Don’t take up Pascal’s Wager


WARNING: SOAPBOXY, OKAY TO SKIP

Just yesterday, I had a freak encounter with a wild Pascal’s Wager. It’s the argument that even if you don’t find the (lack of) evidence for God convincing, you should believe anyway, because if you believe and you’re right you go to Heaven, but if you believe and you’re wrong, you’ve lost nothing, right? It’s a surprisingly common argument. A lot of people find it compelling.

It’s also a load of horsehockey.

When you get right down to it, it has two parts and both of them are terrible – three if you count the assumption that believing something is a little switch you can just toggle on the spur of the moment, but I don’t see any reason to waste time on that one. The part aimed at the listener basically goes “atheists are bad people who need an incentive like self-preservation to believe.” Yeah, no. I disbelieve in God because I have never seen compelling evidence that He exists, and thus I do not find the argument that He does particularly compelling. It’s not “because Christianity didn’t give me pie.” It’s “because Christianity can’t back up its claims.” Totally different phenomenon.

But if the implicit disrespect to not just me but all atheists wasn’t enough, then there’s what Pascal’s Wager says about Pascal’s God. And what it says is not good.

Fundamentally, it says that Christian morality has all the sincerity of a bratty seven-year-old becoming a Perfect Little Angel (TM) when the Christmas decorations go up. It’s not about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. It’s about doing the right thing because you want stuff. And moreover, it says that God doesn’t care. It says that God cares more about getting compliments that flatter Him than he does about whether those compliments mean anything.

And frankly, if that’s what you believe your God is like, then screw Him with a drill press. Because if I’m wrong and there is a God, and he cares more about His ego than He does about truth, then frankly, I’d prefer Hell. It may be a lake of eternal fire and pitchforks being inserted into places pitchforks aren’t meant to go, but at least it’s an honest lake of fire. I’d much rather have torment that’s honest than an enormous garden packed with pretty flowers and two-faced vipers.

Come on. If you’re going to believe in something, at least believe in something that isn’t a complete self-obsessed tool. Come up with a God I can respect, even if I can’t believe in Him.

(As an aside, if applied consistently, the logical conclusion of Pascal’s Wager is that we should all devote ourselves to all religions simultaneously, just on the off chance that one of them is right. Because hey, just because Beni from The Mummy is a sleazy, spineless rat who would feed his own mother to alligators to save his own miserable hide, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t emulate him, right? Scene, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

– OSM out

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Filed under My Disbeliefs, Soapbox Mode

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