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What odds do you prefer?

Created on Feb 03 2013
Dear Richard
I have read most of your books and followed many of your confrontations with the pious. I was particularly impressed on seeing you on Al Jazeera last month. That was incredibly brave; of you and Al Jazeera. (I suspect there are a few closet atheists within Al Jazeera. I do not envy them.)
There is one point that is perhaps worth making during debates that is, in my opinion, the most significant of all; one that has no argument; one that cannot be denied by any party. It kind of finishes off the God debate before it gets started. That is:
Whatever religion one embraces, believes, hates, scoffs, studies, whatever; it doesn’t matter what – it is almost certainly the wrong one!
This is based on simple maths. No, not maths, but arithmetic that every child is taught by the age of 12 in any country that provides the most basic education. Even the creationists can’t argue since the numbers would have been created be the creator. (It’s almost as if he has created the very thing that un-creates him.)
Let’s start with an axiom or two. If a debate can start with an axiom that neither side may dispute it is always a help. Mine is: THERE ARE A LARGE NUMBER OF UNIQUELY IDENTIFIABLE RELIGIONS PRACTICED IN THE WORLD TODAY
Definitions and qualifiers may then be added, that are axiomatic in themselves:
A RELIGION IS DEFINED AS A SET OF BELIEFS AND CODES AROUND WHICH ONE CONDUCTS ONE’S LIFE. There can’t me much argument about a statement like that.
The next: THROUGH HISTORY AND PRE-HISTORY, THERE HAS BEEN A LARGE NUMBER OF RELIGIONS PRACTICED IN THE WORLD, SOME OF WHICH ARE KNOWN TO US, MOST OF THEM UNKNOWN, THERE BEING NO RECORDS
Finally: IT IS EXTREMELY LIKELY THAT NEW RELIGIONS WILL APPEAR IN THE FUTURE. This, of course may not be acceptable to one who is expecting the “rapture” tomorrow, so perhaps it could not be mooted as an axiom.
A feature of all religions is that the “practitioner” of a religion believes that that particular religion is the correct one. Therefore by default, all other religions are not. No theist, sceptic, atheist or agnostic can argue that point. It is not even relevant to the question “is there a god?”
Now the numbers are not precise and are constantly changing as new religions appear and ancient ones are discovered. But the minimum we can determine so far is already quite high. I have read that there are about 1800 definable christian religions and several dozen islamic religions practiced today. Add the myriad Eastern, native American and African religions and there are many thousands. Add the ancient and future religions and the number could be very high indeed.
A low estimate of the odds of selecting the correct religion in a raffle-like bucket of labels would be about 5000 to 1 against. One thing is certain; the more you look into it, the higher the number gets. If man has managed to create over 5000 religions in less than 5000 years, how many in, say 100,000 years? Or a million?
So it is not relevant to me whether there is a god. (I don’t believe there is one, but that too is irrelevant to my line of thought here.)
What is true is that whoever has embraced a religion, either by choice, stupidity or coercion, has almost certainly GOT THE INCORRECT ONE.
I, on the other hand, having no religion, have a 50/50 chance of being right. I prefer these odds, don’t you?
Sincerely,
Peter Bilsland