Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My response to Pascal's Wager

In the past when presented with Pascal's Wager, I've given this argument: Why would somebody consciously "choose" to believe in a God "just in case"? If God is real, wouldn't he see through such a hypocritical belief?

Most people I've talked to -- Christian and atheist and everything in between -- like this response. But today in conversation with a Christian friend of mine, I thought of the following. Here's my new response to Pascal's Wager:

It's a moot point. I live my life as best as I can, donating to charity and helping people simply because I want to, because it's important to help people. Since I don't believe in an eternal reward or eternal punishment, I'm doing these good deeds from my heart, NOT out of some warped desire to impress a deity to earn everlasting salvation. The goodness is in my heart.

In the Bible, Jesus even said that it's important that we have goodness in our heart, that we don't behave hypocritically. (It's late, and tomorrow I can find some exact verses.) So if I'm living a life of goodness from my heart, just as Jesus taught us, then I have nothing to worry about. I don't believe in the Christian God, nor do I believe in Jesus. But in the highly unlikely event that after I die I suddenly wake up and find myself sitting before Jesus for some kind of judgment, then I'm not worried at all. I was a good person and had goodness in my heart.

That's my new response to Pascal's Wager. I don't believe in God, and I'm not worried, because if there is a God, he'll see the good person that I am. (Incidentally, does that mean I'm leaving open the possibility that there's a God? Nope. I don't believe one bit in the Christian God. He's not real. But at least I don't sit around dreading it either way.) Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

Yes thats the trouble with religious books.Its detrimental to the reality of honest altruism.

Altruism is said to be.
The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.

Those of suggested religious altruism do so mostly out of selfishness of buying their own salvation.Their devotion is mostly for their own personal gain.

What ever afterlife there may or may not be , i suggest you would be much wiser to follow your own heart than to follow these religious books that are writings of all the thoughts of mere earthly man.

Those that let their hearts be overidden by the thoughts of religious man , such thoughts that to often bring about things such as separation within families and many other barbaric practices.

Just might find the loss of their heart has cost them a good sharp clip around the ear when they find themselves on the other side.

Wonder how their pascals wager will serve them then ? .Will being heartless be excused ?.

Agnostic Anarch said...

You didn't just use the Thor or Ra version of Pascal's Wager on'em? That's usually what I do.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Yes, Jesus taught that we shouldn't be hypocrites, but unfortunately he never taught that anyone can bank on the goodness within their own heart. It bums me out to think that the "Christianity" you've rejected is one that says that we're supposed to try and live our lives the best we can, in hopes of receiving an eternal reward. The truth is, Jesus never taught such a thing. He taught that we are all intrinsically evil, and that the only way that there is hope for us is to be made new, (to be "born again"...) You'd be right to reject such a false representation of the gospel, and so now I'm wondering, how much have you heard of the real message of Jesus?


Anonymous said...

Daniel said"but unfortunately he never taught that anyone can bank on the goodness within their own heart"

Oh so thats why many Christians dont have this natural goodness within their own hearts.They rely on one thats floating about somewhere that they spend time trying to pretend that they have.And then when it becomes quite natural for them to maybe not be quite so naturally caring they back this up by reading religious thoughts that say "we are all intrinsically evil" which then makes them feel that its ok and all going to plan anyway.

What you suggest this Jesus taught is one thing, but you could very well be quite wrong .It could be these thoughts said to be that of jesus might actually just be thoughts of some men .

Are you absolutely sure your actually know just who you have put your faith in in believing everything you read.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Yes, that is exactly why many Christians don't have this natural goodness within their own hearts, in fact, NONE of them do. Although, as you have obviously observed, there are plenty of people out there who have deluded themselves into thinking that they are righteous in and of themselves. When Jesus walked the earth, he was constantly bumping heads with a group called the Pharisees, who definately believed they could stand on their own goodness. They thought they were right in God's eyes based on how they adhered to the Jewish laws and traditions. Jesus exposed their hypocracy time and time again, and that is why they hated him so much. Sadly today, many people have only encountered modern-day Pharisees, rather than anyone who has truly met Jesus, and have understandably wanted nothing to do with God as a result....

As far as Jesus being real, or just an invention of men, that would probably take many, many pages to adequately cover! But you make a very good point, that if you're going to put your complete faith in someone, and devote your whole life to that person and their teaching, then you'd better be sure you know who they are! In short, yes, I know who I have put my faith in. And it doesn't rest simply on the use of my brain, or in being able to decipher things written centuries ago. The Holy Spirit is real, and God does respond when we seek Him, although for many years growing up in the church I had never experienced this. It is so much more than intellectual assent to a set of doctrines, it is as real as the air we breathe. If Jesus was just a man, or not even real at all, then it's all a waste of time. But, if he is who he says he is, then he is VERY real, and he is listening right now, he knows our hearts, our thoughts, and loves us more than we can even begin to comprehend...


unique_stephen said...

My argument exactly.

Crystal said...

Yes, I've always said Pascal's Wager is hilarious. If there truly WAS a god, then just believing in it to hedge your bets would be seen through right from the get go!

Most of all, the idea that 'it doesn't hurt' to have religious belief is obviously false. People hurt other people in the name of their religion quite often, so that does 'hurt'.

Steve said...

Jeff- "some warped desire to impress a deity to earn everlasting salvation. The goodness is in my heart.
Since when is Christianity about having to impress a deity? It's impossible. That's what the doctrine of grace is there for.