From a totally secular perspective, can some religions be "more likely" to be true than others?
I have respect for Christians, I have respect for Jews, I have respect for Muslims, Shintos, Buddhists, Sikhs, Mormons, Catholics... But Scientology is a fucking joke.
I've actually held interviews with scientologists, their opinions about most everything is pure relativism. Subjective truth and all
All religions that posit an infinite, omnipotent, and so on God are equally unlikely to be true. Why? Because this God is by definition the most complex thing that can exist and, therefore, has the lowest chance of actually existing. Greek mythology is more believable, as are the countless other "primitive" religions throughout history.
I disagree with this reasoning. An omnipotent being that is simple is easily imagined. Complexity is not a necessary trait of this being, just power.
An infinite god, by definition, would have to be the most complex thing possible. Power does not seem complex in the abstract, but when you think about what it actually means (telepathy, for example), things start to get pretty absurd pretty quickly. I would never believe that a person could read my thoughts. All the more absurd then to think a being who cannot be seen or heard can read my thoughts.
I disagree. Not knowing the mechanism to read minds makes it impossible to determine if it is simple or complex. Any assertion either way is pure conjecture.
An omnipotent being gives rise to many paradoxes.
My knowledge of Greek mythology is too lacking to make concrete claims on how many transgressions of natural law they make. However, I do not think that omnipotence is necessarily a comlpex trait. I think that generally speaking the personalality traits that different religions make about their omnipotent God makes that God more or less likely to exist. Islam and Christianity assert that their God is omnipotent and benevolent, which I think makes their God less likely to exist than the God of Judaism, Hinduism, or Deism, which makes no direct claim on the benevolence of their God. Christianity reaches further degrees of unlikliehood because is makes a so many personality claims about God through the messiah, etc. Granted, when we talk about the likelihood that an omnipotent God exists we're dealing with an inconceivable amount of zeros after the initial ".0", but every claim beyond that adds even more zeros.
I'd have to disagree with that. An omnipotent God can do anything so individual claims about what it does, regardless of how specific or numerous, do not make it any less likely. The mere existence of such a being is the least likely thing possible. In other words, a God that could answer prayers is no more absurd or unlikely than a God that does answer prayers, and so on. The claim that an infinite and omnipotent God exists is no more likely than the claim that an infinite, omnipotent God who wears a red hat exists. The probably can not get any lower than claiming that a God who can do anything and exists everywhere, including outside of time, exists. That claim reaches the limits of absurdity and improbability.
Also, I would question the ability to measure absurd claims at all. Consider two claims: 1. that Jesus was born of a virgin mother and 2. that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse. How would one go about quantifying those claims? They are both absurd, but is it possible for one to be more absurd than the other? I don't think two absurd statements can be compared like that. I would make an exception for the infinite God claim, however, because I think it stands out as maximizing improbability for the reason I already gave.
Okay, in the difference between a god that can, vs a god that does answer prayers, I agree there's no probable distinction. However, the likelihood that there is a god, who may or may not be able to, or may or may not answer prayers vs one that does not is greater than the likelihood that there is a god who does do one of those things.
When we get into absurd claims like the virgin birth and the Muhammad's horse, I agree that we have to cut the deck and say that they are both equally ridiculous. However, certain qualifiers make certain absurd claims more or less likely to be true. For example, that Jesus was born of a virgin birth is a certain (huge) degree of improbability, but if it was asserted that it happened at a particular longitude and latitude, that would be less likely than the claim that it happened generally.
I have to disagree with your last point there. The virgin birth claim is so unbelievably absurd that adding a location to it does not make it any less probable. It couldn't happen anywhere, so saying it happened in your living room does not increase its improbability. I will admit, however, that the great detail with which religious books describe these events does bolster the argument that they made it up (for how could they know the order in which God created the earth or what Jesus said when he was alone in a garden?), but that does not decrease the (already painfully low) probability that these things actually happened because they are so very absurd to begin with.
To throw out probability theory's application on these claims you have to be willing to say that the chance these absurd claims happened is a hard 0. I am "sure" that Jesus, if that name refers to an actual person, wasn't born of a virgin. I am "sure" that Mohammad didn't ascend to the sky on a winged horse. However, I cannot put the claims at a hard 0. I can place them at a .00... so long that no human could differentiate it from an absolute 0, but I cannot logically defend placing the likelihood any event, even one that I witnessed, at an absolute 0.
Just to be clear, I believe in the validity of these claims just as much as I believe that 6,000 years ago a price of Swiss cheese created itself by its own volition. Which is to say, I don't believe it happened. But which is also to say, I believe there is some absolutely absurdly small chance that it happened.
I don't think mathematical probability can be used to determine the likelihood of illogical events. The probability of such events would always come out to zero. Once you enter the realm of absurdity, all things are equal because there is no method of comparison outside of logic.
You can still contextualize "absurd" claims however. All of these claims would necessitate a temporary lapse in the natural laws which we have observed through all of existence. I posit that natural laws cannot be infinite in nature: almost every reasonable explanation of existence involves natural laws (as we know them) having lapsed at some place or time. That might be at the edge of the universe, the initial moment of existence, or by the nature of continuity within infinity. There is no way to escape the fallibility of natural laws (as we know them.) So, if we establish those lapses as within the realm of the possible, we have to at least entertain the possibility of them occurring within our timeline. With that leap we move into a tremendous amount of unlikelihood, but we do not leave the realm of the possible. If we open up that degree of possibility, we can imagine that they most likely expression is something trivial and unnoticeable like an atom disappearing or some sort of
Rift in space-time existing somewhere. However, we can also posit that they would allow for something like a person ascending whilst on their horse. This is again, adding a tremendous degree of improbability to a tremendous degree of already present improbability, but in no way does it escape the realm of the possible. If we can posit that it is a possibility, another degree of improbability is added when it is posited that it happened to a particular individual. Another degree when it is posited that it happened at a particular time, place, etc. "Absurd" is in quotation marks because all these claims are within the concrete realm of the possible, but are so preposterously unlikely that there is absolutely no value in considering them within the realm of the possible.
Therefore, although it is best classified as an useless word game, we can posit that it is more likely that, for example, a person ascended, than it is that Muhammad ascended. More likely that Muhammad ascended than it is that he ascended on a Thursday afternoon, etc.
"I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE. No man comes unto the Father except by me." This quote would have to come from 1) someone who is insane 2) the greatest con man of all time even going to the extent of allowing himself to be whipped and crucified to perpetuate the con 3) Who he says he is.
4) someone who never existed and never said it.
5.) Is a legend and probably never actually said.
I just said it, so you can add SOH shitposter to the list of people who could say it.
If the religion has any supernatural claims then that religion is as unlikely as any other with supernatural claims. We may make fun of Scientology more, but it makes as much sense as Christianity. If Scientology was the dominant religion, then it would be Christianity that sounded so weird.
What? Certain supernatural phenomena contradict less or fewer natural laws than others, or simply make unfounded claims that don't contradict natural laws. Let's equate the likelihood of a Deist or Spinozian God existing with the likelihood of an invisible frog existing somewhere. Every unfounded qualifier you add to that diety or that frog makes the claim objectively less likely than just stating the existence. It is less likely that an invisible frog exists in Dakota than it is that the frog exists generally. It is less likely that God *can* answer prayers than that God could or could not be able to answer prayers, etc. You can add up these claims and make objective value claims.
No, you can't. Many bad assertions do not build into truth.
The existence of the supernatural has never been established, so any claim to the supernatural is immediately suspect. Establish first that the supernatural exists.
What you don't get to do is say that Claim X is less unlikely than Claim Y, therefore Claim X should be considered more seriously. Just because Harry Potter happens in our world does not make it more likely to be true than Lord of the Rings because that is entirely a fantasy world.
I'm not positing that these things should build into truth, the probability difference in the most extreme instances of supernatural claims is .00000..(+856)..0% vs .00000..(+780)..0%. They are totally meaningless as far as human conceptualization goes. All i'm saying is that because none of these claims can be logical posited as hard zeroes, they open up the door for probability theory: Mormonism claims Jesus will return to Jackson, Missouri; Mainline Christianity posits he will return generally. Both are so preposterously unlikely that as far as human conceptualization goes they are both impossible, however, the Mormon claim is (insert number of cities in the world) times more unlikely. That doesn't mean we should believe one will happen more than the other, they obviously both will not happen, but one is plainly more likely, even if we are dealing with the literally inconceivably long soft zeros.
Less outlandish perhaps, but certainly no more likely.
I disagree. We can use what we know about reality in conjunction with probability theory to make objective judgements on the likelyhood of religious claims. Someone else has used the following example before, but I think it's a good one so I'll steal it: Mormonism vs. Mainstream Christianity. Christianity, let's say, is 5 degrees or unlikely. It makes objective claims which contradict our knowledge of reality, ones which have no founding in reality, and makes historical claims we can't verify. Mormonism retains that 5 degrees of unlikliehood, and adds more ridiculous claims. If we can say that each claim which is contradictory to our understanding of reality makes the religion more unlikely, Mormonism is objectively more unlikely.
The claim that Jesus will return is tremendously unlikely, however, no self respecting skeptic can say that it is absolutely impossible. Let's say .0000000000...(+148)....0000% chance? Add the claim that he will return to a particular place (Jackson, Missouri) and we have to add some zeroes.
A more concrete example of this claim: if a Tornado blows through a scrap-yard 1,000,000,000,(...+256),000 times, there might be a .0000..(+45)..00% chance that it constructs a functioning aeroplane. If want the probability of it happening between tries 100 and 800, that percentage is far lower.
That's what I mean by less outlandish I guess, but false is false. A thing can't get more false than false. Just because a religion seems a little less unbelievable doesn't mean it is any more likely to be true than the most outlandish one.
Basically it is the idea that an infinitely small chance can be smaller than another infinitely small chance.
I agree that false is false, but a lot of religious claims cannot be undoubtably characterized as "false." We can say that they are so preposterously unlikely that it is foolish to ascribe to them, but we can't say that they are "false." That opens up probability theory and as a result we can make objective claims.
I'm just saying the odds are equal, because the odds are infinitely small. The claims are all in the category of "anything's possible", exactly the same odds that some outlandish story I might make up could turn out to be true, or the one made up by L Ron Hubbard, or the Biblical one. All equally "anything's possible", as the evidence to support any of them, including the story I haven't even made up yet, is equally nonexistent.
I don't think we can necessarily characterize them as "infinitely small" odds, just as a matter of basic probability theory. We can characterize them as "infinitely small" for all intents and purposes, but not as a logical matter. For the record I think Scientologist theology is objectively more likely to be true than Christian theology, but I think both are ridiculous.
We can't say anything unsupported by evidence is objectively more likely than anything else that is equally unsupported by evidence. It doesn't matter how much more "sensible" a belief might be, or how common the belief.
You can make unfounded claims which have certain probabilities attached to them: for example, I can posit that somebody in Niger spoke in Vietnamese today. Without any hard evidence that it happened, we can still speculate on the probability: whatever it is, it isn't zero. Even if we do not know the actual percentage, we know that it would be less likely if somebody spoke Vietnamese in Zinder, Niger; As another variable is added. With religious claims, although we are dealing with skullfuckingly low percentages of likelihood which would require lapses in natural laws as we know them, we still can assign a variable to the likelihood, and make concrete claims on likelihood if more variables are added.
For me, there are no concrete implications of this. I'm not more likely to believe a religious claim if it is 800x more likely than another religious claim: because the difference between .000..(+90000)..01% and .000..(+89998)..01% is literally inconceivable to the human mind. All that I am trying to posit is that you can make concrete claims on different religious beliefs.
But how would you attach a probability to a completely baseless claim? The probability of the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is EXACTLY as incalculable as the existence of the God of Abraham, Odin, Ra, or any of the many others.
I absolutely agree that the probability of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the same!!! I don't posit that you can attach a concrete number, but instead a variable with a speculated (inconceivably low) value, and then run probability theory over that variable.
Actually, I might even posit that the existence of the flying spaghetti monster is more likely, as you could conceive of such a being existing without hard transgressions of natural law.