This is from an idea introduced by George H. Smith. I think it is worth knowing. I am bored of hearing theists using Pascal’s Wager which I think it is too simplistic. I would be interested in hearing what you think of the merits of its logic.

Pascal’s Wager summarized:

Reason can't prove or disprove the existence of God. If the atheist is correct, nothing will happen when we die, and nothing is lost. But if the Christian is correct, the nonbelievers are going to believe in Hell for eternity. So it seems like the practical odds would lie with Christianity. We should wager on Christianity because the practical odds are so important. If you wager on Christianity and there is no god, you don't lose anything.

The obvious problem here is that if you are an Atheist you would have to forego your intellectual integrity in order to believe just so you can be saved from going to hell. It is not possible to do an about turn in your mind when your reason tells you that there is no god anyway.

So I want to introduce "Smith's Wager." It can be used after Pascal’s is mentioned. This is the premises of his wager:

1. The existence of a god, if we are to believe in it, can only be established through reason.
2. Applying the canons of correct reasoning to theistic belief, we must reach the conclusion that theism is unfounded and must be rejected by rational people.

Now comes the question, "But what if reason is wrong in this case?” which it sometimes is. We are fallible human beings. What if it turns out that there is a Christian god and He's up there and He's going to punish you for eternity for disbelieving in Him. Here's where Smith’s wager comes in. Let's suppose you're an atheist. What are the possibilities?

The first possibility is there is no god and you're right. In that case, you'll die, that'll be it, you've lost nothing, and you've lived a happy life with the correct position.

Secondly, a god may exist but he may not be concerned with human affairs. He may be the god of traditional Deism. He may have started the universe going and left it to its traditional devices, in which case you will simply die, that is all there is to it, again, and you've lost nothing.

Thirdly suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs -- He's a personal god -- but that He is a just god. If you have a just god, he could not possibly punish an honest error of belief where there is no moral turpitude or no wrongdoing involved. If this god is a creator god and He gave us reason and intellect as the basic means of understanding our world, then He would take pride in the conscientious and scrupulous use of reason on the part of His creatures, even if it led them to Atheism. Therefore, if a just god exists, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of belief (or reason).
Finally, suppose there exists an unjust god, specifically the god of Christianity, who doesn't give a damn about justice and who will burn us in Hell, regardless of whether we made honest mistakes or not – if we became Atheists because of the reasoning he allowed us to be capable of. Such a god is necessarily unjust, for there is no more heinous injustice we could conceive of, than to punish a person for an honest error of belief, when he has tried to the best of his ability to ascertain the truth. The Christian thinks he's in a better position in case this kind of god exists. I wish to point out that he's not in any better position than we Atheists.

If there's an unjust god and He really gets all this glee out of burning sinners and disbelievers, then what could give him more glee than to tell Christians they would be saved, only to turn around and burn them anyway, for the Hell of it, just because he enjoys it? If you've got an unjust god, what worst injustice could there be than that? It's not that far-fetched.

If a god is willing to punish you simply for an honest error of belief, you can't believe He's going to keep his word when He tells you He won't punish you if you don't believe in Him because He's got to have a sadistic streak to begin with. Certainly He would get quite a bit of glee out of this behavior. Even if an unjust god exists, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish universe, but we're in no worse position than the Christian is.

Therefore, if you're are going to make the wager, you might as well wager on what your reason tells you, that atheism is correct, and go that route because you won't be able to do anything about an unjust god anyway, even if you accept Christianity.

Smith’s wager says that you should always wager on reason and accept the logical consequence, which in this case is Atheism.

1. If there's no god, you are correct.
2. If there's an indifferent god, you won't suffer in hell anyway.
3. If there's a just god, you have nothing to fear from the honest use of your reason.
4. If there's an unjust god, you have much to fear but so does the Christian.

Atheism can be considered the use of Reason. Smith’s Wager takes it to a more logical conclusion than Pascal ever did.

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Hitch would approve :)
Pascal was a Catholic philosopher and mathematician.  Smith is a confirmed atheist.  What do you think of Reg Perry's conclusion?  Is it logical?

"The only answer I can think of is that the Western (Judeo-Christian-Moslem) concept of God is not logical. As a mental exercise, let us start with a few assumptions and come up with a concept of God consistent with those assumptions, if it is possible. As a mathematical exercise, define God. No scripture, East nor West, can be quoted - only logic is allowed. Let us arrive at the God of atheists - the Ultimate Paradox.

1. God is infinite power, omnipotent.
2. God knows everything, omniscient.
3. God is everywhere, omnipresent.
4. God is infinite justice.
5. God is infinite love.
6. God is all good.
7. You and I are alive and conscious here now.
8. Mater and energy cannot be created nor destroyed.
9. The universe is a closed system where all the laws of thermodynamics apply.
10. Ethics and morality are hard wired in us, and is not imposed from the outside.

Unknowable. if you assume one alternative, show why that assumption is very likely to be true:
1. All in existence may have a beginning and end, it may be eternal, or it may be cyclic.
2. Consciousness may or may not survive death.
3. A man may or may not have a soul.
4. Parallel universes may or may not exist.
5. Characteristics of dark matter and dark force still need to be discovered.

Some questions that need answers:
1. Can God violate His own laws if He is omnipotent?
2. Does God favor a group of people above others? or Is there a chosen people?
3. If God knows what I am thinking, is there a benefit in prayer?
4. Does prayer change the outcome of any particular chain of events?
5. If God is everywhere, does that mean He is in me, and I am in Him?
6. If God is all good, why is there pain, injustice, suffering in the world?
7. Is the concept of Satan necessary to explain evil?
8. If God is just, what happens to people who die without getting punished for their wrongdoings?
9. If God is infinite love will he allow me to be forever away from Him, in Hell?
10. Is God a person who looks like me? No. How can a person be infinite and omnipresent?

Blaise Pascal being a great mathematician, this discussion group may be the place to find a mathematical God based on logic alone. - This is a God no scientist can deny, once he accepts the 10 axioms above as self evident. For convenience and consistency any particular person must always use the same pronoun, whether He/His, She/Her, or It/Its, when referring to God in this discussion.
May I start this discussion on a mathematical God.

Any mathematical system starts with a few irreducible set of axioms on which all theorems of the system is based.  This is true for Euclids geometry as well as modern so-called "non-Euclidian geometries" in which some of the axioms are changed. The same is true with algebra and others.

To start the discussion on the mathematical God, I am going to adopt all the 10 axioms presented, except "God is all good".  As far as the unknowables are concerned, I will assume that the universe was not created but is cyclic like all observable phenomenas in nature. Like day and night, the seasons, and the life cycles of different plants and animals.  The universe will thus have its cycles that have no beginning nor end.  I will also assume that man's consciousness continues in his deathless soul after he dies.  I make this assumption, because I do not want consciousness to end with death.

Combining the concept of deathless soul with the cyclicity of all nature one comes to the first theorem of this mathematical system: "The soul goes through a series of lives and deaths, each time undergoing the human life cycle of birth, growth and death.

I do not accept that God is all good, because the presence of evil would negate the principle that God is omnipresent.  Since God is everywhere God is there even where there is what we call evil.  Evil is just the other side of the coin of good, the same way that light cannot exist without darkness, or high, low, or hot, cold, etc. There is no need to create a Satan to explain evil. The simpler a mathematical system, the better. The concept of angels and demons is also unnecessary.

Why don't you proceed with this discussion taking all the axioms, except one, and assuming three of the unknowables as described above.  See what theorems those will lead us on the mathematical concept of God.

You are indulging in the illogic of circular reasoning.  You start with the assumption that there is no God and arrive at the conclusion that there is no God. The assumption that there is no God is not even one of the axioms proposed, and that assumption is inconsistent with the purpose of the exercise.  You may note that all your answers to the 10 questions all point to Q. 1.  And your answer to Q.1 is an assumption not related to any of the axioms from which the answers should be derived. 


You missed the point altogether.  The purpose of this exercise in logic is to create a God by the use of mathematics.  I named it the ultimate paradox -- the God  created by atheists.


The mathematical method is to start with a few axioms, then, by the use of logic come out with a system of theorems consistent with the axioms.  The point is:  What sort of a God will arise out of those axioms?  What will be His/Her/Its attributes?


Don't fall prey to the same error that theists fall into - they make up their minds on one thing then close their minds to other view-points.  They say, "I've made up my mind, don't confuse me with facts."  Some minds are like concrete, all mixed up and rigidly set.  Pascal was a mathematician and would understand the value of this excercise in logic.


This should be an interesting exercise to develop those mental muscles of participants.

doone  The meaning of an axiom is a set of simple statements, that remain unproven, from which everything in that mathematical system is derived.  You may note that the existence of god is not among the axioms proposed.  The first 6 just define the properties of that concept of God if It indeed exists.   So 6 can be read "If God exists She must be all good." The others may be read similarly.  You may also note that, in my initial discussions from those axioms, 6 was eliminated as untenable.

You may now note that the purpose of this exercise in logic is not to prove the existence of God.  The purpose is to create a God. - a mathematical God of atheists, a concept I called "the ultimate paradox".  It is to find the attributes of a God that will arise from these unproved statements. - and his relation to our universe or multiverse.  

'Universe' as defined in that scenario is all that is in existence - all that is.  It can be taken to mean the set of all universes that comprise the multiverse.  Since all there is, is in this multiverse, all matter, energy, time and space, it forms a closed system.

7. Define conscious simulations.  You can't deny that you exist, and that you are aware of yourself and the stimulations caused by things outside you.

8. The sum total is zero, true.  But energy is that unbalance.  So long as there is an unbalance above and below a neutral point, there is energy.  The 2nd law of thermodynamics says that in a closed system everything is going downhill to that neutral point of zero energy and zero matter.

9. The sum energy of zero, as posited by the 2nd law, can exist only in a closed system.  In an open system where energy can leak out, energy can also leak in.  Then no conclusion can be made regarding this universe.  It is more productive to posit that this universe, together with all the universes in the multiverse, form a closed system.

10. It is true that a person's ethics reflects the sum total of all genetic and environmental factors impacting him.  However, many psychological experiments on babies, insulated from parental and other people's influence, show common characteristics - the need to believe in something to explain things around him.  There seems to be a universal urge to create a God, a need not imposed from the outside.  The similarity of these insulated children's explanations indicate that the genes causing them are the same.

“This is a God no scientist can deny, once he accepts the 10 axioms above as self evident” Point 1 to 6 assume a god exists” I do not accept that a god exists. “no scientist can deny” reminds me of a recent “debate” I had with a born again.

“I will also assume that man's consciousness continues in his deathless soul after he dies” Assuming we have a soul it is our consciousness – our awareness of self in our brain

I understand the nature of your arguments but one has to assume a god exists to debate it. My brain can no longer conceive of the concept because I am that certain one does not exist. Maybe in a parallel universe we are having this debate but I am trying to imagine what it is like to look at the world through the eyes of a theist. I am also in one where the Pixies “Monkey gone to Heaven” is playing and not that damn "Kum ba yah" :)

Reg, The purpose of my proposed exercise is not to prove the existence of God.  It is to create God.  Therefore, none of the axioms must assume either the existence or non-existence of God.  All they say is that let assume these characteristics of the God we are going to create.  What will be Its attributes that will be derived from these axioms. - and Its relation with our universe/multiverse?

I am sorry to say, but this argument doesn't hold up to traditional christianity doctrine.  Christians won't accept it because it makes a reference to the INTENTION of why God would 'allow' (not send too) hell. 


They don't believe God sends anyone to Hell.  They believe Hell is a 'choice' we have.  It's fairly simple, really. 


God created us perfect.  But Adam and Eve sinned 6000 years ago.  Thus all of humanity has been immersed in Sin since the 'Fall'.  


So now God created the Hell, of which Jesus supposedly freed ... but didn't actually close the gate after he escaped the first time (Damn Jesus ... always forgetting stuff.) 


So Jesus saves people from Hell, but Hell is still available to go to. 


So here's the catch.  The supernatural afterlife is like a dichotomy between Heaven and Hell ... christians say that because you are immersed in Sin, the ONLY way to avoid punishment is to accept Jesus as your lord and saviour, and to give to him all your Love and worship.  


So it ends up being a 'choice' ... and God respects our 'Free Will' so much, that he 'honors' this choice ... and the default position of not accepting Jesus and being 'saved' ... naturally is Hell.  


So in the end, since this is the christian doctrine, and they state that God 'grants' the Free Will decision ... I'll just tell God I don't accept Jesus as my Lord and saviour because I find you to be immoral ... but I wish my soul to be destroyed completely.  


Thus God , associating respect for Free Will ... will have to grant my wish.  So in the end, it doesn't matter whether or not God exists ... 


To fight christian doctrine, you must fight it on their own grounds.  


I have won many arguments about Hell using that argument.  (I'm the pianist for a Lutheran Church.) 

Hi Dustin – thanks for reply. I just want to clarify a few points.  In the last 10 -15 years Ireland, where I currently live (Atlanta GA. next maybe) has become very multicultural which is great for the country. It had been 90% Catholic plus a mixture of a few other Christian and Jewish mainstream groups. However in this timeframe several new cults have arrived, including Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, African Pentecostal and several evangelical groups from America. They all call to my door on a regular basis. Once they discover I am an Atheist they will return (I don’t mind – I have “cured” a few) with their expert debaters to try to convert me. Game on.


Every single one of them has mentioned Pascal Wager to me – and always assumed I had never heard of it or would be unable to respond to the “logic” of their argument. This is where Smith’s Wager can help. It is logical enough to use against theists and counter the “logic” of their argument.


I only post these types of discussions so Atheists can improve their ammo against the great deluded. No matter what breed they are they all appear to have similar arguments I have compiled and honed my replies to them.


You mentioned:


“They don't believe God sends anyone to Hell.  They believe Hell is a 'choice' we have.  It's fairly simple, really.”


They can believe what they want. However if as I argued that god may be unjust he could send them to hell “for the hell of it” (ouch sorry).


“Thus God, associating respect for Free Will - will have to grant my wish. So in the end, it doesn't matter whether or not God exists”


Would unfair god respect freewill?  The theists I speak to have never considered this option until I mention it. If they want to deny this there are several examples in the bible of god being unfair.


Maybe god will be fair to those of us who chose to use our free will. He might want a bit of intelligent conversation now and then rather than having to listen to a bunch of sycophants for eternity. I mean he must sometimes wonder where he came from himself.

Good points. 


Reflecting upon the different justifications of theological doctrine for different religious sects, I suppose both arguments could work , depending on who you are speaking to. 


I wish I had people knock on my door to convert me.  I'd invite them in, and offer them tea and cookies, and have a bit of fun with conversation.  


But I also thought that the doctrines all state that God is INFINITELY Just (as if the word infinte is any more meaningful than saying REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY , REALLY (times 10) Just.)


Note:  I hate when theists use the word infinite ... and then say we feeble humans do not understand the concept of infinity ... which is what God is ... AGHHHHHH!!!  Then why the hell do you use a word you admit we don't understand to describe your imaginary friend!!!


Theists annoy me.  


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