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."
Laplace

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:

0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%

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.



Conclusion

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...

64 comments:

  1. Hm, has potential for a big big discussion

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  2. The world would be a much more peacefull place without religion!

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  3. Sometimes you need a god. One of those times is if your stuck in a well and no one knows your inside. Who else can you depend on but something you don't understand?

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  4. I don't know, and i don't wanna know.

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  5. You'll only continue to wonder if you're right. One day you'll find out.

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  6. This is something that has been discussed since the first 'enlightened' scholars and people first uttered it. More so, had the courage to say it. Some people need a crutch, some people do not. I'm not inclined to agree with either.

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  7. I lol'd hard when I saw the "go on a pilgrimage"-add beside this post.

    :D

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  8. Wow, really made me stop and think. Thanks!

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  9. why all talk about religion adn no talk about new world order and arabian domination?:))

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  10. interesting view on religion... i try to keep away from these kinds of discussions though... i'll check up on your future posts, hopefully they're not as controversial.. i like you're writing style.

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  11. i like these kind of posts\blogs, when it actually makes you stop and think. keep up the good work bud!

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  12. most of us already don't believe in religion, but we should never deny/discriminate someone from practicing what they want. It keeps them going each day and makes life for them worth living.

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  13. I never believed in a higher being.
    And i never will.

    But interesting POV indeed.

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  14. Cool post! I don't believe in any higher beings, but I enjoy Buddhist teachings which focus on the internal instead of external. That's what it's all about!

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  15. Religion's a lie? Wha... I don't even.

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  16. Posts about religion always make my head hurt =(
    But it was interesting, none the less.

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  17. I completely agree with you. Now, if only I could get my ultra-conservative parents to think this way. Lol/

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  18. I smell some debate action coming your way!

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  19. i just woke up man, this is too intense.

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  20. this mirrors my reasoning pretty closely

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  21. Religion is for the weak minded and those afraid that there life ends with there death.

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  22. I believe that 'agnostic' is the most rational way of thinking about religion. ;)

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  23. Bro, I'm buyin' you a beer if we ever meet, reading this post of yours has made my day. Keep up an awesome blog! :)

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  24. A very well thought out post. Religion has always been an academic interest of mine. Not so much theologically though.

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  25. Ah no point debating scientificly about religion. Its like talking to a brick wall :D

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  26. @Starcraftstrats: Where I come from, the religious people are the ones that aren't afraid of the death. So it's basically the other way round, I guess.

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  27. Thats a really nice view at the whole situation.

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  28. im not gonna say my view , but the churches are thives imo <,< money for hope lol? thats a bad deal to me xD

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  29. The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. -Carl Sagan

    http://crazyassblackpeople.blogspot.com

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  30. Keep religious values and dump the rest, thats what id say

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  31. I agree more or less with what you're saying. I know from my own personal experience with evangelicals at my school that they are willfully ignorant of facts regarding their pet beliefs. Many outright reject scientific evidence for evolution and geologic record of the formation of the Earth. More than once I've gotten them to admit to me they couldn't refute the points I was making but their minds were unswayed even after the hours had passed. It's a battle that must be fought (truth vs. ignorance) but any victories on the side of fact and evidence will be quickly outpaced by stupidity.

    If you're going to be writing more like this I'll be sure to keep an eye out for new posts and you might want to come visit my blog too. I plan on writing a few science, education, and religion based articles in the coming days. Row row fight da powah.

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  32. this is not right. you kind of gloss over some huge points in your posting... and you basically assume that you are right!

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  33. Very controversial i like it a lot it starts discussions.

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  34. The larger the lie, the more people are likely to believe it? Something along those lines.

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  35. Not a fan of religion, but I'm a fan of this!

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  36. People who believe in something are happier, though. Prove me wrong!

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  37. I love the way you're thinking
    I've been a an atheist for about 5 years now and I must say: it feels good not to live a meaningless life

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  38. I understand some (or perhaps even the majority) of religious people taking it too far, but to assume that without religion we would become a more peaceful society is somewhat naive. Crazy/stupid people will always find a reason to kill each other, they'll just do it in the name of something else.

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  39. I'm surprised you never mentioned Pascal's Wager, though Dawkins did deal with that in 'The God Delusion', I suppose.

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  40. The approach is pretty aggressive, and sometimes the hatred shows on the surface. But in the end I have to agree with you, religions destroy many lives, too.

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  41. I agree. I don't even label myself as an Agnostic anymore. I just... Don't talk about it.

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  42. I prefer the side of science, not religion. Nice post btw. Oh! and i was once told this by a friend with a bachelors in biblical theory pretty much told me that god was created as a mechanism to strike fear into people.

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  43. Why do people feel a need for acceptance of their views? No matter how logical one may be, there will always be those that are un-persuadable. The world would certainly be a better place devoid of religion, but, is that not tantamount to saying the world would be a better place devoid of stupidity? Sterilize the stupid and then, there will be no need to debate religion, ever again.

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  44. Your way of dissecting the biblical thruths with mathematics is a most peculiar one, espically considering how you deemed all of them to be simple true/false statements with both true and false being equal in chance of being.

    For example, take the statement "God created life". First of all it should be noted that assuming this to be either true or false is inherently wrong as the definition of life changes per individual. Also, being vague as it is, the statement does not describe wether God created life directly or simply caused a chain reaction that eventually resulted in life. And even if we dismiss the gray zone, I still find it impossible to estimate any kind of universal odds for God creating life or God not creating life.

    Also your statement of "Believing in God being the most irrational thing a person can do" which is backed up by your probabilities is a major exaggeration. You can understand why by thinking of the probability of every particle in existence moving and transforming just the right amount over the past 13.7 billion years to let life develop on this planet and to let that life come up with a ridiculous idea about some omnipotent being having created this all. But that is all irrelevant.

    Personally I see religion only as a way for people to find their place on the metaphysical plane without putting any effort into finding their own answers through thinking. That being said, I find the evolvment of religion to be a good thing, as it indicates that the people involved are indeed capable of some extent of individual thinking. Of course, it would be for the best to leave any sort of organized religion behind and let people come up with their own truths, wether derived from facts or fears, if they so please.

    Overall I like the way you analyze organized religion as a kind of a biological organism that wishes to spread itself for it is a description most suitable. I'll keep an eye on this blog, you seem to be a thinking individual.

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  45. Pretty infinitesimally small chance of religion being correct, and yet still soo many followers...

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  46. Whereas I despise organized religion, I simply don't buy if all religions were abolished that war would disappear. Lets be frank, a human being is smart, but humanS are dumb, panicky animals, and they will always look for charismatic leaders to tell them what to do, and thus fanatisism of something other than religion will spring up.

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