If Christianity Were True Compared With If Christianity Were False

One of the things Bayesian thinking requires from us, aside from thinking exclusively in terms of the probabilities, is that we must compare the probabilities of alternative hypotheses. I don't do the math though, since I have a hard time assigning numbers to the probabilities. For instance, is it 1 in 100,000 that Jesus was raised from the dead, 1 in a million, 1 in a billion, or is it 1 in 60 billion (the number of homo sapiens that have ever walked the earth)? It's probably the later. Nonetheless, I can get along just fine without stating these numbers. It communicates better to the non-technical person, the educated person in the pew, the university student. So, let's compare these two hypotheses: 1) If Christianity were true what would we expect to find? 2) If Christianity were false what would we expect to find? Then let's see how each hypothesis fares. Join in with me.

If Christianity were true what would we expect to find?

What we need to decide here is which version of Christianity we're talking about. There have been and still exist thousands. So Christian, given your particular sect and theology how many others have embraced everything exactly as you believe? Probably not many at all, right? Those are already low odds. I'd have to know which one I'm talking about to see the number of Christians who have embraced what you do, so I cannot do that. Evangelicalism in America claims a huge number of people but between them there are many variants. World-wide I don't think evangelicalism is in a majority, not by a long shot. It's a strictly American phenomenon that has been transplanted on to other shores through missionary efforts.

Perhaps instead we should talk about "mere Christianity," that is, the essential doctrines most Christians accept whereby one's salvation is at stake if not believed. That too is up for grabs among Christians, even evangelicals. There are exclusivists, of course, but there are inclusivists, and even evangelical universalists. Still other Christians embrace a religious pluralism while still others are non-biblical universalists.

Nonetheless, let's proceed anyway to see if some nebulous form of Christianity is what we would expect to find if Christianity in general is true.

For comparison purposes what does a false religion look like? Christians reject the various Christian cults and world religions except their own, so we can use that as a standard for what a false religion looks like.

What do false religions look like? They look as if they are invented out of the imaginations of the people who started them. They are man-made, so to speak.

We would expect that the longer the religion has been in existence then the more it has evolved to be relevant to later generations. We would expect the concept of that deity to evolve as the world got bigger (i.e., from a tribal society with a tribal god, to a worldwide society with an omni-monotheistic god). However, the deity of that religion should act according to the attributes ascribed to him, otherwise we can legitimately think that religion was man-made. If that god were omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenelovent, then we should see evidence that he acts accordingly, rather than allowing so much human and animal carnage in the world (Just think of the Black Death Plague).

We would expect the morality and politics of that religion to evolve too (gone is any justification of genocide and the divine rights of kings in a civilized democratic modern society).

Their holy books, if they have them, contain nothing in them that reveals a real deity behind them. The revelations written down are private subjective experiences supposedly from their deity received by means of visions, divinations and dreams. If written before the rise of science they do not reveal anything about modern science, or medical advances, or the scientific method itself, except perhaps as good human guesswork. They do not predict anything about our era that is not already foreseeable by the people living at the time they were written (i.e., that human beings will always be selfish, prideful, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, pestilence, and so forth), except for predictions of the end of the world along with a paradise for obedient believers, which most probably won't end the way they predict.

We would expect that scientific tests on petitionary prayers offered to that religion's deity would show they are answered no better than chance.

We might find miracle claims in these writings but the evidence for them is long gone and has no force any more, since it cannot be retrieved. A religion cannot be justified based on its success either, otherwise Scientology, Mormonism and Islam could all be justified for the same reason. So believers cannot claim that the people who initially believed had any good reasons or evidence for their religion (just think of the origins of Mormonism).

Basically then (and I could say much more) false religions look like they were created entirely by human beings. Now it's always possible that even though they were created by human beings that there was a divine mind behind it all, and that the true religion evolved down through the ages into the modern world. But it's not probable at all.

If Christianity were false what would we expect to find?

See above. It would look just like it was created entirely by human beings.

Christianity looks like this, most emphatically so.