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!
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.
Well, I just had a very lengthy reply about half finished and suddenly lost it. Okay, to start again, in answer to your first comment, regarding meeting a 'fundamental definition of Christian' the biggest problem is that there is no one agreed upon fundamental definition. To some, Catholics aren't Christian, to some, Mormons aren't Christian, to some Protestants aren't Christian. Even in the Early church, there were countless debates about what it meant to be Christian (hence the need for the Council of Nicea).
As to your second question, on how do liberal Christians decide whether a passage is literal or non-literal, the short answer is not randomly and not based on personal preference. It's not like we would look at say Isaiah 40:22 and decide that it is both literal and non-literal, depending on what better suits my argument (fundamentalists do, however argue that it is both literal and non-literal). What we do is look at who wrote the passage, when they wrote the passage, who they were writing for and why the wrote it. Take, for instance, the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes. In it's oldest account (Mark 6:31-44) it echoes two old testament accounts (Exodus 16 and 2 Kings 4:42-44). This passage is meant as a message to a Jewish audience saying that Jesus is Messiah. In the context of the entire Gospel of Mark, we can see that repeatedly, Jesus is being presented as either the Son of Man or the Messiah. By understanding the passage this way, it doesn't really matter if they literally happened (although they most likely didn't) because the message is still the same, that Jesus is here to teach us a new covenant, a new way of relating to God.
As to why I call myself a Christian. Because I believe that Jesus was the Messiah. As for liberal Christianity, it's hardly my own unique invention. This form of theology is present in just about all of the mainstream churches, and guess what! My views are not even the most radical. If you want to see some radical views, I would suggest reading Tom Harper's "The Pagan Christ".
Just to give you a bit of a perspective on what's happening within the Church today. For just over a century, the mainstream churches have been undergoing a radical transformation, which is as big, if not bigger than the reformation.
By the way, I think we would both agree that Pope John Paul II would be classified as a Christian, yet even he acknowledged that it was possible for those outside of the church to obtain salvation.
First, let's address the issue of faith, because I believe that it's at the very heart of the matter. Let's look at how fundamentalists reach their conclusions about the world, and why they claim to know what is essentially the unknowable.
Fundamentalists start by putting their faith in their preachers. Their preachers then tell them that this is the correct interpretation of the Bible, and that through that correct interpretation of the Bible they can prove that Jesus is their saviour, that God exists, that they are saved etc. But here's where the problem comes in. Their interpretations of the Bible are contradicted by science, and so the fundamentalists faith in their preacher is tested. Either they continue to have faith in the preacher, in which case they can continue to believe the their interpretation of the Bible, and that they have a 100% watertight case for believing that they are saved etc, or they loose faith in their preacher, in which case they have to reason to believe in any of what's in the Bible. That's because their reason for believing what is in the Bible was relevant came from their faith in the preacher.
Now, you are quite a bit like the fundamentalists in that you think that one must first have faith in the preacher, then faith in the interpretation of the Bible in order to have evidence which then leads one one to the conclusion that God is real. The difference being that you lack faith in the preachers and the dogma, so you have no reason or evidence to believe in God.
Now, I'm not like the fundamentalists at all. You see, I have faith in a Creator God who created the universe and everything within it, and that what we do matters. It's because I have faith in God that I don't believe the Bible to be mere propaganda, or that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are merely the rantings of a suicidal mad-man.
Now, as to your suggesting that I'm clinging white knuckled to anything, well, that would very clearly imply that you are under some impression that I fear not having faith. What exactly is it you think I fear?
The question I would have, Janice, is why do you believe in a Creator God who created the universe and everything within it? What evidence/reasoning do you have to support that belief? What is the impetus for your faith?