Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pascal's wager

There is this argument for belief in God’s existence which is called Pascal’s Wager, named for Blaise Pascal who conceived it.

Pascal's wager states that

“God can’t be proved. But if God exists, the believer gains everything (goes to heaven) and the unbeliever loses everything (goes to hell). If God doesn’t exist, the believer loses nothing and the unbeliever gains nothing. There is therefore everything to gain and nothing to lose by believing in God.”
- Blaise Pascal

Pascal’s Wager has several faults.
1. The biggest problem is that it’s not a proof of any god’s existence; it’s just an argument for believing, not a proof of existence.It is purely a method of extorting the gullible thru fear. . nothing more than a scare tactics any religion can use to generate followers.

2. Like many other such arguments, it also fails to denote exactly which god it refers to. Pascal’s Wager could be applied to any god that offers rewards and punishments. Taken to the extreme, following the wager would necessitate betting on the god with the worst hell, so it could be avoided. It's impossible to know which god to worship, and which (perhaps jealous) gods to spurn. I doubt if many Christians would convert to Islam if the wager were presented by a Muslim who told them that Muslim Hell is worse than Christian Hell and Muslim Heaven is better than Christian Heaven.

3. Pascal’s Wager assumes that the chosen god doesn't mind people believing in him for explicitly selfish reasons. But religionists are in much danger as the atheists. Who knows, perhaps he actually prefers independent thinkers such as atheists, not cowardly subordinate followers. It would be quite possible for a true believer to discover on Judgment Day that the destination was not Heaven. Allah, in his infinitely mysterious ways, may have had other plans; and there would be no appeal or debate with an omnipotent being.

4. Another problem with Pascal’s Wager is that it wrongly assumes that the bet is only for non-existence vs existence of Christian god. Since the odds of the Islamic, Christian, Jewish or Hindu god co-existing as Almighty god are zero, the wager creates a false dilemma.

5. The wager even goes against the doctrine that many religions have where gambling is sinful. Note also that the existence of the wager (gambling) and the fact that so many people think that it's relevant to deliberate on the lack of actual evidence for God.

6. Pascal’s Wager also depends on the idea that you don’t lose much by believing. This has been false for many who have trusted in their god for help or guidance, instead of seeking reality-based solutions. People have unnecessarily fought, killed and died for their belief in their god. Boko haram problem in our country is an example of dangers of religion. Far too many have died because they (or their parents) chose prayer instead of medicine (e.g. Jehovah Witnesses will rather let their children die than allow blood transfusion ). Swords, bullets, poison, and poisonous snakes have killed many who thought that they were protected by their god etc etc etc.

7. Even without these more dramatic effects, believers often devote significant time, energy and money to worshipping their god. This could have been properly invested in worthwhile developmental pursuits both for the individual and for humanity as a whole. This probably explains why the least religious nations have been the most advanced nations on earth and vice versa. Nigeria, as deeply religious as we are is still one of the most corrupt nation on earth.

8. Beliefs in a god (and the often resultant ideas of divine punishment and reward) too often make people more willing to accept inequalities in this life, without trying to make things better for themselves. Low-paid factory workers and slaves were taught that their rewards were in the afterlife, so they should be meek and obedient in this life to ensure their (imaginary) rewards. Even the factory and slave owners could think that they were part of their god's divine plan, and thus deserved their earthly rewards.

9. God-belief has real expenses that can be large or destructive both to the individual and to the world e.g Islamic terrorism and boko haram, they sincerely believed they are doing god’s will by killing fellow human beings.

10. The last problem with Pascal’s Wager is that it completely ignores and even denigrates intellectual integrity and honesty; the wager assumes that people can believe something just because they want to. As an example, let’s talk about belief in Santa Claus. Don’t we have more respect for a child who figures out that Santa doesn’t exist, and says so, rather than continuing to lie so he can get more presents? It’s a sign of growing integrity and maturity for children to stop believing in Santa. Similarly, adults can give up belief in a god when they realize that there’s no real evidence for their god. Christians can quit being “sheep” or “children of god” and become intellectually honest.

11. The loss of intellectual integrity and honesty engendered by Pascal’s Wager gives some insight into how apparently rational people can behave so irrationally. By accepting the wager, they have (perhaps implicitly) given up these important traits.

In conclusion, I think that many people continue to believe in a god because it gives them comfort, not because god actually exists; it’s an emotional response. It allows them to pray to their god and think that they’re actually accomplishing something. It gives them feelings of structure and meaning in their lives, and makes them feel connected. It helps remove the fear of death and nonexistence that most of us experience after death, just exactly what we experience before our birth. Belief in the Christian god helps remove people’s fear of Christian Hell that has been pounded into their minds from childhood. Belief in a god also makes the world more black and white, less confusing, and easier to deal with. Likewise belief in the Islamic god helps remove people’s fear of Islamic Hell that has been pounded into their minds from childhood. Belief in a god also makes the world more black and white, less confusing, and easier to deal with.But, is this any actual proof for the existence of a god? Is comfort a good indicator of the truth of external reality? I don’t think that it is, any more than the reality that astrology is not true simply because people find comfort in it. The universe does not owe us comfort and meaning; we create them ourselves through our various religions.

“The fact that a believer believes he is happier than a skeptic/atheists is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man believes is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.”

Religions are like feel-good addictive drug. I think that addicts will do or think almost anything to continue getting their fix. Some people eventually see that freedom from religious addiction is an intellectually and emotionally healthy change, although withdrawal can be painful.

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