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May 18, 2011

Bayes’ Theorum Proves Jesus’ Resurrection!

by juju2112

Today’s sermon is from Pastor Mike McDaniel at Grace Point Church. It’s about the immortality we get from accepting Jesus, and how awesome it is never having to die.

“I don’t normally quote from Metallica, but I will today. The drummer of Metallica, Lars Ulrich, said it like this: ‘The last thing that I’ve been unable to control in my quest to control everything around me is death.”

OMG! He’s so hip because he’s wearing blue jeans and he’s quoting Metallica! Oh, what? He got it from a Christian book? Oh, nevermind.

Pastor McDaniel goes on to defend the idea that Easter is more important than Christmas:

“If we don’t have Easter, all we have is a good moral teacher who walked on the Earth, and helps us to live a better life on the Earth, and only makes Earth a better place to go to Hell from. You get the picture? If we don’t have a resurrected savior, we don’t have hope of immortality, we have hope only of death.”

I love it when a preacher threatens me. It just warms my heart. They give you that sweet, saccharine smile and tell you with all the friendliness they can muster that you’re going to burn forever if you don’t believe what they say. I know they really mean well, but it sure is a strange experience. How can someone have completely good intentions and still be threatening that you’ll be tortured forever?

I know what they say: “God doesn’t put you in hell… you put yourself there!” But that sounds almost exactly like a battered wife saying that she deserved to be slapped because of something that she did. I don’t think anything deserves spousal abuse, and I don’t think anything deserves eternal torture, either.

You know, living forever certainly sounds pretty cool. I’d take it in a second if the offer were real. The only problem is, they’re betting people will accept their religion based on how awesome the rewards will be. How much I buy what you’re saying is going to be weighed by the credibility of the evidence you give me. And all the evidence I’ve looked at so far is lacking.

For a good primer on why evidence is important, check out this video. It’s about 20 minutes long, but it’s really very good!

The pastor goes on to quote 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. “

“You know what Paul was saying here? The worst day of your life was the first day of your life. It would have been better than you not be born if Christ has not been risen from the dead.”

Jeez… no wonder deconversion is so hard! Would you honestly rather have never been born if Jesus’ resurrection never happened? With all the great things life has to offer?

I do not believe in God and I am getting as much enjoyment out of life as I possibly can. I love life! I’m having a lot of fun. Really. It’s a very rewarding experience. Lots of wonder and awe over here. You don’t hold a copyright on feelings of wonder. Did I mention also a moral person?

“Now I know that many people have tried to fight against Jesus being resurrected from the dead. They would say, “No, he never actually died, he only swooned.” Now, you tell that to a toothless Roman soldier who all he does is kill people and conquer lands, and he’ll take his same spear and stick it in your side and see if you live. Because Romans were conquerers. They knew what death looked like and they knew how to administer it. They were perfectionists at this. So, to say that he merely swooned and they put him in a cold cave, and the moisture of the cold cave awakened his body, and somehow he was able to push away a stone and walk out. No. I’m sorry, it takes more faith to believe that, I’m afraid, than it does to believe he resurrected.” [Crowd laughs]

There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, the bible didn’t originally say that Jesus was stabbed in the side with a spear. If you compare our oldest transcripts of the bible with later versions, it’s clear that part was added in by later scribes.

Secondly, I’d like to remind you that your only evidence that Jesus ever existed (much less was killed and resurrected) is the Bible. You have one source, which has been heavily corrupted throughout the years by scribes changing things in the scrolls, either to serve their own needs or through their own ignorance. If all this stuff really happened, don’t you think the Romans would have written it down somewhere?

“Day 732 of my post at bumfuck town. Some hippie guy came through with a bunch of followers performing miracles. We crucified him. Crazy Jews!”

You’d think we’d find stuff like that. We don’t. Furthermore, the gospels were riddled with errors and weren’t even written by anyone who knew Jesus. That’s right, the names on the covers were added later, too. In fact, there’s not a single thing written by anyone who actually knew Jesus.

Why do I want more evidence than what the bible says? Because I’ve never seen someone raised from the dead before. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence before they should be believed. It’s true, if you told me that you like chicken, for example, I’d probably just believe you with no evidence.That’s because that claim isn’t all that amazing at all. If you said you could fly, I’d probably want to see it first.

This is how I imagine the genesis of a thought to be in a believer’s mind.

“That sounds awesome!”

.. 1 month later …

“I want that to be true!”

.. 1 month later …

“It has to be true! Because it’s so cool!”

… 1 month later …

“Ha ha ha! You’d have to be an idiot to believe it’s not true!”

At no point in their mind do they demand evidence. They simply believe because it sounds cool.

“There’s even been studies that have been done. April 2002, University of Oxford, Professor of Philosophy Richard Swineburn, actually launched into a study trying to determine the probability of the resurrection of Christ. […] He used the Bayes theory of probability. Anyone ever heard of that? He used the Bayes theory, I assume it’s something significant, and he teaches at Yale University! And it’s picked up by the New York Times, and it’s published there. And he is out to prove or disprove the probability of the resurrection.”

“And he goes on to say this. This is one of the statements that he makes: “For someone dead for 36 hours to come back to life again is extremely improbable.” And I would agree with that. I haven’t seen it done yet. “But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them.” Makes sense! If God was to overcome the natural laws, then he could overcome the natural laws. Because he made them!”

No…. no, actually… that makes no sense at all.

Just because the professor works at Oxford, is using math, and was published in the New York Times, he must be right? What happened to evaluating ideas based on their own merit? You know, people from famous organizations can be wrong, too.

Also, the idea of God existing? That seems very improbable to me. And even if he did exist, I don’t see how that makes the resurrection likely. Maybe the Islamic God is real, for example?

“So, what professor Swineburn does, is he starts laying in and adding values to the various elements. If there is a God, then he’s of this value. If there was a Jesus, a history Jesus, and historical documents tend to point to there was a historical Jesus. And if this Jesus did everything that he said he did, and all the things that were said about him he did, [..] He applies it all, and he puts it into a formula, and he says this: 97% probability that the resurrection happened.”

I’m no mathematician, but there are an awful lot of ‘Ifs’ in this probability statement. I actually had to cut some of them out of the quote because I couldn’t keep up with transcribing them all. And as I understand it, Bayes’ Theorum is supposed to be weighted based on the evidence that you have for things. What evidence do they have for any of those ‘Ifs’? I do not think that historical documents point to Jesus’ existence. And don’t say, “Josephus“. The guy wasn’t even born until several years after Jesus died. He never even met the guy.

A few good bloggers have found this argument before and criticized it (here and here). But it’s still being circulated among Christians, apparently, helping to bolster their faith. Here’s how this argument goes:

  • The probably of God’s existence is one in two (since God either exists or doesn’t exist).
  • The probability that God became incarnate is also one in two (since it either happened or it didn’t).
  • The evidence for God’s existence is an argument for the resurrection.
  • The chance of Christ’s resurrection not being reported by the gospels has a probability of one in 10.
  • Considering all these factors together, there is a one in 1,000 chance that the resurrection is not true.

Okay, do I really need to point out that the probability of God’s existence isn’t 50%? How in the world do you figure that? Just because something is either true or false does not make the probability 1 in 2. Bayes’ Theorum is pretty cool, but if you put bad numbers into it, you’re going to get bad numbers out. 97% chance that Jesus rose from the dead? How can you even say that with a straight face?

“Jesus didn’t just simply live to die, but he died that we might live. It’s a pretty important concept to put your arms around, because I know a lot of people, and probably you know a lot of people who live to die. They’re living as fast and furious as they can. High, wide and handsome, full throttle, going for it all. And I have no problem with that. But it’s their conclusion that I have a problem with. You know, their conclusion is, whoever dies with the most toys wins. No, live it up! Party hardy! Do all you can! Can all you get and sit on the can! Just, just, just, live it up for yourself! That’s the kind of mentality of this world. Because you never know (this is what they’ll say) when you’re number’s gonna be up.”

Okay, that part before where I said I was enjoying life as much as I could? I didn’t mean I’m some drug-crazed raver who spends his nights car-surfing in empty parking lots. I’m also a very responsible family-man who treats people with decency and respect. Look, my point is, just because someone isn’t a Christian, that doesn’t mean they’re some wild, totally immoral crazy-person. You don’t need God to be a good person. I know it seems that way to you, but it’s not the case. There are tons of of completely normal, moral people who aren’t religious.

“The life God wants us to have […] can’t be contained in the container of this mortal body. The life that he wants to give us is so much bigger than the bookends of life and death.”

You can’t prove God that God exists, you can’t prove we have a soul, and you can’t prove there’s an afterlife. These are simply claims you’re making that are totally unsubstantiated. Except they’re not unsubstantiated to Christians, because they accept their emotional experiences as evidence. So, to them, it’s all completely reasonable.

The day I realized the things that went on inside my head couldn’t be used as evidence was the day all my supernatural beliefs fell apart. Unfortunately, until that realization happens to a person, they’ll continue to use their feeling to justify their beliefs.

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