161 COMMENTS

  1. The masses previously attached to the vanished religions, would sadly know nothing better to replace their blanket with. Copying parents, rather than the “father” from the middle-eastern paper-blog would ensue. A lot less people would have their genitals mutilated, their children molested, their sundays wasted.

    Human shortcomings and violence, however, can hardly be linked firmly to the scenario. A difference might be that violent agressions in overcrowded, undernourished sectors of the overpopulated globe, wouldn’t get a “calling card”. There’d be no mention of a god, nor prophet, subsequent to the bombing of the area another group saw fit to murder.

    Some problems would vanish, but many would continue, just without the jerseys. The biggest likely positive outcome from the scenario would be the removal of impediments to learning, and education. Gender-parity would also have a field-day, should the scenario occur. Good would come from removal of the scriptural backing of many things. Not least the ownership of at least one uterus and its cycle, by the males of the species that overran this globe.

    Religious belief “stopping overnight” would be a great start, if one saw fit a halting of one type of ape causing it’s own extinction through unsustainable population growth and habitat destruction.

    • In reply to #2 by Timothy McNamara:

      The masses previously attached to the vanished religions, would sadly know nothing better to replace their blanket with. Copying parents, rather than the “father” from the middle-eastern paper-blog would ensue. A lot less people would have their genitals mutilated, their children molested, their sun…

      i don’t think child molestation is caused by religion. i think there have always been child molesters, and that religion just provides them with a cover. the question is, what would child molesters do for cover? join the scouts? run secular orphanages? become early childhood teachers?

    • In reply to #3 by Bob Springsteen:

      I’d hate to see the end of religion, because I love arguing with believers too much.

      It’s interesting to see how fast bible thumpers will say “oh, you are interested in science, huh?” Then they’ll say “the scientists are just a bunch of ignorant fools who don’t know the truth about how we got here”.

      • In reply to #66 by Toobroketoretire:

        Sorry, this isn’t a reply to Bob Springsteen but i don’t know how to make a comment on this forum independently. The first thing that would happen is that hundreds of thousands of Catholic clerics would be unemployed and thrown on the labour market with very lopsided skills (media and the law are commonly resorted to by defrocked or disillusioned priests who leave the Church). In France, during one of its murderous anti-clerical purges, unemployed priests were conscripted into the army. Italy’s treasury would swell beyond recognition and its education system would start adding value to GDP.

        In reply to #3 by Bob Springsteen:

        I’d hate to see the end of religion, because I love arguing with believers too much.

        It’s interesting to see how fast bible thumpers will say “oh, you are interested in science, huh?” Then they’ll say “the scientists are just a bunch of ignorant fools who don’t…

  2. I suspect that even if organised religion were to disappear completely, one or many ratbag notions would immediately spring forth to fill the void. There will always be gullible minds out there, ready to be filled with superstitious nonsense. I think the tendency to see agency is hardwired into our brains, ( some more than others), and some sky fairy or other is going to pop up in order to put women in their place, tell us what to wear, what to eat and generally regulate the lives of believers.

  3. As the (apocryphal) saying of G.K. Chesterton puts it, ” When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they’ll believe anything.” There are hordes of spiritual entrepreneurs pushing ‘quantum mysticism’, ‘faith healing’, the ‘law of attraction’ and all sorts of new agey stuff. Watkins Bookshop has an annual list of the top hundred spiritual leaders .

    • In reply to #6 by aldous:

      As the (apocryphal) saying of G.K. Chesterton puts it, ” When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they’ll believe anything.” There are hordes of spiritual entrepreneurs pushing ‘quantum mysticism’, ‘faith healing’, the ‘law of attraction’ and all sorts of new agey stuff. Wat…

      education is the key- teaching the youngs how to think critically.

  4. Because the prospects for eradicating religion in our time do not seem good, perhaps we should do a deal with Islamic terrorists? In exchange for them giving up the idea of 72 virgins in paradise, we offer them 72 slags from Birmingham.

  5. A lot of happy people a lot of sad people, a bunch of suicides. Mostly, no one would know what to do with the time and brain space they spent on religion. Take away any part of a persons routine and you have a chance for anxiety, perhaps even depression. I would cheer, first.

    Second, I would be on the lookout for all of the people who thought religion was the only thing keeping us from being murdering, rapist, pyromaniac, drug addicted, car thieves because they will be in the streets murdering, raping, burning, snorting and stealing cars, naturally. They must feel it in their bones to know that is what religion is keeping them from doing. Personally, I think they have it the wrong way around.

  6. Religion is a symptom; faith is the problem. If religious belief disappeared overnight it would be immediately recreated by those who imagine that they know what they don’t, for those who have no tolerance of ambiguity.

  7. Even if the nonexistence of God could be proven, this would not affect the faith of fundies. They would simply put the blame on the Devil and quote scripture: And Satan was thrown down to the earth, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9).

  8. We would instantly have peace in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world. Women in Muslem countries would have access to higher education, think more about themselves and decide if and when they want to have children and, as a consequence, we would solve the problem of overpopulation on our planet. Italy would get out of the recession, since the Vatican will be obliged to pay taxes like all other enterprises. No more witch hunting and gay discrimination in Africa. No more children abuse by clerics. The problem of AIDS in Africa will disappear. Less wars around the world will mean more money to improve the life of billions of people. And we could go on and on, because the the list is endless.

  9. Firstly, it’s impossible. But, If religious belief were completely stop and it will never be returned, I presume we would be dedicated to the science, love.. and the other unreserved beautiful stuff.

  10. If religious ‘belief’ were to stop overnight, the religious ‘mind’ would be set free. That is the beginning. Freedom to observe and to not seek.acquire, own or control. Freedom to “be” without motive, judgement, prejudice, or consequence. There would no longer be the need to “believe in” religion, myth, stories and I-L-L-U-S-I-O-N. The mind would be free to not adhere to any dogma, ritual or dictate. Negation would replace attachment. Humankind would have no cause to feel separate…from all or any other beings…neither superior or exceptional. Indeed, there would not be anything more extraordinary than each breath – nothing ordinary – “AWE-dinary”. We would lose our dependency on competition, confirmation, affirmation, assertion, applause, proof and the passion to be “right”. The Conscious mind alone knows Love and Compassion, realizing a timeless, momentary Presence – Bliss.

    I read in these comments the ‘other side’ of the religion mythology, (if only ‘they could see what I see’) the defeat, diminishment, deflation and degradation that goes along with the defiant mind, aware that something is out of place, filling the gap with cynicism, regret, anger and hopelessness. That is not sad, it is simply another expression of the polarity of belief cloaked in supra-intellectual, oppositional arrogance. It is fine and, too, based in fear, loss, ‘if only’ and longing. Stuck in time, most will continue to fight (another illusion), go up against, go ‘toe to toe’, be more rational than those who, on the other side, also struggle with what it means to believe. No difference between “enemies”. All have to give up the attempt to exploit ‘what is’. Relinquish content. Experience the transformation of yourself within yourself.

  11. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury would have to claim unemployment benefit. The mad mullahs and imams would take up vegetable gardening and embroidery, and the Buddhist monks would be spinning water wheels instead of prayer wheels. The rabbis would move into the Hollywood film business.

  12. Humans would need to invent some other bullshit that enabled them to cheat death. However should someone invent a pill that meant humans could live forever ,then Religions all over the world would simply disappear

    • In reply to #21 by bronze:

      Humans would need to invent some other bullshit that enabled them to cheat death. However should someone invent a pill that meant humans could live forever ,then Religions all over the world would simply disappear

      It’s a common assumption — that the main goal about religion is to make us not worry about death — but like a lot of common wisdom it may not stand up to a serious examination. If you think about it the actual “comfort” people get from most religious myths isn’t all that great. Does worrying about the possibility of an eternity of torture really make you feel better about death? And while “Heaven” is a big deal in Christianity (and I think Islam) It’s not at all a common belief in all religions. Judaism for example has almost no concept of heaven and even more so most tribal religions studied by anthropologists don’t have such a concept. For example, in the book Religion Explained anthropologist Pascal Boyer gives an overview of religion as practiced through all of recorded history and he emphasized that “feeling good about the afterlife” did not seem to be a common function of religion.

      • *In reply to #22 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #21 by bronze:”feeling good about the afterlife” did not seem to be a common function of religion. It is where I live.

        Humans would need to invent some other bullshit that enabled them to cheat death. However should someone invent a pill that meant humans could live forever ,then Religions all over the world would simply disappear

        It’s a common assumption — that the main goal about rel…

  13. Imagination is one the most valued ‘things’ in human experience and one of the strongest drivers of behaviour. An example would be an author writing a popular novel, ie putting his/her imagination on paper, selling that for millions of dollars to people who do not even imagine the same things as the author when reading it. Another would be a musician who produces sounds that stimulate the imagination of millions of fans who happily pay. Major Brands are build around an imaginary persona or brand image that has imaginary attributes carefully chosen by marketeers to encourage people to associate themselves with the product or service and to spend money on it and result in very high VALUES of such intangible assets. Of course religious organisations, evangelists etc are absolute masters at this.
    In countries where religion has faded to low levels, Scandanavia, Holland, Uk etc low religiousity seem to correlate with relatively high standards of living. Sport eg football and other pastimes may provide substitutes for religious imagination as those populations live well above Maslow’s basic needs level. Societies that live at the level of basic needs have a higher need for some imaginary helper to lift them out of their poverty.
    So, to the question….the sudden loss of religious belief would I think be rapidly replaced by an elevation of charismatic leaders to god like status eg Mandela, Ghandi, Kim Yong Eel (korea) where imagination would attribute a variety of godly attributes to them.

  14. I propose that the changes felt in Afghanistan, Somalia, Uganda would be wonderful to witness. I don’t envisage a wave of “Actually, they’re not such bad people after all” breaking out in Jerusalem, because that’s a turf war. so let’s not be rash and predict instantaneous global peace.

    Sigh It can only ever be a hypothetical question. So just this side of nonsense…

    • In reply to #24 by 4as4is4:

      I propose that the changes felt in Afghanistan, Somalia, Uganda would be wonderful to witness. I don’t envisage a wave of “Actually, they’re not such bad people after all” breaking out in Jerusalem, because that’s a turf war. so let’s not be rash and predict instantaneous global peace.

      Sigh It can…

      It’s a “turf war” based on two peoples of opposing religious beliefs.

  15. The birthrate among European Muslims is three times that of their non-Muslm neighbours. If religious belief is still around in 30 years, European non-Muslims will either be living in subjugation to a Muslim caliphate, or be put to death for their unbelief.

    • In reply to #25 by Bob Springsteen:

      The birthrate among European Muslims is three times that of their non-Muslm neighbours. If religious belief is still around in 30 years, European non-Muslims will either be living in subjugation to a Muslim caliphate, or be put to death for their unbelief.

      I’m not sure where you got that “fact” about Muslim birthrate although I have a sneaking suspicion you pulled it out of the same orifice where you get most of the stuff you post. But if you are interested in actual data:

      “By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population. Although Europe’s Muslim population is growing, Europe’s share of the global Muslim population will remain quite small. Less than 3% of the world’s Muslims are expected to be living in Europe in 2030, about the same portion as in 2010 (2.7%).”

      Pew Research on religion and public policy

  16. It would be terrible. suddenly all of the religious people who make statements like “Why be good? Why not kill, or cheat, or steal, or rape if not for God’s wish for us not to?” would possibly lose their reasons to not bring out their worst. I’d have thought it hyperbole, if I hadn’t had believers actually say those exact words to me numerous times.

    The moral of the population would then always need to be watching over their shoulders and worrying. Or they could not worry and just take it as it is and accept that now some bad people will have nothing keeping them from DOING bad things.

    But, then people would HAVE to start questioning things and relying on evidence and unlearning all the silly myths they have lived by. A large chunk of the American “bible belt” might literally lose their minds with the shift in reality.

    Churches would begin to be converted into useful spaces for true community use, such as learning centers, art centers, performance centers, shelters or torn down and the land could be converted into living space.

    And millions of Gedeon Family donated “hotel” bibles would find their way into recycle centers . . . or used as kindling.

    • In reply to #28 by iamchrismoran:

      It would be terrible. suddenly all of the religious people who make statements like “Why be good? Why not kill, or cheat, or steal, or rape if not for God’s wish for us not to?” would possibly lose their reasons to not bring out their worst. I’d have thought it hyperbole, if I hadn’t had believers a…

      It will happen eventually and my guess is sooner than most people expect. And no, people won’t suddenly all go crazy without religion. I realize that some people claim they have no reason to be moral without religion but if you can learn anything from the social sciences it is that people are terrible at reporting their own goals, intentions, and motivations. So they may say they are are moral because God watches over them but I am very confidant that if you actually looked at what they do and why they do it you would find two things.

      First, that they often aren’t moral and they clearly violate prescriptions from Jesus or whoever for reasons of expedience and in those times they have all sorts of ways to rationalize their God away and second when they are moral there are far more tangible reasons for their morality such as fear of getting caught and fear of the opinions of friends and families.

      I think it’s interesting that the most avid haters of religion are the ones who make it out to be far more important than it really is. It reminds of a similar phenomena in politics on both the extreme right and left, those who are most adamant about viewing the government as the source of all evil are also the ones who over estimate it’s effectiveness and competence.

  17. The world will be in chaos for awhile.

    There will be many “drunken men” suddenly wake up to reality and the truth; And withdrawal symptom- despaired, confused and dis-orientated will kick in.

    Religion is a big business in selling “sins” and ” after life” . And “astute businessmen” will start to look for a new “product ‘ to fill the vacuum
    ……. …………………………………………………………………………………….
    Resist religions’ involvement in early child education , and teaching the youngs how to think critically may be a better way to get ride of the problem.

  18. In reply to NUMBER 26 by Red Dog. The Muslim birthrate in Europe : I got my fact from the orifice of Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation, Page 83). By the way, don’t forget I once had to put you right about the New Testament and Koranic teachings on hell and the devil. See the thread entitled Are you scared of Hell? My name should tell you, I am the Boss!!

  19. Abrahamics/Westerners get a life, the Creator created every thing, that includes Creationism/Evolution. Time we learned to get along ! Clarificationn may be provided for a small consideration.

    • And who created your Creator? Michaelangelo? Rodin? Seth McFarlane?

      In reply to #33 by 1Mantraman:

      Abrahamics/Westerners get a life, the Creator created every thing, that includes Creationism/Evolution. Time we learned to get along ! Clarificationn may be provided for a small consideration.

      • Must not be rude to the dummy suckers.
        In reply to #34 by Steven007:

        And who created your Creator? Michaelangelo? Rodin? Seth McFarlane?

        In reply to #33 by 1Mantraman:

        Abrahamics/Westerners get a life, the Creator created every thing, that includes Creationism/Evolution. Time we learned to get along ! Clarificationn may be provided for a small consideration.

        • So sorry, didn’t mean to trouble you with a simple question (aren’t they all simple with your Neverending Story (Bible) to guide you?) Questions require answers, or at least investigation, exploration and/or curiosity and I do realize it’s in short supply with you and your friendly parishioners. But…perhaps DaVinci? Houdini? Help me out, I’m grasping at straws here…

          In reply to #36 by 1Mantraman:

          Must not be rude to the dummy suckers.
          In reply to #34 by Steven007:

          And who created your Creator? Michaelangelo? Rodin? Seth McFarlane?

          In reply to #33 by 1Mantraman:

          Abrahamics/Westerners get a life, the Creator created every thing, that includes Creationism/Evolution. Time we learned to get al…

  20. 1Mantraman:

    Abrahamics/Westerners get a life, the Creator created every thing, that includes Creationism/Evolution. Time we learned to get along ! Clarificationn may be provided for a small consideration.

    Of course ! The tithe comes in and the tithe comes in !

  21. simple question? not so.to see the Devine light takes years of practice, except for those born already connected, or some way there. We sit on the side lines waiting for others to become enlightened, literally, so that we all of humanity may continue with the given tasks. No one to go hungry. sufficient clothing, shelter, high level education/health for all. And what do we see, bickering to full blown wars over issues vast enough to keep us from a small task like making sure no one goes to bed hungry ? The answer’s are here, the means are ready, but first we have to settle this enormously vast discussion of creation/evolution, then we may have the capacity for the small essentials. How manyof us pre/occupied with this quandary ?

    • In reply to #39 by 1Mantraman:

      simple question? not so.to see the Devine light takes years of practice, except for those born already connected, or some way there. We sit on the side lines waiting for others to become enlightened, literally, so that we all of humanity may continue with the given tasks. No one to go hungry. suffic…

      Believers have had ample opportunity to achieve their supposedly altruistic goals. What do they have to show for all this well intended belief? Conflict, torture, punishment for thought crimes! The history is not good and I suggest you look at it, though I suspect you have some simplistic retort waiting to be expressed.

  22. That would be the consequence of Homo sapiens suddenly going extinct. So nothing much would ‘happen’ in human terms – the natural world would just keep doing its thing, as it has done for billions of years.

    By your question do you mean to ask’ is the end of religious belief possible?’. Then the answer is no, not while there are people who compulsively imagine a supernatural parent who cares about them. Of course your definition of ‘religious’ is relevant to this.

  23. Short of the sudden extinction of humans it is not possible for men and women to give up religion in the blink of an eye. Even Stone Age tribes and likely caveman tribes had religion in some form or another, as evidenced by the fact that they buried the dead. It would seem that religion has been a part of human existence since the beginning of human existence.

  24. People would find themselves with a lot more free time but perhaps some obssesive compulsive repetative behaviour issues to fill their void, however they would probably have spare money to donate to ‘worthy’ causes…..they may also realise that humans have always had the power within them that they attribute to gods….people might also begin to pay attention to the real things that we all need to do to work together on important world issues and finally if religious belief disappeared overnight people would have no excuse but to look in the mirror

  25. I am sad to say it would be replaced with something perhaps not any better. There is a cause for religion..much of which ironically resides in human evolution..you don’t not eliminate the ailment by just eliminating the symptom…we are a flawed species…triabalism, insecurity, intellectual laziness, desire for fairness where it can not exist…many people have a need that the truth does not comfort..

  26. I had a nightmare some months back; an alien spaceship landed on planet earth and the occupants were Muslim. More likely is that when we officially make contact with occupants from other planets or places, they will have gotten over the “God” compulsion and tell us what many of us already know.

    If religion ended overnight, many millions of people would be in a state of anomie … total confusion. However, as days passed, they would probably begin dreaming up new creation scenarios to supercede the myths that have consumed us for millenia. It would be up to those of us who are atheists to show them that the world would progress much better without belief in supernatural beings and events.

  27. ” religious belief completely stop overnight” ?

    1. This is most improbable

    2. If this were to occur, what would happen immediately afterwards would depend on what extraordinary set of events would have caused this complete and instantaneous “stoppage”.

    3. For the purposes of responding to this “competition”, I am assuming that the cause is that our planet is hit by an enormous asteroid, destroying all human or animal life. So this is what would happen.

    4. Under the less unrealistic hypothesis of a gradual phasing out of religious belief (evolution, you may have heard!), some other forms of associative/herding institutions , based on the existing varieties, are likely to develop around themes or interests. Some of them may be offshoots of old religions ( e.g. present day Quakers -specially in Europe- can hardly qualify as a religion), and other secular ones might have quasi-religious characteristics ( sports teams fan clubs etc…)

  28. Since indoctrination, memetic repetition, habituation, need for direction & submission to authority are so deeply inculcated, most people’s brain functions would be quite disordered & unable to operate on a self-sustaining level, so there would be a lot of pretty useless folk hanging around doing nothing productive, waiting to be told what to think & do…. Mac.

  29. Has anyone thought about the possibility that nuclear proliferation may mean no more world due to religion? Can you imagine the world if a rogue Islamist state obtains nuclear weaponry? Islamic clerics eager to do God’s work by killing infidels and earning themselves a life of eternal bliss in paradise. Sam Harris believes to ensure our survival it may take a nuclear first strike of our own (The End of Faith, Page 129)…………Meanwhile, the centrifuges in Iran continue to spin?

    • In reply to #51 by Bob Springsteen:
      ..”.the possibility that nuclear proliferation may mean no more world due to religion …. if a rogue Islamist state obtains nuclear weaponry..Islamic clerics eager to do God’s work by killing infidels and earning themselves a life of eternal bliss…Meanwhile, the centrifuges in Iran continue to spin.

      I don’t quite understand why you raise this-a hypothesis under extreme religious belief- when we are envisaging what would happen in a world without religion. Surely, under the worse case scenario along the lines you envisage, the rogue regime in question ( say Iran, which you point to -controversially, at a time of détente) would use its arsenal on Israel and, say, 20 cities in the West. Then it would be instantly obliterated by a massive concentrated retaliation. But 80%+ (?) of the world population will survive somehow, and there is no reason to think that religious belief “would completely stop overnight” . A less lethal scenario which you allude to is that recommended by Sam Harris of a nuclear preemptive strike option on the rogue suicidal Islamic state possessing nuclear weapons and long range delivery vehicles, where only/mostly that state will be obliterated: This is not the place here to comment on Harris’ preemptive recommendation , but surely it would not have much negative impact on religious belief -still less obliterate it.

    • In reply to #51 by Bob Springsteen:

      Has anyone thought about the possibility that nuclear proliferation may mean no more world due to religion?

      We can look at recent history to see a situation where a nuclear catastrophe was quite possible because of opposing political ideologies. Fortunately, the leaders of the Soviet Union were rational enough to give up communism when they decided that the experiment had failed. The potential for destruction has, however, not greatly altered. The implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is urgent. Disarmament by the existing nuclear powers is the most important provision of the treaty but doesn’t seem likely.

      • In reply to #64 by aldous:

        ..”a nuclear catastrophe was quite possible because of opposing political ideologies. Fortunately, the leaders of the Soviet Union were rational enough…. The potential for destruction.. not greatly altered. The implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is urgent. Disarmament by the existing nuclear powers is the most important provision of the treaty …

        I don’t want to substitute for the moderator, but how does these comments -irrespective of their merits-relate to the subject ” What would happen if religious belief were to completely stop overnight”? Maybe I am missing something?

        • In reply to #65 by catphil:

          how does these comments -irrespective of their merits-relate to the subject ” What would happen if religious belief were to completely stop overnight”?

          I wrote in answer to:

          In reply to #51 by Bob Springsteen:
          Has anyone thought about the possibility that nuclear proliferation may mean no more world due to religion?

          The danger of nuclear catastrophe has come, and continues to come, from geopolitical rivalries between nation states. The disappearance of religion would not change that. The implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be a key factor in this respect and binning the Bible, the Torah and the Koran might help but wouldn’t be decisive. I should add that the acceptance of the terms of the Treaty by non-signatories – India, Pakistan and Israel — would also be required.

  30. I remember the day peace broke out as though it were yesterday. The Taliban mullahs and fighters couldn’t remember why they were doing what they had been for so long and decided to all go home and back to work or farming or whatever they did ‘before’. A Palestinian asked an Israeli why there were fences up and buildings being erected where his village had been; and the Israeli asked the Palestinian why his people were throwing stones at jews, but neither of them could remember what a jew was or why the houses were being built as they were. So both sat down and had a cup of coffee and talked about their families. In Ireland some men with a bomb in their car couldn’t remember why it was there, so they called the police to defuse it. In the USA a significant number of television channels found they had nothing to transmit so they put some cartoons on and the audience decided they liked this better than what was shown before, even though they couldn’t actually remember what that was. And many places around the world that had been restrictive and had kept women down and hurt them, suddenly saw no reason for this. And people were released from servitude to false idols and evil people all over the world. And the sun rose on the first dawn of the new age of enlightenment for the whole of humanity. How do I know this? Well of course it was me who caused this to happen. No I won’t tell you how I did it in case someone reverses it. What’s that? I must be some kind of a god? What is one of those now, I really don’t recall. Oh you don’t either? Well that must be a good thing. Let’s get on with our lives along with the rest of humanity.

  31. It would probably depend upon whether this includes having the memory and records of various religions disappearing as well. If we were to wake up with a Blank Slate as far as religious concepts were concerned, I believe we would do as we have always done: look at the world around us and try and make sense of it. Try and figure out what works and what does not. (In primitive times it was difficult to draw accurate conclusions about the phenomena around us.) But, now, in looking at the world, we would easily conclude that science works. Medicine works. Physics works. And so on. In rethinking the world in contemporary times, I am sure that many wrong conclusions would still be reached, but at least we would finally have completely emerged from the Dark Ages.

  32. Not sure I can wrap my head around this question — it depends on what we mean by religious belief and what replaces it. My suspicion is that humans have in fact evolved to leap to conclusions on little evidence, since this would tend to maximize probability of survival when presented with impending doom, and then further build on that (assuming it was “successful”) in later situations as fallout out from pattern matching (another evolved and useful characteristic). It’s certainly an unfortunate thing when a lucky guess turns into a superstition, which turns into a rite, and then a superstition, dogma, and finally a cultural requirement. But at what point does it become “religion?”

    In one sense, if religion were to disappear overnight, people would stop being who they are, and the mechanism by which they make decisions (including fast, critical decisions) would need to be filled by something else. If the question is “What if the enforced cultural requirements of making decisions based on dogma and misunderstood circumstances were to disappear overnight,” that’d a good start in theory — but it implies changing people, not buildings or books or whatever — and so the questions really it boils down to “what if those people disappeared and were replaced by people looking exactly like them who thought more like us?” Personally losing that sort of religion is a more gradual process, as well I know… if it was instantaneous, then is just a discontinuity, and we’re talking about two different people.

  33. Religion is a kind of narcotic (with the same feel good effect). People cannot be expected to go cold turkey.

    It also produces the same high as narcotics. Its serves as an escape mechanism, it makes otherwise unhappy people feel good and it is addictive in the community it provides for the lonely and lacking confidence.

    I fear that the sudden loss of religion would have a catastrophic effect for those who are monotheistic. By catastrophic results this means mass suicides and huge depression (that is if the question means that people will remember it. If not then I see no reason the world would not continue as a better, happier place with far greater intellectual curiosity.) If religion was remembered and suddenly stopped, I also feel it take its toll on every facet of human existence. Consider all the art and music created in the name of god.

    I believe religion should be done away with but for true believers it needs to be a gradual process.

    I honestly do not know enough about Hinduism to speak intelligently about it. As I am assuming that religion means the worship of a supernatural entity that plays a role in the day to day lives of humankind, I assume Buddhists would be fine.

  34. Emerson wrote in “Self Reliance” that a man was weaker for every recruit to his banner. I’d add- and weaker still for every banner to which he gets recruited. For the most part, people are weak and need to tribe-up so the loss of faith would create a massive gap in self-identity.

    It would have to be replaced by new shared beliefs that permitted the us vs. them bonding or a deepening in the those other beliefs currently held.

    Nationalism, party politics and in the US, gun nuts would raise existing conflicts to whole new levels. And I hesitate to speculate about about soccer riots.

  35. People would suddenly have an interest in science? No, I’m sure the bible thumpers would find something else to captivate their imaginations like renewed interest in Peter Pan or The Tooth Fairy instead of living in Never-Never Land upon their deaths……………….

  36. After doing some further thinking about the question I have come to the conclusion it’s a silly question that doesn’t deserve an answer because mankind has always dreamed up some kind of afterlife and will continue to do so forever and ever. People want to have something to believe in and that will never change.

    • In reply to #61 by Toobroketoretire:

      After doing some further thinking about the question I have come to the conclusion it’s a silly question that doesn’t deserve an answer because mankind has always dreamed up some kind of afterlife and will continue to do so forever and ever. People want to have something to believe in and that will never change.

      That may be but religion is dying in a lot of societies already. No reason that won’t continue. Maybe there will be people who still keep a vague thought tucked away that life has a purpose or there must be something after death or … But that doesn’t constitute a religion.

      Michael

  37. In reply to NUMBER 64 by aldous : Hi aldous, There was very little chance of a nuclear war between the atheistic Soviet Union and the secular west because both parties were mutually deterred by the threat of death. If we are faced with a rogue Islamist state armed with nuclear weapons we are confronted by people who hold beliefs for which there is no rational justification. Men who are every bit as zealous to kill and die as the 9/11 hijackers.

    • In reply to #68 by Bob Springsteen:

      In reply to NUMBER 64 by aldous : Hi aldous, There was very little chance of a nuclear war between the atheistic Soviet Union and the secular west because both parties were mutually deterred by the threat of death.

      How wonderful to learn that the colossal expense of weapons of mass destruction was totally wasted.

  38. The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind? I realize that some atheist’s have and will change their beliefs for many different reasons, but I wonder what it would take for this to happen to Mr. Dawkins. Perhaps he has spoken of this already. I am very new here. Would a permanent fixture/event/sign that could be seen/felt/heard and that breaks the laws of nature do it? Does he believe that his beliefs could ever be changed? Thanks for considering this question.

    • In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:
      I, of course cannot speak for another person. Therefore I will answer for myself. As someone who has been agnostic then finally an atheist for the past 20 years, most of those years in the Bible Belt of the American South, there is no evidence that would change my mind unless Darwin, the Big Bang Theory, and all current scientific evidence that is fact was proven false by multiple scientists. I would not take anything that went against the laws of physics, biology or chemistry as evidence since such evidence cannot possibly be produced
      If it had the illusion of existing i would assume it to be a technological marvel. I certainly would not take god(s) revealing himself (themselves) as evidence since such a thing could be produced by technology.

      I am certainly not a scientist, but as a historian, I would love to ask a “god” how such violence could be allowed to happen in their name, but as an atheist I am quite certain that it is man who created god(s) and not the other way around

      The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind? I realize that some atheist’s have and will change their beliefs for many different reasons, but I wonder what it would take…

    • In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:

      “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given

      MariaIsabella, why would an incredibly complex entity only be able to communicate by means of signs? I think being able to speak in all the languages of the world would be very little to ask. All these signs and secret coded messages are so easy to misinterpret as natural phenomena and fanciful thinking. Why? Why? Why?

    • In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:

      The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind? I realize that some atheist’s have and will change their beliefs for many different reasons, but I wonder what it would take…

      Hi Marialsabella, observing a phenomenon that breaks the ‘laws of nature’ only indicates that we have got the laws wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened, and certainly won’t be the last. It merely gives us an opportunity to study and amend. Then we go on. I wonder what it takes for the religious to amend their laws, and when has this happened in the past?

      • I wonder what it takes for the religious to amend their laws, and when has this happened in the past?

        When society has progressed sufficiently that religion’s often immoral laws are made illegal or when the religious are sufficiently embarrassed by the bigotry of their laws, then they will ignore those laws and try to avoid discussing them. But they won’t amend them because they believe them to be the word of God. They may go as far as saying that the laws were moral for biblical times but few of them realise what they themselves are inferring, that the laws (and by implication their God) have been judged and found wanting.

        In reply to #75 by Zhap135:

        In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:

        The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind? I realize that some atheist’s have and will change their beliefs for many different reason…

      • reply to #75 by Zhap135:

        In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:
        near as I can figure for change in religion:
        Judaism: NEVER (I was raised in the Jewish faith. I was taught that it was that fact that means its right) Other than modernity causing people to branch off thus causing even greater hypocrisy NEVER
        Catholicism: finally moving from Latin to vernacular languages in the 1960s BIG DEAL. IT WAS ABOUT TIME)
        Protestantism: gave up on the idea of witches in the late 17th century- after committing mass murder which manifested as gendercide and murder of the disabled.
        What would happen if god was indisputably proven to exist? He (they) has much to answer for (Crusades, murder on a massive scale [Spanish Inquisition], man turning against man during the plague, genocide by Columbus and those who followed, burning opposing religions during Reformation, Counter Reformation, Thirty Years War, English Civil War, Great Witch Craze (which was briefly brought to the New World), French Revolution (to a small extent),world wide indoctrination by European nations during age of imperialism, indoctrination of African slaves in US. And the saddest thing is that is just the tip of the iceberg.
        I would also love an explanation as to why his role in everyday life of humankind became less and less as humankind came to gradually understand the world more and more.
        I am with Nitya: why send signs and portents that were certain to be misunderstood thus cause humans to be so violent in their adoration of this “so called god”.
        Unfortunately to answer this weeks ‘ question I am forced to quote Karl Marx (just because he was wrong about communism, doesn’t mean he was wrong about everything) ” Religion is the opiate of the people”
        The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind? I realize that some atheist’s have and will change their beliefs for many different reason…

    • In reply to #69 by MariaIsabella:

      The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind?

      Hi Maria. I’ve been here for 4 years, have seen all of RD’s videos online, plus I have all of RD’s books. I can reasonably say that RD bases his understanding of reality on what is demonstrably true & he has said that his mind can be changed by new evidence.

      As with me, I think he would have some deep questions for a ‘god’ to answer before we would accept the apparent evidence & ‘believe in’ him/she/it/them/whatever. After much study of our human & natural history, I would still not submit my mind & life to who or what has caused so much confusion, hostility & damage to our bit of the life on our Pale Blue Dot…. Mac.

  39. In reply to NUMBER 69 by MariaIsabella : Hello MariaIsabella, Please do not get the impression that most of the people on this site are atheists because they have read a few books written by Richard Dawkins. Personally, I do not believe in God in the same way that I do not believe in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and Aliens. Whenever believers point out the beauty of creation, I remind them that the same so-called God gave us smallpox and plague.

  40. MariaIsabella :

    The question that I would like to pose is, “What would happen if an indisputable sign was given to the world that God does exist?”. What would change Richard Dawkin’s mind?

    Evidence. Forget about “indisputable signs”, dear, evidence is what would change Richard Dawkins’ mind , – and mine. Please be forth giving of such evidence !

  41. The best way to find out is to understand the true consequences of religion and consider the immense benefits to the world without it. Imagine if religion was never invented, the Origin of Species would have been the biological version of the bible!… What else is there, but the truth?
    All generations of school kids over the past centuries would have learned about biology and the realities of evolution instead of religion and our society would be in a substantially more advanced state than it is today.
    The human genome may have been cracked 50 years sooner than it did. A cure for cancer, aids and the common flu would have been developed by now and we would be living in a content and sustainable society.
    Instead we flood the world with religion and create a phenomena known as de-volution where reality and our thoughts and theories become irrelevant and stagnant.
    Unfortunately, history will reveal how negative an influence religion has been on human society to date.
    It will also reveal how centuries of precious time has been wasted educating our young human resources with religious teachings.
    Children love animals and nature, it keeps their attention and increases school attendances, however the evolution of species is rejected by religious schools as a myth while general science is made boring and difficult by religious influences.
    Ask any high school student what a pan-troglodyte (chimpanzee) is? No idea due to suppressed reality!

    Ironically, the only benefit of religion is population reduction through war, martyrdom and terrorism, however the discovery and study of the Pan-Paniscus (Bonobo ape) shows us that instinctual behaviours evolved over millions of years. Acts of compassion and morality are not phenomena invented by religious humans, it is in our nature. These findings also defeat the common religious/political assumption that homosexuality is immoral and women are second class citizens. Wouldn’t sustainable human populations be achieved by a thriving matriarchal and/or gay community as an alternative to religious conflict?

    I pity those faithful believers who are wasting their lives conforming to fairy tales when they come to the realisation that precious life is brief and ONLY death is eternal. They don’t appreciate the gravity of the situation because they assume their “next life” will be better. Religion is a burden of lies, to survive as a species we can easily diverge from religion, adapt to reality and evolve.

  42. there would be no difference whatsoever. Those who are fanatically religious now would simply shift their fanatical fervor to something else. This is evidenced by the personality cult that we see in a so-called atheist state, that being North Korea. Those who are corrupt and greedy, would still be so. Those who are child molesters would still find a plethora of victims. Despite what many people would like to believe, religion in of itself is not the source of the World’s evils; but only an excuse bad people use. If religion did not exist they would find some other excuse to do what they do.

    • In reply to #82 by jeleda913:

      Despite what many people would like to believe, religion in of itself is not the source of the World’s evils; but only an excuse bad people use. If religion did not exist they would find some other excuse to do what they do.

      True. But the good people doing bad things because of religion would be able to stop. That would be a gain.

      Michael

    • In reply to #82 by jeleda913:

      there would be no difference whatsoever. Those who are fanatically religious now would simply shift their fanatical fervor to something else.

      The thing is religion often acts as a sort of intellectual HIV. The simple world it paints allows counter-intuitive beliefs even when corroborated evidence (its presence or absence) and reason point in other directions. This intellectual immunodeficiency allows other opportunistic malicious mind viruses easy entry. Bad thinking people have whole swathes of others pretty much at their beck and call once innate personal values are overwritten by those of dogma and targeted out-groups appropriately demonised as the roadblock to wider salvation, or whatever.

      Dogma is the category of intellectual disablement, but it is religious dogma, that posits good based on the whim of a creator, that can detach itself from all reality without losing one jot of its apparent authority. The simplicity of this vision, the profound implications of authority, are the little flap that opens in the back of most religious folk’s heads allowing the best access for the malacious to do their infectious worst.

  43. I woke up this morning, and found that all the gods had left town. For me nothing much had changed. It was quiet and peaceful in the street. No Sunday church bells, no evangelical preachers on the street corner. The Mormons and Adventists don’t come knocking today.

    A dazed mob who had just the day before been fervent believers in Yaweh, God, Vishnu, Buddah and countless other deities all looked like they had just woken from a bad dream. Some were scared, a fear of the void and of the finality of death filled their minds. Others comforted those who did not take the change well, offering deep human compassion and love without prompting from above. Some laughed and were embarrassed at having spent so much of their lives in vain prayer and ritual.

    Those who once were bitter enemies found the reasons for enmity had vanished into the past. Talking and embracing, they can freely
    put aside the false differences that divided human from human.

    Those who hid behind the mask of religion for personal gain, those corrupt souls who’s only means of controlling and abusing others was the fear of God, now find themselves stripped naked and vulnerable. They fear the wrath of their victims. For them this may be the worst day of all. As Tom Waits sung: “God’s away, God’s away, on business, business.”

  44. I think we will see one night or one day that religion isn’t any where in any place of the world. But my guess is that it not occur as soon as we see it, may be in the next millenium. Religion in our age is a thing like AIDS. It suffers people and kills them in a gradually way, that they can’t understand it. Religion must be destroy and we must vaccinate people and protect them from this virus. But I also believe that religion maybe in the past ages has not been a bad thing and humans lived with it because they have not any other choose essentially and we must look at them like a child that if does a bad work we don’t blame him/her. I think we (that meaning atheists) must open a new window on the world beyond the human eyes by teach them the foundation meaning of science and rationality and their effects on all human aspects of life. I wish religion is dismissed one day and humans taste the tasty atheist and irreligion world.

  45. According to PewResearch, about 80% of the world population identifies with a religious group of some sort. If religious belief would stop overnight, then this would result in a tremendous increase in advancement of Mankind since all the time devoted to religious activities would be spent on much more productive activities. Further, since every religious doctrine believes that they and only they are the custodians of the true word of the Divine and therefore having a monopoly on the truth, their innate superiority complex and disdain for non-believers would also dissipate. All in all, it’s a win-win for Humanity. My hope is that one day, the whole of Mankind will understand that religions have been created as psychological weapons to meant to subjugate and control through fear and misunderstanding. When that day comes, we must never forget and learn from our mistakes in the past.

  46. Movie quote:

    Dwan: How can I become a star because of… because of someone who was stolen off that gorgeous island and locked up in that lousy oil tank?
    Fred Wilson: Its not someone! Its an animal, a beast who tried to rape you.
    Dwan: Thats not true. He risked his life to save me.
    Fred Wilson: He tried to rape you honey. And before you cry a lot, you should ask the natives on that island what they thought of losing Kong.
    Jack Prescott: Actually, they’ll miss him a lot.
    Fred Wilson: Like leprosy.
    Jack Prescott: No, you’re dead wrong. He was the terror, the mystery of their lives, and the magic. A year from now that will be an island full of burnt-out drunks. When we took Kong we kidnapped their god.


    I think we already know what the net result of the question posed in the OP would be, because we’ve seen it ourselves. In the secular western world, the gods we now worship are called Simon, Kim, Kanye, Justin (Think ‘Beliebers’ is mere coincidence?) and Lady. A more comprehensive list of modern deities is available here.

    To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, when a man stops worshipping God, he doesn’t then worship no one, he worships anyone.

    Religion will never disappear in our species, because the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA… Unless we manage to isolate and remove those genes responsible for belief, of course. If that happened, though, would we still be the same species?

    • In reply to #89 by Katy Cordeth:

      Religion will never disappear in our species, because the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA…

      The latter doesn’t seem in the least to be so to me. Anyway, we are not our visceral aesthetics. The inevitability of religious belief is inversely correlated with education and correlated with inequity. We are learning the value of deferred gratification and forgoing the need for immediate answers as we see again and again a process of reason and evidence that steadily increases our understanding.

      Stand back and the change down through the ages is clear. It also needs accounting for if it is not the above.

      That old G.K.Chestnut actually says little. Given some intellectual free time and intellectual challenges that present themselves once people stop trying to infect you with God-Itch (it needs continual social re-infection to sustain most people) and the itch subsides, it seems reasonable that people cast around to find things to occupy themselves. Mostly they are a little more sensible and focus on everyday needs and the need to think for themselves in matters moral (just like the Quakers in fact), but those having had an evidence and reason lobotomy at a tender age may rather struggle.

      • In reply to #92 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #89 by Katy Cordeth:

        Religion will never disappear in our species, because the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA…

        The latter doesn’t seem in the least to be so to me. Anyway, we are not our visceral aesthetics.

        No? I’m going to return to my notion that blind, unthinking belief was a requisite for the human race’s evolution. We are not ants or termites, created by the Overseer as simple automata; neither are we canids, programmed before birth to unthinkingly follow the prescripts of pack mentality. We are the thinking ape, which grew powerful only when it learned to cooperate. Cooperation requires trust, or, if trust hasn’t yet been earned, faith. Our hominid ancestors in possession of this character trait were better able to function in a larger group and therefore bash hell out of those in smaller, family units, and so go on to spread this cooperation gene or combination of genes.

        Religion is the natural outcome of this business; it’s taking the idea of blindly following for no other reason than because we’ve been told to to its logical conclusion. It’s a mistake to think that because we don’t happen to believe in a god our existence isn’t informed by faith.

        Do you believe in man-made climate change? Because I do. I haven’t done the science myself, I’m not capable of such a thing; nor can I make much sense from the data which are available because I’m simply not smart enough. My belief that this phenomenon is real is based on no more evidence than Sarah Palin’s view that it isn’t. It could even be based on less as, for all I know, la Palin has read some books about how it’s all a liberal, commie conspiracy. Assuming she hasn’t, both she and I are placing our faith in what we’ve been told by others: in her case, bogus scientists; in mine, proper scientists. I find it difficult to believe that everyone who thinks MMCC is real is competent to analyse the information themselves; I think it’s more likely that those like me represent the majority.

        In recent years, the banking industry has brought the world to its knees; corporate psychopathy is responsible for so much suffering that if Satan were at large in this realm He could kick back and catch up on all the box sets He bought but never got around to watching (I’d give Breaking Bad a miss though, Your Eminence, it’s overrated. Buffy is awesome though).
        Da Babylon prove themselves racist and monstrously corrupt time after time, fifty percent of the world’s wealth is owned by eighty five individuals, yet the cops get a pass and we elect to office those we know are only going to maintain the financial status quo.

        It’s often jokingly said that the true god of the western world is Mammon. I don’t see how the genuflecting attitude we display to corporate swinishness or banking malfeasance is different from the sort of thing that goes on every Sunday in church or daily in a mosque.

        We place our faith in institutions both religious and secular because faith is a part of our make-up. We can get rid of individual religions, either by educating the masses or, as our self-proclaimed “The Boss” believes, by proscribing certain faiths or, in extremis, nuking Abdul and his pals all the way to Jannah. We can do all this but, much like the Krell aliens in sci-fi movie classic Forbidden Planet, we can’t excise an intrinsic part of us — not unless we want it to come back and kill Walter Pidgeon and a bunch of others. We need to keep that thing under control and recognize it for what it is: something common to each and every one of us apes walking the Earth.

        …Given some intellectual free time and intellectual challenges that present themselves once people stop trying to infect you with God-Itch (it needs continual social re-infection to sustain most people) and the itch subsides.

        It never goes away though. That thing can flare up at any time. Grab a couple hundred humans, erase their memories and stick them on a different planet with no idea how they came to be there, and I can pretty much guarantee that within one hundred years they will have some form of religion. Oh, and probably a gallows.

        • In reply to #159 by Katy Cordeth:

          I’m going to return to my notion that blind, unthinking belief was a requisite for the human race’s evolution.

          This deserves a big detailed response. Sadly, I have a choice between writing such a response and going to the pub, and the solution of the world’s pressing problems must ever take priority. (If only someone would take notes.)

          The problems lie, for me, with the use of language and the failure of the ideas to gel with all I have come to understand about the evolution of our animal, social and cultural capacities. I no more think religion an inevitable part of our future than I think hunter-gathering is. Reset society with a global catastrophe and I think it fairly sure we will work our way though both again.

          The very things that drive religion, Hebbian learning that allows supernatural causation to appear valid, unwired children’s brains due to our neotenous natures leaving us open to high fidelity cultural copying when young, our manifold aesthetic itches, will be the very things that will increasingly engage us in the more powerful cultural process that started to appear with the axial age philosophers. These are processes that will probably have higher evolutionary selective pressures as they play to our unique capacity amongst other lifeforms, the one that has us infect the whole surface of the plant, our capacity to imagine a future and get it right.

          I promise more detail to go with the headlines but I am intuiting an imminent Guiness right now.

  47. In reply to #32 by Bob Springsteen:

    In reply to NUMBER 26 by Red Dog. The Muslim birthrate in Europe : I got my fact from the orifice of Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation, Page 83).

    Gosh, who to believe: The non-partisan Pew Research Center fact tank report Red Dog linked to, or the words of an extremely partisan racial profiling advocate and gun nut who thinks we should nuke the entire Muslim world, making the combined genocidal efforts of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and their ilk pale into insignificance, to save ourselves?

    By the way, don’t forget I once had to put you right about the New Testament and Koranic teachings on hell and the devil. See the thread entitled Are you scared of Hell? My name should tell you, I am the Boss!!

    Were I in a mean-spirited frame of mind, I might suggest that the desire to crow over such a meager victory speaks volumes about the person doing the crowing.

    • In reply to #90 by Katy Cordeth:

      By the way, don’t forget I once had to put you right about the New Testament and Koranic teachings on hell and the devil. See the thread entitled Are you scared of Hell? My name should tell you, I am the Boss!! Were I in a mean-spirited frame of mind, I might suggest that the desire to crow over such a meager victory speaks volumes about the person doing the crowing.

      I don’t actually remember any “victory” meager or not. What I remember was that he clearly didn’t know what he was talking about and, as so often happens, didn’t bother to respond to the points I was making so I just stopped wasting my time trying to have an intelligent conversation with him. If he interpreted that as victory that’s fine, as I always say it’s a waste of time to worry about how stupid people misinterpret the things we say… or don’t say.

    • …..words of an extremely partisan racial profiling advocate and gun nut who thinks we should nuke the entire Muslim world, making the combined genocidal efforts of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and their ilk pale into insignificance, to save ourselves?

      Bob has a tendency to exaggerate too. There is a saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

      In “The End of Faith” Harris describes a scenario in which a nuclear war could be triggered by religious extremism or the fear of such extremism. He includes this:

      All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns.

      Here is Sam Harris on pre-emptive nuclear war.

      In reply to #90 by Katy Cordeth:

      In reply to #32 by Bob Springsteen:

      In reply to NUMBER 26 by Red Dog. The Muslim birthrate in Europe : I got my fact from the orifice of Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation, Page 83).

      Gosh, who to believe: The non-partisan Pew Research Center fact tank report Red Dog linked to, or the words o…

  48. Many people would be afraid when faced with their own inevitable mortality and that of their loved ones, then, in time, they would learn to manage the fear and loss. People of good conscience would carry on making their lives count for positive results and legacies, those of no conscience would do what they are doing anyway.

  49. The human appetite for belief seems to run pretty deep. The end of Religious belief would only be the end of one particular brand. The void could easily be filled with Cultural beliefs, Philosophical and Political beliefs ect. Axiomatic systems require the acceptance of unprovable propositions, and self-evident truths, if there can be many logically consistent and useful non-euclidean geometries, then there is no reason to rule out logically consistent and useful cultural, political and philosophical constructs in competition with each other. I suspect the world would look much the same, and we would all still get a chuckle from Swift’s depiction of the Lilliputian’s dispute over the belief of which end of a boiled egg its is best to break first!

    • In reply to #102 by Diogenes:

      The human appetite for belief seems to run pretty deep. The end of Religious belief would only be the end of one particular brand. The void could easily be filled with Cultural beliefs, Philosophical and Political beliefs ect. Axiomatic systems require the acceptance of unprovable propositions, and…

      There is all the difference in the world between a dogma and an axiom. An axiom is an aid to thinking which can be replaced as required. A dogma is an obstacle to thinking if it is considered to be an unquestionable truth.

      • aldous, you over state the case, dogma is just about as easy to replace as axioms, otherwise why would there be so many different denominations of Christianity alone, not to mention other religions. Telling any human being something is unquestionable is destined to spark a question or two right from the start. :-)
        In reply to #107 by aldous:

        In reply to #102 by Diogenes:

        The human appetite for belief seems to run pretty deep. The end of Religious belief would only be the end of one particular brand. The void could easily be filled with Cultural beliefs, Philosophical and Political beliefs ect. Axiomatic systems require the acceptance o…

  50. There would be a catastrophic reaction by the former believers. The void in their lives would crush them. Mass suicides would follow.
    There would have to be a rapid campaign of information, reassuring people in the valid science that inevitably would replace religious belief- social networks would be key in successfully conveying that message.
    A more preferable idea is a slow down in religious belief as it slowly is replaced with genuine scientific knowledge.

  51. Whether we have souls or not we feel soulfully. That being said, in a world without religion perhaps we would feel soulfully about our place in the universe and life in general. It’s also possible that more meaning would be added with each new testable scientific evidence that better helps us to understand reality, and that the consensus of scientific knowledge would help with an understanding that, though being dependent on model based theories of reality, would negate relativity and faith without reason due to the comprehension of the scientific processes with which such knowledge was achieved. It’s also not entirely inconceivable that in such a world logic and reason would lead to a more thorough application of universal human rights, as well as a more forward outlook in regard to our relationship with both the world and different cultures. I look forward to a time when we might see a world without religion.

  52. The more I see the way people act in general, as far as their views and beliefs go, the more I feel forced to the conclusion that things would not change that much, other than, perhaps, tempering the degree of violent response overall. Christopher Hitchens always said that to be an atheist was a necessary but not sufficient condition for emancipation, and that applies equally to being properly educated. I have found arguing with many groups, many that would consider themselves to be atheistic (group with atheists in it as opposed to an atheist group), indistinguishable to arguing with serious religious people in their tactics, both in argument and general propaganda. I believe that religion, given its social position, is simply the most likely medium through which the human tendency to bad thinking will be expressed, and unless a way to properly solve or address that core problem is found, I think if we found ourselves in a religion free world tomorrow the results would ultimately be disappointing. I used to not think this, and would happy to find myself incorrect, and human behavior can be complicated enough, that anyone answering this question can expect to be wrong, if there was a way to find out.

  53. From the perspective of a legal scholar, this is a fascinating question indeed. A sudden vanishing of religious ideology would almost certainly lead to a sweeping questioning of the most fundamental of systems by which we control and legitimize (or demonize) social behaviors & norms: our laws.

    In both criminal and civil law, legal mandates as well as the methods of enforcing them are built not necessarily on foundations of social justice or of achieving the greatest good at the least societal cost. Instead, they are frequently based on “moral righteousness” derived principally from religious ideological ideals: punish the wicked; marginalize the unclean; maintain the rule of the righteous majority.

    The sudden disappearance of religious ideology would ultimately require that laws be holistically examined from their fundamental bases; simply put, they would need to be justified not by the often arbitrary mandates of the moral majority, but instead by the impact that behaviors have on the human community writ large.

    No longer would we face foolish battles over socially-destructive policies such as marriage inequality or mandatory sentencing schemes for nonviolent crimes of moral turpitude; ideology would inevitably be uprooted by empiricism, and the truest goal of the laws – protecting & maintaining social justice and effectively preventing harm to the community through empirically-based means – could be far more efficiently, and effectively, pursued.

    As a legal scholar myself, I have no greater hope for systems of law worldwide than the replacement of religious ideology with social science and legal rationality. Such an event would propagate not only a far better system of justice, but a far stronger social foundation as well.

    • In reply to #111 by gjustislaw:

      From the perspective of a legal scholar, this is a fascinating question indeed, etc …
      As a legal scholar myself, I have no greater hope for systems of law worldwide than the replacement of religious ideology with social science and legal rationality. Such an event would propagate not only a far better system of justice, but a far stronger social foundation as well.

      Your contribution is very welcome. I would encourage you to propose in a positive way your views referring to Rawls, Sam Harris, Dennett etc…

  54. The road to world peace can begin. Of course it won’t happen right after religion is gone, but it can start. The reason that religion causes a lot of pain and suffering is because religious people think they are doing good deeds by doing what are actually horrible deeds: ie oppressing gays, atheists, taking away rights of people etc. They see that this world has good people and bad people instead of having good people and good people who’ve been misguided.
    Religion impedes or at least slows down the rational thinking of people and that is where things can go south. We as human beings need to see that we are one with the universe. We need to recognize that no supreme being is watching us and is looking out for us. At that time, we will realize that we only got each other in this big scary universe, and if any of us want to do well in life, we have to work together.
    In conclusion, religion teaches the “we good, they bad” mentality and that is one of the many reasons why we are divided as a species. When religion vanishes, the logical conclusion most people will deduce is that if we want to thrive as humans, we need to ban together and figure out the questions of the universe as a team, leading to world peace.

  55. People the seats you sit on have more letters after there name than I do,I am just a mass of cells with an iPad.
    But I believe (as many have said) that within a very small amount of time a new faith would start.
    Are greatest weaknee is death (we must all face that path) and therefore we fear it,but this inturn leaves an open door for a faith,to take advantage. Human greed is an unquenchable thrust. Time can not change that.
    BUT A WISH WE COULD LEARN.!!!

  56. I am against ideologies of any nature, religious, political, ethnic, racist even economical ones. I would better like another question: “A world without ideologies”.

    Should religion stop overnight, I foresee several different paths for individuals to follow. Yet, before addressing that, there are some changes that should happen. The immediate effect would be a bad one, but in a medium time-span things would improve overall. In the long-term, It’s difficult to predict, since my fear is that space would be made for other ideologies.
    – Wave 1. Unemployment. Simple as that. Religion has service networks and economics attached to it.
    – Wave 2. There would be a shift of human intellectual resources to other areas like the health system, education, public service, administration, etc.
    – Wave 3. Education improves and science gains it’s rightfully deserved attention and respect.
    – Wave 4. Human health improves (only after education) and people address real medics for their issues.
    – Wave 5. Quality of life improves after getting better health, education and using resources, which were previously lost to religion, for personal satisfaction. Daily stress is reduced due to lack of fear of punishment or retribution. Humans start getting used to being “good” because they care for others, not for heavenly rewards or hellish torments. People start to be more honest with themselves and with the ones around, no longer having to lie in order to hide their “moral sins” in fear of judgement from other hypocrites who lie better.
    – Wave 6. Science achieves faster progress with the influx of new and better educated minds and the lack of judgement and fake morality (examples range from blood transfusion, organs transplant and all the way to recreating extinct species, maybe even Neanderthal-human hybrids). This gives us a clear chance to meet other intelligent species with which we would be able to communicate. This would have a profound impact on humanity, since it would be our greatest achievement yet; better than walking on the Moon or searching for aliens (SETI).
    – Wave 7. other ideologies get lost in history an genocides stop. People would still kill each other, but on an individual scale for various reasons (wealth, hate, jealousy, accidents, etc.) but nobody will want to go in another country and die far away from home for the interests of another man (previously masked behind religion or other ideologies). Also, nobody would want to kill anyone with whom he is not in direct and personal conflict.
    – Wave 8. People no longer need to be ruled by other people. Their place in society is automatically obtained by their real value, not by political party interest. Each does whatever she/he is able to do and their competence and credentials gives then power to decide where and what they are supposed to. Every member of the society contributes to taking decisions in the percentage that others attribute him, based on his demonstrate authority in the filed. Voting disappears and so do the lies of political campaigns. Each person who has something to say will be taken into account according to the real value of his words.
    – Wave 9. World peace is achieved and also true freedom for anyone. The chains that bind people into religions, parties, countries, ethnicity, etc. are forever broken and erased from the minds of humans. Each is free to find his place and contribution.

    Of course, between all these there would be those who exchange religion for other mind drugs, the mentally broken who become fanatics of something else, other thieves try to lure people into new traps and promises, those who see their positions threatened might even start small wars and coups to protect their undeserved wealth and secure their future fraudulent future.

    This issue is so complex that I feel it can’t be full expressed even in a series of 10 tomes, and would require decades of documentation, referencing, simulation, testing and putting it all together.

  57. Assuming it’s not the very next morning where no doubt some chaos would ensue! If religious belief were to completely stop overnight we would expect all other religious elements to remain. Churches, monuments, and other physical representations of religion would become monuments to a piece of human history rather than a genuine lifestyle. People would continue to go to church, and indeed pray in some manner, as a matter of tradition rather than a neccessity to reach immortality. Science would prosper greatly without so many raodblocks in place. Not to mention the benefits of mankinds fundamentally different attitude towards the sciences without the potential to defy it on no grounds. Politics would become somewhat more honest without the false morality of religion available to buy votes. Only somewhat mind you! Much the same with war, continuing wherever religious belief is not the basis of it. Crime rates drop as people start to develop their own set of morals. The Vaticans history is loathed by all, in the same fashion as Nazi Germany and treated as a lesson of history. And finally, Chris Hitchens turns in his grave :)

  58. About 36 hours after the disappearance of religion there will be news reports pointing out that certain people are still acting religious-like – being selfless and kind to each other. Following rules that were formerly touted by religions as the way to live – not killing, not lying, etc. These reports will express shock that doing these formally religious things are now seen as just being common sense methods of surviving and thriving on this planet. Unfortunately this leaves a control void which can not be filled by government and brute force returns and in comes a titular leader.

    Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice.
    And when justive is gone, there’s always force.
    And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom! [Laurie Anderson]

  59. A world without religion is a world of peace. The day religion ceases to exist is the day the believers can finally be free from control. They will soon come to realize that you don’t have to be religious to have morals. The crimes that pertain to religion would come to a complete halt. Women will have the opportunity to transcend and be treated as equals. Children would only have to pledge to there nation, not god. Schools will no longer be allowed to discuss religion. Children won’t be getting sexually harassed/assaulted by priests. People will stop using god/religion for there own personal desires, and for money. We will finally all be able to unite and figure out the real reason as to how everything came to be.

  60. Less conflicts, less wars, less deaths in the name of God. Probably more suicides, more consumption of alcohol and drugs as one form of addiction is wiped off it would increase demand for other addictions. More productivity as the money and time spent on religion would be spent elsewhere.

    People start questioning more about the unknowns. We may see increased rate of inventions with increased scientific activity. Charities for social causes would probably get more money as people who otherwise donate to religious activities would then donate to social causes.

    Crime rate will not change, but some forms of crime will be stopped.

  61. If religious belief were to completeley stop overnight. I assume that humans all over stop to belive, and not forget that there has been such thing as religion.

    Alot of conflicts would stop since they no longer has anny “fuel” for their conflict. Especially in the Middle East. This is people who fight because of different views. And people that have an identity towards their religion wil get another identity. Most likley an national identity. This wil also stop the conflict between etnic religious groups. We wil then have more resources to stop the non religious conflicts.

    Nations that are based uppon a religion wil either find a new way to gover. Or they wil split up into groups with similar (new) identity. Others might find that they now have alot in common, and they wil merge. Some small ones wil cease to exist. Like Vatican City.

    Many human rights violations come from religious views. It wil be alot easyer to spread the thought about human rights. And people wil be more free to think and do what they want. And more people wil get the oportunity to get an education.

    Religions tie up many jobs. These jobs are now vanished. And we get alot of unemployed people all around. These jobs, and the funds that where given to the religions, wil free up alot of monney. These monneys can make some new jobs for the unemloyment group. But I think that majority of them wil stay unemployed. This can cause more crime. Alot of missionaries wil also stop their work. As they no longer have anny reason to do their job. This wil stop the good work they have done to the poor part of the world. Hopefully the freed up monney wil be used to make them continue in the name of humanity. Some atheists, who have been fighting against religions, wil also have to find some other things to do.

    Alot of religious buildings wil be converted to something else. Since we no longer have anny use for them as they are now.

    Whether it is because of philosophy, or an urge to have power over others. Religions will reappear eventually. But in different skins. The pause the world wil get from religion wil make science stronger. And the new religions wil not spread as fast as it did 2000 years ago. It will spread faster among the poor population. And I dont think it wil be as strong as it is now. It wil also have to base more uppon hummanity since people wont convert to something that wil give them worse conditions then they allready have.

    (Sorry for bad english.)

  62. As J. Anderson Thomson concluded in his concise and brilliant book, people have got prehistoric predispositions (e. g. Hyperactive Agency Detection Device) that, combined together, unfortunately result in religious beliefs. But assuming that these devices perished either, I would not be concerned about the fate of the former believers.

    It would take some time for them to adapt to a new situation, but then they would discover a whole “new” world in its true magnificence. They would have enough courage to question everything and formulate rational conclusions based upon empirical evidences. Understanding the structure of the Universe, from the biggest constellations to the very atomic particles, without ambiguous answers providing by the Bible would be another advantage for them. Those people would find out that one do not have to believe in some eternal and omnipotent being to see “that a garden is beautiful”. Everyone, even the former believers who lived in “mental captivity”, would have a right to decide whether they want to undergo an abortion, or not etc., that is, to make their own, independent choices.

    The reality would also change for us, the non-believers. As for me, I live in a very religious country, where atheists are often socially alienated or just dubious. These cliché questions about whether I have any moral code or not; what prevents me from doing evil things, if I do not believe in God; or how I can explain the origins of the Universe without relying upon God’s interference – are really exhausting. My point is that no one would be persecuted any more and would not have to listen to that kind of silly questions (I am not saying that questions about the origins of the Universe are silly, but reducing everything to God is).

    I do not tend to say that the world free of religious beliefs would be a perfect place, but it would definitely be less cruel and that is a good beginning for me.

  63. Religion, for better or worse, has been one of the cultural centerpieces of society for as long as there has been civilization. In the relatively short period of humanity, the rise of secularism is relatively new, growing in tandem with the rise of science and reason. But as with all other drastic changes in society, the change has been slow, therefore it is difficult to imagine any such drastic change to occur overnight. But be that is may, let us hypothetically assume that religious belief can disappear overnight. Undoubtedly, the change would be drastic. For billions of people worldwide, people identify themselves with their religion. As the great philosopher Aristotle might suggest, their ethos, logos, and pathos are all influenced with this religious identity. Imagine if these people prayed as they dutifully have every night to the deity they hold so dear, and then woke with the warmth of the sun to not find their religion, nor the identity that they once knew. Us atheists, antitheists, or however we identify ourselves have been given the advantage to develop our ethos, logos, and pathos without religious intervention or identification. We have each had the time to develop our own identity. But this sudden and drastic void would be felt by billions of people in various societies worldwide. They would be left asking the heavy question dwelling on their hearts on minds, what should be our culture? Our morality? Our heroes? Our holidays? Or, as with the more militant religious regions, what would now be our law? Who is to be our leaders? As with the sudden collapse of the soviet empire in 1990’s, there would be great changes. For some people, they would be liberated from persecution and rise. For others, they would slip into darkness and immorality, having never known how to deal with a world without faith directing their lives. In the blink of an eye the theocracies would vanish and political vacuums would be left in their wake. In places like Iran or Saudi Arabia, there would be no theoretical laws nor culture to keep civil order, yet simultaneously there would be no laws to enforce the persecution, nor culture to endorse the hatred. The slate would be blank, and many people – particularly those who have never been exposed to science or critical thinking would have to start anew, and much like the former soviets, they would be at most risk of experiencing a brief period social and economic collapse.
    Though the backlash of this cultural and ruling void would take some time to overcome, it would prove to become the most profound thing that has ever united humanity. Though each civilization has been built on the tenants of religion, religion has also been the thing that separated our civilization from one another. Generation after generation, as children grew accustomed to this new world, new cultures would grow, and a new identity of morality and what it means to be human would rise. Human rights and fair government would eventually overtake whatever corruption was left in the wake, and simultaneously, science and reasoning would reach the once isolated people. The earth would calm, and the pressures that once threatened the life support systems of our planet would lessen as we collectively understood its importance. We would also then look upon the stars, not with mysticism, but with awe and wonder, and embrace the deeply engrained human need to explore. And perhaps, it might be even be possible that some distant and ever watching advanced civilization would finally choose to reach out to us. And if not, we would eventually be likely to reach out to whatever other civilizations the great expanses of our universe holds. We would become no longer the people of an earth-god, nor the people of earth, but one of the many peoples of the cosmos.

  64. *In reply to #89 by Katy Cordeth

    the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA

    Years ago I heard about an “atheist town”, from the past, in Missouri – thought it was just urban myth. Turns out to be true. G. Wasler started a ‘free thinking’ community, but ended up delving into spiritualism. What happened between those periods exactly is stuff of old news paper reports, stories, and hearsay.

    Deservedly or not, that part of history is now referred to as ‘the failed atheist social experiment’.


    *funny thing, Twitter. Circa 1914, top stars would included Lillian Russell and Enrico Caruso.

    • In reply to #123 by bluebird:

      *In reply to #89 by Katy Cordeth

      the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA

      Years ago I heard about an “atheist town”, from the past, in Missouri – thought it was just urban myth. Turns out to be true. G. Wasler started a ‘free thinking’ community, but ended up delving into spiritualis…

      Poor guy didn’t stand a chance….

      “As news spread about Liberal, Christians came to convert the town. Walser tried to keep them out by posting his followers at the Liberal train station to tell passengers that if they were Christians they were not welcome, according to an 1896 article in The Kansas City Star. They came anyway. Some Christians quietly bought homes and began holding religious services. Walser would interrupt them and even put a stop to it after he proved to a court that the services were being held on properties he still partly owned. The Christians then bought land next to Liberal and moved more than a dozen houses there from Liberal. The last building had a sign attached that said: “And the Lord said: Get thee out of Sodom.” Walser then built a barbed wire fence to keep them out of Liberal. It was time to fulfill the original aim of the town to “enjoy the full benefits of free American citizens without having some self-appointed bigot dictate to us what we should think.” (Kansas City Star on Saturday, December 22, 2001)”

      Cultures need critical mass and substance. This had neither.

  65. Completely stopping it overnight and phasing it out over time will have vastly different effects.

    How we go about stopping it will also determine the effect. I believe before we ask what the world would be like without it, we first have to ask how we would eradicate it. Once we know that, then we can begin to imagine the effects.

    Seeing the question specifies an overnight removal, that is what we shall discuss.

    Reality is at the forefront of what atheists believe and what science has stood by for centuries. To rid the world of religion overnight would require something unreal. To maintain logic and remain true, we have to look at the subject with reality and work with the facts. For example, everyone waking up one morning to a world completely free of religion is unrealistic. It just can’t happen. But let’s imagine as best we can how it could happen as a means of answering the question.

    So, how would we prepare for such an event? I imagine a world wide television/radio campaign in the weeks leading up to the event. There would definitely be mass protests and bloodshed, more so from the believers than the atheists. Then we have to look at how such an action would be imposed and policed. I can imagine many, many laws would have to be changed. Obviously all of those regarding free speech, as well as many new laws having to be created and written. I don’t think atheists would agree with this method. We are fair people. The laws to be affected would effect everyone, not just people of faith.

    Aside from amending, overhauling and creating many new laws, how else could we do it? Perhaps organise among all non believers, that from said day, we will not acknowledge any religion, person of religion, act or any other factor associated with. But what does that do? Incites discrimination and hate. Again, something that many people would not think is fair.

    The only way I can see to do it is to just keep going how we are going. Losing Christopher Hitchens was a huge blow to our cause and we need more like him to help carry the torch. He is dearly missed.

    Another action we could take would be to create a television program that would run before or after religious programs on TV. We would have every right to create such a show to equally present our side of the story.

    Coming back to the question at hand, we are looking for a short term solution and not the long term efforts we are already acting on.

    So, we wake up, and religion is declared non existent. A detailed website and various pieces of mass produced literature cite all the new laws. People of faith would be preaching to small pockets of people in hidden rooms, secluded areas, private houses, wherever they can without being seen while crying apocalypse. The more passionate of the people would be protesting where churches once stood, or will soon no longer stand, there would be violence and potential death.

    Generally as atheists, we would be peaceful and try to go about our business as normal. For us, for the most part, religion is already not there. But, as with all groups of people, you would have the more passionate of us fighting with the fore mentioned believers. I imagine something like being thrown back into the dark ages, only this time instead of science, religion is the target. It will be ugly.

    Keeping within reality, I see as write this out that it is becoming a more and more difficult question to answer. Other thoughts come to mind.

    Show people of faith that have been successful in life and have significant wealth that non believers can have such a life as well. It’s common to hear from religious leaders that “God gave me everything…”. What I say to that is, no, thousands of gullible people gave you everything. Thinking about that brings on feelings of disgust and revolt. That is just one of many thoughts that came to mind when thinking of how to best answer this.

    Coming again back to the question. The only way to do this in reality is to follow the steps I previously mentioned. the fallout of such an event would last months, even years. Having followed a natural path of phasing out, a world free of religion might happen sooner in the long run.

    There is just far too much to factor in when taking on such a hypothesis. We can say it is to be stopped overnight, but as I was saying, the repercussions would last for years. In reality, it is absolutely impossible to stop religion overnight. Think of the logistics alone.

    I’ll conclude here. I hope I’ve answered the question sufficiently to be eligible for the competition. I also hope I’ve sparked deep thought in those that may read this through. I had a tough time thinking about what might be, because as I hopefully showed, it’s not as easy flicking a switch to off.

    Dedicated to Christopher Hitchens.

  66. We have seen many people, including pastors lose their faith, and have no evidence that as a group they are statistically more violent or suicidal. They may have a tumultuous periods of transition, but often this is exaggerated due to them losing their religious friends or family, or more, during the transition. Religions are congregational associations giving and offering hope and support to their members. If all those people were to lose their faith together, their personalities and behaviours of giving hope and support to each-other wouldn’t disappear overnight. They would want to give comfort and support to their loved ones, as they always did, consoling each-other through feelings of loss or fear.

    However, again drawing from what we have seen from highly religious people losing their faith, is that they all seem to be happier, more freer and liberated once the dust has settled from their break of religion. So, I would predict someone along the same lines in this global scenario.

    In the shorter term, I would predict some political upheaval in richer/poorer nations, like India, Brazil, etc. Where the hope of an afterlife, or reincarnation has substituted for demanding more in this life. Poor people that settle for inequality do so because they feel it may be God’s will, or God’s test of their faith or God’s test of them in this life. These feelings will be replaced with feelings that their life is unfair (more so in these unequal countries) and rousing protests and perhaps revolution may follow, not unlike what we have seen in the Arab Spring uprisings.

    The religious fight against science also would stop overnight and this would lead in the longer term to a invigorated improvement in environmental care and protection, since there is seemingly an undeniable correlation between religion and skepticism in human induced global warming. Research by the University of Pittsburg, published in the Political Research Quarterly, May 2012 found that believers in Christian end-times theology are less likely to support policies designed to curb global warming than are other Americans.

    And, to quote US Senator James Inhofe, “Genesis 8:22 that I use is that as long as the Earth remains there will be springtime, harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night. My point is, God’s still up there, and the arrogance of people who think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

    Furthermore, in 2010, a team of University of Arizona measured the quality of life across counties and found the more secular and less religious a nation, the high quality of life as measured with various indicators, such as public health, GDP, literacy rates and more. So, we assume in the long term that all countries (again noting the ending of a fight on science leading to vastly improved educations) to improve their quality of life.

    The ending of religion overnight wouldn’t be a seamless transition to a better world, but I would expect, sooner than we imagine we would eventually find ourselves in one.

  67. If religious belief suddenly disappeared, the effects would not be easy to classify as completely good nor bad. On one hand, billions of people’s world views would be shattered. Everything that they believed, everything that made them unique, important, wise, and perhaps even a bit self-righteous was false. Perhaps there would be a global existential crisis accompanied with depression, retaliation in the form of violence, vandalism, drug use, etc. Priests, imams and the like would lose their jobs and would have to either start preaching only the historical significance of religion, or find other work. People who once found commonality within their community through religion might find themselves without a group of friends. Overall, the effects on the psyche would be detrimental. Distrust, betrayal and insecurity would breed in this new world without religion.

    However on a larger scale, a lot of good could come out of the absence of religion (perhaps more in the long term than in the short term). World conflicts would be a lot less fiery without fundamentalist beliefs backing them. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prime example of this. Perhaps human rights (especially women’s rights) would be improved, but a disbelief in religion does not equal a cultural/humanitarian enlightenment in very oppressive countries. Countries that were once oppressed by religion, could become important global allies in innovation and human rights progress. Health and science would be allowed to prosper in fields that were previously squelched, such as stem cell research. Art would be rejuvenated with new writers, musicians, filmmakers, and so on, who would address the current human condition.

    Stability of government would probably be a non-issue in developed countries. Most of the major world powers are secular, and thus, are not dependent on religion for stability. If not from their own good will, people will at least have to follow laws to preserve their personal freedoms. Even if a government is not secular, I do not think that atheism will lead to a hectic, unethical society. Humans (as a species) are social creatures and have traits that facilitate friendship without the need for religion.

    Despite the elimination of religious beliefs, traits that made humans susceptible to those beliefs would still be present; pseudoscience would creep back into mainstream belief because a lack of religious belief does not automatically make people more logical. People take the easy road that makes them feel good. Conspiracy theories would still be made about virtually everything, and humans would continue to find a basis such as ethnicity to hate one another. This is why in addition to the absence of religion, it is important to give people a solid education on critical thinking to solidify the positive long term effects.

    If overnight, everyone was given the ultimate, undeniable proof that religions are all false, I hope that religious people, through the process of losing their religion, would at least develop humility and a more critical way of examining absolute truths. If not, one baseless belief will just replace another and no lessons will be learned from the rather bloody history of religion.

  68. A lot of people would wake up really confused the next morning. Many would still continue to practice their faith for a while, preferring not to change the regimen that has filled their life for so long, not knowing exactly what to do without it and fearing the consequences of this ‘temporary disillusionment’. But as time passes, holy texts become more like fables, prayers become more like wishful thinking and are eventually replaced with an appreciation for evidence. Wars and racial tension die down, barbaric punishments end, women are emancipated and thus poverty decreases. The world becomes a better place.

  69. In reply to NUMBER 89 by Katy Cordeth : Most men need a god and for me the figure up there is a Jewish man with a booby-trapped voice named Dylan. Bob Dylan has reached into the life of everyone with even a passing interest in popular music. Last year I went to see him on his Neverending Tour and he looked wrecked. But during just one song, something happened. Dylan came alive. And, when Dylan comes alive, there is no experience quite like it. Some magical blending of voice, guitar and words takes place. A shiver went down the collective spine of his substantial band of loyal followers. For the truth is, Bob Dylan is the very greatest musical artist of our era. He has helped to liberate my life with a body of work unequalled in the rock era.

    • In reply to #132 by Bob Springsteen:

      In reply to NUMBER 89 by Katy Cordeth : Most men need a god and for me the figure up there is a Jewish man with a booby-trapped voice named Dylan. Bob Dylan has reached into the life of everyone with even a passing interest in popular music. Last year I went to see him on his Neverending Tour and he…

      If you insist, Bob. I’m glad you have a hero, and Zimmerman is fine in his own way.

      But, and let’s be honest here… he’s no Manilow.

  70. And what method would be used to practically achieve this? Overnight? The method applied would determine the consequences. I can’t imagine any humane circumstances that results in such an outcome. Hypothetical straw horses have very few practical uses.

  71. In short: Without religion putting labels on us, there will be one less thing dividing people and keeping them separate. There will be one less powerful and easily exploited tool for controlling the masses.

    Women will gradually find their voice and demand equal treatment. If there is no god, then there is no divine message telling them they are inferior to men and are required to be subservient to them. Child marriages will end; men who insist on child marriages will be seen for what they really are: pedophiles. Girls will have access to education, eventually to the same degree as boys do. With girls staying in school longer, and being educated about their options and seeing their possibilities they will start their families later in life. Birth rates in poor regions of the world will decline, and the standard of living will increase.

    Without religion clouding the issue, we would be in a better position to be honest with ourselves about the real causes of conflict. Religious wars will end. ‘Religious leaders’ will be considered as mad men in need of medical attention for their delusions, or they will be exposed as power hungry megalomaniacs who are willing to exploit an aspect of the human psyche ( i.e. the propensity to believe in the mythical ) for their own personal gain. Suicide bombings will be reduced! Who would want to blow themselves up to spite another group of people if they realise that this is the only life they get?

    People would have to find new meaning in their lives. I imagine that there would be anger over so much time lost, and opportunities missed because there would be so much that religion would not have previously permitted. Governments would collapse in some parts of the world. Power vacuums would be created. New conflicts would arise. I would hope that humanism, environmentalism etc would fill the void of those lost belief systems, but there is also a possibility that belief systems and ideologies just as destructive as religious ones could be used to give purpose to the lives of people who would suddenly find themselves adrift.

  72. The question doesn’t specify WHY religion stopped overnight; Did the human race just wake up and ditch the whole charade, or was it outlawed – What ? “The details matter” – As creationists and other hucksters are loath to admit.

    Even if the human race came to a mass simultaneous realization that religion is stupid and was hampering the human race’s forward movement, that’s still not the same thing as every human being suddenly becoming a good person. There would still be the same percentage of lousy rat-bastards – There’d just be a lot less people being doctrinally blind to that fact.

    There’s an outside chance that the same people who used to be religious might over-react to their new-found sense of regaining the reins of their wasted lives, and decide to severely punish those who used to hold those reins – Which would whittle away a solid percentage of those rat-bastards, but there’d still be PLENTY left. They’d probably all go into politics or corporate lobbying, but a world-wide enlightenment would make even those fields just a bit harder to maintain.

    There will always be conniving subterfuge and dishonest representation – It’s a part of the human condition. There’ll just be one less BIG lie to hide behind while attempting it.

    Now, if religious worship were suddenly simply outlawed and forbidden – Quite a different outcome. We all know what happens when human agencies try to crush the practice of religious belief: It just goes underground and cranks up the self-righteous persecution paranoia to fanatical levels, becoming even more entrenched and resistant to rationalism – Because this time, they’ll have the perfect excuse: Somebody really IS out to get them.

  73. It depends on the way it stopped. If it was because they were proven wrong and everyone knows the truth, then for the strong willed and the not very religious people I see nothing changing. Then I feel like unfortunately many deeply devoted Religious followers will commit suicide because they are to weak to accept the fact they dedicated their whole lives for nothing and can’t live with the fact there is no god. I think there would be some chaos and rioting because people will think, “what the hell, there is no God so might as well have fun”. The problem is many people just can’t accept the fact there is no God and an afterlife and live there lives as if nothing happen, otherwise there would be many more atheists or at the very least more agnostics.

    When this happens it is very important that fellow atheists unite in the countries with the highest percentage of believers. and show that you don’t need to worship a book to live a long fulfilling life. It will take time but for great things to happen it usually takes time. As the great Carl Sagan said, “The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.”

  74. I’m surprised by how many people refuse to answer a hypothetical question with any sort of optimism. It’s easy to say that religious belief would come right back, but that’s almost insulting among a group of supposed “free thinkers.”

    I think that with the end of religious beliefs would bring with it a revolution in education and society. Science would no longer be met with religious opposition so it would progress much more rapidly. Children could learn valuable critical thinking skills instead of blind follower skills. One of the more exciting concepts I thought of would be how the international boundaries would fall and we can could share technology, politics, medicine, and everything else more freely (without fear).

    In a nut shell. The end of religious belief would be the single biggest step towards world peace. I’m not naive. I know that “bad” exist beyond religion, but I’m convinced that the majority of ill behavior would stop with religious belief.

  75. Average IQ would gradually start to increase.
    School children would be taught critical thinking skills instead of religious indoctrination, to their immense relief.
    Jobless pastors would become teachers of critical thinking skills.

    • In reply to #142 by bl.sachdeva:

      ATHEISM IS ALSO RELIGION. SO YOU CANT HAVE WORLD WITHOUT RELIGION

      So using all uppercase makes a statement true without need to elaborate? Is this why some spell god with an uppercase G?

  76. On a more serious note, i think new forms of tribalism would emerge. Some people dont want to leave the “jungle” and just need an excuse to hide behind to flock together. Id like to think there would an increased fascination and participation in the latest pursuits and research in science, technology and psychology , a disenchantment with leader figures which would lead to an increased awareness of the individual and their potential.

  77. That’s an interesting question as it means that some 6 billion people will wake up one morning feeling a bit lost. Their voids should be replaced with something else. Just as it should be replaced in the whole spectrum of addictions.

    Homo sapiens is a pack animal. Our cake of social contacts is split in many slices, each representing one pack: Job, Family, Friendships in a myriard of spectrums and so on. Each slice has its own personal degree of meaningfulness to each person within the slice. The religious slice probably occupies a huge part of each individual’s cake due the meaningfulness of their ”hobby”. That’s a lot of void to fill.

    The best available basic scientific education is needed, perhaps it could be funneled into the networks of former believers. To fill the void, as there is no way back. Somehow scary. But brainwashing is done via main medias today, so we will have the peasure watching science-sseasoned soap operas on television on the first day after religion.

  78. Katy Cordeth:

    Religion will never disappear in our species, because the desire to believe seems to be encoded in our DNA… Unless we manage to isolate and remove those genes responsible for belief, of course. If that happened, though, would we still be the same species?

    Not in my DNA, Katy, perhaps a cultural explanation for Bieliebers, (who has retired at the grand old age of 19), but certainly not one in my DNA.

  79. Without religion, people would turn to patriotism, racism, pseudoscience and conspiracies. People must have some means to convince themselves that they are not ignorant. Science is too hard, too complex. Conservatives want, demand, simple answers, even it they are ridiculous, meaningless and make no sense.

    • In reply to #152 by hisxmark:

      Without religion, people would turn to patriotism, racism, pseudoscience and conspiracies.

      They don’t have to ‘turn’ to these things. We’ve got them already–as well as religion.

  80. The magic button is pushed.
    A radical Jainist swats a fly. And feels no guilt.
    It begins.

    For my part – the way I live my life and treat others – nothing changes.
    This is true for most atheists.

    Pushing aside a small bit of sadness that the discussion about religion is no more, atheists have new discussions and new responsibilities for the world. The responsibility to make sure that religion is not quickly replaced with fear and superstition and metaphysical nonsense. The responsibility to teach science and reason. And real morality. The responsibility to mentor our friends and neighbors to view life and death not through a childish lens of religion, but as a grown up. Free from the barrier of religious thought, we make progress.

    Our magic button gives us some time to do this.
    But the window of opportunity won’t last long.
    We’ll be busy.

    Churches and synagogues and mosques become social centers. They start paying taxes. The US deficit is paid off. Government corruption ensures this won’t last, but we are treated to a window of prosperity. Maybe just enough of a window to turn things around.
    Absent of a belief that the world is ending in the next 50 years, senators and congressmen and presidents, create policies of thrift, foresight, and long term benefit to the country. Children are given access to proper science teachers. That particular type of innovation only America seems to inspire thrives. Science and technology jobs are plentiful.

    The hideous regime in North Korea ends. The borders are opened. Prisoners freed. Starving citizens are fed.
    And the long period of healing starts.

    Proper sex education is taught in Africa. Birth control is made available.
    And women take control over their reproductive cycles. AIDS is eradicated in Africa.

    Women in Muslim countries fight their oppression and are eventually given equal rights. It’s a hard won battle, but a victory made possible in the absence of the authority of religion. The Middle East once again becomes a mecca for scientific discovery.
    Arabian Scientists based win the majority of Nobel prizes for years to come.

    The Vatican becomes The Catholic Museum of Italy. Quickly goes bankrupt, and is converted to a vineyard

    Who knows if this all happens. But the opportunity … with our magic button, we would have at least an opportunity.

  81. Countless individuals world-wide would immediately, and forever more, be opened up to the possibility of a life filled with true wonder. A life that marveled at the beautiful simplicity, and yet staggering complexity of evolution; one humbled by the majesty of the cosmos, holding nothing but respect for the sheer ingenuity behind how we know what we know of astronomy; and one that surely would be more free to understand the obligation of making this world a better place, not standing idly by in the vainglorious hopes of salvation. But we still need in its stead a better philosophy for this world. We risk doing a great disservice to understanding and bettering society if we imagine the simple removal of religious belief would pave the way to a state of natural bliss.

    Firstly, while there are a panoply of reasons for the emergence of religious dogma, one that is commonly accepted was religions attempts to provide “answers” to life’s unknowns – a job that has now, thankfully, fallen to science. But even as news of America’s rising class of “nones” (the non-religiously affiliated) offers hope of the waning influence of organized religion, a disturbingly large amount of crackpottery is all too willing to fill the void. There are those who would follow Eban Alexander on a post-death tour of space on cosmic butterfly wings. There are those who believe their mood affects energy fields, creating the real possibility to smile America happy. There are those like Mary Midgley who, while not religious, insist that materialism is inherently depressing, and science is merely one window unto truth (philosopher-of-the-gaps theory?). If one of the perceived merits of doing away with religious belief is a world more reasonable we may be disappointed to learn that it doesn’t take a holy book, a hierarchy, and a belief in prophets to think extremely strange things about the universe.

    Secondly, many religious practices that may have begun as beliefs have long since crossed into the decidedly more entrenched camp of culture. As Hitchins once correctly pointed out, it necessarily takes a belief in a higher power to conceive of something like genital mutilation of children, and, as such, it would seem likely that many of these abhorrent practices would join the dustbin of human history. But it is debatable whether other, religiously inspired, harmful cultural practices would necessarily disappear as well. While the degradation of women that leads to rape-cultures, machismo cultures, victim blaming, and subservience may get a boost from religion, it is not clear that religion is still a necessary ingredient. Absent a better philosophy that valued evolutionary understanding, evidence based thinking, and a firm grasp of scientific values there are many areas of our society still vulnerable to bad thinking, even after the disappearance of religious belief.

    And thirdly, while I believe both Hobbes and Rousseau were wrong about the human states of nature (not knowing, as they didn’t, about genetic evolution), it is also true that human beings are understandably wont to fight over economic, political, and territorial resources. This is not, of course, a necessary, or at all desirable state of affairs, but the point is the removal of religious belief per se cannot help us in deciding how connected economic policy should be to the Gini coefficient.

    Human beings are fantastically resourceful creatures, but we are also mightily prone to biases and serious flaws in our thinking (another reason for the emergence of religious dogma). The scientific method is one of humankind’s most important discoveries, correcting and protecting against our known deficiencies. We need similar principles to underpin our entire notion of society. We have come a long way, but in the face of many threats to a happy, healthy, and preferably not-extinct people we still have a long way to go. This is why the work of so many organizations like the RDFRS and the AHA are crucial, not only in removing religion from the room so we have more space to work, but also in building a better philosophy for this world.

    So in answer to the question: What would happen if religious belief stopped overnight? I think it would mark the beginning. But surely of humankind’s greatest and most exciting beginning.

  82. (1) The Republican Party in the U.S. would go by the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo bird;
    (2) All practicing Mormons would become 10% wealthier;
    (3) Women in the Middle East would become exponentially more liberated and susceptible to skin cancer;
    (4) I could get a haircut on Saturdays (my barber is an orthodox Jew).

  83. In reply to #159 by Katy Cordeth:

    It’s a mistake to think that because we don’t happen to believe in a god our existence isn’t informed by faith.

    It’s a monumental blunder to confuse religious faith with confidence or trust in science, the financial system or another person. In the first place, even if the confidence is misplaced, other people do actually exist. Another important difference is that it’s considered reasonable to withdraw your trust from people who let you down. In the case of God, the more baffling and apparently evil he is, the greater your faith is supposed to be.

    Who has ‘faith’ in global warming? Qualified acceptance of expert opinion is based on the track record of science in our lives. It’s the evidence of its results that counts. We all experience it daily in many ways in the technology that surrounds us. Besides, even if you are as undereducated in science as I am, I’m confident you can understand the outlines of the IPCC reports better than Sarah Palin.

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