This part is confusing me for a bit and I’m having trouble finding a correct answer to it.

Say you are an atheist and are playing a poker game and you get dealt two straight Royal flushes. You attribute this to luck and think wow you must be lucky. Your belief in god does not change.

Say now you are a Christian, realize you have a poker game to play today, and pray to Him. You then get two straight Royal flushes.

Clearly, the evidence with respect to the Royal Flushes is the same. The probability of each scenario is the same. So the only thing that could be different is how plausible each person finds the idea of a God who wants those royal flushes to happen.

This involves judging how plausible it is for this kind of God to exist. But what is the correct answer to this? If there is none, will an atheist and theist be in forever disagreement? I am aware that Bayesians use the concept of prior probability but what should this prior probability be?

What confuses me is how an explanation that involves Satan helping the Christian as a joke is seen as implausible. But we have no prior evidence for either of these things. So how can one say that a particular supernatural explanation is plausible.

  • 1
    I sorta get the question, but I think you already know most of the answer, so I don't know how to reply
    – user65174
    Mar 12 at 0:41
  • 2
    @zero Thinkingman has been tiptoeing around that question and repeatedly asking very similar questions forever in this forum.
    – Frank
    Mar 12 at 0:44
  • I suppose they are asking about revelation and miracles, but couched in the philosophy of science rather than religion @Frank personally i think believing in isolated miracles is very foolish, but ymmv and anyway i maybe only do so because i'm insane and like putnam
    – user65174
    Mar 12 at 0:47
  • @zero I can't tell if thinkingman is trying to coax "probabilities" into proving that god exists or doesn't exist, but either way, it's not going to work. First off, these probabilities don't have objective values. Second, even if you give yourself some subjective probabilities, you still need a decision criterion (something like the 5 sigma threshold in physics), which is absent here. So this is going nowhere. It might be best as a question in psychology, which I've already suggested.
    – Frank
    Mar 12 at 0:51
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    it's a shame no-one has just found an article or book that directly answers his questions @Frank
    – user65174
    Mar 12 at 0:53

4 Answers 4


Your question seems to me to be analogous to asking 'what is the correct soccer team to support?' or 'what is the correct music to like?'. There is no correct answer. Likewise when you ask 'what is the correct answer for justifying how plausible it is for God to exist?' there is no correct answer. Religion is a social phenomenon. People influence other people to accept things as true when there is no absolute basis for them. Those things are in a sense matters of opinion. You might want to reflect on the significance of this anecdote...

I was brought up in Birkenhead in the 1960s. I did not know it at the time, but there was a strong religious alignment to the two main football teams. In my school, which was Roman Catholic, virtually every child supported Everton, while the kids at the Church of England school down the road all supported Liverpool, and there were regular fights between the children from the two schools about footballing matters. Why do you think that was the case? Do you think the children applied priors to figure out which team had the higher probability of being the better team? Or was their fanatical commitment to a given team the result of adopting the irrational beliefs of their parents, siblings etc? The only rational and objective position to hold, IMHO, is to recognise that there is a high degree of mutual incompatibility between religious beliefs, therefore most of them must be wrong, and since it is impossible to decide which is more right than any other, you should suspend judgement and not allow yourself to be sucked in to any of them.

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    Another disturbing fact is that many prior gods, which probably were believed to exist with equal fervor to modern gods, are now completely forgotten without any worshipper. Where did they go? Who knows if in another 5000 years, the current christian god will not have passed and be replaced by another one?
    – Frank
    Mar 12 at 22:08

As an atheist, I have never understood the "if I pray for a low probability event and it occurs then God is plausible" argument. Attaching special significance to low probability events makes no more sense to me than attaching a special significance to high probability events (like the next sunrise). The only significance of the occurance of an extremely improbable event is the theory that can predict this occurrence reliably and repeatedly.

Just because a farmer found a potato who looks exactly like Elon Musk does not mean that Elon Musk should rule the world.

  • God is The Frenchman. 🤔 Mar 15 at 3:46

Religious beliefs are Latakian Research Programmes. The are adopted based on a suite of predictive and explanatory utility. Not a one off event.

If a theist prays regularly, and then does well at poker, but loses on nights he has not prayed, this would be evidence for a prayer loving God with a quid pro quo approach to the universe. However, the vast majority of theologians saying such an attitude is immoral and not Godly, would likely modify that belief.

If anomalous probabilities show up under lots of circumstances, then we should cast around for some natural phenomenon that could change the logic of statistics. Or possible entertain the idea of a trickster God. Do probabilities only go haywire around humans? Only in a good a way? If it instead consistent but just for a few humans and animals then the psi hypothesis becomes reasonable.

If our universe shows a pattern of malevolent deviations from probability, then a demonic God is a hypothesis one should then consider. If the universe shows a pattern of anomalous good luck followed by a worse catastrophe, then being tricked by an evil deity becomes even more plausible.

This discussion is treating religion naturalistically. An obstacle to this is the way many religious deny this should be done, and instead assert a faith based religion.

An excellent counter is in San Harris’s The End of Faith. Harris notes that in debates within a religion, the members use evidence and reasoning to argue a theological dispute with their fellows. Likewise between religions, arguments for or against a given religion are always based on evidence and reasoning. The dishonest recourse to “faith” is basically just a tactic the religious resort to when debating atheists. So ignore what theists say to YOU on this subject, and focus on what they say to each other.


How plausible is God? That seems to depend in no small part to a reasonable thinker on how much one wants to believe in God. Thus, a person who wants to believe in God tends to claim God is plausible, and a person who is against God tends to find arguments against the plausibility. Who is right? Well, as a philosophical pluralist, I tend to believe both sides have arguments that appeal to different sorts of people, and that the very nature of the "existence of God" differs between believers and non-believers. I believe that Gould's argument of non-overlapping magisteria is a somewhat persuasive argument to agree to disagree.

Ultimately, it relies on a beliefs about skepticism. A skeptic will say "unlike a tree, God is not physical and real obviously so the burden of proof is on the claimant to prove God exists, preferably in scientific terms". A believer will say "while God may not be real in the same way a tree is, between intuition and faith, we can prove God exists in some way, such as the consistency of God with his word in holy book X". Therefore plausibility of belief isn't objective in the same way arithmetic is, it is subjective, and it is so because belief is a psychological state.

You've noted that the frequentist notion of probability depends on the interpretation of debates. Thus, Pascal, who helped invent probability didn't have a problem with believing in God. In fact, he argued for it using his famous wager.

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