Why Pascal's Wager Sucks

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Why Pascal's Wager Sucks

A friend forwarded a message received from a xian attempting to use Pascal's Wager. The reply is classic.

 

The message:

Quote:

Someday, you'll understand. I feel sorry for you. Just promise me one thing, IF you were to hypothetically end up burning in hell or something, don't curse the religious for not saving you int time. Just consider that if my beliefs are wrong, so what, I'm worm food or whatever, no big loss. But if you're wrong, you're screwed. But you still have tons of chances to get it. Believe it or not, God loves you and when you meet your maker, you'll remember this and regret not taking it seriously. Good luck on your road of life, maybe our paths will cross someday.

My friend's reply:

Quote:


Hey, Bud! Thanks for your thoughts. When you sent your notice of pity, it would have been a lot more helpful had you mentioned which God I should avoid being screwed by.

There’s Allah whom the Muslim vehemently deny is triune; who say that Jesus is just a prophet, who say your Bible has been corrupted and so on. They give evidence from ancient history, science, archeology, Greek and Hebrew, Christian scholars, the early church fathers and the Bible itself to support their claim.

www.answering-christianity.com
www.muslim-responses.com
http://www.islam-guide.com

Or, how about the Jews. They say that Jesus at best was a good (if not problematic) Jewish Rabbi, but not the Messiah and certainly not God. They give evidence from ancient history, science, archeology, Greek and Hebrew, Christian scholars, the early church fathers and the Bible itself to support their claim.

www.jewsforjudaism.org
www.messiahtruth.com

Or, how about the Mormons who say that there are a multitude of gods and we can become one through acts like believing in their holy books and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. They give evidence from ancient history, science, archeology, Greek and Hebrew, Christian scholars, the early church fathers and the Bible itself to support their claim.

www.farms.byu.edu
www.fairlds.org

Or, how about the Jehovah’s witnesses who deny the trinity also. They say that Jesus was just a man and that the holy spirit is Jehovah’s active force. They say he is not omnipresent, that we are annihilated and not condemned to Hell and that Jesus has already come secretly. They give evidence from ancient history, science, archeology, Greek and Hebrew, Christian scholars, the early church fathers and the Bible itself to support their claim.

www.elihubooks.com
www.jehovah.to/index.htm

Even the Roman Catholic Church, who while saying they have the same God as you, say also that you can by God’s grace (through the sacraments and other good works) earn salvation. They believe such go to Purgatory when they die and one should do nearly every act of worship toward Mary that you do to Jesus, just don’t call it worship. They give evidence from ancient history, science, archeology, Greek and Hebrew, Christian scholars, the early church fathers and the Bible itself to support their claim.

www.catholic.com
www.catholicapologetics.org
www.envoymagazine.com

It seems partner that “god” has “left you without a witness.” Anyway you slice it, you are just as screwed as I am! But don’t worry! Look at these passages:

Deuteronomy 20:10-17 "When you draw near a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labour for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its male to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemy, which the Lord God has given to you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. In the cities of these people that the Lord your God gives you an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amoriotes, the Canaanites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded."

Deuteronomy 7:2 "and when the Lord your God gives then [the enemies] over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them..."

Numbers 31:7, 17 They warred against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and slew every male…[Moses said to them] "... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by lying with him..."

I Samuel 15:1-3 And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore hearken to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, `I will punish what Am'alek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Am'alek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'"

II Kings 2:23-24 He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" And he turned around and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out from the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

Looks like we didn’t have to worry about God being all that loving after all.

 

I hope that the Pascal Wagerer felt that bitch slap!

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You should have thrown more

You should have thrown more religions at him/her.

 

Maybe it's best for the next response. 


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Ophios wrote:  Maybe it's

Ophios wrote:
 Maybe it's best for the next response. 
I suspect that my friend won't be hearing from that person again.  tee hee

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This is fantastic! I've

This is fantastic! I've heard the basic refutation before, but not only is this well presented (the repitition of "authority" is beautiful) but citations abound! Thank you very much for posting this!


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Well, just because there is

Well, just because there is disagreement among believers as to which religion is the best one does not mean that there is no best religion. You are just being lazy by not investigating these faiths carefully and making your own conclusions.

 At any rate, Pascal's wager is not meant to be used in decisions as to which religion to follow. It is supposed to be a tie-breaker for any person who has examined the evidence for Christianity and is still not fully convinced. If he thinks the probability of Christianity's being true is ~50-50, then Pascal's wager may be of some use to him to clinch his choice toward belief.


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Actually if you give all

Actually if you give all religions plus ones never invented, not to mention atheism, it comes out to near 0. Picking Christianity vs Everything else at 50/50 is a flase dichotomy.

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Actually if you give all

Actually if you give all religions plus ones never invented, not to mention atheism, it comes out to near 0. Picking Christianity vs Everything else at 50/50 is a flase dichotomy.

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Quote: Well, just because

Quote:
Well, just because there is disagreement among believers as to which religion is the best one does not mean that there is no best religion.

This is true, but best from whose standard? Even if we try to objectively measure the worth of a religion, we're going to have to pick a god so that we can have a standard by which to judge the religions. If you want to say that we have intrinsic knowledge of what is best, then we don't need the religions anyway, and the point is moot.

Quote:
You are just being lazy by not investigating these faiths carefully and making your own conclusions.

And you are being dishonest by not admitting that you don't have intimate knowledge of every religion that exists now. Your choice was as lazy as any other theists.

Quote:
At any rate, Pascal's wager is not meant to be used in decisions as to which religion to follow. It is supposed to be a tie-breaker for any person who has examined the evidence for Christianity and is still not fully convinced.

We like sources around here. Would you mind citing your source for this assumption. First hand evidence, please.

Secondly, the point is somewhat irrelevant. Even if this is how Pascal intended us to use his wager, it doesn't mean that his intention corresponded to the actual degree of use the wager has. If it applies to one religion, it applies to all of them unless you can demonstrate that one religion stands separate from the others. Since you have to presume that one god exists before you can do this, you're just running in circles. 

Quote:
If he thinks the probability of Christianity's being true is ~50-50, then Pascal's wager may be of some use to him to clinch his choice toward belief.

If he believes Christianity is a 50/50 proposition, then he needs to take a class in logic.

 

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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What I find interesting is

What I find interesting is that those who buy into Pascal's Wager assume that a person can force him/herself to believe something they know is untrue.

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To be perfectly fair, I can

To be perfectly fair, I can see the logic where Pascal's Wager would be the "tipping point."  A theist could say, no, you can't force yourself to believe, but Pascal's Wager is the last piece of the puzzle for some people, and they believe because of the perceived logic of the statement.

Weak argument, I know, but I'm sure it's worked that way for lots of people.

 

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Vastet
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I've seen this before

I've seen this before somewhere.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


Susan
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Vastet wrote: I've seen

Vastet wrote:
I've seen this before somewhere.


"ATHEISTS AGNOSTICS SKEPTICS HUMANISTS ON MYSPACE" is my friend. There are some pretty good blog posts on the profile.

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=107741751


 

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My cousin threw Pascal's

My cousin threw Pascal's Wager at me when we were 14 or so (before I knew what it was,) and I was just beginning to doubt.  My first thought was, "but wouldn't god know you were faking it?"

 

LV 

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I recently watched this

I recently watched this video, which retaliates with a Pascal's Wager of its own:

Quote:
On the other side of the coin, if there is no god, YOU have lost something by worshipping him. You have wasted a good portion of your life performing the various devotional rituals, attending churches, praying, reading scripture and discussing your deity with his other followers. Not to mention giving your hard-earned money to the church, wasting your intelligence on theological endeavors, and boring the hell out of people who really don't want to hear your "good news."

 

I thought this was both witty and wise. 

We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins


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Great post

I enjoyed reading this, thank you.


voltaire28
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I like Homer SImpson's

I like Homer Simpson's Wager:

"But Marge, what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week, we're just making god madder and madder!"

LOL

 


FreeThoughtMake...
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Wow that person was crazy

Wow that person was crazy owned. lol


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Pascal's wager doesn't work

Pascal's wager doesn't work because is assumes the choice is binary, which it isn't.  It's pretty obvious to those of us outside the paradigm of theism, but hardcore Christians do see it as binary.  That's the problem.  They see the world as being made up of two types of people:  Christians and non-Christians.  They barely acknoweldge the distinction between different types of non-Christians.  For someone stuck in that mindset, Pascal's Wager seems to make sense.
The irony is that the logic of Pascal's Wager does apply very well to some things, such as global warming.  Think about it.  It just doesn't work when talking about God.


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now look at that. i wanted

now look at that. i wanted to link to wikipedias "atheist's Wager" and find some short cut merge and attempts to delete and miscredit it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Atheist%27s_Wager&redirect=no

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Atheist%27s_Wager&oldid=107691048


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The premise of Pascal's

The premise of Pascal's wager works though, doesn't it? I'm not sure but I think that Christianity is the only one that condemns you to hell for not 'accepting Jesus into your heart' and most other religions let you in based on 'a good life'. Granted, i'm just thinking of the major ones.


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The really tricky part of

The really tricky part of christianity is that they can't even agree amonst themselves.  Baptists are ok with living a good life and getting a ticket in; Catholics have changed their minds a couple of times and for a while they just made up a whole separate place in between; Lutherans say you have to do both so they are all pretty much going to hell for sure.  Those are just three under "christianity"; why didn't god, any god make this more clear?

 

It is all a giant pile of poo.


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I almost shit myself.

That was great. Old Blaisey was a fruit. I think I will accept them all and include the tooth fairy and Santa, just in case...lol


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When people give me

When people give me Pascal's Nonsense, I return with this

http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/sapient/philosophy_and_psychology_with_chaoslord_and_todangst/5652

And since none of them take logic, they are struck dumb as their ignorance falls spectacularly.

Give that to your wager-loving theist. See what he thinks. 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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Let's see.

Sacrafice the only organ more important than my penis or accept religion and be a jackass and not be able to use either? Hmmm.


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ChaosPerfected wrote: The

ChaosPerfected wrote:
The premise of Pascal's wager works though, doesn't it? I'm not sure but I think that Christianity is the only one that condemns you to hell for not 'accepting Jesus into your heart' and most other religions let you in based on 'a good life'. Granted, i'm just thinking of the major ones.

Islam sends you to hell if you are not a Moslem.

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BenfromCanada
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ChaosPerfected wrote: The

ChaosPerfected wrote:
The premise of Pascal's wager works though, doesn't it? I'm not sure but I think that Christianity is the only one that condemns you to hell for not 'accepting Jesus into your heart' and most other religions let you in based on 'a good life'. Granted, i'm just thinking of the major ones.

All Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Rastafari, Baha'i, and probably a few more) condemn you to hell for not believing and being bad. Hinduism condemns the atheist as well, claiming that none can be virtuous while not believing in god. Sikhism also condemns us. I'm not sure about the other major religions (there are 22 "major" world religions of 500,000 followers or more, though this includes non-religion, Unitarian Universalism, Juche, and Scientology, which has been accused of inflating its numbers) 


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for clarification's sake

for clarification's sake abrahamic religions are grounded on traits of punishment and fear of hell, whereas dharmic religions (including hinduism, buddhism, and sikhism) do not condemn anyone to hell. even "karma" is impersonal (karma just means action and reaction).

friendly reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

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Actually Sikhism does teach

Actually Sikhism does teach that no matter how good the person is, all atheists will be cursed with reincarnation, and all theists (no matter what religion) will merge with god. So it does condemn atheists to a different idea of hell.

 (Edited for confusion with doctrines.)


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noor wrote: Actually

noor wrote:
Actually Sikhism does teach that no matter how good the person is, all atheists will be cursed with separation from god, and all theists (no matter what religion) will merge with god. So it does condemn atheists to a non-physical hell.

The same goes with Hinduism. Theists can potentially reach brahma-nirvana eventually, but atheists can not, and will not until they embrace some form of theism. Interestingly, many christians and moderate muslims believe in the same sort of hell nowadays


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this is incorrect.

this is incorrect. brahman/nirvana is a state of being, not a person. brahman is not a deity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

hinduism posits that suffering is bad, and that ignorance leads to suffering. deities are not required. in fact many people call hinduism "pantheistic."

the terms theist or atheist don't make much sense in the narrative tradition of hinduism or other dharmic religions. (rather, dharma and adharma) admittedly, i have not read anything deeply about sikhism, but here is a general article on dharmic religions (as opposed to abrahamic religions). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmic_religions

the basic assumption of dharmic religions, is that there is such a thing as "truth" and one can find it. truth also would not be considered supernatural or separate (like a divine deity). and, there's no punishment for not finding it.

can i ask both of you what your sources are on your understanding of hindu metaphysics?
[edit: forgot a link]

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BenfromCanada
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mouse wrote:

mouse wrote:

this is incorrect. brahman/nirvana is a state of being, not a person. brahman is not a deity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

hinduism posits that suffering is bad, and that ignorance leads to suffering. deities are not required. in fact many people call hinduism "pantheistic."

the terms theist or atheist don't make much sense in the narrative tradition of hinduism or other dharmic religions. (rather, dharma and adharma) admittedly, i have not read anything deeply about sikhism, but here is a general article on dharmic religions (as opposed to abrahamic religions). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmic_religions

the basic assumption of dharmic religions, is that there is such a thing as "truth" and one can find it. truth also would not be considered supernatural or separate (like a divine deity). and, there's no punishment for not finding it.

can i ask both of you what your sources are on your understanding of hindu metaphysics?
[edit: forgot a link]

Sikhism is, in essence, a blending of Islam and Hinduism (according to a hindu friend who used to live in India, in an area with a large Sikh population).

My understanding of it comes from my reading of various Hindu holy texts, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. Their belief is basically that atheists have cut themselves off from the truth, while Hindus have not, and can attain nirvana.

The punishment for not finding truth is to be reincarnated again and again, never truly becoming one with god. Other theists are capable of this, potentially. They worship aspects of god, which is what many Hindus do. To most hindus, worshipping Yahweh is little different than worshipping Vishnu or Shiva.


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I suggest reading the

I suggest reading the Bhagavad Gita if you want a good metaphysical grounding for religions in the dharmic tradition.

reincarnation in this narrative tradition is not punishment inasmuch as there is no separate thing or person (deity) doing the punishing. reincarnation is an explanatory mechanism, not one to inspire fear or piety. From wikipedia

"After many births, every person eventually becomes dissatisfied with the limited happiness that worldly pleasures can bring. At this point, a person begins to seek higher forms of happiness, which can be attained only through spiritual experience. When, after much spiritual practice (sādhanā), a person finally realizes his or her own divine nature—ie., realizes that the true "self" is the immortal soul rather than the body or the ego—all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish, since they will seem insipid compared to spiritual ānanda. When all desire has vanished, the person will not be reborn anymore.[3]

When the cycle of rebirth thus comes to an end, a person is said to have attained moksha, or salvation.[4]"


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnation

I think reading this all the way through provides some good perspective.

 

 

 

 

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mouse
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BenfromCanada wrote:

BenfromCanada wrote:

My understanding of it comes from my reading of various Hindu holy texts, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. Their belief is basically that atheists have cut themselves off from the truth, while Hindus have not, and can attain nirvana.



Oh, I misread this before. Which translation of the Bhagavad Gita did you read? there is no word for theist, theism, atheist or atheism in the book.

In any case the point of my posting was just to clarify (I hope we haven't strayed too far!), that Pascal's Wager has no bearing on these religions since there is no separate, intentional deity in this particular narrative tradition (thus no intent to punish).

A metaphor which has been used to explain this type of thought is that evolution of life is its own cause. In the same way, spiritual advancement seems to be its own cause.

I'm also not advancing any particular belief system. I'm just clarifying.

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I'm not sure about Hinduism

I'm not sure about Hinduism (especially since there are so many different variations and schools) but Sikhism teaches that Christians will be saved, so it doesn't go with Pascal's Wager.


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mouse wrote: Oh, I misread

mouse wrote:


Oh, I misread this before. Which translation of the Bhagavad Gita did you read? there is no word for theist, theism, atheist or atheism in the book.

In any case the point of my posting was just to clarify (I hope we haven't strayed too far!), that Pascal's Wager has no bearing on these religions since there is no separate, intentional deity in this particular narrative tradition (thus no intent to punish).

A metaphor which has been used to explain this type of thought is that evolution of life is its own cause. In the same way, spiritual advancement seems to be its own cause.

I'm also not advancing any particular belief system. I'm just clarifying.

Eknath Easwaran was the translator. It did say "atheists" in there, probably where others would have put adharmic or something.

The fact is, there is a deity, though it is everywhere and in everything. While it doesn't specifically punish the wicked, those who have not reached any real level of understanding, who haven't practiced yoga, and who are not virtuous, cannot reach brahma-nirvana. Atheists (or adharmic people) by Krishna's definition are not virtuous and not willing to learn or gain any real understanding.


BenfromCanada
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noor wrote: I'm not sure

noor wrote:
I'm not sure about Hinduism (especially since there are so many different variations and schools) but Sikhism teaches that Christians will be saved, so it doesn't go with Pascal's Wager.

You are right about variations. What we've been saying may not apply to all. However, Pascal's Wager is specifically aimed at atheists, and Sikhism teaches that atheists aren't saved. Therefore, the wager is still applicable. 


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BenfromCanada wrote: noor

BenfromCanada wrote:

noor wrote:
I'm not sure about Hinduism (especially since there are so many different variations and schools) but Sikhism teaches that Christians will be saved, so it doesn't go with Pascal's Wager.

You are right about variations. What we've been saying may not apply to all. However, Pascal's Wager is specifically aimed at atheists, and Sikhism teaches that atheists aren't saved. Therefore, the wager is still applicable.

I meant that you can't tell a Christian attempting to use Pascal's Wager that according to Sikhism they will go to a Sikh hell.


BenfromCanada
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noor wrote: BenfromCanada

noor wrote:
BenfromCanada wrote:

noor wrote:
I'm not sure about Hinduism (especially since there are so many different variations and schools) but Sikhism teaches that Christians will be saved, so it doesn't go with Pascal's Wager.

You are right about variations. What we've been saying may not apply to all. However, Pascal's Wager is specifically aimed at atheists, and Sikhism teaches that atheists aren't saved. Therefore, the wager is still applicable.

I meant that you can't tell a Christian attempting to use Pascal's Wager that according to Sikhism they will go to a Sikh hell.

You're right, mostly. Several sects (I love that word) of Sikhism disagree with this, though. Some say all religious folks get the same reward, some think that only Sikhs do. 


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I've read Easwaran's

I've read Easwaran's translation (along with a couple of others) Atheism is not a word in the book; (adharma is not the same as atheism).

If Brahman is everything, then it is not a deity quite simply because you are included. If you're "worshipping" Brahman, your worshipping yourself.  Again, Pascal's Wager does not apply because there is no external entity imposing punishment or reward. Simply, causes have effects. Once one gets bored with worldly pleasures, he moves on to higher ones. 

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[url=http://newsweek.washing

Sam Harris Pascal's Wager

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dandres87
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I'm a bit confused on the

I'm a bit confused on the refutation of Pascal's Wager. I understand it is commonly used by those of Christian beliefs but how does the fact that there are countless religions prove to be problematic to the wager? I'm sure most theistic religions condemn the denial of their "god" to the point of some punishment. I'm probably misunderstanding (too many posts to read) so if someone could clarify my confusion.


Lhill
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I am confused as well. I

I am confused as well. I always thought that Pascal's wager answered an existential question as it pertains to the meaning in life.

In other words, if in this life I have found the thing that makes me happy, and the atheist is correct, there is no God. I havent lost anything.

If the point of life is to find happiness, then in this life like the atheist I have found it and I have not lost the wager.

However, if in this life I (the christian) am correct, I have found the thing that makes me happy in this life, and afterward I will find the fulfillment of that which gives me joy, what does the atheist find if the Christian is correct? Something far different.

In fact there be no recovery at that point. The point of the wager is this, in both cases the Christian loses nothing.

How other religions answer that question is irrelevant to the wager itself.


BenfromCanada
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dandres87 wrote: I'm a bit

dandres87 wrote:
I'm a bit confused on the refutation of Pascal's Wager. I understand it is commonly used by those of Christian beliefs but how does the fact that there are countless religions prove to be problematic to the wager? I'm sure most theistic religions condemn the denial of their "god" to the point of some punishment. I'm probably misunderstanding (too many posts to read) so if someone could clarify my confusion.
The argument states that simply believing in god will get you into heaven. It's a false dichotomy, because you have to believe in the RIGHT god, else you're going to hell. Actually, Hambydammit (sp?) had a long and detailed refutation of this in another thread.


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Lhill wrote: I am confused

Lhill wrote:
I am confused as well. I always thought that Pascal's wager answered an existential question as it pertains to the meaning in life. In other words, if in this life I have found the thing that makes me happy, and the atheist is correct, there is no God. I havent lost anything. If the point of life is to find happiness, then in this life like the atheist I have found it and I have not lost the wager. However, if in this life I (the christian) am correct, I have found the thing that makes me happy in this life, and afterward I will find the fulfillment of that which gives me joy, what does the atheist find if the Christian is correct? Something far different. In fact there be no recovery at that point. The point of the wager is this, in both cases the Christian loses nothing. How other religions answer that question is irrelevant to the wager itself.

Let us add a third demension to the wager. Islam.

If you and I believe our perspective beliefs, but Islam is right, then we're both screwed. Your failure to realize why the wager is moronic is because most people can't realize the fact atheism and christianity as just two options of many. You say it has to relevance? What if you're a Muslim and Islam is the "correct" religion? Then the christian and the atheist would be equally screwed. To not recognize there aren't just two choices is idiocy, because there aren't two choices, there are many. 

Belief from fear is not true belief.  

In any event, the wager could only justified to say it's safer to have a religion then not have one. Which of course, is asinine. Even when I was a christian, I always beleived this.

 If there was a God, he would be concerned about your actions as opposed to your beliefs. Assuming someone lived a near perfect life, (Note near) and they were apologetic to anyone they hurt (sincerely) but were atheist, I've heard conflicting accounts from preachers saying they would, or would not go to hell. I made the assumption include they were always doing good, and not doing bad. Etc. This oddly enough did show any pattern based on church (Baptist, Methodist, or otherwise) or on any particular kind of Christianity (Liberal or Conservative).

 

So, I find the wager irrlevant  based on the fact that it's solely on belief, and not on action. There is not action in the equation, and therefore the odds aren't true regardless. I judge people by what they do as people, not what they believe. If I know someone raped and tortured 50 children, I'm not going to like that person. If I know someone saved a bus load of 50 kids and gave their life doing it, I'd respect that person, regardless of (most) mistakes in their past.

 To me, it works like this. I'd rather be a good person to myself and "burn in hell", then be a shitty person and "go to heaven", for no other fact than "believing in God". I'm good to others for the sake of being good to others, and not some pathetic reward of "heaven". 

Aside from the tangent, I think the wager has had it's ass kicked three or four times now, right? 

 


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Good links! Especially

Good links! Especially muslim-responses.com I've been debating with a theist who can't seem to entertain the notion of there not being a god, so I sent him the muslim responses link and am anxious to see his reaction. There's even testomonials on there of Christians converting to Islam after praying to God for months for help in finding him. Classic!

'The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.'
- Richard Dawkins


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Sensational reply by your

Tis a sensational reply by your friend, but I tend to think the shorter and more concise, the more impactful a rebuttal.

There are a LOT of different ways to refute Pascal's Wager. Why so many? Because it's so fundamentally flawed, and the ONLY reason why it is compelling to some people is because it appeals to EMOTION rather than LOGIC. That is what I call intellectual dishonesty/laziness/ineptitude (depends on whether it was deliberate). Propaganda anyone?

 

To get a nice cross-section of the refutations of Pascal's Wager, you can refer to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager

 

The popular and sensational refutation by questioning whether Christianity is the only religion to make such a claim, as done fantastically in your friend's email, actually dignifies Pascal's Wager by implicitly conceding to the suggestion that there is a God. All the better to not fall into this dishonest trap and instead nip it early in the bud, hence elevating the following simple rebuttal my personal favorite, and arguably the best fundamentally:

Quote:
The wager ignores the lifetime of the person before death. At the very least, it assumes that belief and non-belief are of equal value before death. This ignores the time, money, and effort spent upon worship required to establish belief that could be redirected to other, more beneficial pursuits. Thus, a life spent on belief when there is no god results in a loss while a life spent on non-belief when there is no god results in a gain

"If I don't think something can be explained conventionally, it must be magic. And magic comes from God!" -everyday religious person


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What about Pascal's

What about Pascal's triangle? 

 As you know pascal's trianlge is used if, for example I had 5 distict objects, and chose 2, there are 4 possible ways to do this. However, it does not say what the best combination is. It can be assumed because that Pascal was Christian, that he wanted them in consecutive order (object one followed by object two), and by chosing them in this order you lose nothing. By chosing it you benefit, and lose nothing  so therefore it is the best order. However, he completly disregards the fact that this may not be the best order. If you are satisfied with that order, you could lose some joy and happiness. Besides it if you do not like that order, you must pretend that you do, which isn't true believe in that order of selection. 

 

SO STOP TRYING TO USE PASCAL'S TRIANGLE!!


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I haven't reached a

    I haven't reached a decisive conclusion on whether Pascal's wager works, but I do think many of the typical objections raised against it aren't as fatal as atheists take them to be. Moreover, analytic philosophers and decision theorists have distinguished different versions of Pascalian wagering, some less vulnerable than others. So it doesn't follow from the fact that an atheist takes himself to have refuted one that he's thereby refuted all. Here's a version that relies on the Principle of Expected Value. (Readers who don't have a lot of background in philosophy or who are unfamiliar with the notation to follow may consult just about any introductory textbook on decision theory or inductive logic and probability. Feel free to PM me for resources.)

    According to the Principle of Expected Value, an agent should act so as to maximize expected value. The expected value of an act A (hereafter Exp(A)) is Σ [Pr(Ci)U(Ci)], where C is a consequence of the act, and U is the utility of the consequence. Thus, where B is the act of placing oneself in circumstances that conduce to theistic belief formation, and where G is a state of affairs that includes God's existence, Exp(B) = [Pr(G)U(G)] + [Pr(~G)U(~G)]. So Pascal's suggestion is that since Exp(B) = (0.5)(+∞) + (0.5)(-n) and Exp(~B) = (0.5)(-∞) + (0.5)(+n), it follows that Exp(B) > Exp(~B). So this version of the argument may be formulated as follows:

(1) Exp(B) > Exp(~B)

(2) The Principle of Expected Value.

(3) Therefore, choose B.

    The problem with this argument, one might well suppose, is that agnostics can object to Pascal’s assignment of 0.5 to Pr(G). (To an agnostic, Pr(G) is inscrutable.) Another version relies on the Principle of Dominating Expectations. According to this principle, an agent should perform the act that has a dominating expectation. Exp(A) dominates Exp(A1) iff (if and only if) (i) there is at least one state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment where Exp(A) > Exp(A1), and (ii) there is no state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment where Exp(A) < Exp(A1). As long as there is a nonzero finite probability of God’s existence, then Exp(B) > Exp(~B). So this alternative version may be formulated thus:

(1*) Exp(B) > Exp(~B) in at least one state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment, and Exp(B) < Exp(~B) in no state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment.

(2*) The Principle of Dominating Expectations.

(3*) Therefore, choose B.

        As a general objection against Pascalian wagering, one may point out that humans can’t simply choose to believe in God at will, no matter how much Pascal’s wager convinces them that they should do so. But this objection is notoriously off-target, since Pascal does not argue that one should believe in God at will, but rather that one should place oneself in circumstances that will conduce over time to belief in God. At this point the objector can say that humans simply can't engage in such behavior modification, but this is prima facie implausible; we modify our behavior all the time -- even in ways that would seriously alter our doxastic habits -- when certain circumstances in life call for it. So, someone who is convinced by some version of the wager can regularly perform certain behaviors that will conduce to her belief in God.

    Another popular objection is the many gods objection. According to a weak version of this objection, Pascalian wagering is rendered useless by the variety of religions on the scene today. Which God is it in whom we should believe? However, this weak version is not fatal to the wager, given that the wager still works for those who are only seriously considering Christianity and atheism as live epistemic options, say. There is a stronger version of this objection raised by Richard Gale. According to Gale, since there are infinitely many logically possible deities, the probability of any one of them existing is infinitesimal. The product of an infinitesimal and an infinite utility is still 0, so the expected value of believing in each deity is 0. But as other philosophers have pointed out in response to Gale, it doesn’t follow from there being infinitely many possible gods that the probability of each god is 0. Each god may be assigned some nonzero probability, and then Gale’s objection fails.

Other objections depend on exotic deities, such as the deity who offers you infinitely blissful icecream cones, the deity who rewards you with infinite bliss if the total number of cracks you step on during your life is odd, or even the atheistic deity who rewards you with infinite bliss for not believing in him, and so on. But these are not a problem if we adopt simplicity as a guide to theory adjudication: when confronted with several equally confirmed hypotheses, choose the simplest one. The simplest hypothesis is the one with the least amount of primitive terms. Some philosophers, like George Schlesinger, claim that the Anselmian theistic hypothesis would be the simplest, then, because it can be expressed with the use of a single predicate (i.e. absolutely perfect). Thus, according to these philosophers, we should choose to form the belief in an absolutely perfect being over exotic and less simple beings.

Now, as I say, I have not reached any decisive conclusion on the strength of Pascal's wager. But atheists (and even theists) who wish to attack the wager should be more careful than they usually are; it's not obvious that the wager fails so easily.

Cheers,

W. Gavagai

 

 

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rpcarnell
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Santa's Wager:

Santa's Wager:

If Santa Claus does not exist, no one gets any toys by not believing. But if Santa does exist, many children will get toys, and those who don't believe in him will get none.

 

Satan's Wager:

If Satan does not exist, we lose nothing by not believing. If Satan does exist, and he is a nice guy, by not believing, we could lose the chance of spending an eternity with him in hell.

 

Chavez's Wager:

If I am just a dictator, you lose nothing by despising me. But if I take control of the world, you could end up in jail for despising me.

 

Pascal's Wager is quite simple: believing is always better than not believing, specially when it comes to tyrants like Jehovah, Allah, and the lunatics behind scientology. 


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Tooth Fairy's Wager:

Tooth Fairy's Wager:

If you believe in me, you will get a hundred dollars for each tooth you lose. If don't believe in me, you will be missing out on a fortune!

"If I don't think something can be explained conventionally, it must be magic. And magic comes from God!" -everyday religious person


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Gavagai wrote: I haven't

Gavagai wrote:
I haven't reached a decisive conclusion on whether Pascal's wager works, but I do think many of the typical objections raised against it aren't as fatal as atheists take them to be.

Man, Pascal himself admitted there were fatal flaws to his wager. They quite simply are.

Gavagai wrote:
Moreover, analytic philosophers and decision theorists have distinguished different versions of Pascalian wagering, some less vulnerable than others. So it doesn't follow from the fact that an atheist takes himself to have refuted one that he's thereby refuted all.

I have yet to encounter a variation that had any more credibility than the original.

Gavagai wrote:
Here's a version that relies on the Principle of Expected Value. (Readers who don't have a lot of background in philosophy or who are unfamiliar with the notation to follow may consult just about any introductory textbook on decision theory or inductive logic and probability. Feel free to PM me for resources.)

    According to the Principle of Expected Value, an agent should act so as to maximize expected value. The expected value of an act A (hereafter Exp(A)) is Σ [Pr(Ci)U(Ci)], where C is a consequence of the act, and U is the utility of the consequence. Thus, where B is the act of placing oneself in circumstances that conduce to theistic belief formation, and where G is a state of affairs that includes God's existence, Exp(B) = [Pr(G)U(G)] + [Pr(~G)U(~G)]. So Pascal's suggestion is that since Exp(B) = (0.5)(+∞) + (0.5)(-n) and Exp(~B) = (0.5)(-∞) + (0.5)(+n), it follows that Exp(B) > Exp(~B). So this version of the argument may be formulated as follows:

(1) Exp(B) > Exp(~B)

(2) The Principle of Expected Value.

(3) Therefore, choose B.

    The problem with this argument, one might well suppose, is that agnostics can object to Pascal’s assignment of 0.5 to Pr(G). (To an agnostic, Pr(G) is inscrutable.) Another version relies on the Principle of Dominating Expectations. According to this principle, an agent should perform the act that has a dominating expectation. Exp(A) dominates Exp(A1) iff (if and only if) (i) there is at least one state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment where Exp(A) > Exp(A1), and (ii) there is no state of affairs with a nonzero probability assignment where Exp(A) < Exp(A1). As long as there is a nonzero finite probability of God’s existence, then Exp(B) > Exp(~B).

Lets stop you here and ask for the probability equation of gods existance. Without which, the rest is irrelevant.

Gavagai wrote:

As a general objection against Pascalian wagering, one may point out that humans can’t simply choose to believe in God at will, no matter how much Pascal’s wager convinces them that they should do so. But this objection is notoriously off-target, since Pascal does not argue that one should believe in God at will, but rather that one should place oneself in circumstances that will conduce over time to belief in God. At this point the objector can say that humans simply can't engage in such behavior modification, but this is prima facie implausible; we modify our behavior all the time -- even in ways that would seriously alter our doxastic habits -- when certain circumstances in life call for it. So, someone who is convinced by some version of the wager can regularly perform certain behaviors that will conduce to her belief in God.

The idea that behaviour is directly related to belief is ludicrous. I believe a lot of things I don't follow, and vice versa. Just because I can pretend to believe in a god does not follow that pretending will lead to believing.

Gavagai wrote:
Another popular objection is the many gods objection. According to a weak version of this objection, Pascalian wagering is rendered useless by the variety of religions on the scene today. Which God is it in whom we should believe? However, this weak version is not fatal to the wager, given that the wager still works for those who are only seriously considering Christianity and atheism as live epistemic options, say.

No it doesn't. It doesn't work logically no matter how you want to apply it. Instituting a false dichotomy doesn't help your argument, it hinders it further.

Gavagai wrote:
Other objections depend on exotic deities, such as the deity who offers you infinitely blissful icecream cones, the deity who rewards you with infinite bliss if the total number of cracks you step on during your life is odd, or even the atheistic deity who rewards you with infinite bliss for not believing in him, and so on. But these are not a problem if we adopt simplicity as a guide to theory adjudication: when confronted with several equally confirmed hypotheses, choose the simplest one.

Indeed. There is no god is the simplest option.

Gavagai wrote:

The simplest hypothesis is the one with the least amount of primitive terms. Some philosophers, like George Schlesinger, claim that the Anselmian theistic hypothesis would be the simplest, then, because it can be expressed with the use of a single predicate (i.e. absolutely perfect). Thus, according to these philosophers, we should choose to form the belief in an absolutely perfect being over exotic and less simple beings.

And we should choose no being over a perfect being. The simplest option.

Gavagai wrote:
Now, as I say, I have not reached any decisive conclusion on the strength of Pascal's wager. But atheists (and even theists) who wish to attack the wager should be more careful than they usually are; it's not obvious that the wager fails so easily.

Yes, it is.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.