A question that theists often ask atheists is, "If God does not exist, then why do so many people believe in him? Do you really think that almost everyone else in the whole history of the world is stupid?"
I do not believe that people who historically believed or currently believe in a god or gods are stupid. I believe they are acting on an evolved, basic human need.
I also believe that the basis for this need is diminishing rapidly, and that eventually (though probably not in my lifetime) we will further evolve to lack this need.
The number of people who identify as non-religious, atheist, agnostic, etc., is growing rapidly. This begs the question:
Is God dead? Or dying?
More specifically, has the anthropomorphic theistic god morphed over time into the more ideological pantheistic god, and possibly on to the mostly benign deistic god?
Philosophically speaking, I do believe that this is what is happening.
While I don't believe that the theistic god(s) ever literally existed, I do see where the world once had a need for it/them.
In early human history, there was the perception that everything that was not caused directly by humans was magic. Lightning? Magic. Earthquake? Magic. Solar eclipse? HOLYSHITMAGIC! When people have very little to no understanding of the natural world, they construct their own explanations. Humans have a need to understand why things happen, and history has shown that we will satisfy that need; when presented with a question for which a real answer is not readily available, we will substitute our own artificial reality: the God of the Gaps.
As we have evolved and developed, humans have sought knowledge; we have hypothesized and tested and learned. The god of the gaps has become the answer to fewer and fewer questions.
How do plants grow?
Old answer: God
Current answer: Carbohydrates are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water using light as an energy source; otherwise known as photosynthesis.
What makes a rainbow?
Old answer: God
Current answer: The refractive dispersion of sunlight in drops of rain or mist.
What created the Universe?
Old answer: God
Current answer: The Big Bang. Probably. Actually, we're still working on that one.
My point is, the trend is that eventually, science tends to answer the questions. Will we ever have a solid answer for where the Universe came from? Maybe. Will we ever know for sure what happens when we die? Maybe. There's no way of knowing right now what we will and will not discover; but that does not mean that the answer is God.
There are still many today, the majority, in fact, who cling to the idea of the father god, the creator, as the answer to the questions that remain a mystery; but the fact is that with technological advances and easy access to instant worldwide communication, the gaps are closing faster than ever. Someday there will be no need for a supernatural explanation for anything at all. Eventually, people will have no choice but to concede that their religion is no more than superstition, and it has been replaced with knowledge and reality. This is, essentially, the death of God.
Update: This post is essentially a repost of a response I wrote to a forum post by khalis at Nashville Gothic. I initially did not reference the post for the sake of anonymity, since I had not previously mentioned that I am in the Nashville area. But fuck it. If you're here in the first place, you're at least thinking about atheism, right?
And I couldn't possibly come up with musings on Nietzsche's idea on my own.
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