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Let's assume that :

  • The scientifically proven god is omnipotent and omniscient
  • The god stays as how it was acting even after the proof, meaning natural disasters still occur, the speed of light is still the way it is, and the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • The god is a singular, immortal being

Sadly, I cannot think of a scenario how this could be proven, but that's the point of Worldbuilding.SE right?

How would believers of other religions react to this? How about atheists? Would monotheistic religions be abolished if the proven god isn't theirs?

How would society at large react to this? How about the law and government?


Additional notes :

  • For this specific case, let's assume that there is empirical proof, rather than philosophical or theoretical proof.
  • To cater to polytheistic religions, the "singular immortal being" assumption is that there is ONE god that has been proven, but that doesn't mean they have proven the non-existence of other beings like it.
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    $\begingroup$ Comments removed. The question is not "how would we prove (or falsify)..." but, rather, "assuming we did, what would be the consequences". Please take discussion of the validity of the premise to chat. Also, comments are not for answers; if you have an answer to this question, the correct thing to do is to post it as an answer (after checking that it's not already covered by existing answers). $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 10 '15 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Most of the answers, including the top-rated one, appear to be about whether God is real or provable, or about Christianity (which isn't even mentioned in the question), or science over religion, or some other personal politics. The question is "What if it happened," not "Could/should/will it happen"... Please don't turn this into a religious flame-war. ([Edit] Beaten by 30 seconds by @MonicaCellio :P) $\endgroup$ – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Feb 10 '15 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think the answer to this question largely depends on how easy it would be to reproduce the results and how much background knowledge was required to understand them. If the experiment was expensive and only scientists could understand it, then very little would change. If the experiment could be conducted with stuff lying around the house, then there would be a lot of conversions. $\endgroup$ – aebabis Feb 11 '15 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think we may need a special warning for hot world building questions ATTENTION: You are on WorldBuilding - questions here are about hypothetical worlds existing in the mind completely separate from our real world. So whatever you believe or want to fight for, this is not the place. Answers here should try to embrace the premise and go from there! - If the premise is "lets assume we are all pumpkins" you don't get to argue "But I don't feel like a pumpkin at all, please don't hurt my belief of not being a pumpkin" on WB $\endgroup$ – Falco Feb 11 '15 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Can you please clarify what you mean by "scientifically proven?" Science normally does not produce proofs, but rather generalizations based on empirical observation. The answer to the question would seem to be quite different depending on whether the god's existence were actually proven (i.e. logical fallacy or outright ignoring or ignorance of facts would be required to not believe) or merely evidence were provided suggesting that said god exists. In the latter case, how compelling that evidence is would dramatically affect the answer. $\endgroup$ – reirab Feb 11 '15 at 19:35

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If science proved that there was a God, the first thing everyone would try to do would be determine if he was their God. Depending on the nature of the God and how it's proven that he exists, this may be easy or hard to do.

During the period in which everyone was still trying to determine which God he is, there would be a host of reactions. Some believers of monotheistic religions would proudly exclaim that of course He must be their God and by extension of course everything that they believe must be true. Some would be happy to know for certain that God exists and expect to learn more about what is really expected of them, as well as being able to have all the confusion cleared up. Some would be paranoid and believe it to be a trick, either by the devil or by the people who proved God's existence.

For polytheistic religions, I imagine it would be similar. Some people would take it to mean that since one God exists their other Gods must also exist. Others might be worried that one of the Gods is getting uppity and trying to seize more than his fair share of power, leading those people to be worried about a war between the Gods devastating the Earth.

Because people are people, atheists would also have the same continuum between belief and disbelief. After they got used to the idea, some would be pleased to know that there is a God after all. Others would stubbornly refuse to accept the proof, finding ways to convince themselves that there must be some flaw with the proof or that it is an elaborate scheme by religious groups to sucker them into believing with the end goal of completely controlling them.

This by no means a comprehensive list of how people would react, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how diverse the reactions would be.

In general, how many of each group believe what will depend on the manner of the proof. If the proof is showing that pi, starting from its 100-zillionth digit, is actually an encoding of the sentence "Hi, I'm God. I exist, yo" followed by the collective works of Shakespeare (or something else that helps prove it isn't just random noise), then it's likely that few people would change their opinion of God based on it. If the proof was God showing up and telling everyone in the world "Hey guys, what's up?" before going back and doing his normal gig, then most people would believe.

Once it is determined whose God he actually is (with the option of him actually being one that nobody specifically believed in), some appearances will change quickly but realities will only change slowly. You specifying that God's behavior is the same as before the existence proof implies that while we now know he exists, we still don't know exactly what is expected of us. Religions will shift to include that God as their God (or one of them), but still teach that they are the ones who know what God really wants us to do. You'd still have just as many religions as before.

Some people will get frustrated by not being able to get God to tell them exactly what to do or have him explain why things happen. Those people will get angry with God and believe that he doesn't care about humanity at all (which might be the case with the God you choose), causing them to leave whatever religion they were in and be the new atheists. As I mentioned, some people would still not believe in God, but the "new atheists" would be people who believe God doesn't care about us so they can do whatever they want to without fearing punishment from God.

Some people will take events as a sign from God (tornado missed your house? Must have been God blessing you, rather than just random chance), causing them to become more religious.

The scientific community, knowing that God exists, would want to empirically prove God's doctrine to make sure that we got it right. However, since God's behavior hasn't changed they would just have to continue doing what they'd been doing. We would probably take it that "doing what God wants = happiness" so if something makes us happier then that must be what God wants. This would lead sociology studies to become more important - if behavior X makes people happier, then that must be what God wants us to do, so we should do our best to figure out what which behaviors do that.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of this would be what would happen in later generations. Even if the proof was something constantly there (such as God sitting on the moon, occasionally waving to the Earth, visible to the naked eye), over time people would grow to hold it less important. You'd have more and more people join the "it's a government conspiracy!" crowd, as well as people who join the "God doesn't care so much about what we do, so let's party!" crowd. If the proof was a one-time event then, even if it was significant enough to cause everyone to believe it, people will still stop believing over time. Some teenagers will still rebel against their parents, leading to them intentionally not believing just to be contrary. As time goes on the group of people who no longer believe will grow to the point where it returns to what we have today.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, I'm God. I exist, yo. lol. +1 for that. $\endgroup$ – paqogomez Feb 10 '15 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the point that generations would revert back without constant proof. $\endgroup$ – James Khoury Feb 11 '15 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesKhoury : This means that the events described in this answer could have already happened a few thousand years ago and we would be none the wiser. Actually, quite a few religions actually claim that it already happened. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 11 '15 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ At some point, the value of pi does contain that message followed by the works of Shakespeare. Since pi is irrational, for any X, there is some portion of pi that contains X. $\endgroup$ – Moby Disk Feb 11 '15 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @MobyDisk that's not necessarily true. See math.stackexchange.com/a/216578/88350 for details. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Feb 11 '15 at 22:10
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Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." From this principle it is clear to a Christian that God's behavior is proportionate to the amount of religious knowledge that an individual or society possesses. Thus if a scientific demonstration of God's existence were given, a Christian would say that God would now hold the world responsible for that knowledge. His exercise of judgment against evil would increase, as would his reward of virtue. His actions would be less hidden and more clear.

The fascinating thing is that the Bible has an account of what happens to a culture when a scientific demonstration of God's existence is performed. That story is the account of the Exodus from Egypt. Consider that Moses predicted ten plagues over the course of several months and each occurred. Consider this to be an experiment. The hypothesis was that Moses' god was real, powerful, and would set his people free, and that Pharaoh's gods were false and impotent. Each plague was a separate experiment testing an aspect of the hypothesis. Each plague was intentionally aligned with a different Egyptian god: they worshiped cattle, the cattle died. They worshiped the Nile, and it turned to blood. They worshiped the sun, and it grew dark. etc.

As a result of Moses' experiment, some Egyptian's came to believe that Moses' god was the true god, while Pharaoh and other Egyptians persisted in their original belief. I think that if a parallel event occurred in another society, even ours, you would see the same result: some believe, and some do not.

As the Jewish people entered the desert, they were punished severely for what we might consider small infractions of law. That was because they had proof of god's existence, hence were held to a higher standard. This is why Christians believe that when Jesus returns to Earth at the end of the world, terrible events will follow. His return will be the scientific proof, the world will no longer have any excuse for unbelief, and final judgment will be necessary.

If reward is based on faith, then proof seals everyone's fate. Those who already believed will be rewarded. Those who did not already believe cannot be rewarded and their state cannot be altered, because the possibility of faith has disappeared. In the past, the scope of this knowledge was limited to a few countries. With the internet, TV, radio, books, and other media, should God ever appear persuasively, no part of the world will escape this knowledge and its consequences.

Your question is interesting, but have you thought about it from the other side? Religion is mocked because of its exaltation of faith over science. Have you noticed, though, how a science devoid of faith ceases to be science? Having read hundreds of articles defending or refuting the current theories surrounding climate change, it is clear that many people on each side hold to their views not because of facts and sound mathematics, but because of whom they trust for their information. Actual fraud, poor scholarship, tinkering with data, faulty measuring apparatus, calls to ban certain ideas from publication and expel their proponents from their jobs at laboratories and universities have to do with something akin to religious faith, not science.

UPDATE:

It has been fairly suggested that I clarify that my answer presumes the truth of the Christian religion in order for it to work. It actually does not, and I will explain why. The OP asked how society at large would react to a supernatural revelation. The society of the United States and Western Europe, as well as pockets elsewhere in the world, are philosophically and religiously shaped by a certain understanding of history and faith, the Judeo-Christian tradition. Whether or not the majority culture's belief is true, that is what it believes and is a fair predictor of how its people would behave. Thus if the we believe that the people of Moses' time acted as they did for the reasons that they did, then that is how we are likely to see our society acting if we were in the same circumstances today.

Individuals may act differently, but it takes a giant shift in worldview to get a society to change its behavior. Our culture is going through such a shift, but surprisingly, many of the new ideas being proposed are recycled versions of philosophies from the past. Thus we can look at how people holding those ideas reacted when they had shattering encounters with foreign religions (like Christianity or modern science) to see how they reacted.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments removed. This site is not the place to debate the merits of any particular religion. @PaulChernoch, I urge you to edit your answer to say up front that it is premised on the idea that the god that wins is that of Christianity, since (a) not everybody accepts that premise as truth and (b) your argument doesn't work so well without that premise. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 10 '15 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 11 '15 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ "From this principle it is clear to a Christian that God's behavior is proportionate to the amount of religious knowledge that an individual or society possesses." I am not aware of any Christian denomination that espouses this interpretation or application. And I can think of many counter-examples that demonstrate that Christian thinkers and authorities do not generally hold that God's actions are proportionate to someones knowledge. I could be wrong though, so I would be interested to see any references to support that this is actually how Christians see things. $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Feb 11 '15 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ Citation for that quote would be good. Appears to be John 9:41 NIV. Like RBarryYoung, I question the interpretation, though. Trying to build religious doctrine on a single verse taken out of context is fraught with peril. $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Feb 12 '15 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ The UPDATE makes this answer even more biased to one particular religion's and one particular region's POV. This answer should not have the number of up-votes it has. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 18:13
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The real answer

By definition, you can not prove a supernatural god with science. This is why religion operates on faith rather than scientific evidence.

This is not a definition of faith, it's why faith has a place in religion.

To my knowledge, gods are supernatural. There are so many different gods that I don't think supernatural is a requirement, but this answer assumes you mean a supernatural god.

William of Ockham, famous for Occam's Razor, believed the following about one of the many gods of humans (and quite a popular one) -

"only faith gives us access to theological truths. The ways of God are not open to reason, for God has freely chosen to create a world and establish a way of salvation within it apart from any necessary laws that human logic or rationality can uncover."

I would gladly accept scientific evidence, because it means there would be no cognitive dissonance, that does sound divine. The problem is that most concepts of a god are, by definition, outside of science. Science operates on the natural world, not the supernatural. Gods are supernatural, above or outside of nature, science has as much place there as it does with questions tagged as 'fantasy-based'.

The answer you want

Here is the main problem: religions don't have a great history of trust with science.

Assuming you've scientifically proven a god (a label that would no doubt be provided by the media, not the scientists), what you're going to get is a lot of pretty surprised scientists and a vast majority of religions claiming this new god is not their god. Their god doesn't fit inside the box labeled science. That's a fair claim, because it/he/she doesn't. In the same way my flying-spaghetti-monster does not, because it's designed not to fit. Humans can easily imagine things outside of science, things that are inherently contradictory.

How would the world change?

Things would not be terribly different, people would still claim that they have a bigger god out there somewhere, others would claim they don't, and a new religion would spring up worshiping this new god. Disasters would still happen, no new miracles would be occurring, no new revelation, the new god would answer prayers with the same rate as chance, and the new religion would eventually split into a thousand sects who all despise each other.

Basically, if you change your question to ask about a hyper-intelligent alien, the answer would be the same.


Background: Feel free to skip this part.

I'm an agnostic atheist. Sometimes I jokingly describe myself as a militant agnostic, "I don't know, and neither do you!". I'm not one of those 'mad-at-god' atheists, I'd like to believe, but I can not be happy with that much cognitive dissonance. I don't know that gods or a God don't exist, but I don't believe in them. I'm an atheist about all gods or God. Most people seem to forget they're an atheist about other people's gods too, as often as they confuse conviction with knowledge. I think about the Abrahamic God, Yahweh, the same way most people think about Zeus, it's just modern mythology. I'm not going to apologize if you're offended by that, it's not meant as an offence. If you're offended by someone having a different belief than you, I suggest you examine whether that belief actually makes you a happier person, especially if your belief requires you to be offended...

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 11 '15 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ All comments deleted. Please take it to the chatroom guys :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 13 '15 at 9:15
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This is an interesting scenario, and one that has not been unexplored in fiction. However, you ask, "How would society react if the god of one religion has been scientifically proven?" but then immediately introduce the assumptions that "the scientifically proven god is omnipotent and omniscient" and "the god is a singular, immortal being." For some religions this simply isn't the case - not only with fictional religions, but with actual religions as well. Many early historical religions where polytheistic and didn't attribute things like omniscience or omnipotence to any particular god. For a modern instance, in the Mormon religion, there is not a single God but a hierarchy of Gods, of which only one is "ours".

The various Star Trek TV series had more than one separate instance of human encounters with such deity. For instance, Star Trek:The Next Generation introduced the apparently omnipotent and omniscient "Q". He was neither worshipped nor treated with reverence by any significant number of people who encountered him on the show. However, you ask specifically about a whole society.

This is explored in Star Trek:Deep Space Nine, where the whole Bajoran society is based on the "prophets" who are essentially gods who live in an artifical wormhole connecting the Alpha and Gamma quadrants. There is proof that these gods exists and live in the wormhole, and their power is manifest from time to time. Despite this proof there are still non-believers (outside of Bajoran society). Are they gods or are they worm-hole aliens? Those who don't believe say the latter. The "emissary" says, "Why can't they be both?"

There is a particularly interesting dynamic in ST:DS9 because later in the series we are also introduced to the "Founders" - of non-solid shape-shifters who have genetically engineered a race called the "Vorta" to administer their Dominion, of which the most interesting is the "Weyoun" character. Here are a couple key quotes:

Odo [a shapeshifter]: Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you
    believe the Founders are gods is because that's what they want you to
    believe? That they built it into your genetic code? 
Weyoun 6: Of course they did. That's what gods do. After all, why be a god
    if there's no one to worship you? 


Weyoun: Pah-wraiths and Prophets. All this talk of gods strikes me as 
    nothing more than superstitious nonsense. 
Damar: You believe that the Founders are gods, don't you? 
Weyoun: That's different. 
Damar: [laughs] In what way? 
Weyoun: The Founders *are* gods. 

To answer your specific questions.

How would believers of other religions react to this? Rivalry perhaps, or dismissal of the evidence.

How about atheists? Interestingly enough, I don't recall there being any Bajoran athiests, and that society had had actual documented interactions with their gods over time, including supernatural "orbs". So from this standpoint, it's likely that if there were not any cultural differences, people would convert. From a scientific standpoint, the thing that prevents a lot of people from not being atheists is the lack of evidence. If you provided irrefutable proof to Richard Dawkins that God exists, he would have to believe. That doesn't mean that he might not have issues with God, but I don't think he would any longer claim he doesn't exist.

Would monotheistic religions be abolished if the proven god isn't theirs? Again, this is probably a cultural thing. If a different culture's diety was proven true, this doesn't necessarily provide any incentive for a culture to abandon their own, unproven diety.

How would society at large react to this? How about the law and government? This probably depends on the nature of the proven deity. For instance, if the God of the Christian Bible was proven correct, then all the other things written in the Bible about how law and government would work could be expected.

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    $\begingroup$ A Case of Conscience (by James Blish) is another fictional exploration, but of evidence of the non-existence of "God". It's "evidence", rather than "proof"; but it can help shed light on the OP's question. The resolution in that case could apply to the reaction of other religions to one that was 'proven'. $\endgroup$ – user2338816 Feb 11 '15 at 2:25
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I would say that merely by proving there is 'a' god you will be proving to all (at least monotheistic religions) that you have proved 'their' god. Unless the being specifically communicates to those it thinks are 'wrong' they will think they are justified.

Some of course will claim it is a false god, especially if it looks like they are wrong, everyone else is being deceived by the devil!

Polytheists will of course assume that since there is one, there must be more so all is good.

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    $\begingroup$ The last sentence is not that self-evident. The biggest difference between monotheism and polytheism (considering the major real-world religions) is not in the numbers. In monotheism God is usually a transcendental omniscient and omnipotent being who created the universe, while polytheistic deities are not the creators of the rules of physics, they are part of the world itself, just like humans but with superpowers. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 11 '15 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz I know, but proof of one god is not proof of only one, as a matter of fact it would highly suggest multiple, depending on what the 'proof' stated. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 11 '15 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ proof of a Zeus or Thor-like being would not be even considered a deity by monotheists, for them they would be just humanoid aliens with slightly superior biology. Proof for a creator God which designed the rules of the Universe, on the other hand, would pretty much convince monotheists that it is proof of only one God. A very widespread view among monotheists is that the different monotheist faiths don't worship different gods, they all worship the same God, albeit with minor differences in interpretation. Note that all the major monotheist faiths believe in the "God of Abraham". $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 11 '15 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz: The question does not state that the proof says anything about having created the universe. Whether it says anything about there being more than one such entity depends on what "singular" means. $\endgroup$ – Beta Feb 12 '15 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Beta In that case it seems we would only be arguing bout semantics, what the word "god" means in this context. We could ask the QA what he meant by "god", my guess was that he meant something more powerful than "a muscular human with extended lifespan living on a mountain and capable of some minor magic, like throwing lightning bolts". $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 12 '15 at 4:32
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Reactions could be categorized.

Believers in the lucky religion - no change, other than significant increase in smugness, and also membership.

Believers in other religions - drop in membership, general sadness. Denial of the evidence as anything other than a test of their faith.

Agnostics - "Aha, so, we were right. God was a theoretical possibility after all."

Soft Atheists - admission of being incorrect, expressions of disappointment at the uncovered God.

Hard Atheists, Conspiracy Theorists, Nutjobs - disbelief of the evidence.

Civil rights leaders, Conspiracy Theorists, Nutjobs - the Problem of Evil means we must rebel. Sure, more people than before now believe in a god, but is it a God worth worshipping?

Average man in the street - brief interest, but phwoarr, lookitt the jugs on that page three.

Hollywood - this will make a great movie. A respectful treatment, of course. Tasteful. But who should the love interest be?

Cultists - now is the time to pour the kool-aid and join our God in the heavens!

Businessmen - better change the advertising a little to take advantage of this. See if we can lobby for some new laws that ostensibly respect the God, but actually serve our financial ends.

Politicians - if the voters are going for this God, prepare to follow it if we didn't already. Hey, this evidence... can it be used to our advantage? Is it a source of power? Money? We might need to sequester it, in the national interest of course. Some of our lobbyist friends can get the contract to do the job.

Scientists - see if we can communicate with this God. There's so much we can learn.

All - now we know it exists, and is reachable, we must try to find out its weaknesses and how to make it stop existing.

I'm sure I've missed some valid categories.

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you mean to make this community wiki? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 12 '15 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio - sure, I don't mind others adding to it. Are there downsides to making something wiki, other than that people might make edits? $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan Feb 12 '15 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @DewiMorgan well, you don't get the reputation from the answer. If you meant to open it up I've no objection; I just wanted to check in case you didn't mean to do that. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 12 '15 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ nitpicking: Agnostics would likely go "huh." They just don't care. Atheists would be fine with it, as there is now scientific evidence. Cultists would unemployed, IMHO. Their bread-and-butter (making up religions) is now gone. Politicians would be all dead. No matter the religion, no god would allow them to remain. +1 for a fun read! $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 13 '15 at 19:16
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I think we could probably answer the question by asking, How do we know that (in some way or another) God's existence hasn't been empirically proven already? I'm not trying to be cheeky; the whole issue of "faith" is whether one is willing to believe in something (someone?) willingly rather than being "coerced" by some rationale (in the same way that you can't really be in love with someone by being externally coerced).

In other words, the world would probably look exactly as it does now: people disputing the validity of the proof, those saying that the whole exercise is futile and we should just get on with life, and so on.

Probably an interesting line of questioning would be, what exactly would empirical proof of God's existence look like? Literal footprints? Visually seeing and documenting him? Perhaps something more abstract like the fine-tuning of the universe for human life? Perhaps historical events such as him speaking through a prophet and doing things that defy natural laws?

As a run-of-the-mill Christian, pondering what empirical evidence for God looks like is to me a compelling reason to believe that he does exist, insofar as the kinds of things a God you described would be able to offer as proof are exactly the kinds of things that are said to have occurred. Of course, this is my opinion.

Great question.

EDIT: How atheists would react: After some further thought, it occurred to me that most likely, atheists would conceivably support the existence of such a God, because a big sticking point for many is that belief in God is unjustified precisely because it is not empirically proven.

Furthermore, many atheists reject the God of the Bible on the ground that interaction with him is superstitious, or that he is morally reprehensible, etc. So I would argue that if the God that was empirically proven were more suitable to modern tastes (such as a God who reads Leviathan rather than creates him), atheists would have no problem believing in him. However, in just a case, this God would be considered a peer of sorts; it's far too un-enlightened to worship something. If this God demanded worship, atheists would probably want to have a vote on it first.

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  • $\begingroup$ It would come down to what the OP meant by 'proof'. If it's proof based on faith--which is what we have now, your answer is correct. Nothing would change at all. But if it's the more accepted concept of 'proof'--more the scientific or mathematical definition--then there'd be observable evidence. The things you list as possible proof are also things that, for example, are considered proof for the existence of Bigfoot. It's still a faith-based proof. People have faith that a God exists, and other's have faith that Bigfoot exists, but there's really no hard proof of either. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ What I'm trying to get at with my answer is what could possibly constitute "empirical proof" for God. Most such evidence that I mentioned above would be considered circumstantial evidence, hence the similarities you made with Bigfoot. But I think it's safe to say that circumstantial evidence can converge toward hard evidence under the right conditions. This is how we prove the existence of black holes: By nature they cannot be sensed in any way, like God, but we can guess what a universe with black holes would be like. If such a description matches our present universe, then QED. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Feb 15 '15 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a scientist, so this is getting out of my realm of knowledge, but I think we've proved the concept of a black hole, but not exactly what they are yet, correct? I think you have an interesting point there...though. Enough circumstantial evidence can lead to some solid hypotheses. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 20:33
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Simple: It does not work if you are serious with your definition.

What exactly happens is always dependent what "God" exactly is. A "god" in a coarse definition is always a being which is much more powerful than a human being. I am not talking about "outsiders" in the folklore like elves, demons etc. which may have superior abilities in one case but are severely limited in other cases. We are talking of something where the power balance is strictly in favor of the "God" being.

So science with our limited knowledge and accessibility is never ever able to prove conclusive statements about a being which is much more powerful because this being would be always able to trick humans into believing things which are not true. Scientists are well aware of the limitations the human mind has. How would you "empirically" test something which has a much more deep insight into yourself and much more power available to bend the results in favor of their case ?

So you never can "prove" that a being is omniscient or omnipotent.

ADDITION: I forgot to mention that "proving" statements about intelligent beings is already a real-world problem. In medicine and sociology we have a severe reproducibility problem because those damned humans are reacting so different. Use the same location, the same time, the same procedure and the same experimenters; if the only difference is another group you can still get vastly different results ! It only gets worse if other variables are changing, too. The whole area of meta-analysis was pushed forward to cope with these problems.

So what really counts is how the "God" is interacting with the reality and the human world. The easiest way is if we have Epicurean/Deist/Transcendental God(s) which do not interact, do not want to interact with us or our reality or make it in a way we do not recognize. Then there is no difference between existence or non-existence because science has only access to our reality. If the Gods do interact with our reality, we have several cases:

a) They are showing adaption. They are punishing disrespect or rewarding loyalty, depending on cases and show some kind of intelligence. In that case non-believers would die out quickly or be converted even before the scientific method were invented. The speed of dying out would depend on how harsh or how regular they dish out, but even small differences would lead invariably to the demise of the non-believing population. People would fear and revere that God(s).

b) No variation. In that case it is likely that people would encode the results as new "natural laws" and perhaps even do not acknowledge a God.

c) Chaotic interaction. They interact with our world, but for no discernible (for us) reason. Depending on how many times they interact, the people would be likely either accept freak accidents or have constant paranoia.

In all cases I do not see that law and government are necessary to do anything because the God(s) would act on their own accord and do not need mortal help. In fact blasphemy laws are a sign that we either have no gods or that the God(s) are Epicurean, deistic or transcendental (pantheist/panentheist) gods.

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    $\begingroup$ Blasphemy laws could also be a sign that God is more patient than people are. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Feb 10 '15 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ @RobWatts This is included in the definition of a (quasi) deist God which interacts only rarely. If the God interacts rarely enough, humans cannot discern a specific will or always can find another reason why the incident happened. Therefore I see no reason to change the sentence. $\endgroup$ – Thorsten S. Feb 10 '15 at 22:11
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In a world where some God is empirically shown to exist, there will continue to be atheists.

The atheists will claim that something has been empirically shown to exist, but:

  • it is not God; it is some extra-terrestrial creature which has duped humanity into believing that it is God, using its advanced powers to manipulate the physical world. That creature did not create the world, and is not unique either; it comes from some place inhabited by other such creatures.

  • the creature is not actually God of any particular human religion; it just bears a resemblance, evidenced by various otherwise incompatible religions all claiming that it is their God.

  • feats of omnipotence can be faked by manipulating the human mind. For instance, a sufficiently powerful extra-terrestrial may have the technology to implant, directly into a human's brain, the false memory which causes the human to believe that he or she just witnessed a miracle, when no such thing happened at all. By such means, the extra-terrestrial can fool humanity into believing that it has powers which it does not have. Therefore, the empirical researchers have been fooled. Their data is fake, and their experiences are false memories.

Others people will reject these arguments and choose to believe, creating conflict between those who want to save humanity from the evil extra-terrestrials, and those who want to be united with their God.

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  • $\begingroup$ -1 for assuming atheism is based on arguing and conspiracy theories. This also doesn't address the question which is stating that a god has been proven to exist. I assume that would be scientific proof, therefore nothing for an atheist to warrant arguing. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 13 '15 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DA Atheism isn't based on conspiracy theories. I am simply imagining the scenario. Also, please look up what "conspiracy theory" means. $\endgroup$ – Kaz Feb 13 '15 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ "some extra-terrestrial creature which has duped humanity" sure sounds tin-foil-hat-ish to me. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 13 '15 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Atheists will also be the group most likely to furiously take this "god" to task for allowing all manner of horrible things to keep happening to people. $\endgroup$ – Shadur Feb 15 '15 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadur You can't call yourself an atheist while calling some god to task. $\endgroup$ – Kaz Feb 15 '15 at 17:29
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Nothing new

You set up a system which is very close to inconsistent, and when you do that, the microscopic details get magnified to importance. Science's definition of "proof" is a statistical one. "The evidence we have seen so far is statistically consistent with scientific model of 'God.'"

Now, consider that you have faith in religion A. Science claims they have a 99.9999% confidence in the God of religion B (I chose 6 nines because that is roughly what scientists consider "proof" of a subatomic particle). Given that you have faith religion A is true, and there is a 0.0001% chance that statistics lead science awry, you will merely assume this rare chance happened and go about your business.

Remember, religions talk about immortality. Would you really risk your immortal soul and disbelieve the religion you have faith in, just because science said so from a finite amount of evidence?

Over time you would see political changes. That religion's view on birth control would soon become law, for instance. This is nothing we don't deal with today (we just don't have a scientifically "proven" answer).

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your focus on the probabilistic nature of "proof" used in Science. I think you're right that the general public would use it as an "out" to continue to believe what they have always believed. But I wonder how scientists would react to it, who have been trained in the statistics to really understand what they imply. $\endgroup$ – Jason Feb 11 '15 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Jason I like to believe they would act the way they've acted in the past. Take a look at how the scientific community reacted to relativity, black holes, or quantum physics. If you think you've seen a nasty fight, wait until you've seen how scientists will bicker with their entire life's work on the line! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Feb 11 '15 at 4:57
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer as it talks about it from a much higher level (no pun intended). Though in summary, I think this could also be worded as "what would happen would depend entirely on the particular god that happens to be real and the universe they created that we don't know about" $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 18:19
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Sadly, I cannot think of a scenario how this could be proven, but that's the point of Worldbuilding.SE right?

The God appears in person and does things like change the gravitational constant of the universe by a pre-determined amount for 24 hours. Or makes the Earth a satellite of Jupiter for a day before moving it back.

How would believers of other religions react to this? Would monotheistic religions be abolished if the proven god isn't theirs?

The major religions all go for the same God. They differ on the prophets they use as a conduit to that God. You've mainly got the carpenter, the merchant, and the wandering mendicant; the Jews seem to have a direct line.

Unless God specifically denounces one of these prophets it will likely be business as usual. If God does smite one of the major prophets as a fraud you will see catastrophic social chaos in regions where that religion is dominant, rearrangement of social and legal processes (and national holidays) where that religion is a substantial part of the background (think christianity in Europe) and a lot of snickering everywhere else.

How about atheists?

With irrefutable proof that a god-like being exists the atheists will accept the existence. But unless there is an irrefutable commandment to assume the position for ten minutes every other Thursday the atheists will likely continue as usual.

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  • $\begingroup$ For the sake of argument, none of the examples you provided meaningfully delineate between super advanced aliens and a "god". Also, there is a coherent argument that irrefutable proof of a god's existence is functionally impossible. $\endgroup$ – Fake Name Feb 11 '15 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ God: (n) a superhuman, typically immortal being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity. A suitably advanced alien would fit the description. If they can put the Earth in a perfectly circular orbit around Jupiter without spilling my coffee I would accept them as Master of the Universe. Don't tweak their nose too much - 24 hours in Mercury's orbit is far less hospitable. $\endgroup$ – paul Feb 11 '15 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ God: (n) (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being. $\endgroup$ – Fake Name Feb 11 '15 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ So basically this depends on which god you're arguing about, and whether you define "god" as merely a being with abilities/powers beyond a certain threshold, or as a "supreme being". $\endgroup$ – Fake Name Feb 11 '15 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Unless two of them show up at the same time, any being with abilities/powers beyond a certain threshold would qualify. If a supernatural charlatan comes by, reads our mythology, then appears in the sky what are you going to do? Ask to see it's ID? $\endgroup$ – paul Feb 12 '15 at 0:03
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So far as society is concerned, I don't think it really matters whether it's scientifically proven or not. What matters is whether people believe it and act accordingly. "Scientifically proven" means, more or less, that "scientists" believe it and act accordingly because of some experimental evidence that supports a particular hypothesis by refuting contradicting hypotheses.

So, either your hypothetical scientific proof is sufficient to convince everyone else to take up the proven religion, or it is not.

If the hypothetical scientific proof is not sufficient to convince non-scientists (at least, those not of the religion whose God is proved to exist), then you might have a situation a bit like popular belief in quantum mechanics or that smoking causes cancer. People on the whole believe it, kind of, because they mostly believe scientists tell the truth most of the time. But any given person might not understand it, might not act on their belief, or might refuse to believe it if that's inconvenient for them even though it's "scientifically proven". It could affect public policy (to the extent science ever does, i.e. to the extent it's convenient for politicians to believe scientists) without affecting every single person.

If it is enough to convince the layman, then everyone would believe in God. There might not be many historical societies we can look at where that was strictly true, but we certainly know of societies in which nearly all people broadly-speaking belong to the same religion, and where multiple religions exist but atheism is very rare. So the question is solved in the abstract: you'd have a society in which everyone sincerely believes in God, and that would be open to all the variety consistent with that.

Assuming no earth-shaking changes other than the common belief God exists, religions contain a lot of statements about the nature of God. It can be difficult in some religions even to get two randomly-selected co-religionists to agree a statement of belief, let alone between religions. So, depending on the nature of the proof there might be a lot for religions to disagree on, principally the practical consequences of the existence of God for morality, worship, and so on. So perhaps people could on the whole retain their religions, present-day atheists could reason that although it turns out God exists, that has no consequence for them, and so on.

So, just because God exists doesn't necessarily mean he rewards virtue, punishes evil, or that there's an afterlife, or that he wants people to be kind to animals, or anything else someone might advocate in the name of God. People of different religions can easily believe that God exists and carry on disagreeing about everything else. See for example the Protestant Reformation: the dispute was not over the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient God. Perhaps not quite everyone was agreed there was one, but I don't see things going down substantially differently if it had been literally everyone.

However, if the nature of the proof is, for example, "Christianity is proved correct because Judgement Day occurs", then of course Revelation has a lot to say about what happens around that event, which we could say is substantially correct in your world. Then we can say that society would be radically different from any that's gone before, on account of Heaven being manifest and whatnot.

If the world doesn't end but one religion is proved correct in general, not just specifically in its statement that God exists, then what would follow would be a society in which everyone sincerely believes that particular religion. The nature of that society depends very much on the nature and strictures of the religion you choose. And have we proved "the religion as a whole" correct, or have we proved that a particular sect or denomination is correct? The Roman Catholic society is different from the Methodist one, do we have to choose one or do we keep both? Basically, to prove "the Christian God" exists, you have to decide which of the properties ascribed to God by various Christians at various times, are actually possessed by (and proved of) the God who has been proved to exist.

The actual transition might be very complex and unruly. It's not necessary that everyone would just convert to (for example) Islam overnight. AFAIK it's possible to convert overnight, but people would have to take their time beforehand to process the proof and be convinced by it, and afterwards to learn how to live as a Muslim. Regardless of the practicalities of transition, if the case is presented convincingly that everyone should be a Muslim then the trend would be towards a Muslim society.

Other religions take different views on conversion. For example, I think (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) that I could believe Judaism to be true without necessarily concluding that I should become a Jew. Naturally you'd have to carefully research the specific religion that you decide to make true in your fiction, or you'll have an offensive pastiche at best ;-)

Finally, I note that there's a great deal of speculative fiction in which the existence of some kind of supernatural goings-on could be scientifically proven, except that it's rare and there's a conspiracy to keep it secret, and ironic or farcical plot elements combine to prevent the proof being documented, and so on. If the scientific proof of God was of this kind: "there are actual angels running around, and they've met God, so there's your proof" -- "well, I haven't met any angels yet, so I don't believe it yet", then you have plenty of fictional precedent for what might happen. Hi-jinks, basically.

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  • $\begingroup$ Excellent point re: It's not the proof that matters, it's whether people accept it (which, as we know, is a challenge even today.) $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 23:13
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I must first argue it's virtually impossible to prove a single religion's god as the real one, because the best religions are the ones that make God subjective. He's in all of us, and he defies understanding. Sound familiar? Yeah, because it's designed to appeal to everyone, and give no real explanation of what God is really like, so that everyone in your congregation can believe in a different God and still get along. God, if He does not exist, is an imaginary friend, and thus we apply to him many different characteristics that aren't in any holy book. Try wrapping all that up in one being and no one will be able to tell you what religion it came from.

That said, imagine you've proven that God exists, without tying Him to a single religion. Here's a simple example: Some guy had an idea of what God was, and he founded Judaism. By the time Yeshua came around in the first century, there were possibly dozens of versions of the Jewish God. Then, in the centuries after Yeshua's death, dozens more Jews started formulating new versions of God. This led to Christianity. Now we have dozens more versions of the Christian God, and probably just as many versions of the Jewish God. Add in Islam if you want. The point is, this all stemmed from one guy's idea, and he probably said a lot more than "God exists".

Now, imagine an experiment is conducted. Perhaps there's a proof, and the result of this proof is that God must exist. At this point, you're no closer to 'knowing' God than any religious person; you've just both agreed on an axiom. As other answerers have said, and as I hopefully have shown, this existence proof probably won't go against most major religions; the real change comes from the non-believers.

The most likely outcome I can think of is that a new branch of science will spring up, aimed at figuring out which parts of which religions actually are correct. A similar example would be how no one put any thought to the Trojan War until they uncovered the city of Troy: now that they have evidence that some part of the story is true, they want to know how much of it is true. In your case, learning about God and His plans for us will be of the utmost importance.

However, just like how most religious people aren't actually that committed to uncovering the hidden mysteries of God, most ordinary people probably won't put too much thought into these scientific endeavors. If anything, it'll be like finding the 'God particle' or toast that looks like Jesus: most religious people will think it means they're right and go on doing the same thing as before, while most non-religious people will think the aforementioned religious people are ignorant and dangerous, and do as much as they can to strip down all the false facts religions have been spewing out for so long. There will probably be a new branch of athiests, but they'll be virtually indistinguishable from modern ones, vehemently denying any suggestion of a god regardless of the lack of proof. Nothing new there, just goes to show that a system of beliefs is only slightly affected by the realm of fact.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you have the seed of an answer in here, but the majority of this post doesn't address the question. You speculate about how religions come about, but it's only in your third paragraph that I see an answer to "how would society react" start to emerge -- you're saying that there'd still be lots of unanswered questions and people will still disagree because of that (I think). Could you edit to tighten this up and bring out the actual answer more? Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 11 '15 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio great suggestion, I have edited the ending to flesh out my response. The beginning I think still works as an explanation of my train of thought. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 11 '15 at 19:29
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Well... let's take a look at THGTTG. There's usually something in there.

Of the Babel fish:

Now, it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some have chosen to see it as the final proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. QED"

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

Emphasis mine.

People would pick holes in the proof. Both atheists and believers of other religions would nitpick and find holes that - while not THGTTG-style excessive - still "prove" that the proof is wrong. The "proof denies faith" argument is a fairly strong one: if someone claims to have proved the existence of a god, someone else can claim that the basis of their proof was something put into the universe by the real God to see how humans would react to it.

There are other people who are just plain stubborn and will point-blank refuse to believe that the new proof is valid. This has happened with many other important scientific discoveries: perhaps most relevant is the discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun not the other way round. The discoverer of this theory was placed under house arrest due to the Church's demand for heresy; they didn't like how his idea went against what they'd thought for centuries.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your description of the heliocentric model is partly exaggerated, mostly wrong. The first major proponent of the model was Copernicus, who was never excommunicated. His theory didn't even really become controversial until after his death. If you are refering to Galileo, he got in trouble for several reasons. Basically, his Dialogue contained a caricature of the Pope. Also, the opposition to heliocentrism was more about resisting the Protestant reformation than it was about science. Finally, Galileo was found suspect of heresy and put under house arrest. He, also, was never excommunicated. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 11 '15 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts Edited $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Feb 11 '15 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer, but is more of a rhetorical question asking 'what is proof anyways?'. Which is a good question. Maybe the OP's question is just too vague to have a solid answer. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 15 '15 at 18:21
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If the god were in favor of a standard of behavior that most people disliked, the people would probably figure out a way to hide the evidence and/or rationalize it away.

If the god didn't intrude and let people choose their own path, the scientific evidence for the god's existence would eventually be very hard to discover. Those who did discover it, even if it were obvious, would probably be branded as social outcasts, either crazy, immoral, or criminals.

However, since the evidence is scientific, it would be undeniable and those seeking to quiet the truth seekers would resort to ad hominem and strawman attacks, and look for ways to discredit their message and keep them from expressing it.

Finally, those who did not like the truth about the god's existence would probably end up killing the really persistent truth seekers.

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Could other gods be proven this way? It's not hard to imagine that a proven religion would quickly establish supremacy over other religions. But it's a safe bet that at least for a while after the initial proof is discovered, believers of other faiths would attempt to use the same process to prove their gods too. Even if the particular method of proving God also somehow proves that it's pointless to try it on other religions' gods, the remaining believers of those religions would still try, at least for a time.

What about quack theologists? In the real world, it's not so uncommon to see bogus proofs of bad scientific theories, made either by cranks who honestly believe they're onto something or by charlatans who are trying to sell a product. The anti-vaccine movements are a timely example of this. In a world where God is proven, it's not hard to imagine theologians trying to get in on the game, with bogus proofs of their own gods (or bogus proofs of some particular aspect of God).

What would atheists think of this God? True atheism would likely all but vanish in a world with a proven religion: not believing in the existence of a God whose existence has been proven would be insane. But this doesn't mean that dissatisfaction with religion would vanish. Even in the real world, there exist a few people who call themselves maltheists (or sometimes dystheists). They believe that the being called God exists, but that He is evil, fraudulent, or otherwise unworthy of worship. In a world where a God is proven, maltheism could rise to the same kind of prominence that atheism has today. They might even continue to call themselves atheists, after their nearest philosophical ancestors. Conversely, believers might start to use the term "atheist" as a slur against the maltheists.

Another thing to remember is that not all maltheists would come from atheist stock. Although many similarities can be drawn between the moral codes of most real-world faiths, almost all of them share some very stark difference as well. Some maltheists could once have been believers of other faiths, who call God evil because He differs from their moral codes in some important way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't most maltheists come from religious stock, and not atheist? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 11 '15 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe, but I don't think so. The most devout followers of other faiths would dig in their heels within those faiths. More casual followers would be more likely to simply convert, swapping out a god that can't be proven for one that can. To abandon a faith that can't be proven, while refusing to join a faith that can, occupies an odd sort of middle ground that I don't think would appeal to most religious people. More likely, I think, is that most maltheists -not all, but most- would be people who didn't abandon a religion in the first place. $\endgroup$ – The Spooniest Feb 12 '15 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ My down-vote is because you have multiple assumptions which I believe to be false, including (but not limited to) lumping anti-vaccine movements into a "quack theologists" category. Whether to vaccinate or not is hotly debated similarly to religion, and people on both sides provide both good and bad support for their cause. There are examples of anti-vaccine communities who have lower levels of outbreaks than vaccine communities as long as the anti-vaccine community's lifestyle is not altered. Vaccines are not the only (nor the best) method of disease control. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Oct 4 '18 at 19:09
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Many would be in utter denial, claiming this real god is really the devil there to trick them. Atheists would have to admit defeat if they wanted to continue to use science to back them.

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    $\begingroup$ Please answer more of the OP questions, and try to find resources for your arguments to get more votes! $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Feb 10 '15 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ Dustin that is an auto-generated response when you select a certain option when reviewing...its not perfectly accurate. To be more clear, when answering a question you should not only answer it but explain and provide support for your answer. "Yes" may be an accurate answer but on this site we also need the why and how. Welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 10 '15 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Telastyn, science would try to find an error in the proof. That is what science does everyday. What someone believes is an entirely different thing. $\endgroup$ – paqogomez Feb 10 '15 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for misunderstanding Atheism. Science doesn't 'back' atheism as there is nothing to back. There's no scientific 'proof' to prove something doesn't exist. There's also nothing to admit in terms of defeat. It's not a football game. $\endgroup$ – DA. Feb 13 '15 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ This "answer" says more about you than anything else. For you, it's a game of "winning or losing". For scientists, it's about finding truth. $\endgroup$ – atmelino Feb 13 '15 at 22:19
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For starters, I'd say it would depend a lot on the nature of the proof. As a Christian, I'd say that there is overwhelming evidence that Christianity is true if people were only willing to look at it with a fair mind. Of course, atheists are just as quick to say that there is overwhelming evidence that their beliefs are true and it's the Christians who are obstinately ignoring the facts. Etc.

Every now and then an atheist will say something like, "If there really is a God, why doesn't he strike me with lightning right now for blaspheming him?" Suppose that at the very moment that an atheist said that, a bolt of lightning tore through the roof the building and hit him. Would all the atheists in the world then say, "Zounds, we were wrong! There really is a God!" I sincerely doubt it. More likely they would say, "Wow, what a bizarre coincidence!" I'm sure most would deny that any such thing ever happened. Even if you had video of it, I'm sure there would quickly be people coming forward with absolute proof that the video was faked.

I'm not singling out atheists here. Lots of people come to their conclusions first and then look for evidence to support those conclusions, and any contradictory evidence is just ignored. (Lots of people who disagree with me, I mean. Obviously people who agree with me have all examined the evidence with absolute fairness and objectivity. That's why they agree with me. :-)

So frankly, if there was some such proof -- like if someone actually made the Sun stand still or came back from the dead or something irrefutable like that -- I'm sure that many people would find a way to explain it away, from claiming that it was all a fraud or a hallucination to elaborate alternative explanations.

Sure, some would be convinced. So I think you'd just end up with what goes on in the world today, but more so to whatever degree that this "proof" was hard to deny or refute. Some atheists would be convinced, others would not. Some people of other religions would convert. Some other religions would adapt their teaching to the new information. Etc.

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I'm going to take a tack not taken by others here. This should be noted that it can only speak to a universe where there is only one "god", though the viability of multiple gods is somewhat in question (having multiple omnipotent and omniscient entities brings some logical contradictions, such as the fact that one could magic all the others out of existence at any time).


What would happen if it were sufficiently proven that a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient deity were proven to exist? Rebellion!

Basically, this boils down to the problem of evil, and the fact that a benevolent deity (or pseudo-deity) possessing omnipotency and omniscientcy would functionally preclude the existence of evil. Omnipotency implies that the holder of said omnipotency can create a similar universe to the current one where suffering does not exist, with out any other negative side effects. The fact that this deity has omniscience means that it must therefore know it can fix the problem of evil, and it chooses not to.

Therefore, definitive proof of an omnipotent and omniscient god is also proof that that god must therefore be evil (assuming evil exists in the universe).

As such, the only sane reaction I can think of is either acceptance of the fact that all the sentient entities in the universe are functionally slaves, or rebellion.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this answer is the assumption that "a benevolent deity (or pseudo-deity) possessing omnipotency and omniscientcy would functionally preclude the existence of evil". A benevolent deity does not AUTOMATICALLY have to preclude the existence of evil. For example, the deity may have chosen to allow evil to exist for a SPECIFIC DURATION and out of RESPECT FOR THE FREE CHOICE he gave some of his creation. $\endgroup$ – user100487 Feb 11 '15 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ The concept that evil exists for a specific duration can be seen in the Bible, for example. The first book, Genesis, tells how (after Adam and Eve disobeyed God) God provided a prophecy foretelling how the new situation would end (there would come a seed that would crush the head of the "snake"). The last book, Revelation, describes the crushing of that snake. $\endgroup$ – user100487 Feb 11 '15 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ @user100487 - You're entirely missing the point. If this god requires evil for the existence of free will, that god cannot therefore be omnipotent, because omnipotency implies that the god could allow free will to exist without requiring the existence of evil. Either the god is knowingly allowing evil to exist without the actual need for it (and is therefore evil), or cannot create free will without evil, and is therefore not omnipotent (and therefore not "god"). $\endgroup$ – Fake Name Feb 11 '15 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ This argument (The "Epicurean Trilemma" or the "Problem of Evil") has been around for millennia. It has been discussed and argued about by people a lot smarter than you or me. Still, belief in a god that is both omnipotent and benevolent persists. So why would empirical proof of an omnipotent god suddenly convince them otherwise? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 11 '15 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @user100487 - Dude, knowing everything is the definition of omniscence: omniscient (adjective) : knowing everything : having unlimited understanding or knowledge $\endgroup$ – Fake Name Feb 12 '15 at 4:56
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The God would not just have to be "proven" once but would have to stay around here pretty long time, to be proven over and over again.

And how do you actually prove something like that so that all scientists will agree to it and not eventually challenge the proof?

A basic reason for this is that a lot of "science" is based on axioms that themselves are based on interpretations and assumptions.

An example of this is related to the age of the earth (note: I am not a young earth creationist or anything like that). None of us humans who currently live on earth were around when earth first "came to be". Consequently we do not have any eye witnesses telling us how old earth is (or even, how life first exactly appeared on this planet). The age of the earth is based on assumptions made about the age of Universe and the age of the solar system.

Another example is the dating of dinosaur fossils. The fossils themselves are typically not dated directly (due to multiple reasons) but are dated based on the strata they are found in. Again the age of the strata is based on assumptions made about the age of the earth and interpretations related to the local geology.

Of course not everything in science is based this little on eyewitness evidence. After all, "science" includes many different disciplines, and some of them (such as medicine and parts of physics) have greatly contributed to the advancement of technology in our era. The "problem" is that this has given many other sciences the appearance of being similarly completely based on eye-witness evidence (instead of assumptions and interpretations).

So now you have the following issues:

  1. in many parts of science, events are interprets through a filter that contains the same assumptions and interpretations that have been used so far
  2. if the events are not the right type for the filter, they are categorized as "outside of science"
  3. in the end all humans are fully capable of believing into what they want to believe in (without even consciously acknowledging this to themselves) or have chosen to believe in. For an example, just check how many Germans accepted the Nazi leadership during WW2. Very few saw much of any problem with joining the military and then going to another country to kill civilians, for example. After all it was all for the motherland and life is easier if one does not ask too many questions.

So in the end, even if you have some cosmic events and some God appearing, the fact is that once all that is over, our scientist would be fully capable of interpreting all of it as some natural blip in the evolution of cosmos coupled with mass psychosis. Or something like that.

Also, take a look at the story of the nation of Israel, as described in the Bible. The book of Exodus tells us how God freed the Israelites from slavery through various events that showed his godship (both in general sense, and when contrasted with the powerless gods of the Egyptians). As a final step in protecting the Israelites, God saved them from the Pharaoh by opening a pathway through the Red Sea that doubled as a trap for the Pharaoh.

After these events, God led the people to Mount Sinai. While Moses was up on that mountain, the Israelites wanted to have another God so they made themselves a golden calf and stated that they will have a celebration to worship that calf the next day.

The thing here is that that calf was a statue that they themselves created right there and then (according to Exodus, Aaron asked the Isralites for the gold to make it). It was clearly not a god of any sort, but a lifeless creation made by a human. More importantly it had not even helped the Israelites in any kind of manner. So here we had a situation where they turned their back on a God who actually had helped them and rather wanted to worship one that had done nothing for them. This was also before they were given the law covenant, so the law covenant cannot be claimed to have been the reason for their behavior.

More likely they wanted to be able to choose their own god simply because such a thing would have made their life more like what they wanted. Free sex, and stuff like that.

Now someone might argue that if God showed himself, humans would believe in him. Clearly the Israelites showed that it does not work very well like that. Because in the end, humans tends to believe what they want to believe in.

And that is what would eventually color the "scientific" interpretations and conclusions of humankind, once any "revelation" type event was over.

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People would likely collectively go "Huh. Who saw that coming?"

Then, likely you'd see most of humanity adhere to said religion. This is nothing new. Humans tend to clump together over all sorts of group gatherings. When Team X wins the super bowl, suddenly Team X gains a whole lot of new fans.

I do agree with some of the others (as well as yourself) that this is an impossibility, however. Religion as we know it today is strictly un-provable. It's built in to the definition of what constitutes religion today. Even within the major religious movements, there is so much fractured history that there's no one real story of any particular god.

That said, if you're looking for examples of what the existence of a real god might end up looking like, you can find those in a lot of the major religion's texts. The Bible, for example, is based on the assumption that God is real and does real things.

UPDATE:

After pondering this more and reading through the other answers (which are all interesting...even if I don't agree with them all) I think there's perhaps even a higher-level answer to this question:

It all depends on what particular god was proven to be real and that god's particular rules of the universe

Someone brought up reincarnation and I think that's an excellent example of but one particular aspect of religion (the afterlife) that could have drastically different effects on society depending on which version 'proves' to be real. Are you reincarnated as an animal? Do you go to Heaven? Hell? Is heaven the greatest thing ever?

All sorts of scenarios could stem from that:

  • maybe the afterlife is 'pretty good' in that for a good chunk of the planet's population, they decide death is the next logical step. That could be good (planet's population under control)? Or bad in that whenever life just gets too hard, people just kill themselves (endless cycle of depopulation)?
  • maybe it's a gamble. Heaven or Hell. Maybe then there's a sudden wave of empathy and sympathy and governments start shifting towards more socialist and communal models and everyone starts striving to better humanity. That could lead to an interesting 'utopia on earth' model (hmm...there's a story idea right there...)
  • maybe heaven is a non-stop orgy and all-you-can-eat buffet. Within the weekend humanity no longer exists. Win win for everything as humans are partying in Heaven and the Rhinos and Elephants back on earth can finally do as they please.
  • maybe it's "There is no afterlife, this is all you get" in which case maybe not a lot changes at all...some societies are OK with this now and live peacefully, some societies are everyone-for-themselves and that wouldn't change either.
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