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Pascal's wager, explained here, essentially says it would be foolish to not believe in God due to a cost/benefit analysis. There are problems with this.

Which God?

The wager depends on a specific God with specific outcomes for specific behaviors. What if there is actually a God where the outcome is something else? What if the real one values critical inquiry above all else and rewards honest pursuits more than commitments?

Mathematically this reduces to gambling not between yes or no, but in hoping that you've selected the right one of thousands of choices. In this sense, agnosticism or atheism can be categorized as one of these selections because there could be a God who created a world where these are rational choices. Consider as well that the general concept of God has been one of exclusive devotion. Thus, picking one automatically makes you the enemy of the others. If there were, say, 1000 Gods to pick from, you would then have a 99.9% chance of damnation. So, just hope that there isn't one or, if there is, that it values honesty - then just be honest about what you can and cannot know.

- Is it really free?

Adopting the norms of worship typically comes at a cost, although hard to measure. One typically joins a group (that's good) and then surrenders some freedoms and must signal the others to remain in good standing (bad). Authentic devotion incurs guilt and fear when any of the norms are violated, even when the violation is otherwise morally neutral (ie having a beer while a member of a teetotaling group). The experience is genuinely distressing to the member - this is bad. At an extreme, members may have to adopt hatred for others - this is very bad.

So, while some groups are better than others, authentic devotion isn't free.

- Can you force yourself to believe?

Hope is as far as some can go. Is it even possible to compartmentize data so effectively as to genuinely believe something in the face of sparse or contradicting information? Do we not consider someone doing this to be delusional? It seems to me that people are compelled to their beliefs rather than selecting them.

- Can't God tell you're just believing for the payoff?

If not, then what kind of God are we dealing with? If so, then generally the believed result is damnation. If you can't choose belief and salvation requires genuine belief, then there should be compelling and conclusive data to drive the belief.

pascal_s_wager.1523028800.txt.gz · Last modified: 2018/04/06 08:33 by glennd