Re: virus:Logic

David McFadzean (
Wed, 08 Oct 1997 11:44:34 -0600

At 01:32 PM 10/8/97 -0400, Paul Prestopnik wrote:

>"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
>Eric Hoffer (1902=9683), U.S. philosopher. The Passionate State of Mind
>but, even ignoring that, if you consider an hour each week in church, 52
>hours a year
>in a 70 year lifespan that 3640 hours, which if you do not believe, could
>have been better spend reading, writing, loving, learning, etc. And an
>hour a week is a conservative estimate for anyone who is actively
>religious. Now maybe you consider that a fair gamble, hell, its an
>eternity if your wrong. But you also need to consider, that most religions
>only let you into heaven if you pick them. It still seemss like a silly
>way to run the universe to me.

Actually it is worse than that...

Pascal's Wager (God is a safe bet)

"If you believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing=
but if you don't believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, you will go to=
hell. Therefore it is foolish to be an atheist."

This argument is known as Pascal's Wager. It has several flaws.

Firstly, it does not indicate which religion to follow. Indeed, there are=
mutually exclusive and contradictory religions out there. This is often=20
described as the "avoiding the wrong hell" problem. If a person is a=
of one religion, he may end up in another religion's version of hell.

Even if we assume that there's a God, that doesn't imply that there's one=
God. Which should we believe in? If we believe in all of them, how will we=
decide which commandments to follow?

Secondly, the statement that "If you believe in God and turn out to be=
you have lost nothing" is not true. Suppose you're believing in the wrong=
God --=20
the true God might punish you for your foolishness. Consider also the deaths=
have resulted from people rejecting medicine in favor of prayer.

Another flaw in the argument is that it is based on the assumption that the=
possibilities are equally likely -- or at least, that they are of comparable=
likelihood. If, in fact, the possibility of there being a God is close to=
the argument becomes much less persuasive. So sadly the argument is only=
to convince those who believe already.

Also, many feel that for intellectually honest people, belief is based on=20
evidence, with some amount of intuition. It is not a matter of will or cost-
benefit analysis.

Formally speaking, the argument consists of four statements:

1.One does not know whether God exists.=20
2.Not believing in God is bad for one's eternal soul if God does exist.=20
3.Believing in God is of no consequence if God does not exist.=20
4.Therefore it is in one's interest to believe in God.=20

There are two approaches to the argument. The first is to view Statement 1=
an assumption, and Statement 2 as a consequence of it. The problem is that=
there's really no way to arrive at Statement 2 from Statement 1 via simple=
logical inference. The statements just don't follow on from each other.

The alternative approach is to claim that Statements 1 and 2 are both=20
assumptions. The problem with this is that Statement 2 is then basically an=
assumption which states the Christian position, and only a Christian will=20
agree with that assumption. The argument thus collapses to "If you are a=20
Christian, it is in your interests to believe in God" -- a rather vacuous=20
tautology, and not the way Pascal intended the argument to be viewed.

Also, if we don't even know that God exists, why should we take Statement 2=
over some similar assumption? Isn't it just as likely that God would be=
at people who chose to believe for personal gain? If God is omniscient, he=
will certainly know who really believes and who believes as a wager. He will=
spurn the latter... assuming he actually cares at all whether people truly=
believe in him.

Some have suggested that the person who chooses to believe based on Pascal's=
Wager, can then somehow make the transition to truly believing.=
most atheists don't find it possible to make that leap.

In addition, this hypothetical God may require more than simple belief;=
all Christians believe that the Christian God requires an element of trust=
obedience from his followers. That destroys the assertion that if you=
but are wrong, you lose nothing.

Finally, if this God is a fair and just God, surely he will judge people on=
their actions in life, not on whether they happen to believe in him. A God=
who sends good and kind people to hell is not one most atheists would be=20
prepared to consider worshipping.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus