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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fundamentalists Have a Problem With Numbers

Just when you thought they couldn’t get more moronic, theists prove you wrong. In just two days now I had the numbers argument thrown at me, apparently in the belief that I’m going to be stupid enough to find it convincing and start worshipping some evidence-free sky pixies or other and taking some ancient texts written by primitive people as the source of all truth.

Briefly, the numbers argument goes, “My god must be real because X number of people believe in it.”

In the last two days this has been given to me as a reason to believe both in Islam and Christianity. On one occasion a few months ago, astoundingly, I was told Christianity must be true because a few million Chinese believe in Jesus, conveniently ignoring that some 98% of them don’t. Obviously, whilst a few million Chinese can’t be wrong, well over a billion of them can be and most definitely are.

But let’s look at the numbers argument for a moment.

No know religion has ever been believed by a majority of the world's people, but how does the number of believers in an idea determine whether that idea is right or wrong? Answer: it doesn't. An idea is either true or false. It matters not one tittle nor jot how many people believe it.

Fundamentalists would have us believe that, somehow, an idea becomes more right as more people believe it, including their gods, it would seem. And, when no one believes in it, an idea or a god is false.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, Christianity was false before Jesus said anything about it and Islam was false before Mohammed believed it. At that point of course, Buddhism and Hindu were the most right religions because they had the most followers. Northern European pagan religions were also fairly right, but not as right as Hindu and Buddhism.

At some point in history, as more and more people were persuaded to believe these, then false, religions, the number reached some threshold at which point they became true and both Allah and Jahweh came into existence. That would appear to be what the fundamentalists believe at any rate.

Maybe this works on a geographical basis. One Christian told me that “Over 90% of Americans believe in Jesus”. Leaving aside the traditional exaggeration (to be charitable) in that figure, what has that got to do with anything? Presumably Christianity is 90% right in America? If that works then, in UK where now only 36% call themselves Christian and 51% say they have no religion, Christianity is only 36% right (and 64% false).

In my household, all religions are 100% false on that basis.

Just imagine if science proceeded on the basis of opinion polls conducted amongst people who had been indoctrinated from birth to only believe this or that theory. We would still be in the scientific Bronze Age, which is precisely where religions are today.

Yep! That’s fundamentalist logic there folks.


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14 comments:

  1. Here's a primary school joke from eons ago, and a different liff: "Eat shit! It's impossible for gazillions of flies to be wrong!". ;)

    PS
    That above was obviously an unconscious tribute to the great (and thrice sadly late) Douglas Adams. Or a typo. Which one will be decided by a public vote. Your votes on a postcard, please. :D

    PPS
    I do hope that "shit" above won't be considered obscene. It most definitely wasn't when I first heard the joke. It's amazing what's funny to a 12 year old. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not really a comment, but I seem to have uncovered a bug in the Google Captcha system for comments: write a comment, and when presented with a Captcha clik "Edit". Edit your comment (I added a PPS to mine). Click "Post Comment". You are notified your comment "will be visible after approval". If my previous comment did get through can you please let me know so I can raise a bug against Blogger?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Vlad.
    PPS seems to be there okay.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was just reading about how the Assumption (?) of Mary started out as a rumor/story but over time the current (then) pope decided god told him it was true and so henceforth the assumption of mary was a cardinal belief followers had to incorporate into their belief system. In this instance, the proof of her assumption is merely the number of people who eventually believed it to be true...thus encouraging a pope to meditate about god and what would god think about it and apparently god thought it sounded pretty reasonable too and made it fact. Easy peasy.

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  5. Funny how in different contexts that 90% of Americans is split into those who believe in the right flavour of Christianity and those who don't. I see that crop up more and more these days.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Meh. I find it depressing that there are people who actually find that argument acceptable... or, more to the point, who aren't embarrassed to death when they try and use it.

    Another awesome post! I love your writing style.

    RAmen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It goes back to what our mothers and fathers told us..."If everyone is jumping off of a bridge, does that mean you halfta." At one time, seemingly, everyone was into owning slaves (prob. except slaves)so does that make it right. The 'numbers' do not mean correctness...it just shows how so many peeps can be stupid. Awesome buddy, glad that you are blogging with frequency. Much appreciated.

    Kriss

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yeah but Bill O'Reilly would LOUDLY say that he's sticking with Judeo-Christian tradition. And he'd SHOUT that you're a FASCIST. So I think he's going with some kind of mouth-size, vocal-amplitude based argument on top of the demographic thing. There, now we're really PWNED right?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes. I like the "he who shouts loudest, wins" argument.

    Apparently, just as children obey their parents when shouted at, so reality obeys those who shout at it and it takes most notice of those who shout loudest.

    And of course, if you shut out your opponent's arguments with a wall of sound, it saves you making the facts go away by ignoring them or hiding from them.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My usual response to 'argumentum ad populam' is Alcuin's comment to Charlemagne

    "Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit"
    ("And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.")
    But I can be a bit pretentious like that...

    ReplyDelete
  11. If the numbers argument works then aren't there more people who don't believe in Christianity than do? Same with Is Islam, Judaism, Buddha and all the rest?

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is great. I get that "numbers" argument probably three times a week.... It doesn't apply to religion any more than it applies to Harry Potter, Twilight or any number of other fictional works.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Then there was 1492... when EVERYONE in the "civilized" world believed that the world was flat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm... actually, when Columbus sailed West it wasn't to prove the earth was a sphere, as many people think; it was to prove that West was the shortest route to China from Europe, rather than having to go round Africa and South-east Asia. There was no real doubt that the world was a sphere; the argument was about how big it was.

      When he landed in the West Indies, he assumed he had sailed too far south, somehow sailing through the East Indies without seeing them, so missing China and was in India, hence he called the natives, 'Indians'. He actually made his crew take an oath on the Bible that they were in India.

      It's an urban myth that he did it to prove the earth was round. Nor did he ever set foot on the American mainland. He may have seen the Panama isthmus but assumed it was just another island because it had no large rivers, and didn't bother to land.

      Delete

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