A World Without Religion

By Ande Jacobson

Alex and Rowan Jeffries shared much in life. Being fraternal twins, that sharing started with their birthday. They didn’t share a room growing up, as their parents didn’t think that it proper for a girl and a boy to do so long term. From the time they were out of their cribs, they enjoyed their own bedrooms, independent sanctuaries to pursue their private thoughts wherever those took them. Even though they didn’t share a room growing up, they were very close. Now in their late 40s and well-established in their careers in academia with full professorships in their respective fields at the same university, Alex in biochemistry and Rowan in music, they shared a house. The twins lost their parents in an unfortunate accident when they were finishing up their graduate studies. Since then, they had relied on one another as their only remaining family. Neither Alex nor Rowan had ever been married. They each had broad circles of friends, but neither had time nor interest to seriously pursue any romantic entanglements. They lived in an expensive area, and while neither felt comfortable taking on the cost and burdens of home ownership alone, together they had no qualms. And of course they still had their own rooms. Their house started with four bedrooms including only one master suite. They’d converted a second bedroom into another master bedroom suite by building onto the house a bit to enlarge the closets and add a private bathroom, so in the end, they each had their own suite. One of the remaining bedrooms was their shared office, and the last was their guest room for those rare occasions when they had a visitor or two staying with them. They also had a number of musical instruments including a baby grand piano and an electric piano in their living room. Although only Rowan pursued music as a career, they both grew up playing the piano as well as a few other instruments each, and their parents had instilled in them the attitude that a house was not a home without a piano, so they kept that tradition alive.

Beyond their academic fields, there was one other area of life that they didn’t share – their personal philosophies. Rowan had a strong faith and belief in God. Alex was his opposite number and was just as sure that there was no God. This particular divide sparked almost daily debates between the twins.

In addition to his musical pursuits, although he never received formal accreditation, Rowan had spent much of his life engaged in comprehensive comparative religious studies. He’d even published a number of well-researched papers in various associated journals. As such, he was sometimes asked to guest lecture in the Religious Studies Department in addition to his duties within his home department.

“I often wonder how we could be so alike in so many ways, and yet so different when it comes to faith,” Rowan said.

“I think it’s actually pretty obvious. As a scientist, I’m comfortable with the idea that there are things that I don’t understand yet. I use the scientific method to make incremental breakthroughs to untangle the mysteries of the physical world,” observed Alex. “You are willing to accept hints at divine intervention as the foundation for everything even though that linkage cannot be proven.”

“Perhaps, but if you look at history, most of the systems of laws around the world can be traced back to some form of scripture,” countered Rowan. “Why would the laws laid down through scripture be so often replicated if there wasn’t a divine imperative behind them?”

“You’re saying that because the contents of scripture have found their way into various legal systems, that proves divine intervention?” Alex asked incredulously.

“Not exactly. I’m just saying that I’ll grant that the scriptures have been written by men, but the fact that the tenets of those scriptures are so pervasive across human society points to something beyond man’s efforts being at work,” said Rowan. “Further, I believe each of the scriptures were divinely inspired and were captured in a way that reflected the societies from which they were created. That’s part of the reason for the differences, but the consistencies within each set of scriptures, and the guidance they provide allow for human societies to thrive.”

“Ah, now we get back to why you haven’t settled on a single religion for yourself,” smirked Alex.

“I have explored many of them, and I’ve found a lot of commonality,” Rowan answered. “I just haven’t dedicated myself to a particular faith because I think that many of them have merit. The individual practices codify their set of beliefs in a certain way. I haven’t settled on a single one because I find there are pieces of the puzzle across many of them, and I’ve found none that incorporate all aspects. Remember, religion is just a codified methodology for following a set of beliefs and developing a relationship with God, in effect, a procedure of sorts. The beliefs or lessons themselves don’t require religion, and belief in God doesn’t actually require adherence to one version or approach to interpreting the teachings. You can get to the same place in many ways. In fact, being open to all religions, or more specifically, all monotheistic religions in some ways can help you develop a closer relationship with God because it gives you the breadth to examine the lessons from many perspectives.”

Alex smiled. “That’s some elegant fence sitting, dear brother. So you’re saying you believe in all of them to some extent, but none of them in total.”

“Essentially, yes. I think there’s merit to them all. They help make people better. They give people a purpose in life along with confirming the value of our existence. They also give people a community. Still, I believe that following the common intention is more important than the letter of a specific set of procedures,” Rowan said.

“Hmm. OK, I agree that some of the rules laid down in scripture are good ones for building a cohesive society, for instance, following a tenet of not killing people randomly is a good thing,” answered Alex. “But how do you reconcile how people manipulate the good sentiments for nefarious purposes? Case in point. It’s one thing to promote following a particular set of teachings beyond societal laws to achieve a cohesive society, but it’s quite another to condemn those who do not follow your teachings to severe punishment, or even worse.”

“On the punishment score we agree,” said Rowan. “I’m not condoning religious wars, or any strong arm tactics that punish people for not following a particular religious path. I don’t agree with theocracies because they don’t allow for any deviation from whatever the prevalent religion of the land is, but sometimes it’s difficult to separate religion from the laws of the land which do need to be followed within a sovereign nation.”

“I often wonder what life would be like if there was no such thing as religion or even belief in God,” pondered Alex. “I’m not saying we should be lawless, just secular in nature. Besides, with the exception of the rules regarding Gods or holiness, many of the actual laws that established cohesive societies predate scripture. Belief in God and religion didn’t create them. The scripture merely served to document what was already in practice. Instead of pushing responsibility to some unseen, divine power, we should take responsibility for our actions without the threat of eternal damnation.”

Rowan scrunched his nose. “That’s a tough one. A lot of people gain solace from their religious beliefs. They see their serving God as providing supreme meaning in their existence, whether they believe in any afterlife or not. For them, and I think for me, the idea that God may not exist is tantamount to admitting our existence has no meaning at all, and I just don’t believe that.”

Now Alex frowned. “How does serving an omnipotent, omniscient deity give anybody purpose? The entity certainly shouldn’t need the service of measly, insignificant humans. Wouldn’t humans experience a greater sense of purpose helping one another and protecting their habitat from destruction? Why does meaning have to be based on something divine? We exist. We study the world we live in and over time continue to gain more understanding of how it all works. Why can’t that be meaning enough? It’s always bothered me that people keep trying to remove themselves from the natural world and the animal kingdom by assuming they are above all that.”

Rowan smiled. “That’s the human condition.”

Alex walked over to Rowan and touched his shoulder. “That’s a copout. I know you mean well, and I love you and am glad that you are my brother, but come on.”

Rowan smirked and shrugged.

After continuing their discussion into the wee hours of the morning, the twins bid one another good night and headed off to their private sanctuaries. Rowen picked up one of his many holy texts on the way to his bedroom and proceeded to read for a bit before retiring. Alex went straight to bed though she continued contemplating their discussion. In the end, neither of them got to sleep much before 3 a.m. Later that morning, they each overslept and awoke with a start. They rushed around the house to get themselves ready for work, not even stopping to chat. They passed one another in the kitchen, Alex grabbing a quick glass of orange juice and a piece of toast, while Rowan just snagged an apple from the fruit bowl on the table on his way to the garage.

Alex had an errand to run before her first lecture, so she headed away from the university, while Rowan drove straight to his office. After Alex finished her errand, she drove to work. As she drove, something seemed a little off, but she couldn’t put her finger on anything specific until she approached the church a few blocks from the university entrance near her lecture. The church had occupied the corner lot, but as she drove near, she noticed that there was no church there. The entire facility looked as though it had been completely remodeled into a gleaming new office building. She only had a few minutes to get to her lecture, so she didn’t have time to investigate, but she made a mental note to look into it when she got home. It disturbed her so much that she didn’t want to use the university’s equipment for her search just in case there was something much bigger and dangerous in play. Better not to rock the boat and just get through the day, so she could get home and talk to Rowan.

Unbeknownst to Alex, Rowan had a similar experience that morning, though his was a far more personal disruption. He arrived at campus in time to prepare for his music history lecture, and after his class, he walked over to the campus chapel, or at least he attempted to go there. When he arrived, there was no chapel. The building that the day before had contained the chapel was now a computer lab. Undaunted, Rowan entered the lab and stopped at the sign-in desk.

“Hi Professor Jeffries, how can I help you?” asked Allie, the student manning the desk. Allie was in one of Rowan’s music theory classes.

“Hello Allie. I was wondering what happened to the chapel,” Rowan answered.

“What’s a chapel?” asked Allie. She wasn’t kidding.

Rowan was perplexed. How could she not know what a chapel was? “It’s a place of worship,” he answered.

“What’s worship?” asked Allie. She still wasn’t kidding.

Rowan was now very concerned. It was one thing for the building to be repurposed, but quite another for the entire concept of what it used to be to disappear. He decided that it was pointless to continue this discussion at that moment, but he really wanted to talk with Alex. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have a chance until they both got home that night because their free time just didn’t line up during the day. He checked his watch and noted that he had some time before he had to get to the hall for his Comparative Religious Studies guest lecture scheduled that day. He decided to go to the Religious Studies Department office to make sure that it was still there.

Rowan walked across campus carefully noting that none of the students were wearing any religious symbols of any kind. Although he and Alex taught at a secular, public university, there was a wide range of religious expression among the campus community. Normally, there would be a number of people wearing various symbols with religious significance, so it struck him as very odd that he saw none. He filed that away in the back of his mind. When he got to the building and went upstairs to where the Religious Studies Department office had been the previous day, the signage indicated that it was office space for several faculty members from the History Department. The History Department and Religious Studies Department shared three floors of the building, but now all three floors were entirely occupied by the History Department.

Rowan went back to his office in the Music Department (that building was unchanged) and pulled out his campus directory. Sure enough, there was no Religious Studies Department listed. Looking at the Faculty Directory, all of the faculty members who had been in the former Religious Studies Department were now listed as part of the History Department as well, so that additional space was warranted. Rowan checked his calendar, and he had about two hours before his next class, Music Theory III, and the guest lecture he thought he had was completely missing. Something very disturbing was going on, but now he was a little scared. He decided not to do any research about what he was seeing until he got home. Like Alex, he was concerned about this being part of something potentially dangerous and didn’t want to leave a trail on the university systems.

The rest of the day continued to confound both Alex and Rowan, but they each stuck to their plans to keep it to themselves until they got home. Alex returned home first and went straight to her computer. Rowan arrived home just a few minutes later as Alex was staring in disbelief at her computer screen.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Alex said as Rowan entered their home office.

“I hope it makes more sense than the day I’ve been having,” Rowan answered.

“You remember last night how I wondered what it would be like to live in a world without religion?” asked Alex.

“Yeah,” answered Rowan.

“Well, we seem to be in a world that not only has no religion, it has no concept of religion, God, worship, or anything else that points toward faith or belief,” said Alex. “When I search for any term that might remotely be associated with religion, it comes up as word not found.”

Alex sighed, and shook her head. “And not only that,” she continued. “Even the institutions associated with religion have disappeared. There’s no Vatican. There’s no National Cathedral. Even all of the holy sites in Israel no longer exist.”

“I knew something was really off when I tried to go to the chapel after my lecture, and the building was there, but it had been completely remodeled and housed a giant computer lab. A computer lab for crying out loud. What’s that about?” asked Rowan. “How can religion have just disappeared?”

“I don’t know, but it clearly has,” answered Alex. “Then again, the other interesting thing is that many of the conflicts we’ve seen in the news are also not there.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rowan.

“Well, if I believe the news reports, people are a lot more alike than they were yesterday,” said Alex. “It’s as though the entire world became secular overnight, and all evidence of anything else is just, well, gone. It’s actually kind of spooky.”

“Has anything changed in our house?” asked Rowan.

“I don’t know, let’s see,” answered Alex.

They started going through their house room by room to see if anything was missing, and immediately they found that there were indeed several books missing from their bookcases. Although not completely unexpected, all religious texts and references were nowhere to be found.

Taking another tack, Alex pulled her wallet and her change out of her pocket and dumped them on the kitchen table. She picked up a quarter and put it under the light to examine it carefully. It looked like a normal quarter, except the words “In God We Trust” were not there.

“Look at this,” she said excitedly to Rowan as she handed him the quarter. “There’s no God on my money either.”

Rowan examined the quarter and found she was right. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and pulled out a one dollar bill. It looked like a Silver Certificate from 1934. On the backside, the space above the word “One” in the center was blank. The symbols from the Illuminati were also missing. He went to the kitchen junk drawer, pulled out a magnifying glass, and went over the bill carefully finding no mention of God anywhere on it.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “This is really disturbing.”

“I agree it’s spooky, but I kind of like it,” replied Alex. “I’ve wanted a world without religion or God in it forever, and it seems like we’re there. I just wonder how this happened. It seems like it is real, and we’re both experiencing it.”

“Are we really?” asked Rowan. “Or are we both dreaming?”

“Hmm, how would we know for sure?” asked Alex. “Dreams can be very realistic sometimes.”

“That’s true, but we have both gone through our whole workday,” Rowan replied. “At least I think we have.”

“Oh, we have,” said Alex. “Look at my hand,” she said as she stuck her hand in Rowan’s face.

“What am I looking at?” he asked.

“See the bandage?” she replied.

Rowan looked at her hand and saw that Alex’s last two fingers on her left hand were wrapped together.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I got my hand caught when I was trying to fix the centrifuge in my lab this afternoon,” she answered. “I somehow ended up straining them both, so I went to medical and they splinted them after taking some x-rays. Nothing’s broken, but it’s a pain having those two fingers out of commission like this though it could have been worse. It could have been the first two fingers instead of the last two. My point is that given we are sharing this experience, this is either one heck of a virtual reality, or it’s real, and the world has changed overnight.”

Alex stopped for a moment suddenly thinking about how devastating this must be for Rowan. She was excited that she was experiencing what she’d wanted her whole life – a world without religion – but for Rowan, this must be hard to process.

“Are you OK?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” answered Rowan. He continued, “If this is real, then everything I’ve believed is being called into question.”

Rowan suddenly rushed back to their home office and started searching on his computer.

“What are you looking for now?” asked Alex.

“I’m an idiot,” he answered. “The arts have always been imbued with divine inspiration. I need to find out if those works exist in this world.”

Rowan searched through his digital library of manuscripts, specifically looking for several works of religious music. Strangely, they were all there, the music intact, but titles were different, and where there were lyrics, they had all changed. For instance, Handel’s Messiah was now Handel’s Life Cycle. Every movement’s music was intact, but it was reworded to talk about various aspects of nature and life cycles.

“This makes no sense!” exclaimed Rowan.

“Sure it does,” answered Alex. “The natural world was inspiration for a lot of artistic expression even yesterday, but now taking the divine element away, it’s the primary inspiration. I like it!”

“But, but, how can you equate the life of a lion, or a whale, or anything else with the perfection of God?” asked Rowan.

“But there is no God,” whispered Alex. Continuing in a normal voice, “I’m sorry, Rowan. I know this has to be hard for you, but you have to admit that if you take away even the idea of divine control or inspiration, nature is still pretty amazing. It only makes sense that it would inspire artistic expression.”

Rowan continued searching with his computer looking up other religious music, and it was all repurposed in similar ways. All of the music itself was intact including all compositional aspects. Clearly music theory hadn’t changed, but every single lyric that he checked that had been part of the various religious canons was now about various observations of nature or space. The one thing that was interesting was that the former religious music didn’t touch on technology. Other music did, but not the music previously inspired by God.

A thought occurred to Rowan. Maybe God wasn’t really erased. Maybe in this world, wherever they were, nature was synonymous with God. Religion might not actually be gone, but it instead was repurposed as preservation of the natural world. Could it be that science was religion?

Rowan turned around to look at Alex. “I was thinking. What if God isn’t actually gone? What if nature is the expression of God in this reality? What if ecology, or care of the environment is actually what religion has become?” asked Rowan.

“That’s an interesting idea, but how would you prove it?” asked Alex.

Rowan snickered. “Um, the same way I’d prove God existed before.”

“You really couldn’t before,” countered Alex. “And now, there’s no playbook.”

“Ah, but there is,” Rowan said smiling. “How is science recorded?”

“Through journals and textbooks,” answered Alex.

“And what inspires scientists to create hypotheses for their experiments?” asked Rowan.

“Hmm, I think I see where you are going, but science grew out of a desire to explore the natural world. More than that, it was an acknowledgement of the fact that there were things we didn’t know. It gave us a methodology for developing a greater understanding of the world around us,” said Alex. “And as I said last night, the thing that has always bothered me about religion or claiming that God existed was that it attempted to give a pat answer to whatever was not yet understood without any proof. In other words, religion was the antithesis of science. Science, or more specifically the scientific method, gave us a way to chip away at the unknown to understand it and prove that understanding was correct.”

“No, that’s not quite true,” said Rowan. “Religion and science were not mutually exclusive in our world. Also, science was and is fallible. It all depends on how the hypothesis is created. If you create a faulty hypothesis, you either can’t prove what you set out to prove, or you can, but it doesn’t mean what you think it does.”

Alex thought for a moment. “True, what you end up proving is driven by how you formulate your hypothesis, but that doesn’t mean the method is faulty. But I still don’t see how that would point to God being expressed through science.”

Rowan smiled. “That’s easy. Even though there’s no mention of God as we knew Him in this world, science is alive and well. People are living together with less conflict than they seemed to have in the world we knew. Just maybe, given God works through the natural world, this is another version of His creation. Humans still occupy the top slot of His creatures, and they serve Him by caring for this world as it has been created.”

Alex shook her head. “You’re serious?”

“Yes, I think I am,” answered Rowan.

“So you still believe that God exists,” said Alex.

“Yes, I do,” answered Rowan.

“And I still don’t,” countered Alex.

“I know,” said Rowan. “And that’s OK. Maybe the whole point of this experience is a test. Or maybe it’s just another perspective to show that religion isn’t God. God is there whether or not one believes, and He wants the best for all of us. Maybe the division that He saw in the world we knew was insurmountable, so He came up with a solution, and this is His way of showing it to us.

Alex blinked. “That’s illogical. Why would a God just show it to us? What makes us so special? Also, what you are suggesting is completely without any basis and is unprovable.”

“Maybe that’s true via the scientific method, but the mere existence of everything we see is proof of a kind. It’s proof that all the pieces fit together in some grand scheme,” said Rowan.

Alex walked back to her computer and sat down. “Proof of some grand scheme? Really? OK, suppose for a moment that I accept your premise. You claim that everything we see is proof of some grand scheme because all of the pieces fit.”

“Yes,” said Rowan.

“OK, and you also believe that your God loves all that He has created,” continued Alex.

“Yes,” said Rowan.

“Then answer me this,” said Alex. “If your God loves all of His creatures as you say, why did He create a system where there is so much suffering? And I’m not just talking about human suffering. Consider the model of predator/prey where some of God’s creatures are hunted and in many cases die a horrible, lingering death in great pain. How is that loving to all of His creatures?”

Rowan looked slightly perplexed. “I don’t know, but I have to believe that God has a plan for why things must be this way.”

Alex smirked. “In other words, you admit that it defies your claims of the perfection of your so-called creator.”

“No, I didn’t say that,” answered Rowan. “It only means that I don’t know the reasoning for why things are this way.”

“This is getting very circular, and it isn’t getting us anywhere,” said Alex. “Let’s take a look at something else. I wonder what the founding documents for the US look like here.”

Alex turned around and started searching on her computer. She pulled up a copy of the Declaration of Independence knowing that references to God were sprinkled throughout. What she found had the same date, but it read a little differently. To wit:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are equal, and they have certain unalienable rights including Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….

Alex stared at her screen dumbfounded. Not only was God and the idea of creation removed, the country evidently didn’t make distinctions between people within the new nation. She brought up a second browser screen and pulled up the Constitution to see how that had been changed. The changes in that document started in the Preamble, though subtle, were still notable to any student of history.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Alex continued through the Constitution and discovered that there were fewer amendments than in the one from their world. For one thing, there were no suffrage amendments because they truly adhered to the idea that all humans were the same, and they had arrived at voting rights at the age of 18 from the start. She also confirmed an expected difference in the First Amendment, which read:

Amendment I

Freedom of speech and the press; rights of assembly and petition

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 “Rowan, come look at this,” Alex said pointing at her screen.

Rowan walked over to Alex’s computer and looked at the screen.

“I knew the world would be better without religion,” said Alex. “Our nation’s founding documents not only don’t reference God or religion, they make no distinctions between people. They refer to humans and humankind. That’s rather refreshing, wouldn’t you say? It looks like things are no longer patriarchal. If anything, they are fully cooperative. Wow!”

“That is good,” replied Rowan. “You know that’s one of the many reasons that I don’t adhere to a particular religion in our world. One thing that I don’t accept is the strict patriarchy that so many religions practice. I don’t think that’s part of God’s word, I think that is instead a reflection of the various cultures in which the scriptures originated. It’s interesting that particular aspect of human society appears to not be followed here.”

“It’s not all of human society, even in our world,” said Alex. “According to some historical research I’ve read, humans were sometimes matriarchal or cooperative before the rise of modern religions. The patriarchy seems to have taken hold about the same time as monotheism. And that’s another thing. Given monotheism followed polytheism in the development of human society, how come you glom onto monotheism as the only possible answer?”

“Oh Alex, please let’s not go down that path again right now,” said Rowan.

The twins completely forgot about dinner that evening. Rowan had enough at that point. He really wanted to read some scripture, but since that wasn’t available to him anymore, he went to the living room to play the piano. Music always calmed him when he was trying to deal with something perplexing. Unlike Rowan, Alex was exhilarated and went back to running searches on her computer. She needed to better understand the world they now inhabited.

Alex discovered that the US had no history of slavery, and in fact, she could find no evidence of slavery being practiced anywhere in the documented world. The idea of all humans being equal seemed to be a fairly universal concept in this world, even though it was specifically called out in the US founding documents. That wasn’t to say that some of the less admirable human traits weren’t expressed at times, but when they were, they were dealt with rather harshly. Violence, selfishness and greed in particular resulted in extreme punishments, and even death in some cases, depending on the damage done to the communities involved. Interestingly, even when a death sentence was administered, it was done painlessly. It seemed that a foremost goal was to prevent suffering for anyone. There was no concept of anything being sacred, so life was looked upon as a mere fact of existence, and it could be forfeited if someone abused it or caused harm to another. That wasn’t to say that this new world was a utopian society. It was just missing a major source of division when compared to the world from which they came.

She determined that all of the countries they knew from their world still existed, and some were even still fighting with one another. In all of the fights, the reasons for the conflicts were based on control of natural resources, and shortages created conflicts but within very strict limits. There was still a difference between the developed countries and the less developed ones, but the differences were solely economic and technological and not at all focused on ideology. Some populations of the world chose to forgo technological development in order to remain more in balance with their environments, and in a very odd turn of events, the people of the developed world left them alone and didn’t try to raid their resources. Humans across the planet seemed more alike than they had been a scant day earlier. There were still numerous languages and nationalities, but those were based solely on geography and level of isolation.

Neither Alex nor Rowan knew if they’d ever return to the world from which they came. They didn’t understand how they arrived where they were, but they were there, and they needed to make the best of it. After a very long evening, they finally gave up and retired to their rooms.

The next morning, the twins made a pact to keep their discussions about their previous lives private, and they would only bring up their thoughts related to God, or religion, or other aspects of their previous lives that differed from their current reality, with one another in the privacy of their own home. As time went on, they continued to do their work at the university, and they made contributions to their fields as they always had.

Alex stopped short of saying ‘I told you so’ to Rowan, but she did mention to him that she thought that people actually got along better without religion to divide them.

Rowan continued to struggle with not being able to pursue his personal religious studies as he had before. He still believed that God was there. Still, the more he thought about it, the more he warmed to the idea that perhaps his service to God was really accomplished by helping those around him and protecting the earth as Alex had suggested. That really did provide a tangible sense of purpose. As a university professor, helping others came naturally, but he looked beyond his academic work and also tried to find ways to help others outside of the university community. He was also becoming much more of an environmentalist than he had been in the past. Although she hadn’t meant it quite that way, Alex had made an excellent point that serving God needn’t be about praying. It was about being a good human, and the things that gave humans purpose actually did serve God in the most tangible way possible. He was beginning to understand that it wasn’t important to try to get others to engage in worship. It was instead important to inspire others to become more selfless and act in the interest of others and the environment. And, although he was loath to admit it aloud to Alex, she also made a very good point that without religion as a wedge, people had less to divide them.

Rowan also discovered, much to his chagrin, that even without religious communities helping one another, that sense of community still existed, though it didn’t come from any one single place. In this new world, it was related to proximity rather than ideology. He saw that as a partial loss because proximity wouldn’t necessarily replace the comradery one found at their local church or temple in his old world, but it did address people’s basic needs for survival. Still, he missed being able to share his love of God with others. That was something he could never share directly with Alex or now with anybody else.

One Monday morning several months after the twins had arrived in this alternate world, they again slept later than they had planned after yet another lengthy discussion the night before. Alex awoke with a start and rushed around the house getting ready for work. After a quick shower, she grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the table not taking time for her customary morning glass of orange juice and raced toward the garage. This was the first day of the new term, and she had an early lecture that she could just make. Before Alex could back her car out of the garage, Rowan burst from his room in his shorts and a t-shirt and ran to the garage to stop her.

“Look what I found lying on my nightstand by my bed this morning!” Rowan shouted holding up a leather-bound book.

Alex rolled down her window, looked at the book, and laughed as she realized he was holding his bible.

“We’re home,” she said, although neither of them would ever be able to look at things quite the same way they did before.


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9 thoughts on “A World Without Religion

    • The United States was founded on many things in an attempt to escape the tyranny of British rule. The founders included a strict separation of church and state in an attempt not to replicate the tyranny they were condemning. The founders themselves came from many different religious backgrounds including atheism, various types of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many of them were deists unattached to any particular faith. There were also several less laudable aspects to the founding of the country such as the oppression of non-white peoples, women of all backgrounds, and even white men who did not own land; overt slavery and formalized indentured servitude; and vicious conquest of neighboring territories to name a few. Over time, attempts have been made to improve conditions across racial, gender, and economic boundaries, but the country still has a long way to go before true equality reigns. No matter, “A World Without Religion” is a fictional story that resulted from a thought-experiment exploring what such a world might be like.

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      • It’s good you’re researching, but there’s much needed. The United States was and is the best hope for freedom. If people wish to be negative, only find things that are problems, that’s what they’ll find. Thankfully, I’ve always been one to think separate from what others’ say. I listen. I read. I research. Consider. And with time, am learning more.
        Slavery has always been there. Pretty much all countries engaged. When people from many countries came here, they brought slaves. Trading from other countries occurred. Along the way, after many, many years, we had the 13 colonies, but the 13 colonies was not the United States as many believe. With time, in order to have a chance at freedom, we realized we needed to unite. Slavery wasn’t going to end over night. In order to unite, we put the words of freedom in the Constitution which would eventually end slavery, as it did. But remember, the United States of America were a people from many different beginnings. So, once we were united, and we had to fight the revolutionary war for many years to secure our freedoms, then we were in a better place to focus more on our own country. Eventually, we had the civil war, then other freedom regulations. Today, we all can achieve what we’re willing to put forth effort in, but all the regulations are restricting some of the freedoms. Today, also, the opportunities we all have are more difficult with too many cooks in the kitchen.

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      • I’ve learned to share what I understand. I have discovered, over the years, not to attempt changing others’ views, but simply to share my views and allow others to make their own conclusions. I’m rarely understood by those who haven’t walked down this path. It’s for each person.

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      • That’s an interesting and generous approach. Still, I’m not sure an in-depth exploration of US history is entirely germane to this fictional story. This discussion is getting much broader than the story and might be better suited for the Discussion page of this site. If you’d like to start a discussion there, simply submit a reply at the bottom of the page to start a thread.

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  1. “One thing that I don’t accept is the strict patriarchy that so many religions practice. I don’t think that’s part of God’s word, I think that is instead a reflection of the various cultures in which the scriptures originated. ”

    Isn’t that really ALL religious literature — including the bible? And then nothing is “God’s word”.

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    • Not all of them. Before the major Abrahamic religions took hold, beliefs were not necessarily based on a patriarchy. Consider ancient religions that worshiped Goddesses and had High Priestesses as officiates. Also consider that in many modern monotheistic religions, women can be officiates in the less fundamental denominations. There are female Conservative and Reform rabbis and cantors among modern adherents of Judaism, and there are female reverends in many Christian denominations. These officiates have the same authority as their male counterparts. Rowan is a deist and looks at the wider context of when the various scriptures were written and how they reflected the views of the societies that spawned them. He views these scriptures as God’s word as interpreted by different members of those societies, and in that, the patriarchy was just how those people lived. While he fervently believes that God exists, he sees anything that has been interpreted by man as diluted or biased by the author.

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