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  1. HBAdams
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    HBAdams Member

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    Your religion is proven wrong; How do you react?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by HBAdams, Mar 28, 2011.

    Greetings all!

    I'm a bit stuck on one major plot twist in my current novel, and am unsure how my MC should react to a certain situation. So I turn to you!

    If somehow, someone was able to give you absolute, tangible proof that the religion and gods your entire community was based on was 100% incorrect, how would you react? In outrage? Denial? Would you contemplate the facts? Go on a 10 year retreat in the mountains to "find yourself"?

    Not being very involved with religion personally, I'm finding it difficult to synthesize a believable reaction.

    I understand everyone would react in their own unique way, but some suggestions would be mighty helpful!

    Thanks for any responses!
     
  2. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    I don't think your character would act much differently than members of other religions that are challenged with scientific evidence. You tell a hardcore theist that God doesn't exist because of Evolution, and he just replies, "Yes, but God obviously set Evolution in motion." No matter how sound your logic or evidence may be, the theist is always going to find a way to convince you that you are wrong because his faith is all that matters.

    It's sort of like Mackie's argument for evil. One side can argue that God can't possibly exist because evil exists, therefore, if God were real, he'd allow no evil. The other side replies that God sets evil in the world so the distinction of good can exist.

    This is why the debate has gone on for so long. We have fascinating theory to explain the origins of the universe, our planet, and life, but it hasn't done anything to convince theists that God doesn't exist. Einstein, for instance, is always miscontrued by both parties. Theists claim he is religious because of his quote, "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame," and Atheists claim he is Atheist because he didn't believe in a personal God. More likely, Einstein viewed the laws of physics themselves as God, a sort of pantheistic view. It just depends on your definition of what "God" is.

    So I doubt it would do much to change your character's views, depending on how devout he is. It may just force him to choose another definition as God.
     
  3. Depressing Jester
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    Depressing Jester Member

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    How do you prove that a religion is 100% false? I mean, it's all about faith to begin with, so that in itself would make it impossible to disprove. Unless it's one of those cult religions that center around single communities. Then theres a chance you could disprove, but only if the Cult leaders knew it not to be true and were merely using it for power.
     
  4. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Despite overwhelming evidence some people will react with a maniacal denial, they will dig their heels in a become more devout, not sure if it is the direction you want to take your MC but the opposite reaction of another character could act as dramatic device, a conflict brewer ..dig ?
     
  5. Depressing Jester
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    Depressing Jester Member

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    Why would faith and logic have to be set apart? Can it not be logical to believe that God created existence? Religion and Reason do not have to be enemies.
     
  6. j4000
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    j4000 New Member

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    Religions (those that have spread successfully) tend to be specially designed to resist things like being disproved. If, for instance, my religion tells me that a boat came from the sky and created the lands, you would have to prove that no boat every came from the sky, land could not have been created from this boat, and so on. Since this is essentially impossible, the religion can ignore attempts to discredit it and concentrate on furthering its own ends.

    If your story includes a religion that is less resistant to disproval, this idea could still work. Such a religion would have to be based on the absence of something. For instance, they might believe that people of mixed race are unable to reproduce. A mixed-race child would disprove this tenet (I know, bad example - most would deny that the child was really mixed). In such a case, I'd expect the character to pass through most or all of the stages of grief - denial, anger, acceptance, etc.
     
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  7. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    You have a tough writing challenge there. The problem is that you can't disprove a negative (something that doesn't exist). For instance, you can't prove that Santa Claus doesn't exist, because there's no evidence of him to begin with. Also, I can say that Santa is magic and can cover his tracks and that he casts a spell to cloud the minds of adults so they forget they ever saw him, etc.

    The trick with "gods" is that someone tells you the info, you can never disprove they exist, you are being watched by them, judged, and that creates a mental loop that keeps spinning around. You can be argued out of that, but no one can prove that invisible gods that dwell nowhere, but everywhere, don't exist.

    Reactions:

    1. A person who enjoys the idea of a god watching out for them might feel sad, hopeless, directionless, and like a sucker and an idiot.

    2. A person who has felt anxiety at being watched and judged by a god would likely feel like they just got out of a prison for a crime they didn't commit.
     
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  8. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    They don't have to be, but unfortunately they often are. The problem with religion and logic is that sometimes theists are so convinced in their faith that they don't want to listen to reasonable argument, nor offer a compelling argument of their own other than their faith is what matters. This is the power of faith. It's immune to argument, like the logical equivilent of a sexual safeword. When you use it, the whips are trunked and the fingers slowly loosened from your throat.

    Granted, there are theists who offer compelling arguments for religion and there are obstinate atheists who don't provide reasonable arguments themselves, but mostly all attempts at a logical discourse are marred by ad hominem attacks from both sides.
     
  9. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    That's because there isn't one. You can't prove an entire set of beliefs and mode of thought incorrect no matter what proof you have.

    Either your character doubted his faith before hand and gives in to that doubt when he sees validation, or your character will believe in spite of the proof that's sitting in front of him. You can't go from unwavering belief to total disbelief at the drop of a hat. That's not how faith works.

    You don't do religion, so here's an analogy. Let's say you love Harry Potter. You think its the best series in the world. I don't care whether you do or not, this is just an analogy. What if a team of literary experts came to your house, knocked down your door, and laid out an airtight case for why Harry Potter is the worst series of books in the world, and why you are stupid for liking them. There is no possible way to refute anything they say.

    Do you go off into the mountains for a week to mope about how you thought you liked Harry Potter? Will you never recommend the series to a friend again? After all, it's been proven that it's the worst series in the world.

    Proof doesn't matter where feelings are concerned, and religion is chiefly about feelings.

    There are significant gaps in this argument, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to address every possible point.
     
  10. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    My advice: don't. It'll sound ridiculous to an atheist and hollow to a believer. You might be able to write a religious anti-epiphany convincingly so that it doesn't turn the reader off completely, but... well, it's a risk.

    If you do decide to roll the dice, well- I'm assuming here that the plot point is something on the order of the clouds parting and a devout Christian seeing the Greek Pantheon looking down at him and patiently explaining that they've actually been running the show. As The Degenerate pointed out above, contradictory evidence can often be explained away by the true believer, as either not contradicting the faith because really the faith meant XYZ or as being misunderstood because really it means ABC, just like it says in the ancient writings. So this revelation will have to be utterly unequivocal or it totally won't work.

    That said: how would a believer react to utterly unimpeachable proof that The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a lie? Depends on the character. A repressed character might take this as an excuse to do what they've always really wanted to do, but forced themselves not to do from fear of punishment and divine retribution. It could be singing showtunes, it could be kissing dudes, it could be spouting profanities, it could be stabbing orphans. Who knows? Oh, wait: you do.

    I think it is overwhelmingly likely a believer would go through the five stages of grief. Take your time to develop this, especially the Denial and Anger stages. Could be dramatic.

    Warning: attempts to turn this thread into a religious flamewar will be ignored. Constructive criticism are welcome.
     
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  11. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Strictly speaking, I've always held to the belief that spiritualism and religion are two different things and only one of them has anything to do with God. I will not debate it, that's just my belief.

    That said, God Himself could walk into the room, point to a person and say, "You're religion is wrong." And people would still debate it.

    I think the movie Oh God with the late George Burns and John Denver respectively, really put the nail on the head with how the public would react if God actually walked into a courtroom and said, "Here I am!"
     
  12. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Greetings. What an entrance!

    Monstrously difficult to arrive at any sort of definitive answer, but to my mind, that's a pretty good reason for trying.

    As Allegro has pointed out folk will react differently.
    You might think about the nature of the religion...do adherents have a deeply personal relationship with their God or is it all ritual and ceremony. If the former, the blow may prove deep..if the latter, then may prove no blow at all.
    An attendant point: do the structures of the religion - the congregations, the gatherings, the communal efforts - break down? The social and emotional impact of this sort of thing is likely to be far more grievous than the initial intellectual shock etc

    One is tempted to echo Adams and say that your 100% tangible proof for the non-existence of God, is of course - if we accept that the foundation of religion is faith not intellect - rather persuasive evidence for the existence of God...

    And this 100% tangible proof...Given this description you can't have in mind some complex mathematical formula but, I dare say, something simple and elegant. Something elementally powerful and perhaps beautiful. Which is to say your proof might be something to cling to..might be something that fills the chasm.

    There is perhaps an abundance of material out there that might prove of marginal benefit to you as you tackle this. Some feel they have seen 100% proof that their God does not exist. Auschwitz; Belsen; more prosaically, the death of a loved one and so on.
     
  13. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    This is actually a theme I have messed with, though in the context of fanfiction. Someone is worshipping a giant squid that just wants to eat people's souls, the prophecied messiah knows this and doesn't like it.

    It really depends on the levels of faith vs counter-faith. It would take a strong counter-faith to negate the faith enough to cause an existential crisis. Otherwise, you're running up against a brick wall that laughs at your body slams.

    A strong enough faith does not see reason. Attacks are unheeded or else viewed as an invitation to convert.

    Then again, it might depend on the internal forces of the individual.


    I turned away from christianity to neo-paganism with little regard for my soul. Today I'm (agnostic I guess?) very undefined in my beliefs while viewing christian doctrines against non-believers as a personal attack. (Don't worry, my response to an attack is to silently get uncomfortable and nonchalantly walk away.)
     
  14. sereda008
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    sereda008 Senior Member

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    Happened to me, but I am rally the one who had decided it.

    It feels good to look down at the Christians, believing in the metaphor they call God, laughing at their confusion.

    I have accepted it, and will have no difficulty accepting any undeniable proof that God does exist.

    I am just thinking logically, mostly. I don't want to allow my instincts to interfere. If there is a more logical solution, then i'll go with it.
     
  15. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nobody could 100% disprove with tangible evidence any religion. I think going for all out disproof is writing yourself into a corner.
     
  16. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Disagree. You could 100% disprove a religion... if you prove the correctness of another religion. If God showed up in the Piazza San Pietro on Easter Sunday and said "BTW, I'm actually Presbyterian, LOL, kthnxbai", you don't think the Catholics in the crowd are going to be all "WTF"? Some of them, at least?

    Real lack of imagination in this thread :rolleyes:
     
  17. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    This makes me think of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode I just recently watched. A space race think Picard is their god of old lore and expect him to help them with his godly powers. But he can't of course.

    A few of the inhabitants acted out in denial. They had believed in this god for centuries. He was real to to them. He couldn't be not real. One particular inhabitant was outraged. He was going to actually kill Diana Troi because he thought, "The Picard" wanted him too.

    Your possible scenarios are believeable. I can see a person going on a retreat to discover the truth. I can see others acting upon denial while others just grow so discontent with the "accusations" as they view the pieces of truth.
     
  18. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Very good.

    I was going with the real world criteria, but in a fantasy world lots can be done.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Correction. Any attempt to turn this thread into a flamewar will result in the thread being closed an d the guilty parties infracted or banned.
     
  20. Show
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    Okay, I was gonna say that earlier. Proving the correctness of another religion would do it, but doing that with 100% tangible evidence and making it believable would be difficult to pull off I imagine. SHORT of God strolling into somewhere, I don't see a good way to disprove a religion with 100% tangible evidence. Every workable idea would likely have to settle for something short of 100%. (Unless you want to use the God thing, but I imagine that has it's own problems in a story.)
     
  21. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Mmmkay, yeah

    1. As others have said, it's a little difficult to completely disprove something that may or may not exist. Mind telling us how his religion was disproved?

    2. Mind telling us what kind of person your character is? It would help.

    3. As one who found a lot of difficulty settling on a faith (going back and forth between Christianity and atheism), I can safely say that even if someone did try to tell me that what I believe in is false, my first extinct would be to punch them in the face-- verbally, that is. Most people are very sensitive to these sorts of things. If you tried telling an atheist that God exists, he or she would give you reaons as to why that isn't true. The same thing goes for a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, etc.

    4. It would probably take a while for someone to convince another that what he os she believes in is wrong. For example, you will find that an overwhelming amount of people still believe that the Holocaust did not happen, despite the staggering amount of proof proving otherwise. Anyone who grew up with a belief won't take to any sort of proof at first.

    Faith is complicated because people make it so. It's not as clear-cut as, "All you believe in is a big fat lie" because there will always be that somebody who will pipe up, "That isn't true and here's why!"
     
  22. Bran
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    Bran Senior Member

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    a religion cant really be proven wrong, it is all opinions and ideals.
    my character would simply laugh, he knows that there are things in this world (or any other world) that cannot be explained or comprehended by mortals. then he would kill the person who "proved" an opinion wrong :D
     
  23. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Good point about the five stages of grief, though I think many would never make it out of the denial stage.

    Another interesting question might be how an athiest would react to undeniable proof that there is a god.
     
  24. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I'm not really an atheist, but I will give an opinion even if I go OOC.

    I'd have a real personal crisis where my belief wars against the proof in front of me.

    If the proof is fleeting, I'd probably convince myself that it didn't happen. If the proof is permanent, I'd probably still try to poke holes in it.
     
  25. HBAdams
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    Wow! I didn't expect this many great ideas by the time I got home from work! You guys sure have made my night! The feedback here sure is a lot more constructive than what I got from my poor, confused co-workers.

    The Degenerate, I definitely agree with your point about the MC simply changing his definition of God (or gods). Just as j4000 suggested, he will probably progress through the five stages of grief (kudos!) before coming to a more understandable shift of perspective on what faith really means to him personally.

    I definitely dig your thoughts on using this turning point to create conflict amongst the characters, KillianRussel! Just thinking of what I can do with that is already making me a little giddy.

    Allegro Van Kiddo, I'm really intrigued with the second reaction you suggested! I had never really thought of it that way, and it's a really unique perspective I'll be keeping in mind.

    Depressing Jester, Smoke and Ion, your views struck home with me. You're right, a good majority of people most likely wouldn't budge no matter what proof was given. Maybe "100%" was a little too presumptuous of me.

    Louis Farizee, I love this! You're right, if I write this wrong many people could end up just thinking I'm an idiot. I do love how challenging this will be to pull off correctly!

    NateSean, I agree with your feelings on religion and spirituality. It seems like it could be an interesting situation to watch the transformation of my MC from religious to spiritual.

    Hello art! Good to meet you! And very good to be able to post in an online forum about religion and have no trolls lurking! I'm almost nervous to write about the specifics of my ideas, as I do hope I meet all of your elegantly powerful and beautiful expectations!

    Taylee, internet high-fives for the Star Trek TNG reference!

    Show, sure, it may be writing myself into a corner, but the best part is figuring out how to get out of it!

    Cogito, thanks for keeping the trolls at bay!

    Bran, your character sounds too awesome for me to handle! :eek:

    Guamyankee, as far as Atheists go, in my personal experience it's just as hard to prove religion to them 100% as it is to disprove it to those who are faithful!

    Kio, I saved the best for last! (If this post hasn't already become tl;dr.)
    1.) The novel takes place on earth, but reads much like a fantasy/sci fi adventure. The long and short of it is that most of humanity is wiped out by extreme biochemical warfare designed specifically to destroy only humans. A very select scattering of people across the world survived the attack, whether from having the insight to wait it out in bomb shelters, or by being immune to the viruses by sheer luck of the genetic draw. A group of people decide to create a religion with the sole intent of preaching the evils of industrialization and machines, in the process creating a slew of gods and goddesses, holy books and commandments (of sorts), and the such. By the time the human population begins growing again, this became the most widespread and generally accepted religion. The descendants of the original group begin to push things too far, destroying any who questioned or sought after the truth.
    This "100% proof" that is given to the MC is quite simple, actually: physical documentation of what really happened so long ago.
    This is a horrendously bare boned premise to my novel, but it's the best I can do to describe the exact situation without just copy/paste-ing the entire book into a post.
    2.) My MC actually begins as a very wishy-washy, unsure individual being led blindly through all facets of his life. At the point where he learns the "truth", he has already begun a major personal transformation, so it's reasonable that he may actually be fairly accepting towards this kind of information.

    Thanks for all the great comments and ideas! Joining this writing forum has definitely dusted the cobwebs out of my brain that have been building for quite some time.

    Much love!
     
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