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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DisComforting Fetish: Pascal's Wager

So, when you ask an atheist "What if you're wrong?" as a serious question against their disbelief... you should first ask yourself "How could they not have asked themselves this already?"

Pascal's Wager is almost as unlikely to convert an atheist as quoting Scripture at them. Nevertheless, while searching through Ray's past posts for his statements about the arrogance of atheists for "Haughty, Audacious Arrogance," I found a surprising number of comments threatening Pascal's Wager. Here's just the first five hits for the keywords of "if you're wrong":
Arizona athiest IF you are right and we Christians are wrong then you will not even know it as there will be nothing after life. On the other hand if you are wrong, then there will be hell to pay...literally! Don't gamble with your eternity.

If you are right (we know better because we’ve gone into communication with God), you have nothing to lose, but if you are wrong, you have everything to loose. Whether you believe or not, if there could be (never mind all testaments) and as far as you could possibly know, there COULD be, eternal life with God, doesn’t it make sense to error on that side? That is, you don’t know there isn’t, and denying is not going to make eternal judgment less true. How foolish-no wonder God wrote all those scriptures about fools. Don’t be one.

But, the words you wrote, will be required of you in the day of Judgment. You can think that as fairy tale, too, if you like. But, the fact is, one day, like the rest of us, you will have to face death. What do you believe happened after someone dies? Do you have any evidence of what you believes is true? Will you be willing to stake your lives on what you believes regarding what happened to someone after death? Because, you are. Please, I beg of you. Just think about it, what if you are wrong? You are staking everything on this.

#4: (was preceded by science statements which I've italicized)
I believe God created man. I do not believe man created God. I have a degree in science and understand the difference between micro and macro evolution. I choose to worship the Creator rather than the created. If I am wrong, I have nothing to lose. If you are wrong, you have made the biggest mistake of your life.

We don't deny uncertainty--we just say not to place your eternal fate in the hands of uncertain things, because death is irreversible, and, if you are wrong, you can't get back to change it. Go with what is real--Jesus Christ, the risen Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
To those Christians who subscribe to this blog who choose to use Pascal's Wager, I will briefly explain why you shouldn't use it. Better explanations are linked at the bottom as this is a well debunked argument (oft described as "fractally wrong").
  • It assumes a false dichotomy between atheism and Christianity. There are thousands of religion; why should we give any more credence to Christianity? Many are mutually exclusive. For example, Christianity teaches that Muslims go to Hell while Islam teaches that Christians go to Hell.
  • It assumes God simply rewards belief... or belief at all.
  • It assumes that you can will yourself to believe something.
  • It assumes all current religions are the only possible considerations. It could very well be there is a God who has not revealed himself yet in any religion.
  • It assumes God would reward someone who is simply choosing to believe to avoid Hell.
  • There is a great toll to pay if you believe and are wrong. You do not simply "lose nothing." You lose, by virture of having only one life, everything. There is a serious price to pay for compliance.
There could just as easily be, and probably more likely, a God who punishes blind faith and rewards critical thinking. There could also be a God who punishes non-computer scientists as computer scientists are most like his profession of intelligently designing, in which case I'm covered.

If I were to wager on something regarding Pascal's Wager, it would be that every atheist has asked himself "What if I'm wrong?" It's something the troubled me greatly as I was coming around to a rational view from my fundamentalist beliefs. It was a heavy weight to bear; I was constantly tormented with the thought of not only Hell, but of disappointing Yahweh. I still am occasionally haunted by such feelings as they were so inculcated in me as a child. So, when you ask an atheist "What if you're wrong?" as a serious question against their disbelief... you should first ask yourself "How could they not have asked themselves this already?"

More Information
Here is a two-minute debunking of Pascal's Wager.


The Ranting Student said...

You rule the internet.

Yeah, Pascal's wager seems to be the christian "secret weapon"... but like the other one [which happened to be a fruit], it failed.

Thanks for the resources.

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Thanks. What I've always marveled at is how Christians ask "What if you're wrong?" I think there's two things going on in their mind which lead to them asking this:

1) It presumes we have never asked ourselves, "What if we're wrong?" I think it has to do with part two below, that they've never asked it of themselves -- they assume that atheists are just as dogmatic and brought up unquestioning in it.
2) I doubt they've asked it of themselves: "What if I'm wrong? What if Islam is the one true religion? If that's true, I'm going to burn in Hell."

I'd say my second favorite response to "What if you're wrong?" is that given by Richard Dawkins.

Anonymous said...


"I doubt they've asked it of themselves:"

Many times....yet the fact remains...that......I positively, truthfully, and honestly know that I am not wrong about God, and Jesus!

I know you will probably ask me how I know I am not wrong , and I honestly wish that I could give you the right words, or show you the perfect scripture that would convince you that there is indeed a God...but I can't,,or better yet, you probably would not accept it....I can only pray for you, and hope that the Lord shows you His way. For His way is the only way!

I know this probably want convince you but,,,I believe in God and Jesus simply because I believe in Love,,,and to me God represents all that is'll probably come back with something such as...If God is all loving then why does He allow such suffering or, God allowed those children to be stoned, etc. etc.

I understand why many non-believers don't believe in God simply because of those statements, but if one want's to truly understand the ways of God then he/she needs to read His word...The Bible...and when I say read the Bible, I mean to read the Bible as if you are going to sit down and read your favorite book,,,I guess what I am trying to say read the Bible without actually despising and ridiculing it. Read it with open sincerity..don't be hostile.:)

I have seen so many scripture been twisted and abused so many times that the true Word of God is not displayed as it truly should be.

I trust that God is all loving, and while something in scripture may seem twisted or un-God like I trust that God knew what He was doing. For I do not know the reaonings and the why's of Gods plan..I only know that I trust Him to unfold it to His will.

I hope that cleared a little bit of your confusion up....!

Have a great day DI! I hope your family is doing well! Send them my love!

In Christian Love,

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Hey Brittany,

If you have first hand knowledge of it, then that fully justifies your belief in it. Thomas Paine (a deist) wrote that:

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

So, if revelation comes to you, I have no problem saying that you are fully justified in your belief. Revelation, though, is an inherently first-hand experience, and therefore cannot justify anyone else's belief.

Your revelation justifies your Christian belief. In the same way, the Muslims who say they have revelations and therefore know there is indeed a God who is of the Qur'an are also justified. As are any others who claim first-hand knowledge.

The mistake Ray makes, though, is trying to say that should convince others, which I'm glad to see that you acknowledge that such statements shouldn't suffice.

If the Christian God revealed himself to me and I could know that it is indeed Him, I would become a Christian (at least in belief) in a heartbeat. If the Muslim God revealed himself to me and I could know that it is indeed Him, I would become a Muslim (at least in belief) in a heartbeat. As I've mentioned before, I draw a distinction between belief and practice/worship.

As for the Bible, I could not read it without a critical eye. The tales in the Bible shock my conscience. I remember loving the tale of Noah's Ark as a kid, but reading it now I writhe in discomfort at the horrors of it. The entity we are supposed to believe is all perfect, all just, and all loving killed everything on Earth... including infants and pregnant women. Such tales I could never reconcile with my conscience.

That is not to say that there isn't good stuff in the Bible. There's a lot of good stuff, a lot of good morals, and a lot of good stories. But there's also a lot of bad stuff, a lot of bad morals, and a lot of bad stories. I would expect from a perfect being nothing less than perfection. Of course, over time it would be corrupted, perverted, and altered, which is another reason I would be skeptical of holy texts in general.

You know, Thomas Paine also believed in a loving God. He believed in one God who gave us and the entire universe life, and he paid Him great honor for that. He wrote furiously against the Bible as it ascribed horrific, monstrous, demonic acts to the God who gave him everything:

People in general do not know what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! it is quite another thing; it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty?

He took creation to be the word of God, as opposed to a book. He famously wrote, to this end:

That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.

I quote Thomas Paine because your comment reminded me a lot of him and how he felt about God. He did very much believe in a loving God, one who created us and offered up the universe to us. He could not bring himself, though, to ascribe those parts of the Bible or Qur'an which seemed more the "word of a demon" to God.

- Jonathan