The Numbers game – Claim – “Islam is the fastest growing” … er, except it’s not.

lemmingsThere exists an on-line group that was established by some Muslims to “debunk” Atheism, and so given my stance I was added (without being asked). How are they doing so far? Not very well, but then how exactly do you de-bunk non-belief? the only way possible is to offer objective empirical evidence that some variation of belief is true, but the problem with that is that faith is believing stuff on the basis of no evidence at all.

Now here is a specific more down to earth example, the following claim was presented yesterday …

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the entire world and most of its converts are christians

So when asked for evidence, he advises …

I can back up with proof but I’d have to post it later. I’m not at my computer. I like to be challenged… I have a article that talks abt how catholics are the largest religion and how Islam is growing at a rate that it will surpass them…In shaa Allah

This perhaps in many ways is a bit like a teenage dick waving locker-room contest, “Hey, mine is bigger than yours“, (you know it is not going to work out for him). Today he came back with his “proof”, it consisted of an article in a China Daily blog posting (talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel), in which … oh, you be the judge, here is the meat of it …

Vatican City, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has finally admitted that Islam has now become the largest religion in the world.
‘For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,’ Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vaticannewspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

After a long wait the Vatican officially acknowledged that Islam is the religion most prevalent in the world, and passed Christianity more than three million insured across the globe for nearly a year ago, due to hold a large number of Westerners to this religion and according to the Vatican statement, the number of Muslims in the world has surpassed one billion and three million and twenty-two thousand Muslims in the world (1.322.000.000).

There are a number of very obvious problems here …

  • It is an anonymous blog posting … (hint: anybody can post anything). It apparently quotes some catholic Cardinal saying something, but provides no references to the source
  • Even if this quote is correct, so what, there is no statistical data available here to reference and verify
  • Even if factually correct, it is comparing one variation of Christianity against every single variation of Islam, a belief-system that is just as fragmented as Christianity is, so much so, that we see daily news reports of Muslims killing other Muslims because their variation of belief is different

When his daft “proof” was laughed at, our friend declares …

remove yourself from this group because its obvious all you athiests do is offend religion in order to push your illogical beliefs on ppl. You put down other religions but want ppl agree your example. Thats wack. I don’t care what you think abt my postings, the decision of ppl’s belief do not rest on opinion.

He then promptly ran off and so far has not been back. Not really a surprise, he has no evidence at all, so will do the usual thing of vanishing for a few days and hope that when he re-appears nobody will remember, and that the discussion will have moved on.

Does it Really Matter?
There is in fact a bigger flaw here. There is verifiable data that Islam is not the fastest growing …

… Statistical data on conversion to and from Islam are scarce. What little information is available suggests that there is no substantial net gain or loss in the number of Muslims through conversion globally; the number of people who become Muslims through conversion seems to be roughly equal to the number of Muslims who leave the faith.

… The limited information on conversion indicates that there is some movement both into and out of Islam but that there is no major net gain or loss. For instance, the Pew Forum’s survey of 19 nations in sub-Saharan Africa, conducted in 2009, found that neither Christianity nor Islam is growing significantly at the expense of the other through religious conversion in those countries.19 Uganda was the only country surveyed where the number of people who identified themselves as Muslim was significantly different than the number of people who said they were raised Muslim: 18% of Ugandans surveyed said they were raised Muslim, while 13% now describe themselves as Muslim, a net loss of five percentage points. In every other sub-Saharan Africa country surveyed, the number of people who are currently Muslim is roughly equivalent to the number saying they were raised as Muslims. This does not mean that there is no religious switching taking place. Rather, it indicates that the number of people becoming Muslim is roughly offset by the number of people leaving Islam.

… An independent study published in 2010 that examined patterns of religious conversion among various faiths in 40 countries, mainly in Europe, also found that the number of people who were raised Muslim in those countries, as a whole, roughly equaled the number who currently are Muslim.

However, even if Islam was actually attracting heaps of converts (its not) … so what. The fact that something is popular does not in any way establish that it is true.

Asserting something to be true because lots of people believe it is a type of argument is known by several names …appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people, argument by consensus, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, tyranny of the majority, but more formally in Latin as argumentum ad populum.

The fact that everybody around you apparently believes that once a year a chap in a red suit magically delivers presents, and on that day the gifts do in fact appear, does not in fact make the claimed belief true — ah but I guess you know that — you do don’t you?

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