Where I actually am while writing this as a Boltzmann Brain
When I was younger there was a chain of thought I had regarding my testimony that hinged on Bayesian logic (although I didn’t know the term at the time).
Bayesian statistics and logic is a field that incorporates prior probabilities into current probabilities. For example, I heard (I don’t know if this is true) that most positive HIV tests are false positives, even though the false positive rate is low, say 5%. This is because, while the false positive rate is low, the chance that somebody actually has undetected HIV is quite a bit lower. Therefore, while the chance of you getting a positive HIV test when you don’t have HIV is low, the chance of you getting a positive HIV test when you don’t have HIV conditional on you already having a positive HIV test is high.
In terms of testimony. For me personally I haven’t had one huge Moroni’s promise experience, but rather a lot of accumulated ones and the occasional big one (usually when things are hitting the fan). Of course, motivated reasoning and feeling is a thing, so there is always the possibility that since I have been raised to believe that I would feel spiritual confirmations of the truth claims of the Church, then in some subconscious level I produced such confirmations.
(Of course, if that were the case my testimonial route would have probably been the more expected route of finishing the Book of Mormon, closing it, praying in my knees, then feeling a lifted up burning in the bosom. I don’t begrudge others having had that experience, it just hasn’t happened to me.)
Where Bayes comes in is when I incorporate the prior of me being a member.
If the Church is true, the chance that I happened to be born into the One True and Living Church is quite small given the billions of people on the earth. Even if I think that the chance that my spiritual experiences were subconsciously generated is quite small, the chance that I have generated subconscious support for the spiritual paradigm I was raised in could arguably be seen as having a higher probability than the idea that I was born into the One True and Living Church.
A couple things though:
- At some point we just have to run with what we feel. There is no math equation for why slavery is wrong. For the vast majority of human history slavery has been a-okay socioculturally. I happened to luck out and be born in a time period when it isn’t–but it’s still wrong and I’m going to trust my feelings on that.
- There’s a limit to how powerful the subconscious is. People leave religions all the time. If we start going down the rabbit hole of thinking all of our conclusions are based on subconscious wiring and aren’t based in anything substantive, that extends to a lot more than just religious beliefs.
- I’ve already demonstrably won a lot of lucky die rolls. Of the 100 billion or so humans who have ever lived I (and you, probably) won the roll of a 300-sided die when it comes to quality of life. If we start considering the chance that my particular chain of ancestors and their gametes came together to form me then the chance becomes infinitesimally small. Of course, there is a gigantic number of rolls, so I’m not sneaking an intelligent design argument in here, but for my particular conscious self I already won the lottery multiple times while being hit by lightning so that knowledge gets me used to the idea of winning the die roll of being born in the Church.
- And then if we start thinking deeply about those really small probabilities, that leads us to rather bizarre places like the Boltzmann Brain and the simulation hypothesis. (Indeed, one of the issues with Bayesian logic is that if you fiddle with the priors you can get it to say anything including; for example, defending the reality of the Resurrection but also the idea that Jesus Christ never existed as a historical person).
So I could be a Boltzmann Brain floating in a multiverse with false spiritual memories, or I could be in the matrix, or I could just have a lot of internally consistent spiritual experiences generated by subconscious triggers embedded in me during my childhood, but as with a lot of other beliefs it just makes sense to, in the absence of disconfirming empirical evidence, take at face value the sensory experiences I’ve had and live life accordingly.