I understand that Family Radio spent millions on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the doomsday message. In 2009, the nonprofit reportedly claimed in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.
"That's a fair amount of money folks turned over," says Virginia.
It's not worth much if you know you won't be around any more after May 21, 6 PM. It reminds me of the mathematician, whose name I forget, who suggested discussing the existence of God in terms of probabilities. Ask yourself how important is the existence of God. What value would you place on it? A million dollars, a billion dollars, a trillion dollars? Let's say a billion dollars. Consider, if you think the chance that God exists is 100%, then the expected value to you of belief in God -- 1.0 x $1,000,000,000 -- is $1,000,000,000. Then consider, if you think the chance that God exists is 50/50, the expected value to you of belief in God -- .5 x $1,000,000,000 -- is $500,000,000. That's still a lot of green bills. Now consider, if you think the chance that God exists is only 1 in 100, then the expected value to you of belief in God -- .01 x $1,000,000,000 -- is $10,000,000. That's still worth a lot to most people. So is it worth believing? (By the way, a short youtube video on expected value is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAjVAEDil_Q.)
"That's downright silly," says Virginia. "What's the point? Belief is cheap? God is rich?"
Yeah well, belief may require more than nothing, like maybe changing the way you live or putting your life on the line once in a while. No formula is going to answer the real question.
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