Friday, August 22, 2008

The Failings of Pascal's Wager: Nothing to Lose

We're continuing to enumerate the holes in the infamous Pascal's Wager argument for the belief in a god or gods. We've already looked at how Pascal's Wager assumes you can just make yourself believe in order to be right, and we've talked about how it overlooks the fact that it can count as an argument for any religion or claim that one could make. Remember, the Wager basically is: If God does not exist, then you neither gain nor lose anything from belief or disbelief (in the end you just die and that's that). However, if you choose to believe in my God/religion and you are right, then the reward is eternal Heaven. But if you choose not to believe and are wrong, your payoff is eternal suffering in Hell.

The bottom line essentially is that you've got nothing to lose! You're better off taking the bet that my God is real. But are you, really?

Won't Cost You A Thing!
In the case where God does not exist, there really is a clear advantage to not believing. In other words, the payoff is not zero as Pascal would have you think. After you say, "okay now I believe," what would it really cost you to believe or join a religion?
  • a lifetime spent obeying the rituals and practices
  • money and time given to furthering the dogmatic doctrines thereof
  • having to deal with the trials, persecutions, and lifestyles associated with being a member (this means separation or altering connections with family members present and future)
  • the corruption or otherwise altering of your mind, and hindering your education to "fit in line" with the practices and beliefs of your religion
...the list goes on and on. In any case, it most certainly does not "cost nothing" to "just believe".

I base all my beliefs on evidence and reason. I tend to believe in as little as possible, only accepting things based on sound evidence. If there's no reason to believe then I'm not going to just "accept" it, and I'm not going to let other people decided what I believe.

Still more Wager fallacies to come.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would completely disagree, the time spent for religion is very little ( at least as a run of the mill believer), being maybe Church once a week. Secondly,the money given is very small in most scenarios especially if you are there "just to believe to have a chance at salvation". If you are a Christian ( I am mainly speaking of Christianity) you are given almost no limits in terms of education and lifestyle choices. Though certain groups such as gays may suffer, it is uncommon that a gay follows Christian tradition anyway. The fact is that this wager is almost completely correct, unless you're so incredibly lazy that you can't spend an hour a week to attempt to save yourself. Even if you don't really believe, the small work needed to provide lip service once a week is nothing (not that I am one of those people)