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It’s 8:05 – no, 8:06. Get going.

An item on Twitter just now caused me to read the Wikipedia entry on the atheist’s wager, an alternative to Pascal’s of the same ilk.

You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.

Not alternative enough, if you ask me. It’s still too focused on postmortem, as if we were going to be alive postmortem to care what people think of us. It’s also too focused on incentive or reward. Try to make the world a better place so that people will remember you fondly. That’s a stupid reason. If you’re going to try to make the world a better place, do it so that the world will be a better place, not so that people will remember you fondly. Jeez. Get over yourself.

Here’s a news flash: apart from a few intimates, most people won’t remember you at all, fondly or otherwise. After a few decades no one will remember you at all. “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” said Keats on his tombstone. Well he was wrong, but for most of us, that’s the story.

Vanity and longing for posthumous affection is a pitiful motivation for making the world a better place. Come on. Write your name in a few toilet stalls and on a few garage walls and garbage cans, and let it go at that. For the rest, just concentrate on making the world a better place so that the world will be a better place.

8:14. Woo hoo! Bags of time to catch up on Twitter and write the 9:00 item.

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Comments

  1. MichaelD says

    Indeed I’ve always heard that kind of thing attributed to MA not sure if he actually said it though.

  2. says

    Yes, the Wikipedia entry says that and provides the attributed quote, but also points out that it’s not in his writings, where he says pretty much the opposite. I left all that out, because it’s a wash.

  3. Rich Wilson says

    I appreciate the sentiment, and think it could work perfectly well without people remembering you.

    You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and the world will be a better place for your actions. If there is a god, either it will judge you on your merits, or it’s not worthy of respect.

  4. Aratina Cage says

    I also dislike the second reason for if there is a god besides the first which focuses on death because there is no god out there. It isn’t something an atheist has any reason to cede ground on. There is no soul departing from your corpse to meet a god or to look back on your accomplishments, and there is no god to greet your nonexistent soul or to look down on your accomplishments. The “atheist’s wager” is actually “an ignorant and wishy-washy atheist’s wager”. The facts of the matter are settled. A Gnu Atheist would never make such a ridiculous wager.

  5. susanhill says

    “…If you’re going to try to make the world a better place, do it so that the world will be a better place, not so that people will remember you fondly. Jeez. Get over yourself…”

    My sentiments exactly. Do it just to make it so… Great post. Just what I needed to read today… :)

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