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Religion by the Numbers

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

It is statistically obvious that the vast majority of the earth’s people are in one false religion or another. Interestingly, they all seem quite untroubled by this fact.

Raising the Roof at Ely Cathedral!Image by antonychammond via Flickr
According to recent surveys (and they differ by only small amounts), the largest religion by membership is Christianity (including all of the vast array of sub-groups), with about 34% of the world’s population. Other groups can be summarized as approximately 19% Muslim, 14% Hindu, 18% other religions, and 15% non-religious. Since only one religion, at most, can be “true,” (because of contradictions between them) then at least two-thirds of the world’s people are in a false religion. If one of the smaller religions – or none - is true, then an even larger proportion is in a false religion. There is no escaping this statistical fact.

Since there is a very clear geographical distribution of the world’s religions, with only minor overlaps, it becomes obvious that most people get their religion from their parents and their culture – who, obviously, must be steering them wrong. In Israel, 75% of the people are Jewish. In the remainder of the Middle East and Indonesia, most are Moslem. In India, most are Hindu; in China, most are “other;” and in Europe and the Americas, most are Christian.

When pressed on where their religious beliefs come from, nearly all people will indicate their “holy” books and their hearts. But, in fact, most actually got their religion from their parents; their parents took them to places of worship, introduced them to the holy books, and encouraged them to accept their teachings.

Since there is a very clear geographical distribution of the world’s religions, with only minor overlaps, it becomes obvious that most people get their religion from their parents and their culture.Although almost none are experts on their own or other religions, most believers accept their holy texts as accurate revelations of the truth and, if their defense of these books is seriously challenged, they fall back on the heart with such claims as, “I feel God inside me,” or “I have a close relationship with Jesus,” or “Allah speaks within me.”

The trouble with this defense, of course, is that the Christian and Muslim and all other believers claim that their holy book is the one true revelation, and all are likewise convinced that their internal feelings provide the proof. But, obviously, if the same test leads in several directions, then the test itself is faulty.

One can prove to the believers of any stripe that, statistically, the majority of holy texts must be false and, similarly, the internal convictions of the vast majority must also be wrong, but to no avail. They all seem to think believers in other religions should seek evidence external to their holy books or their feelings, but that their own books and feelings are unassailable. Press upon them the obvious conclusion that it makes no sense to accept “holy” texts or feelings as proof of something if these have proven to be wrong nearly all of the time, for nearly all the people, and they still don’t seem to get it.

Let me restate this extremely important point for the still doubtful: THE BOOKS AND INTERNAL FEELINGS ARE EITHER ALWAYS OR ALMOST ALWAYS FALSE, AND THE NUMBERS PROVE IT.

And, the corollary is: if a given test leads to contrary conclusions depending on who is using it, then the test itself is useless.

Surely many believers have thought about these same issues. Perhaps they nevertheless cling to their texts and internal feelings because there really is nothing else; no one has ever found a trace of solid evidence for a god in the natural world. All “evidence” is in the holy texts or the heart. At least for some, it appears to be a case of, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up.”


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