Let’s continue with our exploration of stupid arguments Christians really shouldn’t use (Part 1 here).
Stupid Argument #13: Pascal’s Wager.
Bet on God, and the upside is huge. Bet against God, and the downside is huge. Any questions?
The error is in imagining just two choices, Christianity and atheism. In reality, human societies have invented myriad choices, and Christianity is just one more. Christians are in the same spot they imagine for atheists. What if they bet wrong on the Hindu or Roman or Norse pantheons? Or on the Zoroastrian or Egyptian or Buddhist afterlife? Take a look at Buddhist hell in the image above—it ain’t pretty.
It also assumes that the deity will accept an ass-covering “bet on God” instead of authentic belief driven by conviction. Wouldn’t a god be smart enough to see through the insincerity?
In the gospel of John, we read, “[Peter] said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ ” (John 21:17). Christians’ own Bible defeats Pascal’s Wager.
Finally, notice that Pascal does nothing to provide evidence for God’s existence. (More on Pascal’s wager here.)
Stupid Argument #14: You’ll be sorry!
Watch yourself, smart guy—you won’t be so cocky when you’re standing in judgment before the Creator. You’ll have an eternity in hell to repent your foolishness.
You’re really going to threaten atheists with something we don’t believe in? Why should we be any more concerned about Christian hell than you are about Buddhist hell? Let me again quote St. Christopher (Hitchens): “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Even if you’re right, how heavenly will heaven be? Don’t you think the ongoing torment of billions of humans in hell—whose crime was nothing more than not getting it—will bother you after a while?
Imagine a different judgment scenario. You and I are standing in judgment before God. You’re feeling pretty smug since it’s clear that you guessed right. But then God turns to you and says, “So this is how you used your brain, my greatest gift to mankind? You just check it at the door and gullibly believe whatever your religious leader tells you? You weren’t supposed to return that brain with low mileage; you were supposed to use it!”
Guess who’s going to hell this time.
Stupid Argument #15: Citing Bible quotes.
We know that there is a Judgment Day. Jesus tells us, “Everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
As proof that the Bible makes a particular claim, Bible quotes are fine. I use them myself. But don’t cite a Bible quote as evidence of something important. You realize I don’t consider the Bible authoritative, right?And if the issue is the Bible’s position on a certain topic, don’t simply show me a verse that supports your position. The Bible can be made to support just about any position—witness the thousands of sects of Christianity. Instead, show me how the Bible supports that position and only that position. The context is not just the surrounding verses but the entire Bible.
For example, I’ve read many apologetics for biblical slavery that cite the Bible’s indentured servitude for fellow Israelites but ignore that it elsewhere imposes slavery for life on foreigners. Or apologetics that pick and choose verses to create just one interpretation of the afterlife or the Trinity or the Second Coming.
Stupid Argument #16: Excusing God’s excesses.
You’ve got to understand that things were different back then. God supported slavery and ordered genocide in the Old Testament simply because he was working within the culture of the times. Israelite culture had to mature in the same way that a child must mature to properly understand morality.
The apologists making these arguments are fine with modern morality and would be as horrified to see Old Testament genocide and slavery in use today as any of us. But suggest that homosexuality is natural, and suddenly their hands are tied because the Old Testament is the immutable word of God. They grant themselves license to pick and choose the bits of the Old Testament that they like and discard the crazy baggage that comes along with it. They make the Bible into a sock puppet.
As for Israel maturing gradually like a child, remember that God imposed the Ten Commandments with no grace period. Israel didn’t get the chance to mature into these rules, and breaking most of them was a capital crime on Day 1. God was not squeamish about imposing morality, and he clearly didn’t care what social customs he swept away with new rules. God didn’t demand genocide and support slavery because his hands were tied but because he was okay with them.
These are the same Christians who demand to know how an atheist can reject the Holocaust without objective morality, not realizing that they do the Nazi two-step when apologizing for their god’s slavery and genocide.
To be continued.
between an atheist and a theist grows longer,
the probability of the theist threatening
the atheist with hell approaches 1.
— Commenter hector jones
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/8/14.)
Photo credit: Wikimedia