Pascal’s Wager: Who really loses if they’re wrong?


It’s common for those who defend religious belief with Pascal’s Wager to claim that if they believe and are wrong, they lose nothing, and that if disbelieving and wrong they endanger their souls. Maybe, but there are a number of facts not in evidence assumed here:

  • That immaterial and possibly immortal souls exist. (unproven as yet)
  • That these souls require salvation. (not with all religions)
  • That a God exists and is needed for salvation. (not all religions have savior gods)

For the record, I do not deny that these things are true, but I refrain from believing because no good reasons exist for me to do so. The neurological model of mind and consciousness, in which the human personality is dependent on the activity of the physical substrate of the brain is perfectly sufficient for my needs.

It both conforms to and to an extent explains the data of human psychology and neuroscience without the need to posit anything non-material or spiritual.

I try to base my beliefs on good reasons and evidence, beliefs that are more likely to be true and thus with more reliably effective outcomes when I act upon them.

Beliefs are not trivial, nor always innocent, nor necessarily harmless, for they motivate and define our values, desires, intent, behavior and actions.

While it is true that souls, ensoulment and gods aren’t conclusively proven not to exist, that’s not the point, because the burden of proof lies always with those making the claim that they do, and religions have had thousands of years of opportunity to fulfill that burden by proving their claims, yet have consistently failed or refused to do so.

It is not the skeptics who must prove the claims of religion false.

Bear in mind though that the rejection of a belief in no way entails accepting its denial — lack of belief and active denial are logically very different things — I err on the side of lacking belief, not in believing in or claiming to know of a lack of something.

But do believers really lose nothing if wrong, other than hurt pride for feeling silly?

I suspect that no, they do not.

In fact, they lose quite a bit if they are wrong, and I’ll also argue that they lose even if they are right, given what is known of human history, particularly that of religions over the millennia.

Believers lose money, often large sums of it, to tithes, donations, and special fees charged by clergy, and of course, if you’re Christian, the church service collection plate. Religion is big business in the developed world, and the heads of large churches can become quite wealthy, often in the millions of dollars or even in the billions with world-spanning religious organizations like the Roman Catholic Church.

Believers can lose objectivity and the ability to evaluate belief systems impartially, their own religion, and others’ as well. They often lose the ability or the willingness to step back from their doctrines and dogmas and assess them critically, without a vested interest or emotional stake in them.

They risk losing the ability to deal honestly with religious critics or skeptics, in extremis even vilifying and demonizing them as enemies, condescending or dehumanizing them as somehow morally or spiritually inferior, pathetic, defective, sick, or evil.

Thus, believers risk losing their intellectual integrity, in developing a cavalier attitude toward what is likely to be true in favor of what feels good or comforting. They become more likely to deceive themselves, which can lead to piously deceiving others in the service of one’s God. In Christian circles, it’s known as “lying for Jesus.”

And if there is a God, if I’m wrong?

I still don’t lose anything, because if God were infinitely good, loving, just, and morally superior, it would be a logical impossibility for that same God to create a place of eternal torture for unbelievers out of a petty and vain need to be worshiped. My soul, even if it were to exist, would be in no danger if claims of God’s omnibenevolence are to be credible and logically consistent.

Now, you could special plead that God is somehow outside the very laws of logic themselves, and that they do not apply, but that doesn’t work, because then you can’t use logic to establish that God’s existence, and that would put apologists out of work.

There would be no more amusing debates between atheists and theists to watch on YouTube, and wouldn’t that just be a b*tch?

About these ads

About Troythulu

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Monday, 0:27, May 14, 2012, in Secularism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

jhgoodglass

80's Revivalists UNITE!

Storiform.com

Writing Popular Fiction

Sharmishtha Basu

paintings, poems and thoughts

Realm of Empress Musie

Sharmishtha Basu's poetries

"songbird sings to sun" ebook in amazon

Colours and words two muses dancing together

Thoughts

Realm of Musie (my muse)

Marianne Talbot Philosophy

Marianne is Director Of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education

La Audacia de Aquiles

El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto

Optimal Human Modulation

Your Space To Defrag

Words on a blackboard

In a world of poems, words steal love and put it on a blackboard

Math Outlet

Math Resources For Elementary Teachers

Kurt Brindley

only fear remains

Author -Carole Parkes

Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art

Some Bad Plankton

creative outlet plugged in

kvm88

I don't want believe I want to know. - Carl Sagan

Physics and Art

The strange case of Dr. August and Mr. von Orth.

Charlotte Cuevas, Author

Current writing projects: 52 Flashes of Fiction & The 365 Poetry Project: Year 2

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Deidra Alexander's Blog

I have people to kill, lives to ruin, plagues to bring, and worlds to destroy. I am not the Angel of Death. I'm a fiction writer.

lalocabrujita

Zingendewoorden

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands.

Kelsey's Cluttered Bookshelf

My ramblings about books and other random things.

Radhika Mukherjee

Writer. Editor. Dreamer. Eco-Feminist.

The Nerd Nebula

The Nucleus of the Universe for all Nerd Hacks!

The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Sucheta the Scribbler

Random. Purely Random. And then some more...

Eric Ian Huffman

I've come to Write.

Woodland Rambles

A writer, a dog, and miles of trails

A.D. Martin

writing - novels - film - television - video games - other stuff

Sausey is Sexy...

Humor, Dating, Sex, and a Whole bunch of Sause...

bdhesse

A writing WordPress.com site

1 SIGFRIDSSON

ON = TIME

UP!::urban po'E.Tree(s)

by po'E.T. and the colors of pi

Mik Mob's Music Mass

share your favourite tunes with The Mob

Something Like a Storybook

This is where Morgan Bradham shares stuff.

Project i•Am•You

Awareness. Lifestyle. Motivation. Spirituality. Inspiration.

hessianwithteeth

This site is all about ideas

Zebra Humor

The world's biggest collection of zebra jokes!

koniramm

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Katzenworld

All about (our) cats. Food, toys and other cat related products

nadiaharhash

living in the shoes of a woman

Ray Jay Perreault

Science Fiction writing about aliens with lives you can relate to.

Spirituality Exploration Today

Delving into the cross roads of rationality and intuition

The Wrong Triangle

Obscurum per obscurius | Ignotum per ignotius

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,110 other followers

%d bloggers like this: