If the majority of people stopped believing in God, what would stop the world from falling into anarchy?

I watched ‘12 Years a Slave’ the other day. To be honest, I don’t know whether I like it. I think there is a certain art in film making which includes being able to tell the story without the graphic and overwhelming demonstrations ‘12 Years a Slave’ relied on. However, there was a conversation between Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt which caught my eye. The question related to Fassbender’s assumption to his right to the slaves. Fassbender’s reasoning was the law permitted it. He was a religious man who had already descended into anarchy.

This is something I frequently point out: there’s a nihilism inherent in assuming values are handed down by society or God.

And the truth is, religious people and places do fall into anarchy. Sometimes the anarchy precipitates out precisely because of religion. Israel comes to mind, however the challenge once put to Christopher Hitchens comes more clearly to mind:

“A week before the events of September 11, 2001, I was on a panel with Dennis Prager, who is one of America’s better-known religious broadcasters. He challenged me in public to answer what he called a ‘straight yes/no question,’ and I happily agreed. ‘Very well,’ he said. I was to imagine myself in a strange city as the evening was coming on. Toward me I was to imagine that I saw a large group of men approaching. Now — would I feel safer, or less safe, if I was to learn that they were just coming from a prayer meeting? As the reader will see, this is not a question to which a yes/no answer can be given. But I was able to answer as if it were not hypothetical. ‘Just to stay within the letter B, I have actually had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem, and Baghdad. In each case I can say absolutely, and can give my reasons, why I would feel immediately threatened if I thought that the group of men approaching me in the dusk were coming from a religious observance’.”

All of that is not to fall into the now cliché of saying that religion is the cause of war and descent into anarchy, but instead to clearly illustrate that religion does not protect you from a descent.

Fassbender’s character in ‘12 Years a Slave’ followed both the law and scripture. If you removed scripture, he would still have the law keeping him where he is (spoiler alert: it’s barbaric. But it offers the same limit as religion offers him). However, I imagine most religious people find it very patronising for people to assume that the only reason they are half-decent is because of the belief they have; that they have a celestial and external moral motivator. I know I find it patronising.

I am not religious. However, I hold down a respectable job, don’t push new mothers and prams into the road for walking too slowly and give up my seat on the train for the elderly. What do you assume I have that religious people do not that means I behave morally, where if you removed religion from the equation for religious people they would not? I find the question patronising because my grandma is a highly religious and moral person. This is true, except for her racism; she’s a product of her time, which is another thing that can keep a person within moral boundaries without being religious. I simply don’t see that if my grandma woke up tomorrow without faith that she’d be a worse person.

But it goes further than the offence I take and the imagination I have. There is evidence that a low rate of religiosity in a country is related to low rates of crime and a high level of psychological wellbeing. I confirmed the study in a rough sense by researching crime rates and religiosity rates of countries separately and found considerable overlap between the least religious rich countries and lowest crime rates globally. I implore you to do the same thing. Religion simply is not the gel of a community the question hopes it is.

“Atheism and secularity have many positive correlates, such as higher levels of education and verbal ability, lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism and homophobia, greater support for women’s equality, child-rearing that promotes independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment, etc. And at the societal level, with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a higher proportion of secular people fare markedly better than those with a higher proportion of religious people”

(Zuckerman, 2009)

The question becomes “why do you suppose that lacking a belief in God leads to a descent in anarchy?”

11 thoughts on “If the majority of people stopped believing in God, what would stop the world from falling into anarchy?”

  1. There are three obvious, sophomoric and devastating flaws that cripple this post.

    First, slavery was a bedrock institution in nearly every civilization in human history previous to the rise of the United States as the world’s first Christian hyper-power.

    That means that slavery cannot be, never will be and never was, a standard by which to measure societal anarchy.

    Second, Christopher Hitchens was a mean old drunk who had trouble stringing two coherent thoughts together sequentially.

    Likewise, he cannot be, never will be and never was, a standard for intellectual thought of any kind, especially intellectual thought concerning religion.

    Third, it was Christian Western Civilization that produced the rich, prosperous and literate society that atheists love so much.

    Further, it is a lie only believed by irrational idiots that atheists are more educated than Christians.

    As this post and EVERY atheist posts demonstrates, in spite of receiving the best education money can buy from the Christian civilization that provides it, atheists are still unable to think their way out of a wet paper bag.

    Stick to your textbooks, Allallt.

    Every time you try to “think” you really aren’t.

    At least by using textbooks to do your thinking for you, you’ll be using thoughts with some sort of intellectual imprimatur.

  2. Conversely, as I recall, schools were fairly “safe” back when God was allowed in schools. Now that He is banned from schools, don’t we tend to have much more violence and other disturbing behaviors?.

    1. I’d need data on that. And, multinational data at that.
      And you’ve need to be careful that you weren’t imagining a ‘critical change’ it what is just an exponential change.

      Difficult to establish, I’d say.

      1. I can’t speak about schools in other countries, both because I don’t see reports on their violence and because I have no idea how their handling of religion has changed.

        In the U.S. I do know that violence and other ills have become much more extreme in our schools, and I know that since I went to school, there has been a frantic effort to “expel” every nuance of God from the schools. I doubt that is the sole cause of the worsened situation (hyper realistic violent video games would seem to have some impact), but on the other hand, I doubt there is no correlation whatsoever. No matter how much is “just” changes in societal norms, those changes go hand-in-hand with our perceptions of God.

      2. It used to be the case there was no evidence that violent video games increased violence, either.
        There may be a correlation, but it’s not a causation, so far as I can tell. “Reporting” is close to anecdote… I’m not sure how you “know” these things.

      3. It seems quite well supported that it used to be that a person without mental problems tended to have problems after deliberately (or sometimes even accidentally) killing someone else, but that the severity of these problems diminish as the number of that person’s kills goes up. So it would not be unreasonable to postulate that exposing a child to 1000’s of violent deaths on TV and in movies where the killer is not bothered and sometimes is rewarded, and then allowing them to kill 1000’s more virtually and be lauded for it, that such a child would be much less opposed to taking a life in reality or may even desire to turn fantasy into reality.

        It would take a really socially abhorrent experiment (groups of children isolated from any uncontrolled input contrary to their group’s upbringing) with potentially deadly results (any of the children killing someone) to approach “knowing” this.

  3. Yikes. The whole exchange misses the mark by a mile.
    Moral judgements aren’t about what’s practical; they are about why (for example, because ‘it’s Good’) .

    1. Keith,

      Moral judgments are, indeed, about what is practical.

      Without morality there cannot be civil society.

      That is why every civilization in human history rose up around religion.

      No religion, no civilization.

      As usual, the atheist argues that everything just happens all by itself.

  4. A wonderfully provocative post Alllallt. Thank you.

    As I was finishing the read, I kept asking myself, “Let’s try this ‘secular society’ experiment with a very large number of people — samplings from all 6 continents — and see what happens!” I later realized this is and has been going on, to many degrees, for many decades already! In China, Japan, Iceland, France, Australia, Czech Republic, and recently Norway, and they still have not slipped into anarchy. Hmmmm.

  5. In the end of the world, the majority of human will not believe in God. So, in term that it is not a secret.
    “And the truth is, religious people and places do fall into anarchy.”

    Yes, it true. Even Satan or (Lucifer) himself is leader of angel and the most intellectual being can fall due pride.
    I put Lucifer condition as : 1) understand of consequence, 2) religious, 3) knowledgeable.
    Can human fall into anarchy? More likely.

    Of course we always argue regarding this term and definition.
    Well, in Bible, Jesus argue with Pharisees in many way, and Pharisees hold grunge and attempt to kill Jesus. Does the Pharisees religious? From my understanding, definition itself is quite loose.
    By Jesus definition Pharisees may not religious; by their own definition, they were self claim authorities to Torah.

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