Imagine if there was a God. Now for some you, this is not asking anything much if you already believe in God, but for others it’s a stretch. Either way, hear me out. Imagine there was an all-powerful, all-loving God, who knew everything, created everything and could do anything. A God who spoke to humans, wanted us to prosper and wanted us to worship him. Imagine if everything they say in church is true, that you can achieve anything imaginable through faith and God. What would that look like?
Well religion would be very straight forward for a start. God would reveal himself and clearly explain what he wanted humans to do, how they should live and how he should be worshipped. We would all have a clear idea of who God is, his nature and his plan. Questions such as the meaning of life and the point of our existence would be easily answered. We might not even need churches or organised religion, after all, God could speak directly to each individual person. Questions over morality, what is right and wrong could be easily dealt with by directly asking the ultimate source of morality in the world. There would be little space for theology or philosophy as we would already know the nature of world.
Questions over our origins (one of the biggest questions humans have) would be quickly and easily answered. Instead of wasting time with silly stories about the world being created by giants or mythical creatures, we would know the actual way that the planet was formed. Instead of worshipping the sun and stars as divine beings or mythical heroes, we would know what they really are and our own place in the universe.
Imagine the impact it would have on science and our knowledge of the world if there was a God who explained it to us. Instead of living short pitiful lives like humans did for most of our existence, we would thrive and prosper. We could cure diseases that plague human existence, after all, can you think of a more typical divine intervention than curing a dying person? Imagine if Jesus didn’t just heal a handful but all people? Imagine the impact on society is there was a God. It would be transformed from primitive tribes to advanced cultures. Can you think of a more convincing demonstration of divine blessing than an advanced civilisation with state of the art technology compared to primitive tribes surrounding it? No one could doubt that they were the chosen people.
Imagine the impact on an individual level. Religious people often attribute their success to divine intervention and claim that God grants them the power to do anything. Imagine if this was actually true. Imagine if faith really could move mountains. Imagine if the most successful people in the world were those who believed the most, while non-believers dwindled in squalor. Imagine if prayer was more important than studying for exams or if it counted for more than hard work or skill in performing a job.
Imagine if miracles were real and happened frequently. Not merely the odd case with vague details the kind you would expect from random chance, but if prayer and faith could cure cancer and mend broken bones. If being religious could block bullets and let people survive incidents that would have killed a non-believer. If the righteous never starved or were the victims of war, because famine and war can easily be overcome by God.
I don’t think I am exaggerating or setting too high of a standard here. Anyone who has been to church has heard the wide range of benefits that faith and God supposedly deliver. All of the above has been claimed to have occurred according to religious people, so all I ask is to imagine these miracles and divine interventions not as rare hearsay but as regular events.
Now take this imagination and compare it to the real world. It doesn’t match up. Human history has not been a story of progress under the light of God, but instead resembles fumbling around in the darkness. What little we know about the world and universe did not come from God or religious books but were discovered by humans, often by sheer chance. Questions over morality are still as hard to answer today despite hundreds of years of philosophers trying their best.
Nor does religion have any answers. The Bible gives plenty of detail on how to sacrifice an animal to God or what to do if your neighbour’s sheep wanders onto your land. If your problems are not agricultural related, then you’re not going to have much luck. There is no explanation of the formation of the universe and the story of the creation of humanity is an embarrassing myth. When it comes to explaining life to us, it seems that religion is just as much in the dark as the rest of us.
Nor do religious people seem to be any better off than non-believers. The most religious place in the world is probably Africa, where non-belief is almost unheard of and an extremely literal view is taken of religious practice. Yet there is little sign of divine blessing in a continent plagued by poverty, disease and war. Other highly religious continents like South America and the Middle East are not prospering either. In contrast, the least religious place in the world, Europe, or more specifically Scandinavia, is also the richest, both in terms of wealth and scope for personal development. Lack of belief or contact with God doesn’t seem to hurt, if anything it seems to make people better off.
Looking through the annuals of human history, it is hard to see the hand of God. Countless numbers of people were killed and slaughtered in wars that a divine being could have easily prevented. Famines and plagues scourged humanity throughout history without divine relief. People who were claimed to be chosen by God were slaughtered in a genocide that no divine protector could ignore.
This wouldn’t matter if religion was only about spirituality and community. But religion goes one step too far by claiming that it has the answers. It claims that it alone has the source of human morality, that it knows the secrets of existence, that only it can explain the creation of the world. It claims that it is the source of truth. Yet these answers are wrong and people get closer to the truth without religion rather than with it. It seems that believing in God has no real impact on your life and non-religious societies succeed and fail just as much (if not more) without God as with him. The gap between what the world would look like with God and the way the world really looks is just too great.