Pascal’s Wager: Enough To Believe or Total BS?
Let’s face it, Facebook is the backwoods of the internet. It’s where the uneducated, unfulfilled, unthinking masses share cat pictures. It’s absent-minded, low and characterless and it’s just the type of place where jeebots and other religious zealots like to hang out. So, naturally, I get some pretty ridiculous questions on my Facebook page.
This question was sent to me in a private message, I guess because the writer worried they wouldn’t be able to hold their own against a bunch of us, so why not just take on one, in private, in case he or she gets logically slaughtered? Well, I’ve brought it into an open forum now, where I will answer it, but I will still respect the asker’s obvious need to be anonymous.
Before I start with this though, it is important to note that the person who asked them was very polite and seems to be pretty smart. I want to be clear that, while I will try to remain respectful, any sarcasm or jokes that may come up in my answering of this question is not aimed at the asker. It is aimed at these dangerous ideas that I strongly believe to be detrimental to society. If you are emotionally attached to these ideas, to the point that you’ll take my belittlement of them as a personal attack, then I really don’t know what to say to you.
The question my Facebook antagonist brings up, and what we’ll talk about today is Pascal’s Wager. Which, for those of you who are unaware, is the idea that every person makes a bet with his or her life that God either exists or does not exist. The bet can turn out in several ways. You can believe in God and win eternal happiness if you're right. If you believe in him and he does not exist, you get nothingness. If you do not believe in God you get eternal misery if you're wrong. While, if you do not believe in God and he does not end up existing, you get nothingness again.
The basic idea here is, why not believe in God when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain (seemingly)?
At face value, this can seem completely logical, until you start to apply this same argument to other ideas that require faith in lieu of evidence. By this logic, why don’t you believe in and search for pots of gold at the end of a rainbow? I mean, you have nothing to lose but a bit of time and effort and if you’re right, you get rich. If you’re wrong, you’ve just spent the better part of an afternoon trying to locate the end of a rainbow, so really, you’re not out much, are you? Why don’t we apply this wager reasoning to pots of gold at the end of rainbows? Because we all know it’s a myth. There is no evidence to support it. There are many myths that we can apply the same argument to. Reaching Nirvana, reincarnation, native spirit quests, psychic surgery, and so on and so forth. You cannot pick and choose which myths you apply this reasoning to. If you use it to explain why you believe in one myth, you can’t really walk away from applying it to all. As someone who uses Pascal’s wager to explain why he or she believes in God, you must have good explanation as to why you do not adhere to and follow the rules of all religions and spiritualities. How do you know which one is right? Where do you draw the line, and what criteria to you use to determine that line?
Pascal’s wager also assumes that by living a life in line with what god supposedly asks of us, that we are not out anything at all really. The whole, “why not? You have nothing to lose” attitude suggests that a Christian life or a religious life is somehow not a burden, and it wouldn’t be giving much up. I beg to differ. Blind faith is dangerous. It has and will continue to lead to killing, rape, oppression, bigotry and general misery. Throughout our history, there has been nothing, not even capital gain, that is as responsible for as many atrocities as religion has been.
Living a religious life means following rules you may not agree with. It means suspending your own personal view of what is right and wrong for what today’s religious understanding of it is. It means losing Sunday mornings and teaching your children that everything came about at the end of god’s magic crayon. It’s about believing and insisting on lies that are long outdated. It’s about indoctrinating young people and removing their right to choose what they believe as informed adults.
You basically commit to living your life in devotion to a complete asshole, indifferent to the horrendous crimes committed in your god’s name, indifferent to a child’s right to be educated with facts and not wishes, indifferent to the human beings who are cast aside by your god for things they were born with, indifferent to all of this holy bullshit. You commit your life to this, and if it turns out there is no god, that was your one and only life. Your everything. Gone. No takesies backsies.
In my mind, that is a far more dangerous wager. I prefer to live my life in line with what I do know now, and that is that before I was born there was nothingness – to expect this to change after I die, is absurd. What I have now is all there will ever be, so I must make the best of it. That means living by a moral code that is based on what is right and wrong and not an old book. That means becoming educated, learning and raising my children to ask questions and observe. Leaving this world a little less crappy than I entered it, and leaving children who grow into loving and generous adults based on what is actually supported by evidence, and not what someone relayed from biblical times.
Honestly, if there was a god and he didn’t like that, you can’t call him benevolent. You cannot call him loving. It would seem to the contrary, that he is just an arrogant fucker in the sky who is not interested in people being good, and instead is only interested in whether or not you worship him. What kind of god is that? He’s a total shithead, that’s what kind.
What do you think of Pascal’s Wager? Is this enough to believe in God? Let me know in the comments.