Category Archives: religion

The Monty Hall Problem Refutes Your Religion

Well the title of this post is a bit inflammatory. So I won’t be arguing that it “refutes” your religion, but will be arguing more that it’s weak Bayesian evidence against your religion.

So. The Monty Hall problem is an illustration of how our intuitions of probability don’t always match up with reality. In its original formulation, you’re given a choice between three doors. One door has a prize, the other two do not. If you choose one of the doors, then another door that doesn’t have a prize is shown to you. You then have the option of staying with the door you chose or switching doors.

Most people think that it either doesn’t matter whether you switch or that switching lowers your probability of winning. Neither of those is true!

Your initial probability of winning the prize is 1 out of 3. Once one of the doors is opened, the probability that you had picked the correct door stays at 1 out of 3 whereas the other non-picked door now contains the remaining probability of 2 out of 3. Because you have to do a Bayesian update once new information — in this case, the one door revealed to not have the prize — is introduced.

I’ve gone over this before. Yet, I want to add an additional wrinkle to the problem to make intuition fall more in line with Bayesian reasoning.

If, instead of picking one door out of three to win the prize, what if it were one door out of 100? And once you’ve made your selection, 98 other doors are opened up to show that they have no prize, leaving only your choice and one other unknown door? In this case it seems more obvious that something is suspicious about the only other door that wasn’t opened up. And this intuition lines up with a Bayesian update using the same scenario:

P(H): 1 out of 100 or .01

P(~H): 99 out of 100, or .99

P(E | H): Probability of all other doors besides yours and one other being opened to reveal no prize given that you’ve picked the correct door: 100%.

P(E | ~H): Probability of all other doors besides yours and one other being opened to reveal no prize given that you’ve picked the incorrect door is 100%.

This is an easy Bayesian update to do. Both conditional probabilities, P(E | H) and P(E | ~H) are both 100%. Meaning the likelihood ratio is 1, and your posterior probability is the same as your prior probability. But now your selection is still 1 out of 100 and the only other remaining door has a probability of 99 out of 100 of having a prize! So in this case, both Bayesian reasoning and intuition line up: There is something suspicious about the only other door that wasn’t opened.

How does this relate to religion? Specifically, the religion that you grew up with?

Using Willy Wonka’s logic in the meme above, the chance that you just happened to grow up with the correct religion is pretty low. Instead of the chance of picking the correct door out of 3, or out of 100, you’ve picked a door out of thousands of religions; many of which no longer exist. They are “opened doors” revealing no prize in the analogy.

So a Bayesian update will work the same way as it did with picking one door out of 100. Meaning, your religion is probably wrong. And you should probably switch religions. The only reason I say this is weak Bayesian evidence is because there are still a few religions to choose from. But their joint probability of being correct is yet higher than the single chance that your family religion is the correct one.

Analogously, it would be like if, say, you had a choice between choosing one door out of 10,000, and after your choice all but 10 of the doors are closed. Your initial chance of having chosen the correct door is still 1 out of 10,000, but the 10 doors that remained open after closing the rest have a joint probability of 9,999 out of 10,000 of being the correct door: Those 10 other doors individually have (approximately) 10% chance of being the correct door. As opposed to your original selection’s probability of 1 out of 10,000.

So the Monty Hall problem is weak Bayesian evidence against your religion.

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Posted by on March 5, 2018 in Bayes, religion


Study suggests collectivism is associated with particular pattern of brain connectivity

“Cultural attitudes are mostly acquired during childhood and adolescence in family and school environments and we may not realize how these attitudes ‘dictate’ the mode of our thoughts and the pattern of our brain’s activity even in a state of rest,” explained study author Gennady G. Knyazev of the Institute of Physiology and Basic Medicine in Novosibirsk.

“Our data show that collectivist attitude prompts the engagement of brain regions involved in semantic processes and reasoning on moral issues, which, in its turn, prompt the appearance of others-related thoughts.”

“Collectivism-individualism is one of the major dimensions of culture and each culture has its position on this dimension,” Knyazev told PsyPost. “For instance, the United States is considered the most individualistic culture, whereas China and other East-Asian cultures are mostly collectivists.

“A typical individualist sees him/herself as fundamentally separate from others, whereas a typical collectivist considers him/herself as a representative of a group (e.g., family, social class, ethnic group and so on).”


“It could be expected that in a quiet resting condition, a collectivist would spontaneously think more about his/her close friends or relatives, whereas an individualist would think more about him/herself.”

“This association between cultural attitude and the content of thoughts has to have some reflection in the activity of the brain and we were interested to find out how brain’s activity mediates this association. The default mode network (DMN) is the brain functional network that is most active in the resting condition and is involved in self-referential and social cognition.”

Read more at PsyPost

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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in religion


Numismatic Evidence that Corroborates Suetonius’ Life of Otho and Contradicts the Gospels


Keener and WrightTo follow up on my previous review of Christian scholar Craig Keener’s “Otho: A Targeted Comparison” in Biographies and Jesus, I’d like to briefly discuss the relevance of numismatic evidence in evaluating Suetonius’ Life of Otho in comparison to the NT Gospels.

Numismatics is the study of ancient currency, and is particularly relevant to the study of Roman emperors, since the rulers of the Roman Empire would stamp their faces on the currency in circulation throughout the Mediterranean. A number of years ago I took a seminar on Roman numismatics with professor Edward Watts at UC Riverside, in which I did a research project on the emperor Otho and the currency he circulated with his image during his short reign. It is also relevant to another seminar that I took with professor Michele Salzman in which I did a research project related to the depiction of Roman taxation in…

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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in religion


Can Islam be modified to be more compatible with the modern world?

Let’s take a trip. Let’s say around 2,000 years ago.

The Roman Empire rules the known (Western) world. Its military superiority in the West is without equal. As the Borg would say, “Resistance is futile”.


Part of the Western world under the boot of Roman rule was Judea. The area promised to the Jews by their god, Yahweh. Many Jews were sickened and disgusted by the rule of sacred Jewish lands by the Romans. Many Jews felt betrayed by their priests and scribes that they would kowtow to Roman hegemony.

What happened to the glory days of the Maccabees or even Joshua, kicking the asses of foreign powers and ensuring the sacred land promised to the Jews was theirs?

Some Jews even used sacred scripture, like the book of Daniel, to predict that a new Joshua would arrive in the 1st century and kick ass and return Judea to its rightful heirs. As the Jewish historian Josephus wrote in the late 1st century:

But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,” about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.” The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination.[1]

And so, this began a 100 year period of many Jews attempting to be the new Joshua[2], of kicking the Romans out of the area and restoring rightful rule to the Jews. The Jews went to war with the Romans three times in this 100 year span.

The first time, beginning under the reign of Nero[3] , led to the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 CE and changed Judaism forever by eliminating the temple cult portion of Jewish religious practice to this day. The destroyed temple was raided by the Romans and they used the funds they plundered from said Jewish temple to build the Roman Colosseum[4].


The second time, around a generation after the first war[5], Jews went to war with the Romans again. And again, were sent packing.

The third and final time, in the early 30s of the second century, Jews actually won, albeit for a short time. This was the short-lived reign of the last Jewish kingdom under the rule of Simon Bar-Kokhba[6]. But after about three years of Jewish rule in Judea, the Romans used the 2nd century version of the nuclear option and subsequently kicked the Jews out of the area forever, and renamed what was once called Judea as “Palestine”. What we call it to this day. Well, at least until after WWII when we chopped up Palestine and set apart a portion for what’s now Israel.

Interspersed between these wars were what one might call “terrorist attacks”.[7][8] Though nothing remotely like the suicide bombings we get today, they were still thorns in the side of the Romans. Though the Romans had no qualms about swift and brutal reprisals.

Where are all of these Jewish terrorist attacks today? Nowhere. Because the religion that could probably be seen as inherently violent at one point in history had a reformation. One branch became what’s now called Rabbinic Judaism. The other branch began worshiping a spiritual Joshua[9] who did his conquering in the spiritual realm, and returned the spiritual Jewish kingdom to the Jews and thus had no need for violence against material Romans.


[1] The Wars of the Jews

[2] Biblical Criticism & History Forum –

[3] Number of the Beast – Wikipedia

[4] Colosseum – Wikipedia

[5] Kitos War – Wikipedia

[6] Simon bar Kokhba – Wikipedia

[7] Zealots (Judea) – Wikipedia

[8] The Jewish War – Wikipedia

[9] J. Quinton’s answer to Do atheists believe that Jesus was crucified?

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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in 2nd temple judaism, islam, Quora answers, religion


Ex-Muslim Atheists

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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in religion


I Answer Quora Questions

I thought I would repost the intermittent Quora questions that I answer here. 

So… yeah:


Where did the “devil sign” 666 come from? For that, we have to learn a bit about the history of written language.

You probably recognize the above as Roman Numerals.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
You recognize the above, but do you know what they’re called? Arabic Numerals[1]. Yes, our number lettering system comes from Arabs. This is why Romans used Roman Numerals: They just used the letters of their own alphabet to double as numbers.
Greeks civilization peaked before Roman civilization, so the Greeks did not use Roman Numerals. They used their own letters for numbers[2]:
And Jews used their own letters for numbers as well[3][4] (note– Hebrew is read from right to left):

א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י

So this means that spelling someone’s name out has a numeric equivalent. If, for example that makes sense, you know someone named “Vix”, this is 5 + 9 (V + IX) or 5 + 1 + 10 (V + I + X). You could talk in code about “fourteen” or about “sixteen” and people could infer that you’re talking about Vix.
So the “devil sign” isn’t actually 6–6–6, or three sixes. It is really six hundred and sixty six. Moreover, that isn’t the only “devil sign”; there are some manuscripts of Revelation that have six hundred and sixteen instead of six hundred sixty six[5]. Just like in the person named “Vix” example above, adding up someone’s name might result in different totals depending on how you parse the letters of their name.

With that being said, the name of god in Hebrew is YHWH or יְהוָה. Y is the number 10, H is the number 5, and W is the number 6. This adds up to 10 + 5 + 6 + 5, or 26[6].
[1] Arabic numerals – Wikipedia

[2] Greek numerals – Wikipedia

[3] Genesis 1 / Hebrew

[4] Hebrew numerals – Wikipedia

[5] The Other Number of the Beast

[6] 26 (number) – Wikipedia

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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Quora answers, religion


Trait Sensitivity to Contamination Promotes a Preference for Order, Hierarchy, and Rule-Based Moral Judgment


Models of moral judgment have linked generalized emotionality with deontological moral judgment. The evidence, however, is mixed. Other research has linked the specific emotion of disgust with generalized moral condemnation. Here too, the evidence is mixed. We suggest that a synthesis of these two literatures points to one specific emotion (disgust) that reliably predicts one specific type of moral judgment (deontological). In all three studies, we found that trait disgust sensitivity predicted more extreme deontological judgment. In Study 3, with deontological endorsement and consequentialist endorsement operationalized as independent constructs, we found that disgust was positively associated with deontological endorsement but was unrelated to consequentialist endorsement. Across studies, the disgust–deontology link was mediated by individual difference variables related to preference for order (right-wing authoritarianism and intolerance for ambiguity). These data suggest a more precise model of emotion and moral judgment that identifies specific emotions, specific types of moral judgment, and specific motivational pathways.

Jeffrey S. Robinson, Xiaowen Xu, Jason E. Plaks

Social Psychological and Personality Science

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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in religion

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