Posted this in response to a blog about “proofs” of islam:
The fact that multiple religions use the same types of evidence (prophecy, miracles, faith healing, answered prayers, supposed “science” in ancient texts, revelation and so on) and that those religions have mutually exclusive claims logically invalidates those forms of evidence, because something cannot be considered valid evidence that 1+1=2 and also be valid evidence that 1+1=4.
This is (partly) why I am unimpressed by those forms of evidence. They all have additional problems as well, prophecies for example are often written after the fact or are so vague they are bound to come true eventually, ie “it will rain some time”, if it came true, would prove nothing. Even if it didn’t rain for a thousand years the faithful could just say “It hasn’t rained… yet.” A prediction must be specific enough to be falsifiable and be something you cannot predict by other means to be impressive. Many of the prophecies in scripture are very lame. Another problem is that the author of the text claiming the prophecy was fulfilled usually knows the exact text of the prophecy and so could simply write that it had been fulfilled. As a result prophecies at least in the old/new testament are often fulfilled multiple ways, there are two very different versions of judas’ death but the part that was in the old testament prophecy (about the blood money being used to buy a potter’s field) is conveniently the same in both stories. In fact it’s pretty much the only thing that is the same. And joseph (jesus’ father) is given two different fathers, both of whom conveniently fit the lineages in the old testament prophecies. This to me suggests a pattern of events being fit to the prophecy by the authors of these texts. I don’t know enough about the koran to know if there is a similar pattern. But things like prophecies and miracle accounts are supremely unimpressive to me, they’re a dime a dozen in the world of organized religion. And as I said elsewhere the “there’s advanced science in the koran” argument is used by christians and it’s easy to read advanced scientific ideas into any ancient text. That is a result of human creativity and pattern seeking, it’s like seeing shapes in clouds or patterns in wood grain. People often use their scripture like a magic ball to see what they want to see in it because anyone with a little intelligence can easily interpret a passage several different ways, so they can decide that a passage means whatever interpretation is most pleasant to them or most fits their preconceived ideas about the world (the intuition they use to do this is often called the holy spirit or some other term for god’s influence). So in this way scripture is not a source of objective knowledge but rather a mirror we hold up to ourselves and call god. This is why there are so many different sects of christianity and islam. The more the islamic theocracies collapse the further the religion will splinter just as christianity did. And islam will be a different religion entirely depending on who you are talking to, and every one of them will think they’re following The Truth and everyone else are deceived or foolish or wicked.