Thursday, March 20, 2014

Problems with Pascal's Wager

Some of what follows comes from: Pascal's Wager Refuted (http://infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/wager.html ) And some of it comes from me.
"Pascal's Wager (call it "PW") may be formulated as follows:
(a) If God exists, then whoever doesn't believe in him will end up being eternally tormented.
(b) If God exists, then whoever believes in him will gain eternal life.
(c) If God doesn't exist, then whether or not people believe in him can't matter very much.
(d) Hence [from (a)-(c)], nontheists are running a grave risk. At the very least, the expected utility of their belief situation is infinitely worse than that of theists.
(e) But such people are able to self-induce theistic belief.
(f) Therefore [from (d) & (e)], all nontheists ought to change their beliefs and become theists.
Here are some objections to PW:"
* If God exists and he does eternally torment non-believers, then I don't want anything to do will him. He is evil and heartless, and I would rather be tormented than align with him. Let my pain stand as a testament to his evilness.
"* According to the Bible, more is required for salvation than mere belief in God. One also needs to believe in God's son (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36, 8:21-25, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; I John 5:12), repent (Luke 13:3,5), be born again (John 3:3), be born of the water and of the Spirit (John 3:5), believe everything in the gospel (Mark 16:16), eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood (John 6:53), be like a child (Mark 10:15), and do good deeds, esp. for needy people (Matt. 25:41-46; Rom. 2:5-10; John 5:28-29; James 2:14-26). Therefore, premise (b) of PW is not generally true, so far as the Bible is concerned. And, furthermore, apart from the Bible, there is no reason whatever to believe that premise. Thus, PW's premise (b) can reasonably be doubted.
* Many people who believe in God devote significant time to prayer and church activities. Such people presumably also contribute money, perhaps a tithe (10% of their income). Without that belief, most of them would not do such things. In addition, many such people go through life with inhibitions on both thought and behavior. (Consider, for example, inhibitions regarding sexual practices, marriage & divorce, birth control, abortion, reading material, and association with other people.) In many cases, those inhibitions are quite extreme and may have great effects on one's life and the lives of others. In some communities, women are oppressed on the basis of theistic belief. Also, some theists have persecuted and even killed others (as in inquisitions, religious wars, attacks on homosexuals, abortionists, etc.) because of their belief that that is what God wants them to do. Furthermore, some people (e.g., clergymen) devote their entire lives to God. For these various reasons, even if God does not exist, it would indeed matter a great deal whether or not one believes in God, at least for most such believers. It follows that premise (c) of PW is false.
* It may be that God does not exist and, instead, some other being rules the universe. That being may dislike intensely and may inflict infinite punishment on anyone who believes in God or who believes anything out of self-interest (as recommended in PW). But a person who comes to believe in God on the basis of PW would in that case be in "a heap of trouble," even though God does not exist. The expected utility of the theist's belief situation would be infinitely worse than that of the nontheist. It follows that premise (c) of PW is false."
* Stated in a slightly different way, if one picks Jehovah and you should have picked Zeus, then believers in Jehovah are in a heap of trouble. There are an infinite number of possible gods out there. If you pick one and I pick none, our odds are nearly the same given how many chances we have of being wrong. And if you believe in all gods, and there is only one, he may be jealous and torment you for it.
"* To believe in God, one must believe propositions that are, from the standpoint of most nontheists, impossible (or at least very hard) to believe. For that reason, PW's premise (e) can be rejected.
* Belief is not directly subject to the will. So, it is impossible (or at least very difficult) for nontheists to self-induce theistic belief. This also renders PW's premise (e) false.
For all of these reasons, PW ought to be rejected."
* PW offers a false dichotomy, that there are only these two possibilities. It might be that God does exist and doesn't care whether or not you believe in him, but rewards good behavior regardless, or rewards critical thinking and skepticism. Then it would be the non-skeptics that miss out on rewards.
The worst thing that can happen to a believer who is wrong is to find out he served the wrong god, and have the real god torture him forever because he is a jealous god and doesn't like you serving the wrong god.
* If a god exists and is any good at all, he will not condemn people who do not believe in him.
If there is a god that sends non-believers to hell, I want nothing to do with a god like that. I'd never worship a god that does that. So, if hell gets me away from that monster, to hell I'll go.

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