Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A god at the video store?

This comment was recently posted on my Atheist's Riddle post. The original comment is in blue, and my response is in black.

I don't know why, but I have been heavily debating internally for the past few years about the existance of God. I look at religion and all of the pain and destruction that it has caused throughout the history of mankind, and science has come so far in recent times and solved so many of the great mysteries of the universe. Yet for some reason I've always had this lingering feeling of the presence of a higher power. Now I have figured one thing out for damn sure, and that is that no form of organized religion (at least any of the ones that I know about) can possibly be right. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddism, they all are built upon stories and myths that cannot possibly be completely true. Personally I think these religions are merely stories that got blown out of proportion via a giant longterm game of "telephone" throughout hundreds of generations. But I always thought that there could be something more than meets the eye.

Congrats for figuring out that the world's religions are ridiculous! I like you. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to use some sarcasm and a harsh tone further down, in order to try to get you to see that your argument is just as ridiculous. Sorry, but sarcasm is one of my best tools.

Due to a couple of extreme coincidental occurences in the past days and the fact that I read this artical when I did I feel I have no choice but to believe in a higher power watching over me.

This should be interesting.

You see, yesterday a friend of mine who's roommate is moving out in a couple of weeks asked me if I wanted to move in and take their place because I had recently been staying with my folks due to an unexpected financial crisis.
I was eager to take him up on the offer as some tension had been building between my parents and I due to the fact that they had been asking me to pay an amount of rent considerably more than the cost of my staying with them. I kind of took it as a slap in the face considering that I had fallen under some financial strife and was trying to get resituated.
Later on last night (the same night) I picked up a couple of random movies from "Family Video" (blatant corporation namedrop, sorry) and went over to my girlfriend's place and watched them. I got two movies, "No Good Deed" (two stars) and "Slingshot" (three stars). I noticed an astounding coincidence that in both movies there was a part where the main characters had to take a vehicle and switch over the license plate and it showed a close up of them screwing on the new plates with a screwdriver. Seriously rent these movies and watch them, it is a WEIRD coincidence because I had never heard of either of them before and I randomly picked them out of hundreds, possibly THOUSANDS of movies. I would seriously like to get the odds on that.

You'd like to get the odds on that? Out of possibly THOUSANDS of movies (or maybe just hundreds)? Thousands is not a lot, so I'm not intimidated by this challenge. Let's try it. Hollywood copies ideas often, so let's assume that every movie in that store had one other movie in which a scene is repeated in some way. If you rented one movie, and had THOUSANDS (again, I'm not scared) of possibilities to choose from, let's say two-thousand, then you'd have a 1 in 2,000 chance of choosing that movie as your second. Those odds are not improbable. In fact, if events with these kinds of chances are possible to occur in your life once a day, then you'd have one occur every 6 years, or roughly 12 times in the lifespan of the average American. The odds of winning the lottery are often millions or tens of millions to one, but nearly every week, somebody seems to win. If an event has a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of occurring to any given person in any given day, then it will occur to 33 people in your country every single day! Is that evidence of the existence of gods? Or is it just evidence that you're not so good at probabilities?

And I really take exception to your choice of events. You think there might be a personal god watching you because you rented two movies with identical scenes from the video store?! Seriously?! Well, good to know that while this god was helping you rent movies to communicate its existence to you, it was not intervening while hundreds, perhaps thousands, of little kids in your country got raped by their daddies. Good to know it didn't intervene in the helicopter crash that killed over a dozen people in Canada, or the shootings in the US and Germany around the day you sent me this. What kind of fucked up logic are you using? People put themselves on such a pedestal that they think minor events in their little lives are more important than all of the suffering going on in the world. Their gods help them win awards or the big game, but don't seem to mind really horrific events occurring to other people.

And now today I come home from work and find out that my Dad could possbly be getting laid off of his job, the VERY DAY after my friend had asked me to move in and AND the movie coincidence.

How many people have lost their jobs in your country in the last few months? I found a figure suggesting 1.8 million jobs lost since January. And how many more are in danger of losing their job, like your dad? Another 10 million? More? So this isn't exactly exclusive company, nor an event with a low probability. Your country has been averaging more than 20,000 lost jobs every day this year, and I'll bet tens of thousands more people got the same sort of news that your father did on that day.

Then, not five minutes later I stumble upon this atheist's riddle/theist's riddle argument.

It's advertised all over the internet. I see it several times a week. It's advertised using Google AdWords, and possibly other similar systems. In order to trigger the ad, you would have had to have been reading and/or searching for content related to religion, which you seem to be confessing you have been. It wasn't a god, it was fricking Google! And I do know how you found my rebuttal to the argument. You searched for atheist's riddle in a search engine. I can see that from the tracking software. You were looking for it. You found it because I took the effort to write it, not because a god put it there for you. Although, if you want to think I'm a god, be my guest, and send money! So basically, you found content related to what you were looking for or reading about. That's what internet advertising does (is supposed to do). It gives you relevant content. There is nothing divine about this.

What does it mean?

Nothing. Well, it means that shit happens, that you're bad at probabilities, and that you can be easily convinced/duped.

Well all I can say is that it's just too many longshot occurrences in too short a span of time for me to just pass off as "a funny coincidence"

I don't agree. If people are this easy to persuade, no wonder religions have managed to dominate much of human history, and continue to hold most of the world's population hostage!

I really don't know what to say. I believe in science, I believe in evolution, I believe in progress. But after this I must say that I also believe in something unseen as well.

I'm sorry I wrote so much and take from it what you will. It is what it is. I'm out.

And no, I didn't make up a word of this. I'm not that lame.

Glad to hear it. Sorry I had to be so harsh, but you're slipping out of rational thought. I found this email to be a really weak argument, in fact, it's the weakest I've seen in a long time.

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