A Flipped Version of Pascal’s Wager?

Reader Matt took this picture at a church in Seattle:

Someone was obviously trying to be funny about it, but I think it just undermines what the church teaches.

God isn’t looking after us. We have to look after ourselves and others. And if it’s better to play it safe than sorry, there’s no reason to put your money on any god.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    i’m sure, as someone not brought up in the xitan tradition like i was also not, that the “wager” offends you all. it’s a great concept… if one only recognizes one religion. i’d be really offended if i were a Jain, Muslim, etc., and came across it as the “ultimate answer” to agnostic and atheist thought. even other xtians should be offended by it; it presupposes so many dogmatic concepts thateven protestant  dozens or hundreds of splinter sects reject. also, he was French. /joke/

    anyway, it’s a child’s riddle and one that no longer interests me. 

    the atheist come back, if there is ‘one,’ is simply: show me the money. gawd speaks to you, Moses, Mohammed, thru/as/by Jeebus, exactly how again? and you know this, because, why? that’s really all i want to hear. a divinity should speak to the occasional unbeliever, just for marketing’s sake. so far, they don’t. if one is all powerful, it’s really not that hard to be occasionally crafty and even, gasp, wicked. speak to me, AlllllMightee. just tell me to shut up; i’ll be impressed. or: favor a prayer, like you’ve never done before in all history, and regrow a limb of an amputee. just, you know, once. like that poor little Iraqi child who had his arms blown off when a US military outfit shelled his village. but you’ve never done that, not even for US xtian soldiers and other devout worshippers. so i guess you hate them, where you don’t hate people who make toast, as even Israel was denied, to “see your face.”

    i’ve been reading the OT lately, for laughs. it’s really, really awful. it’s beyond pathetic that people put this crap over the Constitution. patheos readers: how many of you have sacrificed a pure, unblemished female goat recently for your unknown, unwitting transgression against the altar of the lord? what, none of you, you say? all of you must be stoned, to death, according to your own holy text. 

    this is why we mock you. also: we love shrimp, cheesburgers, and jeans. 

  • Anonymous

    The 1st Commandment says, “Have no other gods before me.”
    That means the atheists have the safe position because we’ll never put the wrong god first.

    • http://twitter.com/celestialorb Christopher Busby

      Wouldn’t this only work for the god of the Abrahamic religions though?

      • Anonymous

        It would only work for Christianity.  Judaism renders the verses as ‘statements’ with different wording and The Qu’ran doesn’t quote the tablets.  Pascal was writing Christian apologetics so it really only needs to work for Christianity.

  • Trina

    As I saw posted elsewhere earlier today, the fires in Texas indicated that Rick Perry’s god is most surely displeased with him!  Not making light of the fires; I have friends in affected neighborhoods, & one who hasn’t been heard-from in a couple of hours.  Am hoping she’s okay.

    • Elliott776

      Ol’ Rick will just hold a guvumment sponsored Prayer to him agian to rain and put out those fires! If he really believes it will work, I’d like to see him do it in  teh path of the fire and see if god answeres lol.

      • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

        What? A politician putting their arse on the line and putting their singed pants where their dogma is?

        A long-forgotten dream. I’d love to see it, and it’s hilarious to consider.

    • usclat

      I think Prick Ferry will see the fires in his state as a ‘godsend’ as he will have a great excuse not to participate in the first real Republican candidate’s debate in California on Sept 8. Not that any one of them will have anything to say that I want to hear, but it’s funny how the governor seems to be skating toward the nomination. Hopefully we’ll skew him in the general (figuratively speaking of course). 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.alcoforado Jeff Alcoforado

      Smaller government is always good.”Under Gov. Rick Perry (R) this year, Texas slashed state funding for the volunteer fire departments that protect most of the state from wildfires like the ones that have recently destroyed more than 700 homes.”http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/texas-cut-fire-department-funding-by-75-percent-this-year/

  • Vivian

    I use to use Pascal’s wager back when I tried to “reason” for God. 

    Years later, I used it again for my religion class. The teacher (wrongfully) told us Pascal’s wager as an argument. For our semester presentation, I challenged the teacher with Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” 

    Who would want to live life not thinking for themselves? The religious.

  • Anonymous

    Someone was obviously trying to be funny about it, but I think it just undermines what the church teaches.

    Nah, it’s just funny. Anyone who finds themselves doubting god from seeing the snarky little sign was almost certainly doubting before they read it. I actually think it’s cute, myself.

    Pascals wager (in the form it is used today, not the original) continues to be one of the silliest arguments for god I’ve ever heard and I’m still shocked that so many theists find it convincing.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    God is watching… But we also have video.
    God will save us… But we also have a lifeboat.
    God will heal you… But we also have antibiotics.
    God will comfort me… But I also have Tylenol.
    God has a plan for me… But I also have a 401k.
    God has someone meant for me… But I also have Christian Mingle Dot Com.
    God will guide me… But I also have GPS.
    God will help them see the light… But we also have these political ads.
    God will stop them… But we also have this grenade launcher.

    • Bob Lee

      God don’t exist…. But I wonder who created life.

      God is not real… But what is this in my body.

      God has no proof… But all I see are things man can’t create.

      God is not man… Who is this Jesus?

      God is not Heaven…. I only see what’s in front of me

      God is not spirit…. The only touch I feel is flesh.

      God is not word… The Bible is a fairy tale.

      God is not morale… Christians are haters and hypocrites.

      God didn’t create Hell… I don’t know where it is.

      Two can play that game.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        God don’t exist…. But I wonder who created life.
        I don’t. I wonder about how can I help to improve life.
        God is not real… But what is this in my body.
        It’s probably just gas. Try simethicone.
        God has no proof… But all I see are things man can’t create.
        When you look at nature, if you wonder how things are “formed” rather than “created” you’ll understand the world around you more clearly, but you’ll still find it wonderful.
        God is not man… Who is this Jesus?

        A reformer who underestimated the ruthlessness of the status quo.
        God is not Heaven…. I only see what’s in front of me
        With a lot of work and a little selflessness, what we see in front of us could be made to closer resemble heaven. 
        God is not spirit…. The only touch I feel is flesh.
        Spirit originally meant “breath.” Take three deep, slow ones. It’s amazing how that can make so many things better.
        God is not word… The Bible is a fairy tale.
        M hm.  In school, the Greek myths were much better.
        God is not morale… Christians are haters and hypocrites.
        Only the hateful, hypocritical ones are. I don’t hang around them. The Christians I know are quite nice, and they think I am too.
        God didn’t create Hell… I don’t know where it is.
        It moves around a lot. Lately it’s centered on Somalia.
        Two can play that game.
        I’ve enjoyed playing too!  :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/keithacollyer Keith Collyer

        1. The pronoun is “what” not “who”. Or more strictly, the question is “I wonder how life was created?”
        2. influenza?
        3. what?!?
        4. what Jesus?
        5, 6, 7. err, yeah
        8. some are, some aren’t. Nothing to do with morality of an imaginary god
        9. there could be a reason you don’t know where it is. I don’t know where Oz is for the same reason

        ping
        pong

      • Anonymous

        God don’t exist…. But I wonder who created life.

        The evidence shows that all current life evolved from previous life. Every living thing is related to every other living thing in a gigantic family tree. If you don’t think that’s awesome, you haven’t really thought about it. As for the origin of the first living cell, all we have for now are hypothesis. Supernatural origins have no explanatory power and no actual evidence in their favor, so they are an invalid hypothesis

        God is not real… But what is this in my body.

        Which part? The heart, the multiple glands, the incredible immune system, our tailbone, our appendix? Maybe you mean our consciousness , that emergent property of our brain. You know, that thing that oddly enough goes away or changes if we have a big enough physical injury to our brain, even if the rest of our body is perfectly fine.

        God has no proof… But all I see are things man can’t create.

        Really? I’m sitting in front of and typing at a thing humans definitely did create, so surely you can look around and see at least a few things “man” created? For the natural things around us we have a delightfully good knowledge of how they come to be without intervention by anyone. Everything from snow, to lightning, to galaxies, stars, trees etc. Google some, it’s pretty damn cool

        God is not man… Who is this Jesus?

        The man currently known as Jesus was one of many religious figures of his time and place, though since the time of his execution by Roman authorities his sect has become more influential than most. At the time he appeared to be a man seeking to impose some much needed reform and compassion to a rigid and violent religion that dominated his tribe at the time.

        God is not Heaven…. I only see what’s in front of me

        No evidence for God, also none for Heaven. What is in front of me is a vast Universe of breathtaking complexity that I could life for a thousand years and still only barely begin to understand. It’s more than one human could ever appreciate, and for me it seems almost pretentious to say that is enough. I have enough with the Universe, I have no need to make up even more.

        God is not spirit…. The only touch I feel is flesh.

        I feel so sad for the religious whose only emotional sustenence comes from their religious beliefs. I have the love of others, curiosity, music, travel, sports…all things that fill me up with life. Losing just one would be an unspeakable tragedy, I can’t even imagine the fear of someone who depends solely on their religious beliefs to hold them up.

        God is not word… The Bible is a fairy tale.

        No argument there. Personally, I like the character development in the Lord of the Rings better though.

        God is not morale… Christians are haters and hypocrites.

        I guess you mean “moral”. If a human did what the Christian God is said to have done/do (order the genocide of whole tribes, commit global genocide, sanction rape, slavery and mass murder/create and sustain an eternal torture chamber) he would be considered the most evil person to have ever walked the Earth. So no, God is not moral. Happily, almost all Christians are far better persons than their god. Some are haters and hypocrites, and some are incredibly good people. Unlike the Christian God, I don’t end my judgement of humans at their religious beliefs.

        God didn’t create Hell… I don’t know where it is.

        Hell is one of the nastier things to have been invented in fiction. It is one of the most inherently disgusting concepts I’ve ever heard of. Thankfully, it’s entirely fictional. I only wish I could tell that to all the psychologically tortured children who live in mortal terror of a place they’ve been taught is real and they are in danger of going to.

        Two can play that game.

        Yeah, but this level is too easy. Where can I change the configuration to make it more interesting?

      • Anonymous

        “Two can play that game.” But one of them fails epically.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.alcoforado Jeff Alcoforado

    If you gave an order, that Santiago wasn’t to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger? Why the two orders, Colonel?Sometimes men take matters into their own hands…No, sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands; your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn’t have been in any danger at all, should he have, Colonel?

    • Akala

      You snotty little bastard.
      ;)

  • L.Long

    They need the video for the same reason the pope needs a pope-mobile…..
    g0d & prayer don’t work.

  • Nazani14

    “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.”  A paraphrase of Muhammed.
    I’ve heard Christians say, with a straight face, “God helps those who help themselves.”
    Ant then, there’s the ad for
    Christian dating that says “sometimes God wants you to take the first step.”
    Of course, none of this is an admission that prayers are not answered.

  • Paul Little

    I think we would translate that as: “God is watching, but we’re not willing to wait for eternity for you to receive judgement. We want to judge you NOW!”

  • George

    I don’t mind them taking extra precautions.  But it’s the fact that they do it, and then tell their followers to “trust and obey,” to “lean not on your own understanding,” to “have a childlike faith,” etc etc.  I guess that only applies to the congregation and not to the preachers.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/MattDittloff Mattmon

     What does God need with a camera?

    • Randall M

      He wants to put it in his starship.

  • Alexis

    Pascal’s wager really worried me when I was young. I was raised Baptist. Half my classmates were Catholic. What if god was really Catholic? We studied Greek and Roman mythology. Suppose those were the real gods? They seemed to work for Ulysses, etc. Then I read of Hinduism, Taoism, Mormonism, and JWs. How could I bet on all of them? Of course I finally came to the conclusion that I needn’t  bet on any of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Travis-Dykes/19217851 Travis Dykes

    So Ive been thinking about pascals wager and Occam’s razor as applied together toward which religion is most likely to be the “one”.  It seems to me that if there is such a thing as Gods or a god that wanted to be worshiped, then they would have explained things in some fashion to the first people.  Thus the earliest religions stand the best chance of being the correct religion.  So some form of shamanistic or other polytheistic religion of a hunter gatherer tribe is the most likely the correct religion.  Since most of those have been allowed to die out those gods must not have been terribly interested in being worshiped…


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