If Math Were Debated Like Religion

Not everyone debates religion in the way the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon below depicts. And it is problematic when religion tries to be like arithmetic. And yet I wonder how much it is the desire to offer proofs in a manner that only math can, that leads to debates about religion taking the form they sometimes do in our time.

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  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter


    • TomS


      In any case, we are both relying on an authority (a calculator). Just like we rely on authorities about the shape of the Earth (it’s not flat), whether the Earth is a planet of the Sun, the age of the Earth (billions, rather than thousands of years), … But we could do a rough check on the answer by counting the number of digits (I admit, I didn’t bother with that) to see that 4 is not a reasonable answer, just as we can do some checks on the shape of the Earth, the motion of the Earth, the age of the Earth, … to see that it is not a reasonable answer that the Earth is flat, fixed in space, a few thousand years old, …

  • Richard Gitschlag

    I don’t even need a calculator to tell me 4 is wrong… (hint: they’re all odd numbers)

    • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

      But, you see, that’s another reason arithmetic is unlike religious debates. In religious debates, a detailed answer is not important – only who is wrong and who is right.

      • Inoff and Non-obsequi

        This is why we should debate religion and math the way we conduct a battle of wits. Then all that matters is who is right, and who is dead(http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Princess_Bride)

        • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter


  • http://godhatesshrimp.com/ Dick Hertzer

    What’s so hard to understand. Jesus loves you more than anything you ever knew and if you don’t believe him, he will torture you for all eternity. Makes sense to me.

    • http://twitter.com/dland Dave Land

      That version of a supposedly-loving-but-ultimately-wrathful God reminds me of a Mafia Don: “Johnny … Why you gotta make me do this to you, Johnny? You disappoint me, and you know what I gotta do to people who disappoint me…”

      By the way, IIRC, it’s not Jesus, but His Dad who is so often credited with having the bipolar disorder.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

        I addressed this idea of a “Divine Protection Racket” here on this blog once before: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2013/09/divine-protection.html

        • http://twitter.com/dland Dave Land

          Exactly: “Nice soul you got there, buddy. Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was to get … you know … damned?”

  • Sandbur

    The Bible is not a book of mathematics.
    as a prime example is 1 Kings 7.23:

    Then he made the cast sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely.

    Prove it.

    • Herro

      One word: Approximation

    • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

      But neither can you boil down the Bible to “right” or “wrong”.

      For that matter, the Bible is not religion.

  • KatieFabulous

    Philosophical materialism, mathematical proofs and scientific reasoning are reductive, which renders them unsuitable means of expressing numinous experience. Of course, they are extremely useful in achieving their ends. Numinous experience simply has a different set of uses. Love, for instance, or guilt, or, forgiveness, or altruistic behavior, are not so easily explained by philosophical materialism. We use the numinous to talk about those kinds of phenomena. Both have their place

    • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

      … and by the “numinous” you mean God?

    • $41348855

      I’m not quite sure what you mean. It has been argued by some that conscious experience is incompatible with materialism. This would apply to all conscious experience, not just love or guilt. Is this your position, or do you think that love and guilt are incompatible with materialism, not because they are conscious experiences but because they are spiritual experiences?

      Also, you say that materialism and the numinous both have their places. But if materialism can’t explain the numinous then materialism is refuted, so it wouldn’t have its place after all. Could you clarify this. Thanks.