DISCLAIMER: This discussion is a thought experiment. I realise that God/Gods cannot be proved or disproved so please answer this discussion in the spirit in which it was raised. Atheists can substitute whichever God/Gods they are most familiar with.


If you woke up tomorrow and it could be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that God/Gods (see above disclaimer) do actually exist what would you do differently in your every-day life?


If you woke up tomorrow and it could be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that no God/Gods exist (see above disclaimer) what would you do differently in your every-day life?

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No Dr. Bob, it's my vicious depraved non-religious mind always at work...worried about being caught. If I'm caught...then I cannot continue being a tyrranical moral-less monster. There is absolutely nothing in the natural world that can possibly inspire me outside of sky-god superstition. There is simply no way two non-sky-god believers can come to terms with a sense of morality based on consensus. How would that even work? Geez...I guess they would have to discuss their differences...and then...find a middle way...or have one agree that the other's is better while having a modicum of respect for one another. No...only religion can teach us to respect people of other faiths and those who have dissenting views. I could write a 5,000 page book that demonstrates how sky-god-believing inspires tollerance, respect for each individual human, their autonomous agency and a sense of rationally worked out compromise. History is simply littered with endless examples.

I can't imagine two non-sky-god believers ever working out a moral framework. Without the sense of direction of the sky-god...we are left with nothing but the basest of human atributes and murderous self-gratification. Centuries of moral philosophy has certainly proven that. We might as well not even bother reading secular philosophy or humanist ideas. Waste of time really. This is why I'm an atheist...because it lets me get away with immorality. Because I love murderous non-compromising self gratification.

"I'm not interested in explanations for altruistic behavior; that's an atheist hangup."

- ouch, touchy...

Sorry it came across that way, @Simon.  It was really just a statement.  For most people, it's not really an interesting question.   It's one of those questions that falls primarily into the realm of advocacy research, rather than genuine research.

I think it's a very interesting question.  I'm always interested in our motivations for basic, universal behaviour.  As you know, these can fall into two categories, proximate and ultimate.  Proximate motivations are what motivate us in the present day when we behave altruistically.  Ultimate motivations are those that arose in the process of the evolution of the original altruistic instincts within human beings as a species.  Both of them help to give us a handle on what it means to be human. 

Dr. Bob wrote: "Absent inspiration, vocation, a relationship with God, there's no rational basis to do anything other than pursue self-interest, ease, and personal agenda."

Simon Mathews replied: This is simply not true, I'm afraid. Read about game theory in evolution and anything written about why, as a species, we co-operate. The unfortunate title of Richard Dawkins book, The Selfish Gene, have led many to think as you do. But as Dawkins as since taken great pains to point out "selfish" genes are quite capable of making co-operative hosts. And they do.

Can you both be right? Inother words that one can co-operate due to self-interest? Are you guys making an irrelevant distinction? If there's a point of contention between you two, what is it?

Back up to the top level...

Pope Beanie wrote: Game theory gets expressed quite naturally among several species. It starts early, like when pups/kittens/kids play, learning what hurts and what one can get away with. Play is the natural basis of enhancing small group rapport, at least, and altruism is an optional, intellectual extension of it.

Why then does being a turd pay off so well? From this article:

At the University of Amsterdam, researchers have found that semi-obnoxious behavior not only can make a person seem more powerful, but can make them more powerful, period. The same goes for overconfidence. Act like you’re the smartest person in the room, a series of striking studies demonstrates, and you’ll up your chances of running the show. People will even pay to be treated shabbily: snobbish, condescending salespeople at luxury retailers extract more money from shoppers than their more agreeable counterparts do. And “agreeableness,” other research shows, is a trait that tends to make you poorer. “We believe we want people who are modest, authentic, and all the things we rate positively” to be our leaders, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford. “But we find it’s all the things we rate negatively”—like immodesty—“that are the best predictors of higher salaries or getting chosen for a leadership position.”

Why then does being a turd pay off so well?

Perhaps because it's harder to effectively hold anonymous and/or rogue humans accountable at the community/local level. I keep going back to how we evolved genetically as pack animals and tribes, with in-group and out-group behaviors vital to species survival... including (often unfortunately) selection of winners most optimally sharing or competing for resources. The turds were dealt with face-to-face and daily in the community. (Perhaps they occasionally caused or motivated aggression between groups?)

Game theory explains a lot of how that happens, and it seems to me that altruism is only enabled when both 1) we have enough resources to share, and 2) we intellectually (i.e. with conscious effort) elevate our priorities to care more about the out-groups in the species.

It depends what you mean by "pay off". If you mean manipulating people into doing what you want or getting money and some sense of approval from others...then the pay off can be good though also not good. If you mean being able to respect yourself, create strong meaningful friendships and relationships then they might have a problem.

Narcicistic (as well as egotistic) people are more likely to develop depression, lose non-codependent friends and significant others, develop pathological problems, develop destructive behavioural patterns and are more prone to destructive addictions. They are also more likely to have to deal with daily stress related with their need for attention and approval, a continual turnover of friends and trusted colleagues, inability to accept and utilise constructive criticism, inability to deal with failure and loss.

I don't know that I would do anything different either way. I don't believe that there is a god in the way that most religions think of it but I do think there could be some sort of force beyond our understanding in the vein of Karma or quantum entanglement or even the force. I try to live my life in a way that is kind and consistent with my beliefs and any god that would punish me for simply not believing what it wants then that's not a god that I want anything to do with in the first place. 

You sound like those Ancient Aliens shows that raises questions wihout answering them. "Could this be evidence of visitors from other planets?" "Is there any better explanation than that beings from outer space gave the (Egyptions, Mayans) technology allowing them to build their pyramids?" "Are these sculptures an artist's attempt to depict an ancient astronaut at the controls of his craft?"

If anything is literally beyond our understanding, then there's no point in even trying to understand it.

I've been pondering this discussion since shortly after it's been posted.  As an Atheist, I'm still not certain how to answer.

The thing is, it wasn't very long ago that I was a Theist, and I was posed with reasonable doubt that God(s) exist.  It changed everything.  It changed my 25+ year marriage (for the better.)  It changed our children, and our relationships with them (for the better.)  And it made us pariah in our community (not so much for the better!)

Honestly, if I had not decided to go with what was so obvious and de-convert, my marriage and my children would have suffered.  The only thing that has been difficult is living in a very fundementalist religious community as Atheists.

To answer the question of what I would do differently in my every-day life:  Instead of working toward the good of humanity using superstition, I now have the freedom to do the same using logic. As a non-believer there is a wider scope for what 'the good of humanity' is, but I have far greater tools with which to work with.


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