Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Religion and Truth

Religion, in its current state, is hands down the greatest enemy of truth so perhaps it is a logical choice for this post. My intention is to give short but sound arguments against this horrible disease of mankind.

Primary interest of religion is not the truth

Religion is a set of ideas and ideas spread with variation. In other words, religion is a set of memes (a concept introduced by Richard Dawkins). Religion evolves just as life does and consequently its primary interest is maximal reproduction and not the truth or the well-being of humans or anything else. This should be fairly obvious. People believe what is pleasing, not what is true or what is written in their book. Many Christians haven't even read the Bible, and many among those who have, reject bits that they don't like.

A person born in Saudi Arabia is very likely to be a Muslim. Why? Because Islam is very good at making Muslims, not because Islam is an evident truth. The same is true for religion in general. If religion was bad at gaining followers it would disappear. So, if a religion exists it is because it is good at it, not because it is true.

Religion is full of unsupported claims that are good for spreading it: eternal life, Heaven, Hell, prayers etc. These ideas are there because they are good for religion. They are random gibberish but they stuck because they were a favorable mutation for religion. It has nothing to do with truth. But could it be that religion is true anyway? I think not.

Religion is actually not true
"Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là."

There is no proof of God, and there is no need for such an assumption. That alone should be enough to dispose of God, but indoctrination, superstition, fear and plain stupidity are powerful things.

We can use simple mathematics to dispose of the "holy" books, e.g. the Bible. It contains contradictions so it's trivially not true, as a whole. For example, the Bible claims that there is a circle whose ratio of circumference and diameter is exactly 3 which is not true. But that is not the point of the book.

The argument is as follows. First, for simplicity, we reduce the Bible to only 2000 independent religious statements for which no proof of any sort exists. I think it's a rational choice, as the Bible is very long. I have no intention of going through it and writing the statements explicitly here, though. By the principle of indifference and the product rule, the probability that all of these 2000 statements are true is ~1:2^2000. If you don't understand how small this number is let me write it down for you. It is roughly:


What does this mean? It means that believing in God (in the most popular sense of the word) is probably the most irrational thing a person can do. "The more details there are to a story, the less likely it is that it is true." This is a very basic concept but unknown to many it seems. (I think the quote is from this book. You might find it useful, if a tad boring.)

Santa: less imaginary than Jesus.
Holy books are fairy tales. Fiction. Saying that the events described in the Bible took place is as intelligent as taking an equally thick collection of Superman comics and declaring that what's written in them actually happened. Even Santa is more probable than God. Over a trillion trillion times more probable, and yet almost all sane adults agree that he is made up. God is over a trillion trillion times more useful, though. E.g. unlike Santa, he can be used to justify murder through a very complicated logic that I have yet to understand.


The only "rational" "religion" is believing that there's a "god" and nothing more. It's as likely that he doesn't. The moment you start describing him in detail with zero evidence to back it up, the probability that such a thing exists starts to decrease really fast. Exponentially fast, in fact.

The rational attitude is to say that you don't know, and move on. Sadly, many people have lived in this illusion for so long that they won't change their mind no matter what. If only they left our children alone...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Let Knowledge Prevail"

Well, all the good ones were taken. This blog is not dedicated to any particular subject (yet), so I had some trouble figuring out what to put in the title. I settled for this since it is a noble principle and probably the only one I will (try to) have in mind.

I've been caring for knowledge and truth all of my life. At first because I was curious and later because I realized that it's one of those rare things in this world that are truly worth having. Another one is love, of course. If I didn't seek knowledge I'd be bored and luckily there's enough to learn to keep a person busy for the rest of their life.

"Knowledge is power" but one should not quote this without also saying that ignorance is power, and a far greater one at that. There are a lot of ignorant people and you need a lot of knowledge to combat their collective ignorance. Now, there's nothing wrong with being ignorant, but being proud of it and/or unwilling to change it, that's another story. Sadly, I see such people quite often.