Almost any supernatural explanation can be made more complex by adding another entity. For example, there is no way to discount the theory that there is a devil pretending to be God who will ultimately put all Christians in hell and everyone else in heaven despite writing the Bible.

Many Christians will likely discount this explanation since it seems more complex. For without using this razor, how could it possibly be discounted? By this very logic, since it is possible for naturalism to explain everything written in the Bible, does that make all supernatural explanations self defeating? Does this mean that Occam’s razor is selectively used?

  • 2
    Start '... all religious people...' with Occam himself who was a theologian in the same bracket as Aquinas and a committed Christian
    – Rushi
    Mar 6, 2023 at 2:09
  • 3
    A possible problem with Occam's razor is that there might not be agreement about what is "simple" or "sufficient" or "minimal" and what is not.
    – Frank
    Mar 6, 2023 at 2:15
  • 1
    Everybody "cherry picks" Occam's razor, often knowingly, it is meant to be "cherry picked". There is no unique notion of simplicity (ontological, descriptive, logical, explanatory, methodological, etc.), so one has to pick one, and no fixed criteria for judging what is "simpler", so one has to pick that too. Without injecting preferences and judgment calls the razor cannot be applied at all.
    – Conifold
    Mar 6, 2023 at 3:52
  • 1
    Occam's razor is not a tool for demonstration, but an heuristic to set priorities between hypothesis in an inquiry. It shouldn't be used to tell what is true, not even what is more probable. In your exemple it's application leads to prioritize, before enquiring about wether god is a malevolent being with a plan to lure believers, first enquire if there is indeed a god at all.
    – armand
    Mar 6, 2023 at 6:42
  • 1
    There is no way for naturalism to explain everything that is written in the Bible except by discounting everything that cannot be explained by naturalism. Mar 6, 2023 at 7:27

1 Answer 1


Occam's razer is simply a heuristic for selecting theories, not a guide to how the world really is. A simpler theory for the most part generalizes better, is easier to work with, might predict (in the domain you are interested in) as well as the more complex theory. But it doesn't tell you the simpler theory is TRUE. Why would the universe be simple in reality, anyway?

You would use Newton's theory of gravity despite knowing it is not our currently best theory of gravity, when you work in domains where the inaccurracy is negligible. I am pretty sure we are expecting more wrinkles in our theories to pop up eventually, but it will be in domains that are even further from what we want/need to predict for the most part.

I have tried multiple times to write a paragraph on the subject of revealed religion and Occam's razor, but was unsatisfied with the result. I think trying to apply Occam's razor to revealed religion is denying or ignoring what the "revealed" part claims to be.

You must log in to answer this question.