Sunday, July 1, 2012

The odds of being born into the right religion

In my last post, I talked about the unlikelihood of any one denomination having all the right answers ( Now it's time to take this line of thinking further and consider the unlikelihood of being born into the correct religion.

Let's say there are 49 religions and atheism (not religion), for a total of 50 worldviews. Let's also say that only 1 of these worldviews is correct. For example, Christianity, Islam, and atheism cannot all be true- God cannot be YHWH, Allah, and non-existent all at the same time. There is only one truth.

As is most often the case, people are brought up in a certain religion and then believe that same thing for the rest of their lives. Then they teach their children to believe the same thing, and the cycle continues.

If these people never honestly consider the evidence for and against each worldview, and opt for chillin with what they grew up with, what are the odds that they were born into the truth?

Well, 1/50. By simply choosing to believe what you grew up with, you have a 1 in 50 chance of believing in the worldview that accurately describes the world.

This means that if you have done no searching or weighing of evidence, your current worldview is almost definitely wrong. Not maybe wrong, not probably wrong, almost definitely wrong.

In reality there are many more than just 50 worldviews. Surely there must be a better way to find truth than hoping you got it at birth! There is- methodically examine the evidence for every worldview possible! (side note- I realize that in some cases it may be impossible to examine all the evidence. For example, extinct worldviews that we have no access to are impossible to research. Soon I will write a post about why it is better to examine as much evidence as possible as opposed to throwing our arms up in the air and taking our chances)

Based off of my experience, it is pretty easy to rule out a large number of worldviews in a short period of time. If you knock out half of them, you have doubled your odds. If you knock out all but two, you have a fifty-fifty shot at picking the correct worldview. If you can show all but one of them are false, then your best shot would be the one you haven't ruled out yet. Obviously you would want some positive evidence to go along with that ruling too. In addition, your conclusion is only as good as your evidence and reasoning.

This is way better than sticking with your 1/50 shot (or 1/100, or 1/1000, whatever the number of worldviews actually is).

I find it strange that most people don't think about religion this way. I suppose kids are programmed to trust their parents- which makes sense. If they didn't they would almost certainly die. Children grow up believing what their parents teach them about religion and assuming that the evidence for it is legit. Or they simply don't care about evidence and roll with what is socially acceptable. Either way, their odds of actually getting it right are very small!

It may be helpful to think about people who have different worldviews than you do for a moment. Let's say you are a devout Christian (if you consider yourself to be Christian, but think that many worldviews are true, this doesn't apply to you, and we should have a different conversation!). What do you think about the Islamic people? What about the Jews? Or perhaps the Wicca?

You probably think that they have it wrong. You also probably know next to nothing about Hare-Krishna, Falun-Gong, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, or Hinduism, but you probably have this feeling that they are wrong too. Too bad that they weren't blessed with such a religiously correct upbringing!

Now lets pretend that you are Islamic. When you think about all those poor Atheists, Confucionists, Shintos, African Spiritualists, Mormons, and Christians, you probably think that all of them are wrong and that you are right.

This utterly unjustified assumption made by many people gives them a sense of comfort in what they believe, while masking the truth that they have a mere 1/50 chance of being right.

So once again, it is a good idea to increase your odds somehow.  Why? Well I'm gonna do a blog post about why here in the next day or two, so come back and read if you would like to hear what I think. =D The blog post will be titled "If you want to be happy, you need to figure out the rules."

Thanks for reading!



  1. why 1/50? That assumes that they're all equally likely, which they're not.

    1. That would make him get MUCH more hate mail then he already has, as being nearly more then a preacher.

  2. I agree that they aren't equally likely- but that doesn't apply to this situation, or my line of reasoning here.

    Perhaps I should have made a better distinction in the blog post about this. To say that you have a 1/50 chance of being born into Christianity, for example, in real life is false- you have about a 1/3 chance. However, the odds of Christianity being true (having examined no evidence) is 1/50. If we consider the fact that there are many more worldviews than just 50 to choose from, the probability lowers accordingly.

    I'm advocating figuring out which ones are more likely to be true. Once you start doing this, you quickly find out that not all worldviews are equal- but not before.

  3. What's more, what are the odds that any of them are the right one? Do we even have the brain capacity to know? I guess you would have to get into the semantics of the word "right"

  4. Thanks for your comment, anonymous! None of them being correct certainly is a possibility, which would also make the odds of getting it right lower. In addition, you are right that we may simply not be smart enough to figure it out.

    All we can do is give it our best shot to increase our odds as much as possible!