The God Test
Suppose the following:
- Later today, an organization dedicated to studying science and religion announces it has devised a “God Test.” This process will conclusively reveal whether or not there is a god (or gods). Further, it will discern the nature of god, if one (or more) exists. Does it desire/require obeisance/worship? Of what specific sort? Or is it a distant superior being that doesn’t really concern itself with humans and human affairs?
- Global religious, political, social, academic and scientific leaders review this test and universally agree that yes, it will in fact do exactly what its developers claim. Despite their many differences, they all agree that once the God Test is run, we will all know, without ambiguity, what there is to know about god. They all acknowledge that the results of test will be such that, if it proves that they are wrong, that they will need to alter their beliefs and behaviors.
- The details of the God Test are published. You review the process and, like the leaders noted above, you agree that the test is exactly what it professes to be and you are convinced that when it is performed, you will know unambiguously the answers to questions that humanity has grappled with as long as it has existed.
- It is agreed that the God Test will be executed tomorrow morning.
Now, let’s suppose that when the test is run, the results reveal that the truth is approximately the opposite of the beliefs you currently hold. That is, you are not only wrong, but very wrong.
What do you do?
What things do you do now that you will stop doing? What will you do differently? What are you not doing at present that you’ll begin doing? Will you change careers? Friends?
Perhaps more importantly, what things in your life will not change at all?
I’ll be interested to see what people have to say here.
So you are proposing that the test would replace “faith” with “certainty,” thus providing us all with an opportunity to become fundamentalists who have all the answers? Or become heretics who refuse to believe the new revealed truth and thus become potential targets for persecution?
Given my inherent skepticism about all things religious, I doubt that I would buy into the new truth without reservations. I have had the opportunity to do that for several decades and have, so far, refused the bait. And there are plenty of people out there who are convinced that they already have the answer to this test. One minister of his own non-denominational Christian church tried to convert me to his truth in Starbucks. Didn’t work.
The issue is that religion–including this test–is by definition a human invention, and therefore, inherently flawed.
That being said, if Curiosity were to send back its last image of a little green man holding a large red ray gun pointed at the rover’s camera, I’d probably have a profound shift in belief. Although, granted, the photo would come back through human endeavor, and would, naturally be subject to skepticism.
This is actually the rationalist analogue to the fundamentalist answer I expect. The question isn’t about that. The assumption is clear and focuses on what one would do IF, not on whether the IF is plausible.
For me, nothing will likely change. I have, for better or worse, developed my own moral compass, shaped by experiences and mentors. At my age, I am a glacier — tough to divert from a long-ago chosen direction.
Provocative post, Sam. Thanks. We should a devise a “God Compass” similar to the “Political Compass” and see what happens.
After a few weeks of denial and anger and double-checking the test, I guess I would capitulate.
Some things I wouldn’t change, I’d still be faithful to my wife, be good to people, give to charity, etc. Overall, I’m pretty happy with my life and the choices I’ve made so I don’t see anything drastic that would need changing.
However somethings I would change, I might start to have a drink now and then, and I’d probably start watching all those ’70s and ’80s sex comedies I missed the first time around.
Nothing about my career would be affected by this, but friendships might. That would depend more on how others react more than than me. I’d still be friends with the same people I bet, but several wouldn’t give up or change and that might put some distance between us.
Any other changes would depend on if the test shows there is a God (or gods) what does He (or She or they) require with these new revelations.
Though now that I think about it, it sounds like the Anti-Christ and his one world religion! Sam, are you the Anti-Christ?
You aren’t the first to ask that question, although it usually comes from women with whom I’m emotionally entangled.
Wouldn’t change a thing.
More importantly, this hypothetical test would only reveal that there’s a certain type of God, not whether the books and beliefs believers use to shape their world view are true about that God. And really, the existence or non-existence of the actual Godhead is only important to religious believers as an ultimate reason for their books and beliefs.
Other than that, i’d try to kill Him.
For sure, one thing this test would do is lay waste to all the sacred texts out there that have told the world what god is for millennia. Or at least some of them, because if the test proved that there is a god, ALL religions couldn’t be right.
I’m not sure much would change for me personally. I know what is correct for me. The path might become clearer-but that would shut the doors and windows to most. I’m afraid that the world could become a very frightening place. A mandatory world religion. If God does not exist, religionists would continue to be killed. So knowing the “real” truth may not help us at all.
While it might be a source of unending amusement to argue the case for or against God. The real ‘God test’ is already under way and the implication defy the imagination. Could two thousand years of scholastic exegesis, tradition and 2 billion ‘Christians’ have it wrong? . . . We are on the threshold of finding out!
For what science and religion, not to mention the rest of us, thought impossible has now happened. History has its first literal, testable and fully demonstrable proof for faith.
The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise, predefined and predictable experience and called ‘the first Resurrection’ in the sense that the Resurrection of Jesus was intended to demonstrate Gods’ willingness to real Himself and intervene directly into the natural world for those obedient to His will, paving the way for access, by faith, to the power of divine transcendence and ultimate proof!
Thus ‘faith’ becomes an act of trust in action, to search and discover this direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power that confirms divine will, law, command and covenant, which at the same time, realigns our moral compass with the Divine, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious teaching, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of an intellectual, moral and religious revolution is getting under way. To test or not to test, that is the question? More info at http://www.energon.org.uk,
Other than the comment from the lunatic fringe, I found the comments extraordinarily interesting, and they come pretty close to something I saw a couple of months ago when I questioned some people about their beliefs on private prisons (I’m against them, and so were they). I asked if they would be willing to change their minds if there were incontrovertible evidence that private prisons were more humane, produced lower recidivism, etc. Almost no one was willing to change.
We humans appear to be hard wired to resist changing our minds once they’re made up, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we’re wrong. That’s why science is so powerful, isn’t it? In essence, science is simply a process that, when followed, protects us from our own tendencies toward obstinate rejection of the truth.
As for me, I suspect I’d be much like Robert, above. I’d do a lot of fact-checking and look carefully into the methodology, but when it became clear that there really is a God, I’d become devout.
At least I hope I would.
Yep. “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” ― John Maynard Keynes
It’s fine for you to dream up thought experiments, but I don’t find this one compelling. I would be very doubtful of any claim that it is possible to prove or refute the existence of God. There are many interesting claims that are incapable of proof. Suppose that I accepted the claim however, and got the unexpected results. Honesty forces me to say that I don’t know what I would do. I believe that most of my religious friends would cling to their religion regardless of the result- there is no way that we can prove the nonexistence of God, even if we bring back something living from Mars. These people who say that they will always follow scientific evidence, well I’m a bit leery of them too.
@Old Bob: I think you missed the point, or maybe you made the author’s point for him. The issue here is not whether it’s possible to do such a thing or not. The conceit is that is HAS been done, and the results were the opposite of what you thought to be true, before. So, the issue at hand is whether you, and we, can change our minds given certainty that we are wrong. Modern psychology indicates that such a thing is possible, but only after overcoming a great deal of resistance to changing one’s mind. Clearly, some people cannot, or will not, do so even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
I believe that what the author did here was to construct an experiment to see how many people would be willing to change their minds in the face of certainty. And what he found is that the answer is … not too many.
Ah, JSO, what a pleasure it is to hear from someone who gets it…..