Pascal’s Wager And The Immorality of Christianity

With my eyes still not being what they should be, I have been spending more time than usual cruising YouTube and in particular episodes of the Atheist Experience, a public access TV show out of Austin, Texas.  One of the interesting things about the show is that the self described atheist hosts of the show take calls from, if not all comers, certainly a wide variety.

One question that comes up again and again is basically, “Aren’t you guys afraid of what will happen if you are wrong?”  Usually at that point, the hosts sigh and say, “Pascal’s Wager.”

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And it is not just every day Christians on a call in show, Christian apologist Peter Kreeft offers the following story on his webpage about Pascal’s Wager:

An atheist visited the great rabbi and philosopher Martin Buber and demanded that Buber prove the existence of God to him. Buber refused, and the atheist got up to leave in anger. As he left, Buber called after him, “But can you be sure there is no God?” That atheist wrote, forty years later, “I am still an atheist. But Buber’s question has haunted me every day of my life.” The Wager has just that haunting power.

Haunting power?  This just points up to me how immoral the “Christian” view of the world really is.

If god really is an all benevolent creature, it seems to me that the response of Christians to us atheists should not be, “Are you afraid of being wrong,” But rather, “You’ll be overjoyed when you find out you are wrong!”

I was a believer back in high school and have kept in contact with a very close friend from that period.  She is a very devout theist and we have discussed our positions many times.  I have often said that she has the advantage in our “argument.

If I am ultimately right, death ends our consciousness and neither of us experiences anything, I get no “I told you so!”  On the other hand if there is an afterlife, she gets the ultimate “I told you so!”  But to her credit, I am sure that deep in her heart she is not looking forward to that day so I get my comeuppance by a trip to Hell — and not back.

Without dealing with the philosophical weaknesses of the wager, I find it morally repugnant, on several levels.  First of all, I am supposed to predicate my belief in god on the results that will accrue to me — the cosmic carrot and stick.

Even worse the wager is about a thought crime.  The wager doesn’t say, “You should be a good person” to get the reward, but rather you have to believe in something.  And Christians, for the most part, are OK with this.

It never ceases to amaze me that people pretty consistently throw this at the folks at the Athiest Experience.  Seems to me that they are probably no worse, sin-wise than most Christians, they seem like very nice folks, but because of their thought crime, they are going to suffer the consequences.  This is morally repugnant to me.

The idea of a hell, for someone like Hitler, perhaps certainly has some emotional appeal, although the idea of infinite punishment for finite crimes is still a bit problematic.  But at least there is some idea of justice.  But Pascal’s Wager makes god out, pretty literally to be some kind of mafia boss.

If you kiss my ring and don’t speak ill of me, God seems to say in the wager, I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.    Not only is the god of the wager immoral, but he is also petty.  You mean to tell me that the infinite creator of a universe with contains 100 billion galaxies is going to mete out infinite punishment to me because of what I didn’t do Sunday morning?  That I wasn’t a member of his little club?  Really?  And you are OK worshipping that kind of god?

Now, there are lots of logical problems with Pascal’s Wager, not the least of which that it seems to present a false dilemma, or, as Homer Simpson famously put it, “What if we are worshipping the wrong god and every time we go to church we are making him madder and madder?”

But logical problems aside, theists and especially Christians should stop using the wager as it makes god into an immoral monster.

And personally, I am not “haunted” by the thought that I might be wrong.  If god is as he is depicted by the wager, I wouldn’t worship him or even give him the time of day and would be happy to go to hell to get away from him.

Guardian Angels

Once again the other day listening to Irrelevant Radio and there was a snippet played that was acting as a promo for another show, but it had me laughing so hard that I almost crashed the car.

The clip started with what sounded like a 6 year old boy calling in to ask the host/priest a question.  And the question was a doozy, that is for sure.  Little Timmy (not his real name, I made that up!) asked: “If God is everywhere and knows everything, why do we need guardian angels?”

Remind me to cancel those critical thinking classes in the grade schools!

 

There was a noticeable pause, perhaps as Father thought, “Damn, this kid is already smarter than most of my parishioners.”  But much like the Grinch dealing with Cindy Lou Who,  Father quickly recovered his bearings.

“Well, God sends guardian angels because he loves you,” Father started, but my laughter drowned out the rest.

That’s right, Timmy, God loves you so much that he sends silent and invisible guardian angels, that are in no way detectable, to watch over you.  And if something bad almost happens, like a car almost hits your Mom’s minivan, you can thank your guardian angel.

Of course if the car hits your Mom’s minivan that is because God wanted you to go the hospital for a week or so.  To rest or get stronger or something happy and positive.  And God also wanted your Mommy to lose so much time at work that she loses her job, maybe to punish her for not being a stay at home mom or using birth control or something.  Sure, He closed a door, but somewhere a window must be open.  Never mind that it is 10 below zero, if God opens a window, you should be pleased.

Be glad for your undetectable angel, Timmy how could God possibly show you more love than to send you something your can’t see, hear or smell and  that makes absolutely no difference in what happens in your life?

Can you say “epicycles?”

Epicycles

From time to time in my car I listen to what I call “Irrelevant Radio” when I need a chuckle or when I want to hear what the “other side” is thinking.  From my perspective, lots of chuckles, but not much serious thinking going on there.  One example from a while back that I have no hope of finding in their archived programs, but trust me this was real.

A priest was on and he was talking about how the United States is a “Pagan Nation.”  No idea where he got that considering we are 71% Christian and about 90% religious.  But what he said next doubled me over with laughter.  He said that the USA should turn to the Church so that today we could experience the way that Christians reformed the Roman Empire and lead the world into the “glorious Middle Ages.”  Known to the rest of us as the “Dark Ages,” but, whatever.

Even having been raised Catholic, I am stunned at the type of things that go over the air from Irrelevant Radio.  I had thought Purgatory was a dead (sorry for the pun) issue, but apparently not.  The number of times that it is emphasized that that Devil is a literal real entity running around messing up the world is flabbergasting to me.  And much more.  I am sure I will mention many of these things here in the future.

I will sometimes relay these things to a friend of mine who was also raised Catholic (we are both “Cradle Catholics,” as the Irrelevants are so fond of saying over and over).  Both of us left the cradle and none of that church stuff stuck.

When I tell her something I heard, she will often say, “It just sounds like the lies that someone tells after they have been caught lying.”  Indeed.

Which reminds me of Ptolemy’s epicycles.  As you may recall these were the extra circles that the planets had to have in their orbits in order to fit the earth centered solar system hypothesis (that the church later became much too fond of.)  Whether these circles were delusions, lies, fabrications or just theories, I will leave to someone else.  But they weren’t real and when the actual explanation came along, they simply vanished, recognized for the ad hoc, made up stories that they were.

I like the idea of referring to such things as “epicycles.”  Sounds nicer and more educated than “lies.”  Or even “Stories a Father told me.”