or the crimes against humanity in its name. As I say, I could probably write a book about why I would not worship the god of Abraham. Which also hints towards the answer of what I would do if I was alive and undeniable proof was given that the god of Abraham was our creator. If that happened I would acknowledge its existence, I would not however worship it, for exactly the same reasons I would choose to go to Hell. As I said, I would rather choose Heaven; unfortunately the god of Abraham doesn’t make that a viable option for me.
This also leads me on to the question of what if I’m wrong but no god has revealed itself undeniably. What if I’m wrong and all the evidence is still just the deductive arguments, the Bible, the Qu’ran and the apologetics that go with it?
Glad of Being Wrong
Do you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad I’m wrong, and I hope I manage to convince others to be wrong as well. I think we as humanity should proceed as if we are wrong, as if all the religions are wrong. I think we as humanity should tell the god of Abraham that we’re tired of it. We’re tired of the violence caused by its religions, we’re tired of the oppression caused by its religions, and we’re tired of the suffering caused by its religions. We’re just plain tired of it.
You see, as I explained earlier, the evidence shows that this god, this infinitely wise being, created two religions that were told to disbelieve each other. It told them that under no circumstances should they believe each others religions. Not only did it tell them that they couldn’t believe each others religions, but that they should try and convince each other that they were wrong. Then, just for added fun, it told the first group that they should ‘turn the other cheek’, while at the same time telling the other group that sometimes violence wasn’t just acceptable, it was necessary. While history may show that Christians did not always ‘turn the other cheek’, it doesn’t change the fact that the religion itself taught it.
No, this god sat back and watched as various countries were taken over in its name. It sat back and watched as people slaughtered each other in its name trying to prove that their religion, the true religion, the real one, the one that had the god of Abraham’s seal of approval, was right. It could have intervened at any time. It was not unknown behaviour from this god. The lore is full of incidents of the god of Abraham intervening. So at any point it could have guided those willing to kill in its name to the right path, but it didn’t. It let them slaughter each other in new and inventive ways. So even if this god is real, even if I am wrong by not picking one of them, I think we all should be.
If nobody chose a religion, then nobody could argue about the right path, there would be no confusion over which is the ‘one true religion’. Nobody would be willing to kill for the right path. Nobody would die for the right path. If somebody claims to be speaking for a god, I believe that as a human race we owe it to ourselves, to our history, to demand no less than that god. We should not accept a conduit unless each of us gets a direct conduit, with direct communication, so that we can tell who really does speak for this god.
For if we accepted this all along perhaps history may have been different. We could make an argument that all the things that happened in the name of religion would still have happened, just in a different manner, and I would agree. It’s a moot point in my opinion however, because as much as we could philosophise about how it may have changed the past, our discussions and my arguments won’t actually change the past.
Some of the Fruits of Religions
We can however look at the present. Let me hold up the Catholic Church and the systematic abuse of children we see in our recent history, as well as today. Think of the difference to our present world that dropping all of our religions simultaneously would do in this case. Think about what would happen if we were to say ‘We no longer think you speak for a god, and we are now holding you accountable for your crimes’. Think of the paedophiles that would be taken off the street, the number of futures saved; think of the sigh of justice from former victims of those that go unpunished and unheard of. Think of the hope for a better future they would see. Is our eternal soul not worth risking to save those children and to show these victims they matter? Think of the difference it would have made if when the abuse was first being brought up people listened, instead of seeing a man of God that wouldn’t do such a thing.
Keeping to the present let us draw our attention to the Palestine and Israel conflict. This is a thin line to tread, I’m sure, because the conflict draws a heated emotional response for most. I don’t want to focus on the politics behind it, or who is right and wrong, though. I want to draw your attention to the fact that if I’m wrong then it means that this god promised a land to a group of people, and then convinced another group of people to conquer it. Not only did it do that, it convinced an entire world to go to war, dispose of millions of the first group of people; and finally got another group of people to conquer the land and then give it back to the first group. It then sat back and watched the violence, suffering and injustice going on from both sides; prompted by its commands.
Think of the Difference
Now think of what would happen if everyone involved suddenly decided that peace, that co-operation, that their children’s future and happiness, was worth more than who was right. Think of what a difference it would make if both sides decide to give up on who was right, and who had the right to live where, and instead decided on the best way they could live there. The best way they could build a place where their children would be safe, would be happy, would be healthy, and most importantly, would be unafraid. Just think of what it would be like if they chose to be wrong. Would it not be better to sacrifice their eternal soul for the future of their children?
Imagine the difference it would make in the present if the Sunni, the Shia and the Ahmadiyya all decided to stop caring about who was right, and start caring about what was right. Think of the difference it would make if they all decided that Mohammed was lying. Think of what would happen if they decided that killing each others children, that allowing their children to grow up in an environment where they could face a bomb, or even be a bomb, would make. Think of what would happen if they decided that their children’s future was worth more than their eternal soul, and worth more far more than the ability to say ‘I’m right’.
Imagine the difference it would make in countries like Uganda, where people are killed simply for the crime of existing while homosexual. Think about if they decided to be wrong about this gods punishment for homosexuals, homosexuals that it created to be homosexual. Keep on the same train of thought and think about the bigotry towards homosexuals caused by this gods commandments; the violence, the oppression, the fear and worst of all, the death. Think of the difference it would make to the present if all of them decided to be wrong about this god.
I won’t deny that all these things would exist to some degree, but think of how much harder it would be to justify laws used to do these things without an unquestionable god. Think of the impossibility for rational justification of the hate, the violence, the oppression and especially the death. The immoral behaviour towards homosexuals does not stem from reason, it instead stems from this god.
Some of the Harms of Religion
Just look around the world to all the harm that religion causes directly. The commandments against condoms, the sheltering of paedophiles, the obscene riches, the fat cat conmen and religious leaders, the corruption, the hate, the bigotry, the violence. Only those who want to delude themselves into believing that religion is not at the heart of these things can deny the difference it would directly make to the world if all of these people decided that not only was being wrong an acceptable option, it was the only acceptable option.
Think of the difference it would make to education around the world if everyone decided that everyone’s religious books were wrong. That all of these gods tales are wrong, and that we should rely on what we can realise for ourselves only. That none of these gods are worth arguing over, and that dumping them in favour of humanity was the right choice. Imagine if everyone decided that even if we’re wrong, we don’t actually care. We choose to be wrong in favour of a secure future for our children. We’re willing to be sacrificed to keep them out of the hands of this god, who appears to want to watch us kill each other, and argue with each other, and trick us into doing these things while it sits back and watches. Even if we’re wrong we’re willing to stand up and so ‘no more’, we’ve had enough of being misled.
Enough is Enough
We are at a stage in our development where we are in touch with each other, we are in a communication era. We are at a stage where we can all stand up and say enough is enough, we choose our future over any promise of divine information or reward. We can, and will, do our best to figure it out ourselves. If we look at the evidence in front of us through the means of history, not only do we see that these gods ways generally lead to violence, suffering and oppression, but the thoughts and ways of humanity far outshine those of the gods of scripture; and by magnitudes.
There are lots I could mention about the changes that everyone deciding that being wrong was the best option to take. Psychological and sociological arguments could be made, but as with any argument like this they could fill a book; and I’ve gone on long enough really. I get the feeling that only the most interested will have reached this far, and I thank anyone who actually reads this far!
As you can see though, this isn’t a question I’ve just taken a cursory glance at. One that I’ve just come up with a quick clever meme to pass on. No, this is a question I have taken seriously, and one that I believe everyone should not only take seriously, but come to the conclusion that being wrong is the better option.
That it’s better not to follow the advice given in these books, and to argue, fight, torture and kill over which one of these books is right. I hope you come to the same conclusion that each of our eternal souls is worth sacrificing in order that a better world can be created for those that come after. We are, after all, at a point when we can begin to make real changes in this world. A world where communication is made easy.
We live in a world where we can ask each other how best to proceed. Just look to the past, which in this age is only finger tips away, to see the difference that great people who decided to cast scripture aside in favour of the future have made. Great people willing to sacrifice their eternal souls, willing to say that they were wrong, so that people they would never meet could be free of that same scripture. They could be said to be giving up much more than Christians tell me Jesus gave up for me, because for them there is no reprieve, no resurrection, and no Heaven. For them there is not even the opportunity to be thanked by those grateful for all they sacrificed.
There is much to the reason why even if I am wrong at this moment, I’m glad to be wrong. If even this portion of my argument for why it would be better to be wrong doesn’t convince you, then I do admit that I’m slightly saddened. It is your choice however, and please be aware that I will continue to argue against you until my last breath because of these and many more reasons. Don’t think this doesn’t mean you can’t convince me of this gods existence, it simply means you cannot convince me of his worthiness.
Please don’t think this also means that I think people can’t question the existence of a god, or believe that a god exists. This doesn’t mean that at all. What this all means is that I think we should have a global rejection of scripture, a global rejection of the gods commandments, stories, judgements, morals, and anything else they have decided to reveal to us. It means that I think we should all reject anyone who claims that they speak on behalf of a divine being, or beings, and settle for nothing less than the diving being or beings themselves.
It means I believe that humanity has all the tools, all the intelligence, and all the capability to proceed. That religion, and the argument over who is right instead of what is right, is holding us back. Not only is it holding us back, it is setting us back. An argument could be made that it is literally killing us. It’s killing our children, and it will kill their children. It’s allowing the abuse of our children systematically, and it’s allowing those abusers to be protected. Not only protected but put in a position to harm even more children. It’s simply causing harm.
There are a lot of claims made about these gods, and especially about the god of Abraham in its incarnation in Christianity and Islam. I hear claims that this god is loving, and that he is infinitely wise and intelligent. If these things really are true, and I really am wrong, I am pretty sure that this god will understand why I choose to sacrifice my eternal soul in favour of those that come after me.
In favour of communication, information, ethics, co-operation, and most importantly, the love of humanity. I am pretty sure that not only would this god understand why I ‘am wrong’, but why I think ‘being wrong’ is the best option. I am pretty sure that any god like this, any loving god, any compassionate god, would understand why I think the living are far more important than the dead, and why I think our children’s suffering is far more important than my own eternal suffering.
Hi, I’m Dave. As you can already tell, I’m one of the authors at AiR, as well as a member of the podcast. I’m also the Dave you see on our live streams on Twitch and YouTube. I am an atheist. I don’t use the ‘lack of belief’ definition though, and use the ‘belief God does not exist’ definition for me. I have always been an atheist, and have never been part of a religion.
While I do enjoy discussions around the existence of God, I try to post a wider range of content here. My focus is mainly on philosophy, as that is the topic I enjoy. I have a BA in Philosophy and Psychology, and am waiting on the results for my MA in Philosophy. Will find out in December whether I have been awarded the degree!
This is why my posts tend to focus more on the philosophy side of things. I try to post a wider range of topics than just those surrounding theism and atheism. You will also find articles discussing arguments from atheists that I find to be lacking, or poorly argued. This is mostly because I want to see the atheist community improve its arguments, and to see atheists give stronger and better arguments.
Hopefully you will enjoy some of my content, and I hope even more that it makes you look at certain arguments and ideas in a different way. Plus, hopefully some atheists that dismiss philosophy out of hand might actually see it’s more interesting than they first though. Philosophy is an awesome subject!