Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Logic of Religion

They say that logic and religion don't mix. This usually seems to be stated at roughly the same time any meaningful religious debate has entered the, "you're right, but I'm not going to change what I believe anyway," stage. I love playing with metaphorical fire, so here we go.

If we start with the assumption that some omnipotent, omniscient god exists, we can go all sorts of interesting places. But first a little formal logic.

If a sentence is of the form "If A, then B" we get a truth table as demonstrated here. The interesting thing here is that, if your premise is false, your statement as a whole is always true. This may also explain a great deal of political debate, but that's not really the point.

If god exists, then god created the earth. If god exists, then god creates the rain. If god exists, then god ordered the locusts to destroy your crops.

The interesting bit is, these statements are always 100% absolutely certainly true as long as god doesn't exist. Once you starting assuming that god exists, you can pretty much stop thinking about the "if god exists" part and believe any old thing you like. It pretty much sounds like this:

  • If god exists, then god created the Earth.
  • If god created the Earth, then god created people.
  • If god created people, then there must be some unusual reason that bad things happen.
  • If there is some unusual reason bad things happen, then god must have a plan to fix it.

Western religion can just magically spring into a relatively logically consistent existence as long as you are simply willing to assume that god exists. If you create a religion with that assumption, you can simplify the whole thing down to:

  • God created the Earth.
  • God created people.
  • There must be some unusual reason that bad things happen.
  • God must have a plan to fix it.

The problem is, any of these statements could be either true or false - they are all atomic, not implications. I hardly think it a stretch to say that early humans, just barely learning to communicate with each other and figure out the complicated world we live in, would have made this accidental little logical oops.

  • If god exists, then you are being punished for your sins.

If god doesn't exist, this statement is always true. If god does exist, well, you maybe have a 50% of being right or wrong.

From this perspective, religion may be true, but it's more likely to be true if god doesn't exist. That doesn't tell us much, I just thought it was funny. :-)

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