How do I know that your god is The One, True God: Q6?

The following is part of a Series called Conversation with a Deconverter.

Infant Bacchus torn from Semele’s womb to be s...

Infant Bacchus torn from Semele’s womb to be sewn into Jupiter’s thigh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question Number Six

As a reminder, we are not talking about proof or even a great argument, just which of two possibilities is more likely.

About Informational Influence

How can 2 billion people be wrong? It sounds compelling at first. But research shows that when subjects are asked to make a trivial assessment of fact with no knowledge of anyone else’s assessment, their accuracy is about 98%. And when that same assessment is performed after the subject observes the incorrect conclusions of several other subjects the subject reaches the correct conclusion only about one-half the time. Human beings tend to be influenced rather strongly by the ancillary information fed to them.

This has been replicated many times over the years. With a sufficient number of trials, not less than 75% of the general population’s views will conform to the erroneous perception of total strangers.

But what happens when the choice is nontrivial? Now increase the stakes. The accuracy plummets yet further.

The studies have been performed in many different ways. Police line ups, for example, show the same pattern. There the error conformity rate is found to be around 51% when a subject is asked to identify someone in a line up when others in the same room choose the wrong person (they conform to their confederates and are wrong). So, 51% of the time a person will incorrectly identify a suspect solely because everyone else in the room did.

Therefore, false beliefs can be generated with statistical reliability by making an idea popular. And the more ambiguous the judgment the higher the rates of conformity to false beliefs. People do this very thing when acculturated to the religion of, say, a particular geographic region, just as repeatedly occurred over and over in the myth of the immaculate conception of Semele.

Semele, mother of Dionysus

Semele, mother of Dionysus, was also believed to have had a 7 month pregnancy, just as the Virgin Mary of the narratives of YHWH.

In the life of Zoroaster, the law-giver of the Persians, the common mythos is apparent. He was born in innocence, of an immaculate conception, of a ray of the Divine Reason. As soon as he was born the glory from his body enlightened the whole room. Plato informs us that Zoroaster was said to be “the son of Oromasdes, which was the name the Persians gave to the Supreme God” –therefore he was the Son of God.

From the East we will turn to the West, and shall find that many of the ancient heroes of Grecian and Roman mythology were regarded as of divine origin, were represented as men, possessed of god-like form, strength and courage; were believed to have lived on earth in the remote, dim ages of the nation’s history; to have been occupied in their life-time with thrilling adventures and extraordinary services in the cause of human civilization, and to have been after death in some cases translated to a life among the gods, and entitled to sacrifice and worship. In the hospitable Pantheon of the Greeks and Romans, a niche was always in readiness for every new divinity who could produce respectable credentials.

The Christian Justin Martyr, wrote:

It having reached the Devil’s ears that the prophets had foretold the coming of Christ (the Son of God), he set the Heathen Poets to bring forward a great many who should be called the sons of Jove. The Devil laying his scheme in this, to get men to imagine that the true history of Christ was of the same character as the prodigious fables related of the sons of Jove.

Among these “sons of Jove” may be mentioned the following: Hercules was the son of Jupiter by a mortal mother, Alcmene, Queen of Thebes. Zeus, the god of gods, spake of Hercules, his son, and said: “This day shall a child be born of the race of Perseus, who shall be the mightiest of the sons of men.”

Bacchus (Dionysis) was the son of Jupiter and a mortal mother, Semele, daughter of Kadmus, King of Thebes. As Montfaucon says, “It is the son of Jupiter and Semele which the poets celebrate, and which the monuments represent.”

Dionysis is made to say:

I, son of Deus, am come to this land of the Thebans, Bacchus, whom formerly Semele the daughter of Kadmus brings forth, being delivered by the lightning-bearing flame: and having taken a mortal form instead of a god’s, I have arrived at the fountains of Dirce and the water of Ismenus.

Amphion was the son of Jupiter and a mortal mother, Antiope, daughter of Nicetus, King of Boeotia.

Prometheus, whose name is derived from a Greek word signifying foresight and providence, was a deity who united the divine and human nature in one person, and was confessedly both man and god.

In Fabulae 167 by Hyginus we see the earliest account of Semele’s impregnation, apparently and by definition, an immaculate conception:

[167] CLXVII. LIBER

Liber, son of Jove and Proserpine, was dismembered by the Titans, and Jove gave his heart, torn to bits, to Semele in a drink. When she was made pregnant by this, Juno, changing herself to look like Semele’s nurse, Beroe, said to her: “Daughter, ask Jove to come to you as he comes to Juno, so you may know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god.” At her suggestion Semele made this request of Jove, and was smitten by a thunderbolt. He took Liber from her womb, and gave him to Nysus to be cared for. For this reason he is called Dionysus, and also “the one with two mothers.”

This myth was taken and spread curiously analogously to the spread of civilization in the ancient past. Of particular interest for us is how this belief spread in its inchoate incubators at the beginning of each transferal to a new culture. In other words, adherence to this narrative followed the “masses” who give rise to Informational Influence.

If we consider a typical adherent of this myth, and considering a typical adherent across the several and varied cultures over which this narrative survived and was believed, is it more likely that this was adherence to this belief was due to Informational Influence or because Zeus is the one, True god and yours is not?

I will ignore for the moment the obvious similarity to the virgin birth of The Christ, as told in the Judeo-Christian narrative. For now, I am just curious about Informational Influence.

Is it more likely that belief in this narrative was due to Informational Influence or is it more likely that belief in this narrative was due to the fact that Zeus is the One, True God and yours is not?

Go to Question Number Seven

Júpiter llança Vulcà des de l'Olimp, Museu d'Òstia

Júpiter llança Vulcà des de l’Olimp, Museu d’Òstia (Photo credit: Sebastià Giralt)

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5 comments
  1. Okay, we have an answer, with some questions. This doesn’t prove anything about the Virgin Mary, right? And this virgin is called Semele? Also, you are using examples to show three different things. Agenticity, Confirmation Bias and Informational Influence. Couldn’t any combination of these be a factor in any combination of the examples you gave? Anyway, we concluded that Informational Influence is more likely to have caused people to believe this.

  2. Hey Mia,
    No, this doesn’t prove anything about the Virgin Mary or anything else. It’s just to help us illustrate what is going on. Yes, the virgin in this narrative is called Semele, but she has similarities to the Virgin Mary of Christendom. And yes!, you are a few steps ahead. But yes, any of these phenomenon could apply to any of the examples. That’s why I asked for you to tell me which is more likely based just on the two chocies given. We’ll see later that the odds that *at least* one of these things was probably present in each case. Since your answers seem to be consistent with what I was thinking, I’ll go ahead and move to question 7.
    – kk

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