Did you pass by the wager argument? an argument made by Blaise Pascal... A bet on God's existence... hmmm... just a thought to ponder. DOES GOD EXIST? YES -> if not exist, finite loss, if exist, infinite gain. NO -> if not exist, finite gain, if exist, infinite loss.
(although i don't really accept his argument, just want to hear some comments)
The problem I've always had with Pascal's wager is that it presumes that the Christian god is an idiot who can't figure out a person's motivations. I mean, if God is omnipotent and all-knowing, wouldn't He know if someone was just going through the motions just in case God's out there and point that out on Judgment Day? If yes, then playing along is a failed strategy. If not, then God's a moron, and why on earth would someone worship like that?
Not only does Pascal's Wager assume that there is only one god (his) that must be considered, but even if you assume that there are multiple gods and the safest solution is to believe in them all, many of the various gods are mutually contradictory in their strictures. Christianity and Islam both, for example, do not permit belief in other gods.
Nelson, as usual, nailed most of the arguments against Pascal's Wager.
The last few times I've come up against Pascal's Wager, I've gone with the same response, which is only a slight variation on what's been mentioned already.
The basic line of reasoning can be reduced to 'What if God's lying?' Will it convert any Christians to atheism? No, but it tends to run a quick line to getting people who employ such piss poor logic to try harder or shut up faster.
One of my issues with Christianity is that they created a God that is so absurdly powerful and beyond our understanding, and so flexible that there's no way to apply any sort of rational thought to His motives and actions.
"Why would God lie to me?"
Well, why would God do anything? Why would God create pain and suffering? Why would God create the platypus? I thought God worked in mysterious ways. Do you mean to tell me that you understand the motives of God? Perhaps it's all just a test to see who follows blindly in fear, and who lives with honesty and openness.
"God spoke directly to my heart. I have faith and know he's revealing the truth to me."
Are you saying that God, almighty God, is incapable of deceiving you? You are seriously going to place limitations on God like that?
Well, something along those lines. It's not really meant to be rational, but rather it's a chance to be a bit flippant with all of that 'yes, no, maybe' sort of selective reasoning certain Christians love to employ. No matter what argument is brought to the table, you can always dick around with God's finicky, indefinite, and mysterious nature in response. Any concession that god could be lying breaks Pascal's Wager.
So God exists, Pascal is right about the God and i'm off to Hell. What's the loss? Can you describe heaven for me in a way that is interesting? I enjoy freedom and living within the constraints of religious judgement for all of eternity isn't very enticing. Nor is lack of fun competition because someone has to lose, and I'm sure that isn't very heavenly for the loser. Are puppies born in heaven? Can I go hiking? Can I get drunk and fornicate? I mean if we aren't fornicating for the creation of new life, should we accept the position that we should become eunuchs? The biggest picture point is, heaven for me isn't heaven for the next person or even Jesus or the Father.
The common threat of hell is burning and gnashing of teeth. can be dealt with scientifically. The short version is if you don't have the molecular structure of the body to feel the excitement of the molecules, you won't feel pain. So if we leave the body behind, you'll feel no pain physically. So what again is the threat? The separation from God? Great! Where do I sign up?
One point that needs stressed with the arguement from probability is that it is for free riders only. Some signifigant population (of scientists and technoids) must avoid the over reaction to small numbers and keep doing the intellectual heavy lifting which belief in god will not allow.
A believer can lay on an oar and pretend to propel the boat only as long as I man the oar and propell the boat. Now, get off the boat freeloaders!!
A theist here with my two cents on the Wager. I remember when I first studied it, my initial reaction was that, if God does exist, and you just believe in God to 'hedge your bets' so to speak, then isn't it conceivable that God would know you're just hedging your bets, and consequently punish you?
Yes, I would say that I agree with Hitchens on this point. I somehow can't imagine the following scenario taking place.
God: Ok now, let's take a look at your record. Works... was kind to everyone you met, cured cancer, created world peace, saved over 1000 lives. Looking good, I must say. Now on to beliefs... WHAT? You're a Buddhist! Nope! I'm sorry... it's straight to h-e-double hockey sticks for you!
so then you're not a Christian despite what your profile says.
you can't be a Christian. you've just totally rejected that there's a reason for Jesus' sacrifice and in so doing any reason to accept him as your lord and savior. if all i need to do is be a good person then Jesus was deluded, an idiot, or he committed suicide and the god you believe in happily allowed Jesus to go to his death knowing, apparently, as you would have us understand it according to your beliefs, that you don't need to have faith in Jesus or his sacrifice to avoid hell (no matter that Jesus repeatedly says this i guess).
you just rejected 2000 years of fundamental Christian theology. why call yourself a Christian?
do you even believe in hell? in heaven?
If by Christian you mean a fundamentalist "I believe in Jesus so I've bought my ticket to heaven, but you don't believe in Jesus so you're going to hell", then by that definition of Christian, I'm not. I'm not a Biblical literalist nor a Biblical inerrantist. I take a historical approach to the Bible, and recognize that it was written by different people, in different times, for different audiences and for different reasons. From that, I recognize that the later message (i.e. the one you've referred to, that essentially to be saved by God you must believe X, Y and Z, and if you don't, that's it) is inconsistent with the earlier message (i.e. the one which is more likely the actual message of Jesus) that God is a loving and forgiving God, that we too should be loving and forgiving, that we don't need temples, priests, sacrifices etc. to placate God. I'm one of those liberal Christians that the fundamentalists fear so much.
i just mean a fundamental definition of "Christian" that most people would recognize; the acceptance of Jesus as your savior, of his sacrifice on the cross as a redemptive act done to save your soul from hell. by this very simple definition you can't seem to call yourself a Christian given that you apparently believe that a person can merely be a good person, reject Christianity completely, and not go to hell. this is diametrically opposed to the theological message of the New Testament as Christianity has understood it.
i appreciate that you're not a literalist, taking a historical approach to the bible, but then, in taking some things metaphorically and some things literally, how do you decide which to take literally and which to take metaphorically? do you believe in the miracle stories? do you believe in the resurrection? if you believe that the message of the NT as you understand it carries some special weight because that message was brought to you by Jesus then by what measure do you judge that Jesus himself even said those things as opposed to that they were made up by the authors of the books (whoever they were!).
see, you're so liberal a Christian that you basically vacated what anyone would understand to be a "Christian".
why do you still call yourself a Christian?
you mentioned that the earlier message and the evolution of the message to the later one that Christianity is predicated on, but the earliest Jesus followers were Jews who followed Jesus. it makes as much sense for you to call yourself Jewish than it does for you to call yourself Christian. indeed, those people who followed that earlier message didn't even consider themselves Christians! how can you follow that message and call yourself a Christian when they didn't?
let's come at it another way. what about your religious beliefs, your unique version of Christianity, would i or any other person recognize as being Christianity as it is traditionally understood? would you expect someone, upon hearing your describe your particular unique brand of "Christianity", but without your ever using the word "Christian" or it's forms, to say "oh, so you're a Christian?" or would you more expect them to ask you "i see, so what do you call yourself?"
i submit to you that the answer you would receive would be the latter more than the former and that upon your replying "i call myself a Christian" you'd receive a quizzical expression and a simple "why?"