Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh, Pascal

While surfing the 'nets today, I ran across a blog post entitled "Why I Am Not An Atheist" by a blogger named BlueKat. Well, naturally, I have to respond to it in full. :)

I am not an atheist because I am not arrogant enough to think that I am so wise as to know that God does not exist.

Aaaand, I need to stop this one after the first sentence. Most atheists (at least, most of the big names in atheism) don't claim to know that God does not exist. In fact, most of them don't believe in absolute certainty at all. We simply lack a belief in God. Some may believe that no God exist, but rarely, if ever, is this belief expressed as a statement of knowledge.

Ever since I posted on Pascal's Gambit (or Wager) I have found numerous references to it in forums and on blogs, etc. Usually it is being used by atheists in various ways, always claiming it to be fallacious or easily refutable or otherwise faulty. However, in order to do so, they invariably change Pascal's assumptions to suit their purpose and then declare "Eureka! Wager disproved!"

It doesn't work that way, folks.

For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.

Right, and this is a very bad assumption. It is precisely this assumption that makes Pascal's arguement so weak. But let us continue...

However, you can think of it this way:

If you believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are infinite.

If you believe in God, and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are nil.

If you do not believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God still does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are still infinite.

If you do not believe in God and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are still nil.
Ok, what? How is this an arguement for belief at all? Yeah, if God exists he'll do what He wants with us whether or not we beleive. We all know that. Why should we believe?

Either way, the odds are always in favor of the House (or God), because our belief or non-belief in him has no bearing whatsoever on his existence or non-existence. If he exists, he holds all the cards.

If you are turned off, or disillusioned by the Christian God concept because of fundamentalists or whatever, that's fine. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what form of God we're talking about here. An active, prescient God who directs us all in everything we do. An inactive, detached God who set everything in motion and then disengaged. A good God who has a nifty little heaven set up for all believers and a nasty little hell set up for all non-believers. A God who transforms us into another reincarnated being after death. A God who does nothing whatsoever with us once our time here on earth is finished.

No, no, no, no. It absolutely DOES matter what God you believe in. Al most every single monotheistic deity requires belief in Himself ALONE. Idolotry is enough to send you to hell. If you choose to believe "just to be safe" in one God, then there is still a gigantic chance that you will end up in the hell of another God. No matter what you choose to believe or disbelieve, there is no advantage. Besides, what if the God that exists, for some reason, only wants to punish believers? What if Pascal's assumption that God is good is completely wrong? Pascel's wager is a horrible wager because it fails to account for the infinite number of possibilities we could have in relation to an unknowable, supernatural entity.

Also, this blogger seems to assume that the theism and atheism are automatically by default both equally plausable positions to hold. I would argue that this is untrue. There is no evidence for the existance of God. By definition, God, as transcendent being, is an unknown. Any statements of belief require faith. Atheism requires no faith or assumptions. It is purely a lack of belief and a lack of assumptions about the supernatural. I do not choose to be an atheist just because I want to. I choose not to believe because I cannot in good conscious make dishonest statements of knowledge.

IT JUST DOES NOT MATTER, PEOPLE. Whatever you think, whatever you believe, whatever you've been taught, whatever you've read, whatever you've envisioned or prophetized or proselytized, it JUST DOES NOT MATTER.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND? You, me, the preacher, the priest, the rabbi, the master, the bodisattva... we are all just little bitty human beings running around on a teeny tiny planet in a gi-normous, unending Universe and it does not matter what we believe.

Right, but while we're here, PEOPLE matter. Religion almost always a divisive force. People kill, discriminate, make unjust laws and commit countless other ills in the name of religion. It does matter. It also matters because, if there is no God, every single person who prays daily, goes to church or temple frequently, sacrifices a portion of their salary or even their life has wasted their existence on a falsehood. I care too much to allow this to happen unknowingly.

We don't know that there is not a God. We don't know that there is a God. God doesn't flicker on and off like a neon light depending on what one little human is thinking one second as compared to what another little human is thinking the next second.

We cannot prove whether or not some higher intelligence might exist, this is true. BUT I think it is possible to prove that ancient myths about Gods like Zeus, Yahweh, Allah, etc. are just that, mythology. We know that they were written by primitive peoples who borrowed myths from their predecessors. Many of the gods they propose have logically contradictory qualities that, by definition, cannot exist (e.g., being both infinately just and infinately merciful, being omniscient and having free will, etc.) It's safe to say (though, as mentioned earlier, without absolute certainty) that these being probably do not exist.

God either exists or not. What we think has no bearing on his existence. Just because you imagine there is a God does not make God materialize. Just because you think there is no God does not make God disappear.

If there is a God, when you die, God will do with you whatever he will.
If there is no God, when you die, then nothing will happen.

Nope. This is a false dichotomy. Even if there is no God, theoretically, something could happen. Maybe our conscious minds fall into some sort of transdimensional wormhole and continue to exist in another universe. I made that up, obviously, but if we're listing things that COULD happen without the help of an intelligent deity, it'd say it works as an example.

I've studied Buddhism pretty extensively, and the problem I have with reincarnation is that something has to set that in motion which means that there would have to be a God. And, if there is a God, then he may or may not reincarnate you because it will be his choice what to do and he will do as he will. So, you can have no true assurance of reincarnation.

Ok, as with all first cause arguments, this one about reincarnation is flawed. Just because something had to be set into motion, doesn't mean that a God did it. Even if a God DID start the process of reincarnation, it doesn't men that He continues to effect it. Carrying on.

No matter how well educated you may be, or how intelligent, or how knowledgeble, you, my friend, are not all-knowing.

You can feel self-assured all you want, but you can have no assurance of anything except that one day you will die and on that day, and not until that day, you will know the truth.

No one is claiming to be all knowing here. Neurologists can tell you easily what happens when you die. Your brain stops working. There is no reason to believe that we have souls or consciousness apart from our brains. I'd say that the truth is probably that, when you die, that's the end of any life you'll ever have. Do I know absolutely? Of course not. But, as I've stated three times already, there is no reason to believe otherwise.

In the comment section of the blog post in question, the author made several posts indicating that she believed Pascal over any objectors because Pascal was smarter than any of them. Bull. This is a shameless appeal to authority. If you want to hear more about flaws in Pascal's wager, I recommend this video:

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