Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Diversity Problem"


Disclaimer: i only use this term because a couple friends used it and i think it is a nice title for the 'problem.'

For any of my readers who do glance over my posts and the ensuing comments you know that Anonymous came back in one of his many forms to argue against my 'abstract.' But since he did take the time to complain, and then reply to my comments, I feel that maybe I should put a little more time into the arguments themselves. Like I told him, these aren't necessarily "my" views or arguments, and my intent was to give a BRIEF SUMMARY (abstract), but let me expand on this one, because this was one problem I had with belief before I even knew that it was seen as an issue in theological debate.

The Diversity Problem, DP, can be summed up as follows: with so many religions and beliefs out there, many of which espouse to be the only way to God/happiness, and many of which all give the same evidence for their beliefs, how are we to know which one is correct?

Using this definition it almost sounds Mormony, straight from The Restoration Video. (course, i spend 5 minutes trying to find a youtube video of this ... and can't). But even this definition misses several points of the problem, and maybe the definition should be downsized since it would become a long run-on sentence/paragraph before words caught the entirety of the argument. So let's lay out the DP in a list:

1 - Many different religions
2 - Many different sects within the religions
3 - Many espouse to be the only true way to God/happiness
4 - Many have conflicting moral/ethical views
5 - Many have contradicting views
6 - Many give completely different ways to reach God/happiness
7 - There are too many to properly investigate each

(i'll probably revise this list at some point, i can see that coming)


This problem eventually approaches Pascal's Wager, which was essentially: if there is no God then when you die that's it, but if there is a God and you don't believe then you go to Hell so it would be better to believe regardless of God's existence. Obviously 'Pascal' words his argument better, but I'm being basic here: he always assumed Jesus was who we should believe in, rather than no gods, but he never addressed the DP.

Why shouldn't we believe in Allah? Or Vishnu? Or maybe we should be atheistic Buddhists? Why Christ over the others?

Returning to my list:
#1 - Many different religions.

I've seen several stats saying there are roughly 4200-4400 unique religions in the world. Say it would take, eh, a week of study into each to bet your eternal salvation on them. Couple hours a night, and then studying and living the religion for the weekend. Seems fair, right? I mean, we're saying a good 30 hours or so a week where you focus entirely on it. It is eternity, I'd hate to be wrong.


I'm 25, I have lived 1,304+ weeks. I don't need to show you all simple math, you get the point, but I will anyway. Say I had been investigating religions since the day I was born, I wouldn't even be halfway! I wouldn't finish till I was around 85 years old. 30 hours every week, since I was born. Rather, let's just say you need to devote 30 hours each week for 85 years.

But let me return to something some of you may have missed: I said 4200-4400 'religions.'

#2 - Many different sects within the religions/#7 - There are too many to properly investigate each.

This number is upwards of 80,000, I think there are over 10,000 unique Christian churches/belief systems alone. So maybe 30 hours a week is too much, let's lower it to 10 hours per religion, so 3 religions a week! Then you'd be able to do 12,600-13,200 different sects in 85 years! A little better, but not good enough.

And I am not even going to argue about 'burnout' ... though it is eternity so we better not burnout of this salvation searching.

Guy P. Harrison also lays out a similar argument in "50 reasons people give for believing in god."


#3 - Many espouse to be the way to truth/god/happiness.


There are religions which state that other religions can bring you to god, or happiness, etc ... but many do not. This is why searching 'all' of them becomes so important. What if the only way to eternal happiness IS through a specific religion? Pascal says it might so we better put out lot in with religion ... though he assumes his particular branch of Christianity is the right one.

Now, some people may be saying, "wait, how does this support atheism? this seems like a 'too long did not listen' type of argument, too much work so give up." Not really. For one I did say this has implications in support of atheism, I clarified that position in the comments on the post from last month, but the DP is a 'problem' more than an argument. I will clearly state the implications soon enough, hold your horses.

#5 - Many have contradictory beliefs.

This is a response to those who view religions as spokes on a wheel, and is directly related to numbers 4 and 6 (remember, no particular order to the numbers, I'm making this up as I go along). The argument is as such: all religions come from God, each of us can find one that works for us. Or, they bring good into the world, that's why they are all good. The problem with this is getting into some of those implications. Some beliefs in Islam say to kill others depending on their beliefs, though most often you should be nicer to "the people of the book." Christianity ... well, we have a good understanding of Christian history. Even Buddhist sects do not always abstain from violence. Religion does bring conflict into the world, and a lot of it is inherent in the books and teachings of these religions.

The contradictory beliefs imply that they cannot all be correct, some have to at least be more correct than others, if not blatantly true and false.


#4 - Many have conflicting ethical and moral standards./#6 - Many have completely different ways to truth/god/happiness.

To add to this cup then we throw in the teachings and doctrines themselves. Put a Muslim, a Jew, and a cargo cultist waiting for John Frum all next to each other and you will see very different lifestyles (depending on how fundamental they are or which flavor of the religion). Mormonism is one most readers are familiar with. I can't masturbate, look at porn, steal, lie, cheat, commit adultery, drink coffee, drink wine, and I have to have the priesthood, be baptized, be married for all eternity to at least one wife, and have kids. If I don't do these things then I'm not going to be as close to God or as happy as I could be. That's pretty serious, that's pretty direct. Clarity is abundant in Mormonism when it comes to 'your' salvation.

The point here should be obvious: if you choose the wrong one then you could be doing something that is actually pissing God off!

So, replaying the DP:
Too many religions and sects to properly look into each
If one is true it is possible that ONLY one is true
All state that they are true, most say they are the only true belief
All have conflicting and contradictory beliefs and doctrines


And then the climax:

If religion mattered, then how would a loving God require us to find that one true religion?


Mormonism, in it's sophistication has answers to this of course, but there's no doubt in my mind that Mormonism is false, I've posted plenty of times on major issues with that faith. The DP is not a direct argument against the existence of gods, but it has some major implications towards what kind of god is possible in the world we experience, and what kind of a god would do this.

A common quip is that an atheist position may be best. Self-serving but I find a lot of reasons to agree. If I don't believe in God or eternal punishment nor reward, then every bad action is mine alone, and every good action is mine alone. And if not then I best give due credit to those who assist me in adding to the world. If I get called in front of one of the pantheons of gods I would expect deity to skim over me drinking wine and coffee or having premarital sex and looking at the good I did, like enjoying a nice dinner with friends over glasses of wine, or treating those women I become involved with ... with respect. Maybe that cup of coffee helped me to be more alert at work, adding to my usefulness for the money they paid me. Maybe physical affection for me is something that brings happiness to another person.

I will post this, but reserve the right to make changes as I reread this in the future. Now that I have spent some time making this post, if you still wish to argue then take some time to respond, or I'll assume you're wasting my time. Ciao!

5 comments:

  1. Mormonism makes truth claims that are objectively false and disprovable, as you point out. A lot of other Big Mainstream Religions do the same, and they deserve everything they get.

    But the reason there are so many different religions isn't just because everyone's confusing Unverified Personal Gnosis with verifiable fact. It's also the same reason there are so many different family structures, views of sexuality, and even types of cuisine in the world. Because they're satisfying a basic need that is felt by a lot of (perhaps most) people, and the forms that it takes are as diverse as those peoples' needs and backgrounds.

    Not everyone is driven by a need to have absolute certainty over nonverifiable metaphysical matters, the way that most Mormons and atheists seem to. Some of us just pray to the person that answers our prayers, in the way that's most satisfying to us, and tell others about our experiences.

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  2. Taryn - I walk a fine line of seeking and wanting to know the truth, and being willing to learn no matter the costs, while also realizing that sometimes the truth really doesn't matter. Especially so if we assume/agree that what may be most important in life is a combination of seeking happiness, and avoiding pain.

    On top of this, I've pointed out several times that I am generally favoring a more agnostic view on life in a general sense.

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