The title question is one that came to me while tramping along the Pacific Crest Trail last month. I do not really have a wonderful answer to it, but do have some thoughts. Obviously it would make a tremendous difference in our eternity if there was no God. And it would make a difference to those of us who walk with him now. But what about the world in general?
What would be the ramifications in our world if there really was no God? While most people would say that things would be different, there are those who will answer that since, at least in their opinion, there is no God anyway, it would not make the slightest bit of difference.
So lets go a step further. Suppose that humanity had never developed any kind of concept of the supernatural. In other words, what if we all lived as if there were no God? What kind of difference would that make in the world we live in today? Note that this is really a different question than the first one. It is logically possible for there to be a supernatural creator without us having any concept of him.
I think that most people would agree that our culture would be dramatically different today without at least the historical belief in God, whether he exists in reality or not. Without thought of the supernatural, there would be no religion in the world today, or ever. And while some might think that to be a good thing, I suspect their opinion might be different if they were to think carefully about it.
It is really hard to imagine what the US would look like today apart from the influence of religions, Christianity in particular. So much of our culture has developed around our religious beliefs and practices, that is is difficult to imagine life without them.
While there has been evil done in our world in the name of one religion or another, there has also been much good done in the name of religious faith. At the very least religious practice has a moderating and stabilizing influence on us. The idea of reward/punishment after this life is going to have an impact on how I live today. And as a religion become more wide spread, it serves to unite people who would otherwise be divided because of ethnicity, language, ancestory or any number of other things. Yes, it does cause division between folks of differing religions, but that division likely would be there apart from religion.
So what would we be like without God? I suspect it is likely that, at least morally, we would be very much like chimpanzees. If you have something that I want, and I am big enough to take it from you, it is now mine. If I am bigger, and you are a threat to me, I will remove the threat. If I am small, and you are a threat to me, I will just have to endure the abuse. Only the dominate guys get the girls. Infanticide and cannibalism are accepted, if you are strong enough to get away with it.
Wait, that actually does sound like us now doesn’t it. What is it that holds down on our tendency towards ‘might makes right’? I believe it highly likely that the religious morals drilled into us for generations serve to restrain many of our more base instincts and inclinations. And it makes me wonder how long that restraint would last if we would to completely outgrow religion and live in a completely humanistic atmosphere. I personally don’t believe I would want to be around for that. In spite of the protestations of some, intelligence and education alone don’t seem to do all that good a job at curbing the animal instincts within us.