How would you feel if there was no god?

30 Dec

This is directed at theists who might stumble across this post.

One of the most common accusations leveled against atheists are that they’re angry, so angry. For many of us that’s true, we are angry. Yet in order to understand why we’re so angry, let me ask you something.

Lets pretend for a moment, a little thought experiment if you will. I promise it won’t hurt or do anything to your faith, it’s just an experiment.

Imagine that you died, it doesn’t matter how, only that you’re now dead, and the afterlife is not what you were promised. Instead of heaven or closeness to some deity, you are made aware of the fact that their is no god, there never was. You look down at the earth, all the people on it, all the things we do to ourselves and each other in the name of a god; a god you have just learned never existed.

How would you feel? How would you react to the magnitude of the consequences and implications?

Sure you would see some good things being done in the name of this mythical god, but what about all the suffering? Suffering that is needlessly prolonged by those claiming to act in the name of a god you just learned never existed.

How would you react to this revelation’s implications? Think of all the time spent in pointless prayer instead of action, all the money spent building monuments and structures to a nonexistent being. All the money that lines the pockets of those who claim to speak for this being. What about all the wars, genocides, book burnings, shootings, suicide bombings, the death in perpertrayed in the name of this non-existent being? What about all the people who are forced to marry those they don’t love because of religious prescriptions? What about the millions of people who have their genitals cut in keeping with religious commandments? What about the honor killings? What about all the people who were forced to live in a miserable marriage, perhaps where they were even beaten, because their faith frowned on divorces?

How would you feel?

What about your life? What if you spent a large amount of time, effort, and money investing in something you later found out to be a scam? What dreams could you have accomplished if those energies were directed elsewhere? What about those things you denied yourself that you could have enjoyed? What about foods or drinks you refused to try for ultimately pointless religious reasons? What opportunities to live did you turn down in preparation for death, only to find now that you’re dead, those preparations futile, those opportunities gone forever?

Hypothetically, as all these realizations hit you like a tsunami, how would you feel as you slowly fade to nothingness?

I’m willing to bet you would feel an intense anger, possibly betrayal.

Hold that feeling in your mind for a moment. Now imagine that you weren’t fading to nothingness, that you weren’t dead. Imagine you were still alive, yet with this knowledge, and now you had the chance to do something about it. How would you feel? What would you do?

If you answered that you’d be angry and outspoken in your efforts to make the world a better place and end suffering, then you now understand where a lot of “angry” atheists are coming from.

10 Responses to “How would you feel if there was no god?”

  1. humanitarikim December 30, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    I agree with you, but I also think that some of my anger comes out of realizing the laziness of the religious. Their ability to just accept based on faith alone, without ever using reason or trying to dig for the truth angers me. How can someone not want to know the truth? And some of the idiotic things they try to portray as truths, too. If only I had a dollar for every time I saw this phrase during the Christmas season: “Celebrate the real reason for the season”. Do some research, people! Ugh.

  2. godlesspaladin December 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Axial tilt is the reason for the season. :-p Hey humanitarikim! Yeah, stuff like that also gets me. I didn’t even mention all the “atheists aren’t citizens/good people” stuff which is another large chunk of the anger, since the post was meant to be just an introduction to atheist anger; but there are plenty of other reasons. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. thesecretatheist December 31, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    For those of us who started out theistic and have become atheistic we have come to realize that for a large part of our lives we believed in a lie, were taught that lie by our parents and most of the people whom we trusted. Many of us dedicated a lot of time, and probably a lot of money to this religion.

    I spent my teen years and part of my college years looking for ways to serve God, trying to avoid sinful thoughts and actions, and generally just stressing over these things and my doubts a lot. I had a lot of guilty feelings that I now realize were pointless. In addition, I have spent nearly $50,000 on an education that I will likely not use in whatever career I find now that I am an unbeliever. (It isn’t a useless education and it isn’t an explicitly Christian education. Indeed, the bulk of the money is for a graduate degree from a secular university. But the reason I took the path I did was because I felt “God calling me to”.)

    So many of us come out of that, we feel anger for being taught a lie (not intentionally, for the most part, but still a lie) and believing it, committing a lot of time and money to it, and probably feeling a lot of guilt because of the things we were taught.

    Now, why do we feel a need to fight against it so much? Is it just that we are bitter and angry? Hell no. We want to save others from that which we experienced. We see others being deluded by religion, we see kids being indoctrinated by their families, we see a nation clinging to religion and making generally very bad choices because of it. We fight against it for these reasons, not because we are bitter.

    At least, this is how I feel about it.

  4. John Barron Jr. December 31, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    I dont think I would be angry. For one, Im not a Christian theist because someone like a pastor or family told me to be. I suppose you could say the Bible told me, but in the end they would be mistaken. When you read the text, it is not written in such a manner as they are pitching the idea of God you the reader. They would not be intentionally misleading people, just simply mistaken.

    I think it would be more a sense of “wow”, not disappointment. If God is not real, then I havent really lost anything, you cant lose something you never had. I would really be baffled at the laws of logic, since philosophically speaking, the universe can not be infinitely old; scientifically, we know it had a begining, so what is up with that? Id have more questions than anger, disappointment, and betrayal.

  5. greengeekgirl December 31, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    @SecretAtheist: I can see why you would be bitterly disappointed in having invested a small fortune in something you felt “God” was calling you to do 😐 But, you can look at the bright side, I guess–if God wasn’t calling you to do it, something must have been urging you from your subconscious? ^_^ Maybe you can turn it into a positive!

    @John: You wouldn’t be angry at the terrible things that happen which are justified by religion? At least when “secular” people do terrible things, there’s no justification; we know that they are terrible. For religion, it seems like there’s a loophole: Well, ORDINARILY this would be bad.. but God told us to do it, so that makes it okay.

    Good post, GP.

  6. timberwraith December 31, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    OK, just to put the spin of the real on this: if someone where truly dying, lost their belief in god at that moment, and realized that they were fading into complete nothingness, I suspect their main thought would be, “Oh fuck, I’m so completely lost, alone, and afraid.” and then the lights would dim—forever.

    Setting aside that little sample of reality, and moving on to the hypothetical… 🙂

    I suspect the response to this post would depend on the flavor of religious person answering this. If it’s one of those folks from, say, liberal Christianity, I suspect they wouldn’t feel any of the things you mention because a belief in god didn’t lead to those kinds of negative actions. Rather, I suspect they would feel very sad, and would experience a sense of deep loss, but nevertheless, they would be grateful for a loving, supportive community of people throughout their lives.

    I say this as a non-believer who has actually attended a liberal Christian church and observed liberal Christians with her own two eyes.

    Again, that’s the answer I think someone might give to the hypothetical situation you posed while they are still healthy and alive. For the real response, I think my first paragraph is probably much closer.

  7. godlesspaladin December 31, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    @greengeekgirl Thanks! ^_^
    @timberwraith yeah, that would change the experiment considerably, hence why I set it up so you were already dead when this fact was made apparent. I imagine someone who recently lost faith while they were dying would be more concerned with their immediate situation than with the greater implications of how we treat one another.

    I guess the experiment doesn’t work too well for liberal religious people because they too can be upset about the more strident believers affect the rest of us. I know several liberal believers, and while I think the religious reasons they attach to the good things they do are superfluous, they are at least headed in the right direction.

  8. thesecretatheist December 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    @greengeekgirl Yeah, my love for music prompted it! I could always teach high school (I shudder at the thought) for a few years and then devote even more time and money into getting a Doctorate of Musical Arts and try to get one of the few tenure track choral positions out there. I don’t think that will be happening.

    And I have to be honest, I didn’t get the Master of Music degree because I felt God calling me to–I wasn’t really a believer by that point, but the career that fits my skills the best at this point, with that degree, is church music work and I no longer feel that I can do that. The reason I initially went into music as a career, however, was because I felt the “call of God” to do so. (Which I now know was just me loving music and seeing something I had the ability to do well.)

    I do not regret any part of my schooling, it has made me into the person I am today and I have had a lot of opportunities to make amazing music, learn interesting things, and meet interesting people because of it. I doubt I would have been able to come out of religion at this point if I hadn’t gotten a college and graduate degree.

  9. theblackjester January 1, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    I realize this is a thought experiment, and as such doesn’t need to follow the rules of the actual, only the possible, but…this post just makes me wonder how anyone in that ‘dying position’ could KNOW, anymore than they do in life, that there definitely is no god.

    Just because angels and last trumps and white lights fail to appear at the moment you lose consciousness, doesn’t mean there is not god whatever…only that it’s not working to your agenda and to your timescale.

    But, I suppose what you are really suggesting is precisely that the person in this position discovers that what they had thought of as god, been taught about god, was wrong, which may amount to the same thing – there is no god of the kind to which they devoted their lives.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that the killing joke is that many, if they were truly in that position, would rationalize away the non-appearance of god/heaven until that final moment consciousnees is lost – god is just late, he’s on lunch, he’s testing my faith, that kind of thing – or, worse the thought might occur that God was punishing them by its absence. My instinct is that their thoughts would still be full of god…not anger or betrayal.

    I’m in a similar position to thesecretatheist. I was once a believer, in fact an evangelical Christian, but have since discovered, while alive, that god no longer makes any sense to me. Still, while angry at the atrocities committed in the name of religion, as well as in the name of Stalin, or Pol Pot, or any cult of personality, I cannot quite entirely disavow my own experiences with religion. My in-depth familiarity with them led me to understand later, more fully, why it was wrong.


  1. How would you feel if there was no god? (via The Godless Paladin) « greengeekgirl - December 31, 2010

    […] How would you feel if there was no god? (via The Godless Paladin) Leave a Comment Posted by greengeekgirl on 12.31.10 This is directed at theists who might stumble across this post. One of the most common accusations leveled against atheists are that they're angry, so angry. For many of us that's true, we are angry. Yet in order to understand why we're so angry, let me ask you something. Lets pretend for a moment, a little thought experiment if you will. I promise it won't hurt or do anything to your faith, it's just an experiment. Imagine that you died, it does … Read More […]

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