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A Divine Disappearance

By Kevin Davenport

What would happen if God suddenly and abruptly disappeared? This may seem like a
strange question and I would completely agree with you. You might not have an answer and
would feel silly even thinking about it. But by answering you will tell me a great deal about what
you believe without specifically saying it. Now, let me say this wasn't the goal of my question
but was something I noticed while listening to people's responses. By me asking this odd and
apparently complex question, I was able to predict how people define God and what they
believe.

Most people probably don't like to think about what would happen if God disappeared,
because it forces them to bring an abstract idea into existence. To some it may seem like a
question that doesn't even make enough sense to ask. They might feel its synonymous with
what does the color blue smell like? or what is the marital status of the number five? These
questions clearly don't have a reason to be asked. However, my God question doesn't have to be
as abstract as it sounds. It really just depends on what you consider to be God.

One thing I found interesting is how most people assume we would be aware of the
sudden absence of a God. We would somehow feel that something had changed; a great loss or
feeling of sadness would occur and we would all know. This reasoning may have been because
of how the question was addressed, but I did have a few people respond with, how would we
even know?

So, what would happen if God were to suddenly disappear? It's philosophical; a basic
thought experiment. We can only speculate what would happen if God suddenly ceased to exist,
because no one can possibly know for certain. I was interested in how people would respond to
this question, so I set out to ask a small portion of my community and was intrigued by the
results.

The Groups

The first group (A - E) are Theists. They believe in a deity who is eternal, perfect,
involved in our individual lives and who wants the best for us. More accurately, they are
Monotheists. They believe in only one God unlike Polytheists who believe in many different
Gods. Whether or not their particular religion is correct, they feel as though there can only be
one supreme God.
The second group (F - H) are Atheists who dont believe in the existence of any God or
intelligent designer. They dont feel there is enough evidence to claim that a God exist and
would consider themselves non-believers. Because they dont hold a belief in a deity, they
answered my question hypothetically and told me how they felt Gods disappearance would
affect them if they were believers.

The third group (I - K) were harder to categorize. They don't hold strong beliefs either
way, but I inferred that they believe in some kind of higher power. Personally, I would consider
them Deists, which are people who hold the belief that God set the universe in motion and then
stepped aside. This seems to be the best way to describe their beliefs--a God who doesnt
intervene in our personal lives and isnt necessarily controlling anything, but he/she/it does exist.

The last group (L - N) are Pantheists. They believe that God is everything. The universe,
nature, atoms, thoughts, love, etc. Everything that is anything or can be anything is God. This is
a popular belief among the non-religious; those who feel spiritual but are not tied to any
particular dogma or organized religion.

Group 1 (Theists)

God is so personal and abstract at the same time. Realizing God has disappeared would be like
realizing that love or intelligence or truth has disappeared.

Person A tells me she believes nothing would happen physically to the universe, because
God created everything to be self-sustaining and to work even in his absence. If he did disappear,
there must be a reason for his leaving us; similar to how Jesus left Earth after the resurrection.
She feels there would have to be some purpose for this, therefore we wouldnt need to feel
scared. She also tells me the problem with my question is that we cant see God in the same way
people could physically see Jesus. Some people might disagree about whether he was actually
gone and some would probably be hysterical, thinking the world was coming to an end.

Mainly I think itd be just this deep feeling of incompleteness that would be overwhelmingly the
worst depressing feeling ever.

After telling me how he believes Gods disappearance would cause immense feelings of
depression and loss, Person B invites me to read four verses from the Bible which he feels proves
without God, nothing would or could exist. Taken from the New International Version (NIV) of
the Bible on www.biblegateway.com:

Colossians 1: 16-17
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and
for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

1 Corinthians 8: 6
6 ...there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there
is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Romans 11: 36
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

John 1: 3
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

According to the Bible, everything is either created by God, for God, or is held together
by God. If he disappears, nothing would be able to exist anymore and everything would
disappear along with him.

If God ceased to exist we would not know what love is. We would most likely not have the
capacity to think, create and love.

Person C explains to me that our desire to create, celebrate and love comes from God.
She believes that if he suddenly stopped existing all reproduction on Earth would be strictly for
the passing of genes and to propagate the species. We would have no life-long families or
friends. After some questioning, she changes her response and tells me that we wouldnt lose all
desire for love and creativity, but all of those attributes come from God since we are made in his
image. She believes he has control over our lives and wants to be a part of them without forcing
us, so he gives us freewill and provides us with the choice to accept him. He does, however, have
the ability to take complete control over our lives if he wants to. If he suddenly disappeared, life
would become chaotic. Humankind would continue but without his guidance. God would no
longer be looking out for us or intervene if we needed help and our choices would no longer have
any meaning. She thinks many people would stay the same and keep their current values and
morals but hopelessness would eventually take over.
The religious person would obviously feel empty and confused. I also believe that some high
percentage of atheist and non-believers would feel a void as well.

Person D thinks people's morals and decency would be affected and although wars and
hatred would probably stop temporarily, wed find other reasons to hate each other. People's
religious beliefs are the focal point of most wars but God is not to blame; people are. Without a
God there will be no incentive to be good and no fear of a God punishing us for being bad. He
says God provides hope for people and those people would become hopeless, while others would
let their inhibitions run wild. Person D believes people need a God to be decent and even tells me
that he would be nowhere near as good a person was he not certain of Gods existence.

Here I've listed some random responses from people who only gave me a brief and/or
dismissive answer:

Life would be useless and full of cruelty.


God keeps the evil away and is the only reason we are alive.
Without him we wouldnt exist.
It's impossible.
We cant comprehend something like that.
God is spirit and is always painted on our hearts and minds.
Then you would never have existed to begin with.
It wouldnt affect the functions of the world. I think what we do on a day to day basis is our
decision and that the world will function as it always has.
God cannot disappear. He has said that he would never leave us nor desert us therefore if he
disappeared he would be a liar. And God is not a liar

Group 2 (Atheists)

People would be the worst versions of themselves.

Person F tells me that she doesn't believe in God so nothing would happen. But, if the
Christian God did exist and suddenly disappeared, she believes there would be mass hysteria. Sin
without remorse or doubt, sin without hesitation, and action without consequence. She tells me
Christians believe God is light and order so the world would become dark in his absence and
people would go crazy. Our world would become like Dantes Inferno.
...those who suddenly got the rug pulled out from under them would lose their minds--question
every life decision, feel like they have wasted time, some would probably turn to violence and
crime.

Person G asks, How would anyone know? She believes we have control over our own
lives but if God disappeared there would be chaos and society would devolve. She thinks people
believe in God because theyre afraid and are ruled by their fear; that religion controls people
and keeps them in line. People who dont believe would continue living like normal and things
would eventually calm. She hopes that once the storm fades maybe we could all live in peace.

No one would even notice and nothing would change whatsoever.

Person H thinks everything would continue as if nothing had even happened. He tells me
if God does exist, he doesnt make himself known and doesnt control anything so if he suddenly
left, nothing would happen. He thinks people would continue to believe whatever they believe
and continue praying and talking to a God who isnt there. Life would go on unaffected.

Group 3 (Deists)

How would we know if he disappeared?

Person I thinks that some people act as if God has already disappeared. He doesn't think
there would be mass hysteria, though people might have a slight shift in mindset. He says people
dont get their morals from religion--they get it from their families and society. If God did cease
to exist, he hopes it would be blaring in the skies so people would know without a doubt what
had happened.

If their God exists and tomorrow he doesnt, 1) he was never a God, and 2) no one would know
anyway.

Person J doesn't have much to say on the topic but did ask how would we know? He
says theres no proof of its existence so people need to rely on their faith. He thinks
non-believers wouldnt notice his absence.
To be honest I dont know how to answer the question.

Person K doesn't have much to say about it either. He says we wouldn't know if he
disappeared because God isn't tangible. He asks if peoples beliefs turned out to be false, how
would they even know? He doesn't believe God controls good, evil or free will.

Group 4 (Pantheists)

What would happen to an ornately designed tapestry if all the thread suddenly disappeared?

Person L doesn't believe God exists in a way that he could disappear. He tells me that
God is everything; everything is God. It is the underlying order/intelligence in the universe
which is beyond our understanding. He thinks if it disappeared, everything else would disappear
too. All thoughts, feelings, molecules, and planets--the entire universe would cease to exist.

I feel like God is all that is, in everything and everyone, with no beginning or end, which goes
on for eternity.

Person M tells me that its hard to imagine God ceasing to exist without thinking there
would be complete emptiness. She thinks there would be nothing; not even consciousness.
Everything would vanish because God is everything.

God is existence, and existence is God. So, I cannot reconcile existence with non-existence.
God, using my definition of it, cannot cease to exist. However, in a thought experiment, I
suppose if that happened, nothing would have existed in the first place.

Person N believes God is everything; atoms, ideas and existence itself. She tells me that
even though its hard to define God, it cannot cease to exist. She says people often use the word
God when committing horrible acts of hatred and racism. The word is so warped that there
should be a new terminology/definition. Person N doesnt hold strong beliefs but rather current
ideas that resonate with that which I define as me. They are fluid and changing; dynamic and
malleable. She believes God is the invisible link we feel towards each other; the spiritual side
of life that cannot be explained with science. If God is the ocean, we are the waves.
Conclusion

I first thought of this question while contemplating ideas for the plot of a story I wanted
to write and while researching different religious faiths. During this time I was struck with
several moments of amazement when I found just how much influence faith and belief has on
certain individuals. The question what if God disappeared? entered my brain and I thought
about how interesting it would be if a story started with that premise. What if everyone had a
different experience? I thought the plot would involve some portion of the population
disappearing while the people left on Earth waking up in a world very different from each other.
Some people would suddenly be living in a hellish nightmare while others might not notice a
change at all, aside from the sudden disappearance of part of the population. One of the main
ideas of the plot was that babies would no longer be born. Parts of the Christian faith--namely
Creationism--believe God has power over everything, including new souls. I hypothesised that
Gods disappearance would put an end to all new life. So I found it interesting that not a single
person mentioned a Children of Men type scenario where the human population was no longer
able to reproduce.

Most of us feel the presence of some ultimate force or deity which either controls
everything, is everything or at the very least is responsible for the existence of everything. Some
of us feel that the sudden disappearance of this force or deity would have massive consequences,
while others feel as though nothing or almost nothing would change or happen whatsoever.
Some people say its impossible and don't have an answer; others explain specifically what
would happen to us and even what it would feel like. Why do people have such a range of
differing opinions about what would happen in the absence of something that is almost
universally accepted as true? The overwhelming majority of people in the world believe in some
type of higher power, yet they seem to have conflicting ideas about the events immediately
following its sudden absence. So, what do you think would happen? Hell on Earth? An end to
existence? Nothing at all?

You decide.