Do Numbers Imply Truth? Rauser Review

(Randy) #1

Does popularity with the crowd imply truth? Randal Rauser reviews logical reasons to examine evidence. “Prima facie” roughly means “first impression,” as he says. Is the fact that the largest religion on earth has 2.2 billion followers a reason to consider it?

I guess it provides a reason to look at it hard. However, the primary or plurality religions have only included Christianity recently. A world factbook from 1887 or so in my grandparents’ things showed a tiny fraction as being Christian. In the year of Christ’s birth, it was fast becoming the worship of the Roman emperor (with others) in the Mediterranean, and other pagan gods elsewhere. Some Muslims claim that Islam is the fastest growing religion–but if you break down the numbers, a strong argument arises that it’s mainly from birth rate and not conversions (this may be in part because the developing world, where many Muslims live, maintains a very high birth rate). Christians in the developed world, like the “nones,” are reproducing more slowly (more quickly in the Third World). At any rate, the Pew Research Center projects that Islam will overtake Christianity because of this in a few decades. Birth rate isn’t a reason to consider even prima facie evidence–unless you consider big families to be a reason to convert!
Statistics are funny things. What if we considered conversion rate a reason to convert? If you look at Operation World statistics, evangelical Christianity is growing very quickly by conversions outside the developed world, but even smaller groups (such as Baha’i and Islam, when they are minorities in other countries) grow faster yet in some places (you can have a 50% increase very quickly if you start with 20). At that level, it’s not statistically really that reliable.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

I think what he’s claiming is not that popularity implies truth, so much as that it should not be ignored as at least a preliminary tool in selecting which ideas to consider as one looks for truth.

One issue I would take with it, even as a “more modest” tool, is that in social media, the idea that I should click on a current trending thing (and so many obviously do), makes it even more of a self-fulfilling phenomenon than it already was before. So its chances of being truth are made even more remote.

(Randy) #3

I agree. Good point.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

There is a recent Atlantic article titled: “Madison vs. the Mob” about how the writers of the constitution (Madison in particular) built into the U.S. government tools to prevent the mob rule that has taken down so many prior democracies in history. Their weapons against it had already begun eroding within their own lifetimes, but are taking even bigger hits now. It’s an interesting read.

(Mark D.) #5

I’ve got to say how reassuring it has been to hear this sentiment expressed here as often as I have. Though politics as such has been left off the table in these forums, everyone I have had the pleasure of corresponding with by PM has likewise expressed concern with the direction the current U.S. leadership is taking the country. The parallels to Germany’s fall into fascism are pretty striking.

On another forums I participate on, every single participating theist approves of the current U.S. leadership. Last summer I flew to South Carolina to stay with an aunt and visit with cousins while preparing to view the eclipse. Most of my cousins are active religiously. The one with whom we spent the most time, after spending an enormous amount of time sharing his witness (there was seemingly no gracious way for me to spare him the effort), confided to me that he is actually more involved in Christian Conservative political movement now than he is in his church. Too bad because I really like his wife since she is an avid gardener like myself with a similar emphasis on providing habitat for beneficial insects.

I sure wish Christianity did not seem to correlate so strongly with socially repressive, economically irresponsible politics.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #6

I really liked these quotes from Madison’s Federalist Papers (cited in the article):

In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.

…and a little later on…

Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.

That has serious implications for truth seeking as well as for us Christians and our worship assemblies. They are reminders we would do well to heed.

Another quote I’ve heard from somewhere that I’ll paraphrase here: “An ounce of emotion is the equivalent of a ton of facts.”

[And yet I would add to that, that the “ton of facts” becomes a worthless, unattended pile of crap if it were not for any emotions to enliven it.]

(Jay Johnson) #7

As Jesus warned in his Olivet Discourse and John warned in his letters, the spirit of Antichrist has manifested often since the first century.

In Revelation 13, the dragon (Satan), the beast from the sea (Antichrist), and the beast from the earth (the false prophet) are depicted as a parody and counterfeit of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The worldwide religion that they promote is not New Age mysticism or Islam – two possibilities that end-times “prophets” frequently mention. Instead, it is a counterfeit Christianity that replaces worship of God with idolatrous worship of the state. The Beast, as head of the state, is worshipped rather than Christ, and the false prophet, as his religious ally, deceives the saints and promotes such worship through economic means (greed).

And what do we see happening now? Without question, the United States is the leading world power of our time. We are Rome. Rather than living in the midst of Rome with wisdom and discernment, however, many so-called "Christians” have placed loyalty to America ahead of loyalty to God, and loyalty to a political party ahead of loyalty to Christ. This is the religion of Antichrist. It is an inside job, not some foreign import. Antichrist is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, just as Jesus said he would be.

(Laura) #8

Interesting analysis. I do think far too often our attitude is to simply be afraid of what is “out there” that we don’t understand. It’s easier to build a wall than to engage in honest self-examination.

(Randy) #9

That’s always a danger, isn’t it?

(Mark D.) #10

I wish you’d been there. You could have talked to him in terms he might understand. Though I think his understanding of his own faith is fragile in the way Elle just mentioned, basically just pushing away whatever might seem not to fit.

I used to babysit him and his sister when I was in high school. There is some affection there still but I’ve had more contact with his wife (the gardener) than with him since then.

(Laura) #11

That seems to be a pretty major factor in considering true numbers, that some religions require a formal confession of faith, while others make the decision for the individual based solely on where/whom they’re born to.

As an aside, apparently one of the pioneers of the American Christian homeschool movement used this birth rate to argue against birth control – that if Christians just had more babies, we’d overtake the Muslims and atheists in no time. :stuck_out_tongue:

(Jay Johnson) #12

God’s people have faced the same danger since the days of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Antiochus Epiphanes, and Rome. It’s not the danger of defeat and extermination, but the danger of syncretism and assimilation. The danger of being seduced by the system, of loving mammon more than God, of loving power more than justice, etc.

I recently saw a statistic that the prophets are the least-read part of the Bible. I’m not surprised …

(Mark D.) #13

Just to clarify, I think you are using “the Antichrist” figuratively here. Is that right? I think there is that within us all that can be attracted to the lure of us v.s. them, uniting against an enemy. It is probably primal, given our evolutionary roots, to gather together with our lot and scream at the neighboring lot that encroaches on our territory.

[Content removed by moderator] The vilification of the stranger and the needy is so anti-Christian that I am constantly amazed to find how much support he finds with those like my cousin.

(Jay Johnson) #14

Yes, figuratively. In his letters, John made it clear that “the spirit of Antichrist” is something that regularly appears in history. Its features include worship of the head of state as if he/she were a god, and a religious-economic system that promotes such idolatrous worship.

I’m sorry that I opened the door, but we can’t let this thread become too political. I tried to state a general principle and leave people to draw their own conclusions. Maybe even that is too much in these dark times?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15

If you had socialized with Mather Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC I do not think that you would have made this statement.

(Mark D.) #16

I hope I didn’t come off as painting every Christian with the same brush. This website is proof enough against that idea. My family is centered around Greer. I’m not sure what church they attend, but another cousin is an assistant pastor in quite a large one.

(Randy) #17

I don’t think you did at all!

@Relates has a great vantage point of coming from an AME church, which has been spearheading social justice.

it really takes everyone to help us keep our eyes open to social justice. Your voice is equally helpful and gentlemanly and kind, as always.

(Mark D.) #18

Good for you, Relates. Glad to hear it. And no, I am not shocked.

Thanks Randy.

(system) #19

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.