I ask this question in all sincerity, because I do actually want to understand each differing view point.
This post is not the place to attack or be derogatory towards any other belief system. I welcome all legitimate questions, but any attacks (at least in this post) will be censored.
We can all agree that not everybody’s beliefs are compatible with everybody else’s beliefs.
For example, a young earth creationist who believes that the earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago can not possibly be correct if scientology (which believes that the earth was populated by zenu some 75 million years ago. And both of these are incompatible with other creation myths, such as the mayan belief that the world is “wiped clean” every 25,000 years or so and starts over anew.
So they can not ALL be correct; in some (not all, but some) cases for one belief to be correct, some number of other beliefs must by definition be incorrect.
Even among various groups that believe in the “same god” there are some massive divisions (sunnis and shi’ites, catholics vs protestants, etc…). Even among groups that have the same set of core beliefs (mohamed was a divine prophet and was given the word of allah which became the koran, jesus was the son of god and a virgin roughly 2000 years ago and died to save humanity from sin, etc) there are intense, even violent conflicts over who’s interpretation of the core belief is the correct one.
So even if one believe in the “correct” god, it’s quite possible to believe in the “wrong” way.
A number of these belief systems have at their core a “holy book” (torah, bible, koran, book of mormon, dianetics, egyptian book of the dead, etc). In many cases these books disagree with each other (as stated above the creation myth varies from religion to religion). These books can not ALL be the works of one single “god” (unless of course “god” is playing a practical joke on humanity).
A second point to make with the “scriptures” is that these seemingly contradict each themselves. Since I am most familiar with the “christian god” and the bible, I will use this as my example, but from my various readings there are similar inconsistencies in many of the other major “holy books”. In the old testament “god” is a very “hands-on” type of deity. At various times “he” causes plagues, floods, and turns entire cities into salt. “He” tells one leader of his “chosen people” to encircle a town for a number of days and then to proceed into this town to kill every “man and woman, infant and suckling”. In the new testament jesus, who is god, tells his followers to “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. Most christians will tell you that when jesus came to cleanse man from our sins that a new set of rules applied which superseded the old rules.
The third point about the holy books that I would like to point out is that even if one assumes that the original text was written by, or inspired by “god”, many of these texts have been translated and retranslated countless times over the centuries.A simple example is that when comparing the scrolls from Nag Hammadi, which are among the oldest surviving copies of the old testament, to a current copy of the bible, scholars are finding many passages which differ, and in some cases the meaning of many passages has been completely changed.
So with the number of “holy books” throughout history that contradict each other, other copies of themselves and even other passages in their own pages, to be certain that you have the “correct” book, and the “correct” translation is no easy feat.
When you put all of these together, this to me becomes very reminiscent of the Drake Equation, which is used to determine the likelihood of life in the universe.
R∗ is the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
fp is the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fℓ is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
fc is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
The “belief” equivalent would be something along the lines of:
Chance of a person’s belief being the “correct one” = (1 ÷ (number of potential gods * number of potential holy books * number of potential translation of that holy book * number of potential interpretations of that translation)) * likelihood that god exists vs does not exist
So my question to all true believers is this:
How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?
For those just coming to the discussion, I suggest reading the first reply (my own answer to this question), and a reply that is in all bold around the 200 post mark (a good summary of the discussion up through that point) to get a brief intro to what we have discussed here so far. For those interested in an even more in depth idea, check out the many posts between “mootpoints” (just search for moot) and myself since January, as we’ve run the gambit of anything and everything you can imagine on the idea of god, religion, morality, science, history, spiritualism, etc…
And welcome to the discussion.