Continuing the series “Conversations with Strangers, here’s a non-climate one, in response to a Huffington Post blog post on Pascal’s Wager. There are better responses to it out there, but I’m fairly happy with what I wrote:
Pascal’s wager is a case for dishonesty – you can’t choose to believe, but you can choose to lie and pretend that you believe.
So integrity is one thing that you lose if you accept this argument.
Beyond that, religion changes how you interact with the world. Do you pray over a decision, or do you reason through the pros and cons of it? How do you view people who don’t share your religion? How do you treat them?
What about people who DO share your religion? Are you more likely to trust them because of that? Are they really more trustworthy? Would you change how you vote based on whether the person you’re voting for shares your religion? What if they had worse policies? Certainly some people vote based on religion.
Religion also teaches people that it’s ok to accept things based on little to no evidence, because it feels right, or in this case because someone told you that you’ve got a lot to gain/lose.
Hate to pick on so many of your arguements, but there are massive flaws and missunderstandings here. Here is the non-Christian’s rationalization. “We are complete accidents followed by a set of other accidents and ultimately a giant catastrophic waste of time. Why you ask? Because faith is a fairytale and we are all just piles of dust running around while our cells still work cheering on and ridiculing other piles of dust as we see fit. Ultimately we don’t matter and we are an episode of little consequence, because ultimately we are already dead. We are particles wishing to be something real.” Christianity says “we mean everything, we are a big deal and we have a almighty loving God. We will live on and never die,” I stand on the side of Christ.
And you are now lying about what I believe.
We are part of an unbroken chain of life going back hundreds of millions of years, we are made of the universe and the atoms of our existence were forged in a thousand stars. We are kin with all life on this planet, and our lives and consciousness are all the more valuable because this is all we get.
Our lives have meaning in the effects we have on the lives of others. The only afterlife I will have will be the memories of those whose lives I touched, and the ways in which my influence on them will be passed on to others.
There are people in the world who know how to juggle because I taught them, and I knew, because of those who taught me, who knew because of others before them, part of an unbroken chain of learning, sharing, and companionship going back generations, and that will go on long after I’m dead.
This last weekend, I showed someone how to call a flock of songbirds in the forest, because I was taught it by an ornithologist, who was taught by someone else, going back to the first person who learned it from the birds themselves, by imitating them. Those birds, in turn, are the survivors of the lineage of the dinosaurs.
We are part of an awe-inspiring web of life and experience that goes far beyond our own lives, rippling out beyond our physical boundaries in the present, past, and future, and we are privileged to be aware of our place in that tapestry, and to choose, in small ways, how we influence that tapestry.
And you say that all of that is meaningless without your deity? What a depressing, uninspiring view of the cosmos…