Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Getting There

About a hundred years ago a friend of mine asked me to do a simple calculation.  What calculation, you ask?  The mass of eye boogers created over a normal human lifespan? The amount of acceleration required to launch the neighbors’ effing barking dog into the stratosphere? The amount of time he spends flipping through Popstar! magazines to fuel his disturbing crush on Justin Bieber?  Nope...thankfully {shudder}.  In this edition of The Missing Piece I am going to take a basic low-level engineering approach to determine what the probability is that an individual is actually going to heaven.  On the surface this seems like a pretty daunting task considering the charged atmosphere surrounding religion and the necessarily nebulous rules that each one employs to control its flock, but like most calculations I think we can do get pretty close with a few assumptions.  Here are the relevant assumptions as I see them:
  1. You either believe in God or you don’t.
  2. Belief in God implies, in this case, that you subscribe to a certain religion.
  3. The religion of your choice offers something more for your afterlife party.
  4. Simply by subscribing to your religion Capital-G automagically opens up the pearly gates regardless of your behavior while living.

Before we begin, here is a short list of what I’m not going to do:

  1. Dig through the dirty laundry of every religion to figure out which ones even believe in heaven.
  2. Interview clergy from each religion (if there are even clergy) to determine how one acquires the exact directions to heaven.
  3. Discuss the merits (if any) in belief in God or heaven or religion.  I’ll save that for a later date.
  4. Go to heaven.

With the above assumptions in mind, this should result in calculating the maximum probability of the devout meeting their maker

First, it seems obvious that an individual has two choices: believe in a supreme being (believer) or don’t (atheist).  Therefore, one’s odds of believing in God is 1 out of 2 or 0.5.

Now, of the people that believe in God some subset of them think that their deity (or deities) is THE ONE that holds their ticket to a cushy afterlife.  To these believers everyone else is a non-believing interloper that will boil in a vat of camel oil for eternity.  Based on that “logic” it is fair to assume that each religion is mutually exclusive.  So, theoretically, one of them must be the one true religion, all others are shite.  Currently there are approximately 4,200 religious groups that exist on Earth, each believing they are the shining light and the beacon of hope for all humanity.  As of this writing, the current population of the planet is 6,973,738,433.  Based on those numbers (assuming an even distribution) there is roughly one religion for every 1,660,414 people on the planet.  I think it is fair to assume that religion has been around as long as humans have.  Certainly archaeological digs seem to support this.  Over the course of human history there have been approximately 108 billion people that have walked the Earth.  Surely those people had souls, too; they must have gone somewhere, right?  If we assume the same ratio of religions to people over the course of human history there have been 65,044 religions since we were created. Some of these religions are monotheistic; some are polytheistic.  The top two religions today (based on the number of followers only) are monotheistic; however, number three on the list has no less than 306 deities, while some other religions have been documented to have over 1000 deities.  For the sake of calculation I will use the low estimate of 100 gods per religion.  This means there have been somewhere on the order of 6.5 million gods floating around the ether since Spider Grandmother used a hollow reed to create the sky.  For the benefit of doubt, let’s say there is about 50% overlap of gods throughout history, so there really have only been 3.25 million gods.  The believers’ temporal placement in history and physical placement geographically generally dictate which of these gods they choose, but for now I will leave this out and consider being a denizen of the Earth to be enough.

OK.  That’s most of the groundwork done.  One of these religions and therefore one of these gods holds the keys to the pearly gates.  What are the odds that the believer has selected the right one?  Assuming that there is some sort of natural selection or evolution of gods and that one of the current deities that survives today is THE ONE, the odds that someone has selected the right god today is approximately 1 out of 420,000 or 0.000002, if they are already a believer.  Multiplying that by 100 to account for the number of gods in the chosen religion, odds improve to 0.0002 or 0.02%.  Multiplying that by the chance of being a believer (0.5) the end result is 0.01%.  That doesn’t look too good.  If there is no natural selection among gods then all of the gods over all of human history are still in play, even though we may not know who they are.  Who knows, maybe He took all of his followers with Him off to paradise already?  Extending that calculation over the whole of human history, the odds that the believer has selected the right god is 0.0015%.  Jesus.  Hell must be huge!

To be fair, true believers generally believe that God created the entire universe so let’s include the rest of Her creation, shall we?  Current estimates for the number of exoplanets that lie within the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun is somewhere on the order of 10 billion in the Milky Way alone.  The Milky Way is just one of approximately 200 billion galaxies (low estimate) in the universe.  If even 0.1% of these exoplanets within the habitable zone have some form of life and only 0.1% of those supports “intelligent” life then there will be ~10,000 planets that harbor intelligent life in the Milky Way.  This translates to 2,000,000,000,000,000 (2 million billion) planets in the universe with intelligent life.  One would assume that some percentage of those would develop religions - let’s say 50%.  Let’s further assume that there are only 10 competing religions with 10 gods on each of those exoplanets.  That’s 1E17 more gods.  Our measly number of gods (3.25 million) doesn’t even factor into the noise.  Taking the chances of believing in God (0.5), multiplied by the chance of selecting the “real” God (1E-17), multiplied by the chances of that God being Earth-based (5E-16), Multiplied by the number of gods per religion (on Earth, 100) leaves the universal believer in the unenviable position of being right 1 out of 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times.  Odin’s beard!  That’s really not good.

Analyzing this a bit further, even if one assumes that we are alone in the universe and one assumes the believer’s god is still around (I don’t think these are fair assumptions, by the way), true believers have about a 0.01% of selecting the correct deity and therefore going to heaven.  Interestingly, that means only 700,000 out of the nearly 7 billion people on our fair planet may have a shot at reaching heaven.  The rest of the teeming masses can go suck a lemon.  Still, the individual that chooses not to believe has a 50% chance of being correct compared to 0.01% for the non-universal believer.

Choose wisely.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why the Internet Was Invented, Vol 6

Here is this month's version of everything (well, not exactly everything) weird and wonderful.


  1. Somehow my vision of an eternal Saturday isn't quite as bizarre as this.
  2. People do strange things with their pets...strange and awesome things.
  3. This is an old video, but it creeps me right the eff out.
  4. Many children were harmed in the making of this video.
  5. The symphony of science remixes Mr. Rogers.  Oddly addicting.
  6. Another symphony of science video explaining evolution.  The greatest show on earth.
  7. Yeah, well...just watch it.  You can kill me later.
  8. Yes, this is a real movie, and, yes, it is absolutely brilliant.
  9. I don't know how I didn't think of this.
  10. OH HELL YES!  Feast your eyes on the Japanese Spider Man.
  11. Han shot first, you bastard Lucas.


  1. This is a brilliant book, and it is well read.  Take a listen: How Religion Poisons Everything.
  2. Ever wonder why it's taking so long to get you Billy the Bass special order from China?  Wonder no more.
  3. Think you're a badass?  Well, here are the kings of badassery.  How do you stand up now?  That's what I thought.
  4. You have to read the product reviews for this one.  Nevermind how I found the link.
  5. Ken's coming-out page.
  6. Feel like making a Lego structure in Australia?  Of course you do.  You'll have to use Chrome to play.
  7. The last words of every person put to death in the state of Texas.