Author Emily Dietle
My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks
The following is a guest post from friend and South Carolinian, Nonnef Thandaius.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it would take to convince me, as an atheist, of the existence of a god. If it were the Christian god, finding evidence for several traditional Bible stories wouldn’t be enough. After all, it’s entirely possible those stories were based on some semblance of truth, having nothing to do with an omnipotent figure. At first I thought all it would take was Him showing Himself and simply telling everyone He was the God we had all been talking about the last few thousand years.
If someone showed up with powers that had been shown in any of the holy books scattered around the world it would be difficult for even us atheists to deny something that was right in front of us, right? Then I remembered another fictional character in a story. Rather, several different characters who, for all intents and purposes, share those powers. It was then that I realized how easy it would be for someone or something like them to fake the whole thing.
Let’s assume the character of Doctor Manhattan (of Watchmen lore) was real; this character had all the powers and abilities that we see being possessed by a god figure. What if he hadn’t explained his origin to other humans and instead pretended to be something else? He could have simply said he was God (any of the gods, really) and that he had come down to visit his creation. He would fit all of the things the religious have been trying to prove for thousands of years. We would never know he was fibbing or that he was just an experiment gone wrong.
Doctor Manhattan is a rather far-fetched example, as it’s highly unlikely anything we could do on Earth at the moment could create anyone of that sort. So, let’s use a slightly more alien example to make the same point. What if Superman didn’t tell his adopted parents what he learns of his alien origins? The rest of the world would have been kept in the dark and he could claim any history he wished. While lacking the pure unlimited power of creation that our previous example had, the powers he does have available would be enough to give anyone pause. With a bit of sleight of hand and super-speed, the powers he did lack could be faked. We would be left with a real god in front of us performing miracle after miracle.
Again, it’s unlikely our sun would be giving any super highs to an alien visiting our planet. So what would be the bare minimum it would take to convince us that someone was indeed a supernatural figure? Looking at the stories of Jesus, not much. Walking on water, making wine, healing the sick, et cetera. These are all things we, as mere mortal humans, can do ourselves now without any outside help. We just can’t do them without time and technology, but what if someone could? It would be relatively easy for any advanced society to have all three of those abilities provided with advanced, relative to our own, technology. Isn’t that why god stories were created in the first place? To explain the things we didn’t understand? If someone or something showed up with abilities we couldn’t currently figure out, they would be treated as a god and there would be nothing we could do to prove them wrong.
Where does that leave us in saying what it would take to prove the existence of God when the heavens themselves parting the sky isn’t enough? Or is that still enough? What would be the real difference between someone adapting our historic stories as their own if we had no way of telling the difference? Does it even matter? We know the history of most holy books and how they gathered their stories. And with how poorly purported scriptures are written (between making absolutely no rational sense or their own contradictions), we can say with near certainty that those stories have nothing to do with an all powerful omnipotent being in the heavens. A godly figure suddenly showing up on our collective doorstep would just be that, a thing of power using that power. Their claims of godlihood would prove absolutely nothing. A powerful ‘god,’ but not the God the religious so desire.
Category: Atheism & Religion