- Published on Thursday, 28 February 2013 06:48
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 372
When we go to sleep at night, we assume that the roof of our bedroom will not fall in and kill us. It's possible but very unlikely - the probability is very low. We live our life as if it it's zero or at least negligible. There are many things that are possible in life but rarely happen. A madman could break into our house and try to kill us - but how often does that happen? How many times has that happened that you know about - especially in your neighbourhood? Every time we drive on the highway could be our last - yet to avoid driving would be to deprive ourselves of one of the benefits of modern living and the chances of an accident are low. Next time we go to the supermarket, we might catch a bug from one of the other people there - but we go anyway because most times we don't catch a bug or there are none. The message here is that we live our lives based on probabilities. If it's a low probability, then we act as if it's not going to happen or it does not exist.
In our daily lives, we see no evidence of a god - prayers are not answered or happen only as much as by chance. The existence of God is a low probability. Few would believe in a god if they were not told about it by their parents and by numerous other people around them. There is simply no day-to-day evidence that a god exists. If you ask a question like "Where did the world come from?" you would expect to get the answer from a scientist, not a theologian. But because of upbringing and continuous indoctrination when we were young, many think this particular scientific question should be answered by priests and theologians.
People who do look for rational answers and who do look to scientists for explanations of physical things will usually end up as agnostics or atheists. It is simply not necessary to believe in a supernatural being. In everyday life, such people apply the probability of an event to decide how to act. It's unlikely that they will get killed every time they drive on the highway or that the roof will fall in while they sleep - so they don't worry about such things. They think it's extremely unlikely that there is another existence after death so they act as if this is their only life. Come to think of it, 99.9% act as if this is their only life despite saying that they believe in an afterlife. How many people want to be suicide bombers? Not many. But it's a dogma, even in Christian faiths, that being a martyr is a guarantee of an entry to heaven. How many refuse medical treatment of a life threatening illness? So in practice, most people act on the probabilities and not what they say they believe in.
One of the many misunderstandings of believers is that atheists "know" there is no god. Not true. They just act on the probabilities like anyone else. A god is highly unlikely - I would go further, if the 1 in many trillion chance that there is a god happens to be true, there is no evidence that he cares about anyone. There is no believable evidence that Jesus was in any way connected to such a god nor that the written record (the bible) can be trusted since it was written many years after he was dead - so the chance that Christianity is true is infinitesimal. Note the chance is not zero - but I am not going to spend the only life that (I believe) I have wasted on the things that religions say I must do.
This whole subject is difficult for most people - especially those with no mathematical aptitude or knowledge. I found a book that helped explain probabilities and I recommend that everyone interested read it. It's written by Leonard Mlodinow and titled: "The Drunkard's walk - How Randomness Rules our Lives". The author does a much better job than I can do in explaining probabilities, how they come into our daily life and how we often misunderstand and cannot predict probabilities accurately. Although Mlodinow is an atheist, religion is not mentioned in the book so it can be read by even highly religious people.
I also discuss probabilities here.