Believers versus skeptics by the numbers

| June 18, 2007 | 37 Replies

Ebonmuse looks closely at the religious trends at Daylight Atheism.  The recent rates of growth/decline are especially interesting.  It turns out that the fast growing “religion” is secularlism.

I have to wonder how much more quickly attitudes would change (away from systems involving supernatural claims) if the mainstream media would stop walking on eggshells when it discussed religion.   What if the media truly welcomed the voices of skepticism?   When someone claims to be a devout Catholic, for example, why not make it clear that this set of beliefs (because of the transubstantiation) involves cannibalism?  When it is claimed that the Bible is literally true, why not invite questions like this:  “Isn’t the Bible a book that encourages slavery?”  Sunshine is a great disinfectant

I’m not denying that one can occasionally hear voices of dissent and disbelief on the mainstream airwaves.   For the most part, though, it is still outrageous to question the fundamental beliefs of the most popular religions (Sorry Mormons.  The big religions are ganging up on you. Actually, Mitt Romney is bringing some much-needed sunshine onto the practices of Mormonism). 

If someone claimed that the Earth had two moons or that copper did not conduct electricity, we would be shocked an disappointed if the media stood silent and simply moved on to a different topic.  I sense that we are moving toward a day when we we hear the media raise the obvious questions needed when people make baseless religious claims.

What is my hope?  I’ll be satisfied when, someday, the mainstream media is willing to interlace assertions of traditional Christian beliefs right alongside direct skeptical questions like these:

(And as Ebonmuse discusses on his site), Do religious beliefs really improve the quality of life in any meaningful way?   

Let the people hear the pro’s and con’s and then decide.  No debate should be one-sided.  Religion should be no exception.   Whenever we hear about the love and peace brought be religion, we should also hear about the wars and ignorance wrought by religious bureacracies.  In many cases, the Emperor has no clothes, and it’s time for the people to hear the obvious objections to the many traditional religious claims that are commonly voiced. 

Wouldn’t we be better off if we focused on actively trying to just get along, without all of the supernatural claims?  Based on the article by Ebonmuse, we can get along without superstition and we can get along well.

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Category: American Culture, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (37)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Challenge to Biblical Inerrancy: The many names the Bible uses for single individual characters that existed long before the Bible was written (like Hammurabi), who were rediscovered by using the modern Scientific Method. If the Bible is perfect, why don't the various inspired books agree on a name for an individual? If all the names are correct, why doesn't each book have a glossary to cross-reference them?

    Why are all these precedents to the earliest books of the Bible considered imitators? Did Newton imitate Einstein's theory of gravity? Did Watt imitate Fulton's engine? Did Mozilla imitate Microsoft's browser?

    The Book of Jasher? This is a Renaissance era compilation of ideas, most unverified by any scholar from more recently than the birth of the Age of Reason. Treatises on the Bible based on the Bible, and cross-referenced only to the Bible are not considered independent verification.

  2. gatomjp says:

    Larry wrote: "Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was discovered that the bible was a self-authenticating text?"

    It would be interesting…especially since that's impossible. If you believe god created everything then you also must believe that god created reason and logic. Shouldn't the word of god be subject to the laws of the universe he created?

    Let me anticipate your response…"God is beyond logic and reason". Of course she is. How else could you continue to cling to your paradigm?

  3. "If the Bible is perfect, why don’t the various inspired books agree on a name for an individual?" This, in itself, is a hint that it did not originate with man. If men had written it, a glossary, an index and reference table would have been included. And of course, chapters and verses. Using God's names as an example, each one is given in it's turn to emphasize a characteristic. People's names also do this. Nicknames do this, certain screen names do this.

    The Jasher I am refering to is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2Sam. 1:18. It has a page of "Certificates" from Isaac Nordhiemer, H.V. Nathan and Samuel H Turner, all dated 1840.

    "…the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents from which all Bible translations ultimately derive may also be fairly read as sets of numbers. This intriguing situation comes about because, long ago, these ancient peoples adopted the practice of using the letters of their alphabets as numerals. Accordingly, each letter was associated with a fixed value, and a sequence of letters with the sum of their respective values. Consequently, equipped with the relevant scheme of numeration, every Hebrew or Aramaic word of the Old Testament and every Greek word of the New Testament may be readily translated into a whole number."

    http://www.whatabeginning.com/Misc/Wonders/P.htm

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    And thus Larry leads us into numerology. It has been rigorously proven that numerology can prove anything. Under numerology, the exact same text (any text) can easily be used to prove both of two (any two) diametrically opposed points.

    Just like prophecy, after the fact it is easy to show how any text proves or has forecast something. If a prophecy or numerological analysis had ever proved as useful as any scientific theory at actually predicting something, rationalists would give these popular studies it some respect.

  5. Ben says:

    I have to give this round to LJC. Of course, he has an unfair advantage…

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Ben, please explain your award to LJC. I'm truly amused by his …/Wonders/P reference. It brings up such deep points as

    The prime factors of a number are all Prime Numbers! (Duh)

    Some geometric relationship can be found between a particular pair of prime numbers. (Actually, this works for most pairs of primes).

    If you massage a set of arbitrary numbers hard enough, you can get an approximation of pi. (Add, subtract, multiply, and divide any arbitrary set of numbers in enough combinations, and you can get an approximation of thousands of target numbers)

    Numerology is a fun game. But if you've had a taste of number theory, its "deeper" meaning becomes obviously forced.

  7. Ben says:

    I guess it never crossed your mind that when Roseanne Barr left "The View" that it was a "good" FRIDAY! And, that was the same day the new documentary "RAISING the BAR(R) II" was introduced here at DI? Others of us took great interest in this. Count back 39 days and then add one day for each of the apostles.

    Seriously though, I wanted to stay out of the debate, because I tend to be mean, and chase Larry away. Larry gets the award just for showing up. You don't see us going to creation websites, at least I personally wouldn't waste my time there. Sorry Larry if you are offended.

  8. Don't believe everything you think. Wisdom begins by calling things by their right names. Numerology is the imitation, gematria is the thing I'm trying to bring to your attention. The "coincidences" contained in just one verse {above} are beyond our imagination or ability to create.

    Just the system of arrangment of the biblical texts are beyond our ability. Too many think they know already, so, no point in looking. Ben illustrates the theory of numerology well. This ain't it.

    www/biblewheel.com/Wheel/probabilities.asp

    Information Theory, of which I do not know enough, is IMHO the study of how much information can be crammed into a communication. Looking at the original autographs of the prophets and apostles in this way is very revealing. Ignorance is not stupidity. That is why I keep coming back.

    http:/homepage.virgin.net/vernon.jenkins/Evidences.htm

    if you are interested in prime numbers http://www.calculateprimes.com

  9. Dan Klarmann says:

    It is an absolute miracle that any particular arrangement of any complex thing exists in exactly that way. Like the particular numerical combinations found by Quabbalah (Kabbalah) in Genesis.

    It is likely to the point of certainty that similar arrangements in similar combinations that communicate the same thing would occur.

    The difference has to do with the theory of Large Numbers, a subspecies of probability theory.

    Kabbalah and gematria are branches of numerology, not roots. Those who understand modern math don't bother with mystical relationships between, or magical properties of, numbers.

    If the Bible was meant to lead us to understanding, then a clear description of one of the simple infinite series that lead to pi might be expected; not an oblique ratio of large numbers that is less accurate than the simple fraction 355/113.

    I wonder which ratio: Believer to Skeptics, sum of believers interviewed divided by the sum of the ages of skeptics interviewed, etc, would give us the best approximation of pi?

  10. Ben says:

    "Don’t believe everything you think. "

    Wise words Larry!

    I would only add, "Don't think everything you believe"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory

  11. Dan Klarmann says:

    I'd mentioned Number theory, not Information Theory, in debunking numerological practices.

    We use letters for numbers. It's just that the letters we use for numbers are from an Indian alphabet, brought to Europe by Arabian scholars. That's why we (mis)call them "Arabic Numerals".

    In all cases, letters are arbitrarily assigned numerical values based on the human-designed order of a particular alphabet. There is no particular reason for the letters to be in that order. Just tradition. Also, most alphabets have both redundant and missing letters. That is, excess characters for some phonemes, and none for others. In English, C, K, and Q all are used for the same unvoiced glottal stop. But we need combinations of letters for the sounds like th, and ch. Greek has letters for those sounds (theta, chi).

    God did not choose the order of the Hebrew letters. It evolved. Its evolution is traceable to earlier alphabets that used similar letters in different orders.

    So finding mystical numerical outcomes from adding together the values of the positions of letters in an alphabet extracted from word stream based on the spelling of words at a given point in time is quite an arbitrary practice.

  12. Jason Rayl says:

    Larry says: “If the Bible is perfect, why don’t the various inspired books agree on a name for an individual?” This, in itself, is a hint that it did not originate with man. If men had written it, a glossary, an index and reference table would have been included. And of course, chapters and verses. Using God’s names as an example, each one is given in it’s turn to emphasize a characteristic. People’s names also do this. Nicknames do this, certain screen names do this. —

    Glossing wasn't invented till the middle ages or after. Indexes even later. Reference tables? At a time when more importance was placed on memory than the written word, that would be…odd.

    Vowels, however, were not recorded in ancient Hebrew (I'm not sure about modern Hebrew) so pronunciation was probably regional and phonetic recordings in other languages problematic. All you've demonstrated is how very human the whole thing really is.

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