Atheist Meme of the Day: Pascal’s Wager Still Sucks


Scarlet letter Today’s Atheist Meme of the Day, from my Facebook page. Pass this on; or don’t; or edit it as you see fit; or make up your own. Enjoy!

“Believing in God is a safer bet” is a terrible reason to believe in God. It assumes that the consequences of believing in God when God doesn’t exist are neglible — and this is simply not true. People make major decisions based on their belief in God: decisions that can cause harm to themselves and others. Pass it on:… if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

Comments

  1. YB says

    And anyway, if someone goes the Pascal’s wager route without considering whether or not there’s evidence for their God, there’s another angle on it: assuming you have no concrete evidence in favor of your God, isn’t it just as likely that if there is a supreme being it’s not the one you think it is? Without evidence, who’s to say? And wouldn’t it suck making Pascal’s wager only to discover that wagering in favor of the God you thought was real was actually wrong and got you damned for eternity or whatnot?

  2. Jack Rawlinson says

    It’s also stupid because it simply isn’t possible to make oneself believe something. One either truly does believe or one is faking belief. And if the latter then one is also assuming that God, if it exists, is not sufficiently bright to know when one of his believers is faking it…

  3. Indigo says

    The big flaw in Pascal’s Wager is that it’s a false dichotomy. A few possible options: There is no god. There is a god, and you worshipped him properly, so you’re going to heaven. There is a god, but you failed to worship him properly, so you’re going to hell/suffering some other nasty fate. There is a god, and whether you worshipped him properly or not is independent of your afterlife destination. Etc.
    Therefore, the reasonable and ethical choice is live as well as you possibly can. If God is merciful and forgiving, he’ll take it into account. If there isn’t a god, at least you didn’t waste your life. And if God gets pissed and casts you into hell for not worshipping him, clearly he is a being undeserving of worship in the first place. (Last paragraph more or less stolen from Austin Cline.)

  4. says

    Or there might be a deity who never directly intervened in the world, has an afterlife and then rewards the atheists and agnostics for clear thinking.
    Moreover, a truly just deity would likely fry people who believed in it for such mercenary reasons as those found in Pascal’s wager.

  5. efnord says

    Pascal’s Wager works as an argument for ANYTHING… Joshua just scratched the surface with a deity who only likes nontheists. You can justify any behavior, no matter how horrid, if you can set it up as an issue of eternal reward or punishment.

  6. ToppHogg says

    That which we call God is plainly evident to those who know how to apply facts to reality. That entity is NOT what the Judeo-Christian-Islamicists believe in.
    Those who rely upon unquestioned faith and imposed belief over the application of their intellects are those who follow the dream of an ancient bearded white male who lives on a cloud in a party eternal. They choose to place myth on a higher plane than logical empiricism and enable the continuance of ignorance and superstition.

  7. says

    In my Revised Wager, I concluded that the best choice is to be a moral non-believer: gets to make a positive difference in the world, enjoys a life of reason and wonder of Nature, and might go on to eternal bliss if a god actually exists and rewards goodness.

  8. Liz says

    I’ve always hated Pascal’s Wager. My father tried it on me when I was in high school, and I just looked at him critically for a moment, followed by “really??? If I was an omnipotent, omniscient god, I’d burn you worse for faking it for your own self-interest. And if I was a loving god, I wouldn’t care. But since there isn’t a god, I’m not waking up early on a Sunday to go sit on a hard wooden bench and not believe in god. Not even for the Unitarians. I can not believe in god from the comfort of my own bed, thanks.”
    Every time someone brings up the immortal soul thing though, all I can think of is Phineas Gage.

  9. Paul says

    It assumes that the consequences of believing in God when God doesn’t exist are neglible — and this is simply not true.

    While I agree with the principle of your post, that’s really not how Pascal’s Wager goes. The Wager is all about infinite gains for finite losses (yes, Pascal was not an idiot, and could recognize that time taken to believe or practice religion is a potential loss). In the end, it really wouldn’t matter if other people suffered because of your choice, or even if you suffer in particular ways. Any human suffering is finite by nature, whereas if you do not take the Wager and are wrong your suffering will be infinite. If you do not take the Wager and are right, you don’t suffer anyway and all you lost was a finite amount of time. But if you take the Wager and God does exist, the payoffs are infinite! It’s like Vegas on crack.
    Of course, the Wager is fundamentally flawed since it does not take into account the possibility of a deity who dislikes smartasses.
    The more you know!

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