Author Topic: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]  (Read 970 times)

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Online jaimehlers

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #29 on: May 28, 2014, 03:45:27 PM »
Nice to see that you're as well-mannered in person as you are when you're writing letters, Dante.

Expected Values are only useful when you only know the potential outcomes of different decisions.  It is like gambling, you know the payouts of different bets, but not which bet will come up as "true."  With this situation, it is a little bit difficult because you don't actually know if the expected payouts are even real or not.  No one is going to know that until they are dead, so it is kind of a moot point.  We only have the knowledge we have to go off of, so we need to use that to the best of our ability.
This is certainly true, and that's why we should avoid basing the decisions we make in real life on things that we have no real knowledge of.

Quote from: Dante Harnz
I also want to point out that it is not very fair to say my paper has 16 assumptions, most of my assumptions are really just definitions of the terms I am using in the paper.  Only about three or four really quality as true assumptions and I put some time into at least providing rationales for them and testing their validity.
I was going based off of your own list.  In any case, the point I was trying to make was not that your paper was unsound because you made X assumptions, but that it didn't really provide any greater explanatory power to justify making them.  Occam's razor is a principle of parsimony for problem-solving; without concrete knowledge, it is better to pick an explanation which has the least number of assumptions, because it is always possible to prop up an explanation by adding additional ad hoc assumptions onto it.

Quote from: Dante Harnz
I do appreciate you considering my article as I appreciate different perspectives on it.  I would also love to hear if you think I flubbed the math anywhere as that would be helpful in me making sure I am not making any unsound arguments.
I didn't see any mistakes in the math.  The problem is that your math was constructed to support your reasoning; if your reasoning is flawed, then it doesn't matter how accurate your math is.  By the same token, you can have the best logical proof in the world, but if your premise is flawed or unsupportable...

Offline Hatter23

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #30 on: May 30, 2014, 07:49:07 AM »
Read the title, knew it was going to be Pascal's Wager. It was.

There is an infinite benefit, the is an infinitesimal chance of being correct: These cancel each other out.

If you truly, truly believed in Pascal's wager you should send me $600.00, because there a very tiny chance I will grant you infinite money.

An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

And you should feel guilty for this. Give me money.

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #31 on: May 30, 2014, 05:08:44 PM »
Hi Dante Harnz. Resident black dreadlocked atheist commie mommy here.

You are teh awesome for giving us some actual math! I love math. Most of the theists who come here just give us words. I love words, too, btw.

But the one thing I am looking for, even more than math or words, is evidence that what you believe is true. That is still lacking. But not to worry. No other theist has ever done it, either. With a track record of none, it is not surprising that you could not do it, either.

You might want to consider running the same calculations with Islam, since that religion has a much more attractive paradise in the afterlife and, even more importantly, a much worse hell for the unbelievers.

If I had to take Pascal's wager at gunpoint, I would choose Islam over some namby pamby liberal version of Christianity. Allah really kicks your a$$ for not following him. Muslims are supposed to choose death before denying their god, and even kill members for changing to a different religion. Some will even kill you for telling them about a different religion. That's way hardcore.[1]

Stick around. I like you so far.  :-*
 1. At the college where I teach, old dudes from some religious group were handing out free bibles. I just tell them I am not religious and leave it at that. One of my veiled Muslim students politely informed the man that for her to even touch a bible was haram (forbidden). Good for her!
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Mrjason

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #32 on: June 17, 2014, 04:34:14 AM »
Read the title, knew it was going to be Pascal's Wager. It was.

There is an infinite benefit, the is an infinitesimal chance of being correct: These cancel each other out.

If you truly, truly believed in Pascal's wager you should send me $600.00, because there a very tiny chance I will grant you infinite money.

Actually, I am an aristocrat from a west african country. I need to launder a vast sum of money for an implausible reason. If you give me your account details and logins I will allow you to keep some of the money.

Offline One Above All

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #33 on: June 17, 2014, 04:42:18 AM »
Actually, I am an aristocrat from a west african country. I need to launder a vast sum of money for an implausible reason. If you give me your account details and logins I will allow you to keep some of the money.

Really? Wow!
My name is "Dr. One Above All" without quotes, account number "257 160 006" without quotes, login "1 4M N0T 4N 1D10T", with spaces and without quotes.
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Offline YRM_DM

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #34 on: June 17, 2014, 07:46:13 AM »
Even if this is a real thing, and the formula had value... you could screw the whole thing up by introducing a new religion with greater rewards and punishments.

The next scientology or whatever, could promise 100 hot partners for eternity and eternal torture for you and your family if you decline, so, therefore, you'd have to believe in that because it'd have the best possible chance of giving the best possible reward and avoiding the worst fate.

If there's a standard that the new religion would have to prove some level of validity first, then, that same standard would have to apply to all religions and we're back to atheism.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 09:39:37 AM by YRM_DM »
You can't spell BELIEVE without LIE...  and a few other letters.  B and E and V and I think E.

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #35 on: June 17, 2014, 05:44:36 PM »
Seems like religions are going in the wrong direction from Pascal.

Nowadays, at least for liberal Christians, everyone and their corgi gets to go to heaven, as long as they try to be nice. Nobody is in burning their giblets off in the lake of fire. What used to be hell is now just "separation from god", which is basically normal everyday life forever.

So, choose to believe in nonsense and hang out with Joel Orsteen forever in Disneyland. Or just keep doing what you are doing. And you get to keep doing what you are doing. Whatev.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Devils Advocate

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #36 on: October 14, 2014, 02:31:04 PM »
Your math is wrong because it is based upon assumptions that skew to one side.

8.       Let the utility gained by experiencing eternal bliss be a very large number represented by h

Why is the belief in heaven afforded a large number? On what basis do you assign a value of 0 to atheism?

At the very least, there should be a number assigned to represent the value of a better life through atheism (i.e., living without fear of a judging god, relative morality, the possibility of a society where public policy is based upon current reality rather than badly translated copies of copies of documents which no longer exist, etc).

If you are going to start from an assumption that the potential existence of heaven has a greater value than the possibility of a better life here on earth, then you need not bring math into the argument, because Pascal already had those assumptions in his original argument.

I will give you props for not quoting the bible, though...
"Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist."
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Offline MadBunny

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #37 on: October 19, 2014, 04:53:36 PM »

Try a simple substitution.
Lets say gambling in place of afterlife.

Your chance of becoming a billionaire are probably stronger if you gamble than if you don't, therefore gambling is the only logical choice.
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Online Azdgari

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #38 on: October 19, 2014, 07:04:46 PM »
Expected Values are only useful when you only know the potential outcomes of different decisions.  It is like gambling, you know the payouts of different bets, but not which bet will come up as "true."  With this situation, it is a little bit difficult because you don't actually know if the expected payouts are even real or not.  No one is going to know that until they are dead, so it is kind of a moot point.  We only have the knowledge we have to go off of, so we need to use that to the best of our ability.

This is really where Pascal's Wager in any of its forms logically fails.[1]  Simply put, if we don't know if 'A' actions combined with 'X' beliefs will have a positive or negative result if 'X' turn out to be true, then the game-theory reasoning behind the Wager doesn't work.

One must pre-suppose that the religious beliefs involved are correct, for it to work.  That is to say that one must hold belief in gods to yield a possible reward, and disbelief to hold a possible punishment.

But if we already believed that, then there would be no point in Pascal's Wager to begin with; we would already be believers.  A non-believer need not make the assumptions I just described.  Logically, from the perspective of a non-believer, it might just as likely yield a punishment if we believe, and a reward if we disbelieve, because we have not yet accepted a religion that holds otherwise.

Were you aware of this flaw when you wrote your original letter, DH?
 1. Without getting into the "believing for reasons other than truth" issues.
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Offline MadBunny

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #39 on: October 19, 2014, 07:22:19 PM »

So, really, you end up with an undefined positive number if the number of beliefs becomes infinite.  This number could either be very very big or very very small.

<....>

At that point, you would have to rely on arguing that Atheism provides more utility while you are alive than the Heaven and Hell beliefs do, which would again be a difficult argument to make.

<....>

(Clipped for brevity)

Hello Dante,
Welcome to the forum.


Infinity can't be a small number, but any number divided into infinity becomes numerically indistinguishable from zero.

So if we have say, five religions and we apply pascals wager we stand a 20% chance of being correct, if none are correct then Atheism is the correct choice.
Your options with Atheism are 50% correct and 20% wrong.  It's either correct or it isn't.  Your odds with being an Atheist are much greater.

If we have infinite choices of religions, and we choose one of them we stand mathematically close to zero percent chance of choosing correctly, whereas with Atheism the odds are still exactly the same.


For what it's worth, if we break this down into comprehensible numbers, there are apparently about 4,200 religions and spiritual systems.  Some are a bit wonky in my opinion, but hey Catholics, amirite?[1]

So lets use 4,200 for your check on Pascals wager.

This gives you a .023% chance of choosing the correct religion for an afterlife plan.
Again, Atheism remains at 50% correct, or .023% that it's wrong.

You will recognize this as BAD MATH, hopefully.  Since the odds on Atheist being correct actually go up as the odds on it being wrong go down.
It's more like the odds are (for five religions) 80% vs 20% and (for 4,200 religions) 99.977% correct vs .023%

If we use vs Pascals wager, we get the only choice worth making is Atheism.  The odds on choosing the one true religion out of infinity choices is numerically indistinguishable from zero.


*edit: ascii code for infinity didn't work.  Replaced with image.



 1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions_and_spiritual_traditions
« Last Edit: October 19, 2014, 07:29:07 PM by MadBunny »
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Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #40 on: October 19, 2014, 09:31:20 PM »
The assumption contained in Pascal's Wager is that there is a god who is arbitrarily evil. That is, he bases his criteria on something irrelevant like belief. It is a no win situation since he cannot be trusted in heaven either, and you will most likely dislike the other people because they are chosen arbitrarily.

In game theory, the optimum strategy is to start by assuming a good outcome. If we assume that a god is consistently good and rewards people for the quality of their lives, then atheism is better since atheist countries have better standards of morality. We also have the best outcome with the best god in the best heaven with the best people.

Atheism is also better if there is a Buddhist heaven without a god or no god at all.
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Offline relativetruth

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Re: Why, logically, you should believe in Heaven and Hell [#2809]
« Reply #41 on: October 20, 2014, 05:52:55 AM »

Assumptions:
1.       Let n equal the count of all possible beliefs
2.       Let a equal the count of beliefs where, if you are wrong, you cease to exist.
3.       Let b equal the count of beliefs where, if you are wrong, you experience eternal torment.
4.       Let c equal the count of beliefs where, if you are wrong, you experience eternal bliss.
5.       Let x equal the count of your belief, i.e., 1
6.       Based on the above, x = 1
7.       Based on the above, n=a+b+c+1


a,b,c,x do not cover ALL possible scenarios.

If you are a Buddhist or Hindu and you are right then you do not cease to exist or experience eternal torment or eternal bliss.
God(s) exist and are imaginary

Offline Dante Harnz

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Try a simple substitution.
Lets say gambling in place of afterlife.

Your chance of becoming a billionaire are probably stronger if you gamble than if you don't, therefore gambling is the only logical choice.

Hey MadBunny,

That is not really true, you usually have a better chance at becoming impoverished if you gamble than if you don't.  See, the expected value of gambling is generally negative.  That is, that the odds you will win multiplied by the payout of winning plus the odds that you will lose multiplied by the cost of playing will yield a negative number.  For example, if you bet a dollar on red in roulette, you have about a 47% chance of winning 1 dollar.  Your expected value is 94 cents, which means, that with every $1 bet you make, you are effectively giving away 6 cents. 

The formula I laid out in my original post illustrates that you net a positive expected value from belief in God and Heaven and Hell.

Offline jdawg70

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Hey MadBunny,

That is not really true, you usually have a better chance at becoming impoverished if you gamble than if you don't.  See, the expected value of gambling is generally negative.  That is, that the odds you will win multiplied by the payout of winning plus the odds that you will lose multiplied by the cost of playing will yield a negative number.  For example, if you bet a dollar on red in roulette, you have about a 47% chance of winning 1 dollar.  Your expected value is 94 cents, which means, that with every $1 bet you make, you are effectively giving away 6 cents. 

The formula I laid out in my original post illustrates that you net a positive expected value from belief in God and Heaven and Hell.

Dante Harnz -

I assume you're going through the posts preceding MadBunny's.

I still don't really agree with the premise of your math in the first place, but setting that aside for now...

Let me adjust your scenario a bit to get you to see this from a different angle:

Person A and person B walk up to the gambling station.  They each have one dollar.  They are presented with the following game:
1. Bet on x, and there is a 0.001% chance that it will pay out x10,000,000.
2. Bet on y, and there is a 1.5% chance that it will pay out x15.75.
3. Bet on z, and there is a 99.76436% chance that it will pay out x0.84.

Now, you and I are in the casino.  We make a side bet: who will walk out with more money?

A and B can only place one bet in this scenario.  How many times can someone place a bet in your scenario?

A bets on x, B bets on z.  Who do you place your bet on?
A bets on y, B bets on z.  Who do you place your bet on?
A bets on z, B bets on y.  Who do you place your bet on?
A bets on x, B bets on y.  Who do you place your bet on?

Let's loosen the constraints a bit.  Let's say that A and B can only place either one bet or not bet at all in this scenario.

A bets on x, B doesn't place a bet.  Who do you place your bet on?
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Offline MadBunny

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Try a simple substitution.
Lets say gambling in place of afterlife.

Your chance of becoming a billionaire are probably stronger if you gamble than if you don't, therefore gambling is the only logical choice.

Hey MadBunny,

That is not really true, you usually have a better chance at becoming impoverished if you gamble than if you don't.  See, the expected value of gambling is generally negative.  That is, that the odds you will win multiplied by the payout of winning plus the odds that you will lose multiplied by the cost of playing will yield a negative number.  For example, if you bet a dollar on red in roulette, you have about a 47% chance of winning 1 dollar.  Your expected value is 94 cents, which means, that with every $1 bet you make, you are effectively giving away 6 cents. 

The formula I laid out in my original post illustrates that you net a positive expected value from belief in God and Heaven and Hell.

Yes, I know.
By the way, welcome to the forum.

My post was a slightly sarcastic way of pointing out that you're better off not gambling, or in this case 'Pascals wagering'.

I like your analogy of using a roulette wheel[1], but in the case of religion, you're not betting on red or black unless you're simply choosing deism[2], or atheism[3]

To continue: most religions do not accept a 'red or black bet'.  You must buy into their system wholesale, which in the case of roulette would mean putting all your chips on one bet, or in some cases choose the correct sect of the given religion.  Given the large number of religions this dramatically decreases your odds.  There are probably a few spiritual systems that let you 'pick a group of behaviors' ala "Be excellent to each other", that would give you a winning bet, but none of the major religions I'm aware of do this.  Either way, your roulette wheel has thousands of spaces, and you can generally only pick one.  I'm not a statistician, and honestly hated that portion of college, but I suspect the odds are very low.


** Yes, I know; footnotes with footnotes.
 1.  http://wizardofodds.com/games/roulette/
 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism
 3. properly most atheists are actually agnostic, or in some cases ignostic[1]since as a group we freely admit that we cannot prove there is no such thing as 'any' god.
 1. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=ignostic
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Offline Graybeard

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That is not really true, you usually have a better chance at becoming impoverished if you gamble than if you don't.  See, the expected value of gambling is generally negative.  That is, that the odds you will win multiplied by the payout of winning plus the odds that you will lose multiplied by the cost of playing will yield a negative number.  For example, if you bet a dollar on red in roulette, you have about a 47% chance of winning 1 dollar.  Your expected value is 94 cents, which means, that with every $1 bet you make, you are effectively giving away 6 cents. 

The formula I laid out in my original post illustrates that you net a positive expected value from belief in God and Heaven and Hell.
When you bet black or red, you have a 50% chance either way, unless you are suggesting that there is yet another magic being who acts as "the house."

Also, if there is an island with 10 people on it and they spend their time gambling on games devoid of skill, then in a zero sum game, the money passes from person to person pretty evenly over time.

What actually happens is that a large proportion of the economy changes hands regularly, this depletes the disposable income of everyone.

10 people, they all have $1000, they all gamble $500 until only one person has $5,500. But the game continues and a new winner emerges every week: all that is happening is that $5,000 is not available to be spent.

If, worship is your stake, the time taken in worshipping (playing the game) is time that could be put to better use.

Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Online Azdgari

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The formula I laid out in my original post illustrates that you net a positive expected value from belief in God and Heaven and Hell.

Expected only by those who are already believers.  It is not a shared premise.

Do you have any response to the problems people have pointed out with your reasoning, or are such problems to be ignored?
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Offline nogodsforme

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IRL, the Pascal players are just guessing at the odds. In the case of religions, nobody know the odds, but people claim to know the punishments for losing. And the punishments are pretty bad. If you do not know the odds, and the punishment for losing is high, it is much smarter not to play at all. Regardless of the possible rewards for winning.

Instead we are being asked to play, and to figure out the odds ourselves, based on very incomplete information --ie tales that seem fictional and have no concrete evidence of being true, and groups of people who all like different stories and who say the stories they like best are true. The religion with the most fervently dedicated believers is the most likely to be true, because nobody would devote their lives to a lie, right?[1]

We are supposed to use that incomplete information to investigate which of hundreds of possible gods are real. After that, we have to evaluate which of the real ones are worthy of worship. Then we are supposed to find out what exactly that god wants in terms of obedience, behavior and so forth.  If we choose the right god, we get a big reward. Maybe. It is usually more complicated--not everyone who chooses correctly will get the reward. It is like buying a lottery ticket gives you more of a chance of winning than not buying one; choosing the right god gives you a better chance at the reward.

To complicate matters even more, some people say that if you don't know anything about any of the gods, and therefore do not choose any, you are off the hook and might get the good reward anyway if you happen to accidentally do what the correct god wants. But if you investigate lots of gods and then pick the wrong one, it is like buying what you think is a lotto ticket, and it turns out to be a land mine or a venomous snake.

The outcome of choosing the wrong god is guaranteed to be really, really bad. If you choose, you damn well have to choose correctly! If there is any chance that the correct god will let you off the hook for being ignorant and not choosing any, that is the best possible course of action. Stay away from all knowledge of gods, because once you start learning about them, your chance of picking the wrong one soars astronomically as the number you investigate increases.

If we all knew for sure which gods were real and what all the various possible outcomes and scenarios were for worship vs non-worship, it would not be a gamble and there would be no need for a wager. We would just go for that one and be done with it. But that is clearly not the case. We cannot possibly know the outcomes or the odds. Therefore, we are smart not to waste serious time on it. Joking around on the internet a few minutes a day discussing atheism with a few people is nothing compared to spending a lifetime actively pursuing a possibly non-existent deity.

There are so many things that have better known outcomes that people could be doing with their time, money, etc. than trying to learn which of lots of different gods is real, worth worshiping, etc. And that is what we atheists do.[2] 
 1. It is like trying to evaluate the odds of the Twilight, Avengers,  Star Trek or Harry Potter "fandom" being true and the only evidence you have at your disposal are the stories themselves and the behavior of hardcore fans at the various conventions. If some fans say that HP healed their acne, and are willing to die for Harry Potter, does that make HP more likely to be true than Star Trek?
 2. Like, concentrating on relationships with actual human beings, learning a craft or skill, becoming good at computers, science, math or writing, studying a foreign language, practicing a sport, raising children, starting a business, caring for elderly relatives, inventing something new, maybe trying to solve some world problem in a practical way.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

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If you do not know the odds, and the punishment for losing is high, it is much smarter not to play at all. Regardless of the possible rewards for winning.

In the context of the Wager, we are not being asked to play.  We are being informed that the game has already begun.
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Online ParkingPlaces

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When calculating the odds, it helps to have information. Such data is available at the craps table, or for elections, sporting events and doing things like betting on who is going to win an Oscar. In each of those cases, it is possible to gather facts and statistics and historical data and other relevant numbers in an effort to parse the likely outcome. But even with detailed information and lots of statistical calculations, a person can still be wrong, and lose whatever bet they've made.

Now, with religion, you have none of that. You have multitudinous stories from hundreds of cultures, all claiming to have a god or two or three that, if appeased, will make things better for you. With the christian god, the story is that if you're good and you love his kid and follow the rules (details vary from subgroup to subgroup) you will get to experience some sort of ill-defined infinite existence in a none to clearly described place after you die. But there is no data, no reliable historical information, no way to calculate the odds, no sources to explore, numbers to crunch. There are just fantastical tales that urge the listener to join up or perish. Toss in the many other religions and their promises and the lack of reliable information starts to approach the infinite.

And now someone thinks that the odds are better for you and me if we choose his particular version and his particular take on the odds and such. But he has nothing, just as the hindus have nothing and the muslims have nothing and the zoroastrians have nothing. And the way I see it, 0 x 0 x 0 x 0 = 0, and that's all the information I need. When the odds are that bad, they're not worth considering.
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline nogodsforme

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I loved formal models class in grad school. Can you tell?  ;)
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.