May 8, 2006

Pascal's Wager: Might As Well Bet On Atheism



That Pascal dude sure makes it tough for us Atheists. What is more important?: living the life of a righteous believer so that we can have an opportunity at life everlasting in heaven, or live a life that most likely will be just as righteous, but possibly being rewarded with an eternity in hell because we didn't believe in God or suck up to him.

First off, which God are we supposed to suck up to? There are over 3400 potential Gods to choose from according to Godchecker.com. Many Christians say, that according to their interpretation of the bible (written by many different men and maybe even some women), we must accept Jesus Christ to ensure our place in heaven.
Of course, the Christian cult than breaks off even more, and each sect has different rules to get into heaven, or stay out of hell. Most of these sects allow for do overs if you did something really bad, or even if you did lots of really terrible things, just as long as you die sincerely accepting Jesus as you personal saviour. Some sects say that Jews are exempt because we a chosen, we don't have to accept Jesus to get in. Of course, most say that Jews don't get in because we turned our back on Jesus.


Then you have those Muslim, Hindu, Scientology, Jewish, etc. beliefs to deal with.
And many Muslims believe the suicide bombers are Martyrs, and they are the closest you can get to their God (personally I would think hell for them....but). Most Orthodox Jews believe that Jews must follow (or at least try as hard as humanly possible to follow) the 613 Mitzvot (commandments). Of course, you can't do that and accept Jesus at the same time unless you are Jew for Jesus, who by covering a couple of religions, take Pascal even more seriously than mono religious people.
You have the Buddhists who believe that some sort of Kharmatic force dictates what our next life is going to be. I still don't get where 6.5 billion people reincarnated from. It couldn't be people. Must have been insects. But what were todays insects in their past lives? At least if they are right, we don't have to worry about accepting God or Jesus, or Mohammed.

God, if he exists, got so fed up with people believing in biblical fairy tales, he tried to show a new generation exactly how easy it is to start a religion based on ridiculous claims when he guided the Mormons in their beginnings. But few realized the parallels.

When Christians like Ray Comfort ask, why not accept Jesus since you are not guaranteed to get into heaven without accepting him, ask him/her if you should also accept Mohammed and Allah too and the teachings of Joseph Smith as well. At least there is historical proof Mohammed existed, same with Joseph Smith. And we all know that according to South Park, Mormonism is the right religion, and only Mormons get to go to heaven.

Pascal was a Christian. I think he tested out at least 2 different Christian sub cults. He had a revelation when he had a near death experience in his early 30's, but it didn't stop the sickly Pascal from dying in his late 30's. He was a genius when it came to probability theory. Too bad he didn't know what we know today when it comes to the universe and evolution, or he would know that the probability that God and/or heaven exists is as close to zero as anything can get.

Some people say that all religions are just different paths to the same destination. I couldn't agee more, except the final destination is not heaven but "Dust In The Wind."

Getting back to betting on Atheism, I say that if God exists, he put absolutely no evidence on this planet or the universe to prove it to me. My bet would be that God wouldn't want people who were that gullible to be that close to him, in heaven. In fact, he would embrace only Atheists, who dealt with real evidence. He would only want to be with those don't believe in fairy tales. He needs the intellectual stimulation. He doesn't need dummies.
And if God doesn't exist, which of course he doesn't, Atheists like me can live our lives realizing that this is our only shot to be conscious beings, and we have the choice to make the most of it or the least of it.

21 comments:

  1. You make a good point. Certainly if you reconstruct that graph including all religions in it, the one with the greatest upshot would be the atheistic point of view. The only reason to choose a particular religion would be based on evidence, barring that it is absurdity. Pluralism is really absurd, as almost all religions are mutually exclusive. If you are pluralist you are screwed from both sides, and you don't get the plusses of the lifestyle.

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  2. I have been thinking of you and Pascal since we met online and you gave me all the great advice. But I didn't want to mention it to you because I was afraid that I might sound pushy. I really admire your conviction- its great to see. But yes, Pascal would make it tough on you. There is a middle ground that you might find interesting. Martin Buber, a religious existentialist, in his book, I and Thou, lays out a philosophy that you might appreciate. In it, the divine presence rests in between the real give and take interactions that exist when two people communicate openly. Its really a powerful way of thinking about the divine in a way that you might be able to appreciate. All the best. A.

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  3. I'm not a betting man so I disregard Pascal entirely. JA is right. If I am to consider choosing everlasting afterlife, which god will I have to choose to get it?

    Pascal would have us believe that were dealing with 50-50/either-or odds. Those odds are not too bad. Even I might be willing to play that game! Yet, when the odds jump to 100,000 to 1 that I'd pick the right god, manage to serve this god the right way, AND there actually being an afterlife as promised, well that bet is just too rich for me. I'm out!


    Turn Pascal around. If I die and find out there is no god, then I would have spent my whole life mistakenly wallowing in the service of something false and imaginary. Think of the pain you'd feel finding out that your spouse never really loved you and your committment to her wishes, needs, and desires was a total sham. I won;t risk wasting my life away on something that no one can prove exists or can't seem to agree on how, where, and why it exists either.

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  4. Martin Buber tries to play the Philo Judeas of the 20th century, blending existentialism and Judaism. It's basically new age and even perhaps kabbalistic nonsense. You can spin Judaism any way you like and twist any philosophy into Judaism, but the bottom line is that GOD DOES NOT EXIST. All the syncretism in world will not make it ok to put chazir in your cholent. I have seen all kinds of theological mutts created in the minds of people seeking to reconcile something sensible with something ridiculous. Religions can be pointed any direction one wishes, which sort of tells me that religions really say nothing definitive at all.

    Amishav says: "Thinking about the Divine is way that you might be able to appreciate"

    How about thinking about the 'divine' in a way that matches REALITY?

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  5. Jew Thinker, Atheism is the only way based on evidence. If God exists and heaven exists, he will understand and appreciate Atheists for being realists.

    Amishav, Pascal really isn't tough on me. I'm not searching or trying to protect myself. I'm happy just absorbing reality. No need to waste time on supernatural beliefs. Life is too short.

    SA, part of the Pascal gamble is that if Atheists are right, we would not know the difference any ways so who cares. The gamble is that if there is a God, by believing in his doctrine and if you pick the right religion, you get to go to heaven, and you risk going to hell if you are wrong.

    I agree, that some new religions try to fit everything in. The thing is, that they can't fit God in in any realistic way because that is where superstition has to come in. Even the Vatican is accepting scientific discovery these days. I find that encouraging.

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  6. I like to look at Pascal's Wager like this:

    Let's think about this, shall we? For the sake of argument let's assume four things:

    1. God exists (the Xtian verison, for our purposes here.)
    2. God created all of us
    3. God has a plan.
    4. Being omipotent, God knows all

    If those things are true, then:

    1. God is all-powerful and all-knowing
    1. God created me as I am - a freethinking atheist
    2. He planned for me to be that way
    3. Being omipotent He knows that despite my "free will", I will never be able to accept the yoke of religion.

    Therefore,
    God created me specifically to occupy hell. What a right fucker he "is"! (that is, if he existed) .

    I'll stick with atheism, thanks. Far fewer confusing nonsensical contradictions.

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  7. I would change the right columns with this:

    "There are toooo many religions out there so we dont know what will happen."

    We might even have to do to evil to get to heaven. >:)

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  8. JA,

    I think you missed the point. Pascal is presenting a wager which he claims is 50-50 and has no risk factor. My assertion is that there are indeed any number of risk factors to consider that drive up the odds.

    Consider: If this god chooses to remain so well hidden, in spite of its being eternal and infinite, then why are we looking for something that obviously doesn't wish to be found? If I go into my office and shut the door, it means that I don't wish to be disturbed.

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  9. sl, one quick point. Call me AJ or Bacon, Taj, or Beaj. JA is the Jewish Athiest, I'm the Atheist Jew:)

    I don't think that Pascal ever gave the odds as being 50-50. Remember, he was a mathematician, and he most likely would not have assigned percentages. Since he was also a devout believer, he might have even thought that the chances that there was no God or heaven could have been much lower than 50%.

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  10. Bacon -
    "Atheism is the only way based on evidence. If God exists and heaven exists, he will understand and appreciate Atheists for being realists."

    There is no evidence that God does not exist. You claim that you hav eno reason to believe in the existence of God, because there is no evidence that he does. Get your story straight. My comment here was to point out the following:

    Pascal's diagram for the pluralist - lets say the pluralist believes in islam and christianity, for arguments sake.

    Sinful life:
    No God exists: Fun
    Christian God exists: Burn
    Islamic God exists: Burn
    Righteous life:
    No God exists: What a waste
    Christian God exists: Burn (for believing in islam)
    Islamic God exists: Burn (burn for believing in christianity)

    As you can see, the more god's you take into the equasion, the stronger the case for leading a sinful life.
    This is, of course, assuming that there is nothing inherently redeeming about leading a righteous life.

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  11. Why does a life have to be sinful without God?
    I was being sarcastic about God existing. See Lya's comment for example.
    No God exists should be changed from Fun to Reality,

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  12. I was copying from your graph. I was working off the assesment, as many religions believe that living a life without believing in God is by definition sinful.
    Lya's comments while entertaining, miss a few subtle points, such as free will (which you, of course, would reject as being oxymoronic to an omnipotient, omnicient God) Is reality a lifestyle? Again I was copying from your graph.

    You can live a fun life if you believe in God, and you can live a sinful life if you believe in God.
    Then again, you cannot leave a sinful life without God, according to most definitions of Sin.

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  13. Another point that destroys the idea of the wager. Something that I have thought for years: Saying that you believe something is not the same as believing it. I could say that I believe in G-d, or that JC died for my sins, but I can't force myself to believe it, even if the consequences are grave. This is especially damning (no pun intended) for christians for whom creed is everything and deed is (almost) nothing. An omnicient G-d will certainly know you are a phoney trying to avoid hell.

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  14. Jewish thinker, you seem very hung up on definitions. The graph on my blog is just an example. I usually look for jpegs or gifs to add some color to my blogs.

    Even your definition of Atheist isn't mine. Look at the header for my blog page: An Atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. Yep, that is me.

    Jewish freak, I think the idea of believing in God according to Pascal is actually accepting that God exists and try to live up to his code, whatever his code is according to the mortals of the time who make Gods rules.

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  15. To have an actual intelligent debate, one must first define the terms of the debate. If you ask me why life has to be "sinful" without God, it is important that we are clear on the meaning of "sinful". Sometimes in a debate the two parties are in agreement on concept, but have two different definitions of terms. All philosophy requires definitions to be paramount.

    As for your definition of athiest, there is more than one way in which you can deny the existence. As the anonomys commenter on your last post pointed out, there is a significant distinction between positive atheist, and skeptical atheist. Which are you?

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  16. You can define me however you like. I don't see any evidence God ever existed, and I don't see any evidence Leprechauns ever existed. I feel God has as much of a chance existing as Leprechauns do.

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  17. Why would I define you? You are claiming a philosophical stance. If we are to have meaningful discussion, I need to understand your POV. This is why I am asking you to define yourself, though it seems you have, and fall into the category of the skeptical atheist. Correct me if I am wrong.

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  18. Again, I don't use the term skeptical atheist, I define myself as an atheist.
    You can label me however you like, but I basically told you the way it is. Nobody can prove 100% that God doesn't exist or that Leprechauns don't exist. I know that there is no need for a God to explain anything and there is nothing that leads me to believe God ever existed.
    To me there is no proof Jesus even walked the earth as a man. But using your logic, you can not be sure that Jesus was not the son of God, so that would make you an Agnostic Christian, if I want to start making up definitions.

    This is why definitions are stupid. And the argument about what degree an atheist is is ridiculous. It depends on the definition, and there is no absolute definition.

    But you can call me what you want.

    Maybe you should define everything because terms like "righteous" "atheist" "sin" and "moral" are very subjective terms. Especially when theists and non theists are having discussions.

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  19. You are absolutely correct. Everything should be defined. I only chose the words righteous because it was written in the graph. As for the other three, I have already attempted to define "sin", mentioning that I don't believe it to apply to an atheist, as sin definitionally implies a god. This is why I put it in quotes, both here and in my previous post. The definition of morality is integral and is something that philosophers have debated for years, and I am trying to get to an understanding of the various atheistic views (hence their definitions).
    I don't need to put you in a category. I want to understand your point of view, and I think that I do.
    There is no evidence that god exists. Anything that can be positted as evidence has a rational explanation, and therefore should not be deemed evidence at all.

    Definitions are stupid? This goes against everything any philosopher and scientist have ever said. Please retract that.


    To me there is no proof Jesus even walked the earth as a man. But using your logic, you can not be sure that Jesus was not the son of God, so that would make you an Agnostic Christian, if I want to start making up definitions.
    All that I need to define is my viewpoint, as well as my stance on any detail inclusive. As I have said in the past, I have evidence that supports my beliefs. I feel that this evidence indicates the existence of a god, in this case my God. I do not feel there is significant evidence that Jesus was not a composite of multiple people. I certainly do not know of any convincing evidence that has suggested his divinity. Bear in mind that after getting further clarification on the distinciton between positive atheism, and skeptical atheism, I have conceded that skeptical atheism is a legitimate POV, one that I had previously and incorrectly considered agnosticism. As such I would be a skeptical atheist in regard to Christianity.

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  20. I should have said that subjective definitions are stupid.
    There is plenty on the internet to do with Atheist morality, but then again, it is a very subjective subject.
    I have done posts on it.
    Here is one you might find interesting.

    Personally I believe morality has evolved in us as a way of surviving and carrying on. I think that culture and nurture also play a role in defining what is moral.
    The religious points of evil, morality and righteousness to me can still have merit as an atheist, because instead of God's rules, I just look at them as man made rules (attributed to someone who doesn't exist). So in other words, an Atheist can commit a sin, not in God's eyes but in the eyes of mankind.

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  21. I don't disagree - back to my point of defintion.
    define:sin

    Anyway , as you define sin, any wrongdoing, not necessarily in respect to God, I agree that an atheist can sin too. Let's pick up the morality discussion some other time... I think we have come to an understanding of each others positions. I really am spending too much time on these threads, to get involved in a new thread right now.

    Thanks,
    I thoroughly enjoyed,
    JT

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