The Duck Dynasty Patriarch Actually Used Pascal’s Wager to Make His Point

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family in Duck Dynasty, spoke at Rick Warren‘s Saddleback Church over the weekend.

He’s a Christian, and the sermon was pretty much what you might expect, but at one point, he did something I’m surprised any Christian still does: He used Pascal’s Wager:

He mentioned Pascal’s wager — that if God does not exist, then both the believer and the atheist are doomed to die and to never live again. If He does exist, then only the atheist is condemned. In either case, the atheist has no hope. “I’m going to put my money on Jesus of Galilee,” Phil said of his decision to follow Christ.

There’s no shortage of rebuttals to Pascal’s Wager online… but why bother reading them and challenging yourself when your success depends on folksy wisdom filled with ignorance?

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.

  • Martinrc

    As I always try to point out because I never really see it mentioned, atheism is the safest bet in Pascal’s Wager. The reason, almost every god ever mentioned in history has a problem and gives punishment for worshiping another god, but only a handful (really only the Abrahamic one that I can ever think of) actually has been mentioned to punish for just not believing. Some gods are actually prone to rewarding those who use sound judgement based on intellectual reasoning for their actions as well. So in the end, its much safer to not piss off the thousands of gods mentioned by worshiping the wrong god, than it is to possibly piss off the one or two gods who throw a jealous hissy fit for just not believing considering they provide no evidence for their existence.

    • Jason Webb

      That was bloody brilliant….

      • Martinrc

        Thanks, I really am not sure why it never catches on as I never see this response to Pascal’s wager anywhere, but from all the mythology I have ever read, is basically true.

        • 3lemenope

          Another thing that bears repeating about Pascal’s Wager (and I mention it every time it’s brought up) is that Pascal wasn’t altogether serious about Pascal’s Wager. It was a scribbled note in an unorganized and unpublished manuscript, that only posthumously was gathered with others and together published as the Pensées. I think if it were titled more honestly as Random Notes of Ideas I Don’t Think are Quite Ready for Prime Time, instead of Pensées, Christians would stop using it.

          • skinnercitycyclist

            3lemenope, Christians have a hard enough time with “penser” let alone expecting them to get anywhere with “Pensées.”

            • 3lemenope

              A fair point.

        • indorri

          It’s actually an enunciation of the general, fundamental reason Pascal’s Wager isn’t a sound argument: the payout schema isn’t defined. Defining it such that the atheist can only lose and the theist win automatically means you have made a specific choice. If it were mere probability, there would be no choice because the existence/non-existence of gods does not define the outcome until you define the specific god, at which point the Wager is no longer a valid determining function anyway.

          In other words, an actual honest diagram of Pascal’s Wager would be:

          Theist/Exists – Undefined
          Atheist/Exists – Undefined
          Theist/Doesn’t Exist – Undefined
          Atheist/Doesn’t Exist – Undefined

          Which lays bare its utter uselessness.

          • Michael Harrison

            Maye not *entirely* relevant, but yeah, there’s a lot of math between Pascal and today, some of it involving the proper construction of functions (there’s also the issue of proper use of infinities). It’s these details (e.g., continuous versus uniformly continuous) that make advanced calculus so much harder. So I’m not really surprised Pascal’s argument might fall apart in this way.

        • LutherW

          I bet you do not read Joe Klein. Maybe he has covered this somewhere?

    • Tony Agudo

      And it gets messier for Mr. Robertson when you add in the possibility of god concepts created in the future. And even more when also considering gods worshipped by extraterrestrials.

      • C Peterson

        I’ve always assumed the FSM is actually an extraterrestrial god. We simply see it through our biased human eyes and map it into a construction of noodles and meatballs.

    • gwf1213
      • Gregory Marshall

        Dang it, you beat me too it!

    • Heidi McClure

      I usually point out how mad Ba’al will be at Christians for that whole business with Elijah slaughtering his worshipers when he didn’t perform on command. Atheists didn’t do that, so we’re ahead right there.

      • randomfactor

        Or even if Christianity IS the correct world view. Based on God’s track record as described in the Bible, the Opposition is more likely the good guy by comparison. Certainly his death count is lower.

  • AtypicalConservative

    I don’t understand why some retard on a TV show is relevant. Duck Dynasty is a pretty fun show and it’s pretty awesome that these guys built their business from the ground up. He gave a sermon at a church… seems fine to me. He’s keeping his brand of fantasy to himself and his fellows. And if religion helped him turn his life around, good for him. At least something did.

    • Michael W Busch

      Do not use the word “retard” as a substitute for “wrong” or “asserts outrageous nonsensical things as being true”. That is ableism, and wrong.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        How does this prohibition apply to terms like “fire retardant” and “evaporation retardant,” or related terms like “tardiness?”

        • Michael Harrison

          Um, because in those terms, the word is not being used as a substitute for “wrong.”

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            It is used as meaning “to make slow; delay the development or progress of; hinder; impede.” And though I don’t know how @AtypicalConservative:disqus meant it, I find his application consistent with the preceding quotation.

            • Jackie McClanahan

              But he didn’t say that Phil was “retarding progress” or anything (since the definition of retard you use is, you know, a verb). He used it as a noun, and whatever hoops you want to jump through and technicalities you want to make, in that context in our society, he’s referring to persons with learning disabilities, previously known as “mentally retarded.”
              I mean, a fag is a bundle of sticks or a cigarette, but I think we all agree that’s not what people mean when they throw the word around.

              • rtanen

                Great explanation, can I reuse it?

                • Jackie McClanahan

                  Use whatever bits you like! I feel it’s almost luck when something comes out coherent enough to be reused. haha

              • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                If this is an issue of word forms, he might properly have used “retardant” instead of retard. Would that have been acceptable?

                For what it’s worth, my interpretation, and what I suspect was meant, was, “This guy exhibits a level of thinking on par with a person with mental retardation,” which is simply a comparison.

                Also, people with learning disabilities are still known as “mentally retarded,” because that’s what the words mean.

                • Jackie McClanahan

                  Yes, retardant would have been more proper for the definition you’re trying to squeeze out of it.

                  Yeah, we know what he meant. That’s the issue we have with it. He was using a slang term with negative connotations associated with persons with learning disabilities to negatively describe someone who said something we do not feel was well thought out.
                  Jews are stereotypically known to be greedy, so if someone said “This Jew made me pay double the price because of a technicality!” would that be okay?
                  Or I can bring up the fag example again “He’s such a fag for ordering an appletini.” Also okay?
                  While religious prejudice, racism, sexism, and homophobia are being acknowledged, we’re still fighting tooth and nail for people to see ableism is a real and damaging thing, too.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  I reject your examples because they are not parallel with the use of “retard.” A person with mental retardation, or a fire retardant object, are both, by definition, retarded in some way. So any comparison of something seemingly retarded or consistent with the behavior of something retardant is both legitimate and practical.

                  What you offered are stereotypes about Jews and fags that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning of the words.

                  In my experience, religion apparently hinders, impedes, and delays the development of many people’s thinking. If so, it is accurate to refer to them as mentally retarded because of religion, or more succinctly, religiously retarded. And if brevity is an issue, we might shorten it to merely “retarded,” which is still generally accurate, though lacking qualifiers.

                • Edmond

                  Context, context, context. This use is deliberately derogatory, to say “you are as bad as these other people, whom I consider REALLY bad”.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  I don’t understand. Are you discouraging honesty, or the comparison of similar things?

                • Edmond

                  Seriously? I think YOU’RE discouraging honesty.

                  I’m discouraging the use of a class of people (who can’t even defend themselves) as a social standard for “deficiency”. There are people in this world who struggle through a life of hell that able-bodied and able-minded people cannot imagine. They are not here to serve as a measuring stick for how crappy or stupid the rest of us think someone is, or to supply us with insults to demonstrate how low we think some people really are.

                  This is not civilized behavior, and you shouldn’t need it spelled out to you in such concise detail. It isn’t anyone else’s job but YOURS to teach yourself some basic decency.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  You’re still missing my point. Seriously. I don’t see any upside to continuing. However, if you wish to press onward, just say so.

                • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic
                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  I think you missed the point, which I am certainly willing to discuss, if you’re interested (able?). Forgive me for not having a web link to express this in a nonpersonal, nonspecific, and useless way. But then, as I said, i’m willing to discuss it.

                • TCC

                  YankeeCynic’s link was to show you that you were doing a bait-and-switch with your terms by using the fallacy of ambiguity.

                • SphericalBunny

                  Out of curiosity, I looked up the word ‘nigger’ (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nigger). The origin is described thus; 1640–50; < French nègre < Spanish negro black.

                  Now, seeing as you appear to be claiming that definitions are static, and that levels of offence should have no bearing on their usage, one can only conclude that you would not only be comfortable with describing all black and dark-skinned people as niggers ("because that’s what the words mean."), but also that it is acceptable to use 'nigger' as a shorthand substitute for the word 'black' – as in 'the pot is calling the kettle nigger‘ and ‘it’s a nigger day for all of us’, since the usage is both parallel and “…are both, by definition, retardedblack in some way.”

                  Can you see the problem yet?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Still insulting, as I know a few people with mental retardation, and they’re far brighter than this Duck Dynasty guy….

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

                  The little bit I I know about the guy and the show is from this post, and a video made by TheThinkingAtheist. Lucky me, I suspect.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, I make a point of NOT watching “reality” tv shows. They’re about as “real” as Jenna Jameson’s boobs….

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  I can’t stand television in general, and am happy that after years and years my household will stop wasting money on Cable as of this month, but I’ve seen a few episodes of DD when people were over, and found it really damn funny. That’s because it isn’t a reality show. It’s a sitcom pretending to be a reality show. It pretty clearly has an outline and rough script for each episode, but relies in large part on the wit and eccentricities of the cast.

                • DavidMHart

                  Does she have gods for breasts? ;-)

                • allein

                  Some of her fans probably think so…

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        I don’t agree with his use of the word retard but you have no right to tell anyone what word they can or cannot use.

        Edit: He could have simply said can you please refrain from using such a word but does he do that? No, he goes straight to saying do not use the word.

        • Michael W Busch

          AtypicalConservative has freedom of speech. And I also have freedom of speech – including the freedom to say “don’t do that”.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            And I have the freedom to tell you that you are acting like a jerk demanding others to not use a word and it is something you do often. You get your panties in a bunch with ease over words you don’t agree with.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              When the word in question is insulting and marginalizing to a segment of the population, particularly a segment that has no choice in their condition (i.e. the mentally retarded), he’s right to say, “hey, don’t use that word.”

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                And you know what I call people that tell others what they can or cannot say? I call them bullies.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  What if the word is ‘faggot’ or ‘nigger’?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Rich I only said something to him because he berates others almost daily on their choice of words. Just watch what he does over the next week and you will see what I mean.

                  And Rich to answer your question. If the OP had typed this faggot nigger retard I would have flagged the post and moved on.

                • Michael W Busch

                  I merely react to distressingly common patterns of bigoted speech. If there was less such speech, or people did not attempt to defend it, this would not be necessary. And I am done.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  No, I know what you mean. My point is simply that I don’t think most of us question the idea that there are some words that have no place in some contexts. Michael is certainly adamant about expanding awareness about other words that fit into that category.

                  But is he wrong about that word, or is he wrong for making the point?

                  I’ve been confused in the past as to exactly what his complaint was when he just said “Don’t say that” without explaining the word and why. But he’s getting better about that.

                  If he’s not wrong about this word, then I think his berating people is the same as berating them about any other word we’d agree on.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  You can inform and make people aware without berating or telling them how to act.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  You’re waaaay too defensive about this — what’s your problem?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  You are my problem? Does that make you happy now? You have found the source. How does that make you feel?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  I feel that you’re being utterly ridiculous, and trying to justify your own bigotry by portraying those of us trying to put a stop to said bigotry as “bullies”.

                  In short, the lad doth protest too much…

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  What I’m trying to do is make Michael see he doesn’t have to berate someone every time they use a word he simply doesn’t like. Maybe, just maybe he will use a tad more tact in his approach and start asking or informing instead of telling.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  It’s not about “words he doesn’t like.”

                  It’s about ableist slurs and other bigoted language.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  It is all about the words he doesn’t like. Stay tuned because he will do this all again in a few days.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  So… you must like bigoted language, if you’re so opposed to calling it out, yeah?

                  If not, you’ve no grounds for criticising him.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  I’m not opposed to him calling it out. By all means, call them out but use some tact while doing it and trust me, he lacks tact.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, now you’re just tone-trolling. Knock it off.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  You two must be married.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  What, a woman can’t agree with a man without sleeping with him?

                  Sexist….

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I do think Micheal would have more success if he’d explain why a word shouldn’t be used along with demanding that people stop using it.

                  As it is, there are a few people who now say things just to spite him.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  While I do think that helping people to understand why they shouldn’t use those words could be done more effectively, I’m aware enough of my own post history to not try to make that argument. *cough cough*

                  Suffice it to say that there are arguments for cajoling, and arguments for condemnation, but proponents of the former tend to shoot themselves in the foot much the same way that accommodationists do.

                • closetatheist

                  seriously? using the word “retard” in a colloquial manner is neither hateful nor contemptuous. Its accepted slang for someone who is obtuse…this overreaction to another person’s informal manner is speaking is getting f*cking ridiculous.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Having said that Michael could do a better job of explaining why a particular word is a bad choice, I’m struck with the fact that at least he’s saying something while the rest of us whistle and look away.

                  I don’t give a fucking shit if it’s ‘accepted’. It’s not accepted by me. It is hateful and contemptuous, and mostly towards people who aren’t even the current target. Surely we can think of a better word than one that has a history of being used as a hateful slur against people.

                • closetatheist

                  Ok, while we’re in the middle of banning words that have a history of being used in a hateful manner, even though they may be often used in a non-hateful, informal manner, I demand that you strike the word “fuck” from your vocabulary. You Should be ashamed.

                • Michael Harrison

                  No one’s banning jack. People have the right to say words, but they don’t have the right not to experience backlash.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  You are completely missing the fucking point.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  You’re being ridiculous.

                • 3lemenope

                  I do find the argument that a given insult is OK because it’s informal, not contemptuous or hateful pretty bizarre.

                  The whole point and power of such words is that they are contemptuous. That’s what they are meant to express! You say them to express a lack of value you hold in what the other person is or represents or does.

                  They maintain their power because others disapprove of their use. There is a social cost to employing such terms, which keeps their use (usually) to an infrequent level. Less so on the Internet precisely because the social cost element is lessened. So people being offensive and people being offended rest in dynamic tension with one another; the entire concept depends upon people wanting to be abusive (for justifiable or unjustifiable reasons as the case may be) and audience members extracting their social rents in the form of directed outrage as payment for enduring having to listen to the abuse.

                  Which is why tone debates are inherently ironic.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  And to address the actual rhetorical question, my example breaks down a bit in that people know the effect of my examples. I think a lot of people don’t think twice about a lot of the words Michael points out- hence he isn’t flagging but (hopefully) raising awareness.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Use the word chic he will say something. Use the word mental he will say something. He doesn’t even care about the context. Just use a word he doesn’t like and he goes into a huge rant and he does it often.

                  Look at his exchange with closetatheist on this thread: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/21/criticism-of-mormon-theology-on-the-internet-provokes-doubt-in-the-churchs-leadership/

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, he was 100% correct in that thread, what’s your point?

                  Why are you so invested in using bigoted language?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  You two can just go huge each other then and feel special, just like the Olympics.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Again, why are you so defensive about bigoted language?

                  How would you feel if what you are were used as an insult? (i.e. “that’s gay”, “that’s retarded”, etc)

                  Do you understand that these words are not only hurtful to the people they’re directed at, but even more hurtful to the people they describe? If so, why would you support the use of them?

                  As Richard said, it’s no different to using “faggot” as a slur.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Did you miss the part where I said I do not agree with his use of the word retard?

                • Michael W Busch

                  It is not bullying to explain to someone that their words are causing harm and to say that they should stop. It is in fact opposite the direct opposite.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yes, because trying to stop bullying is… bullying.

                  Whatever.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  And not everyone is being a bully when they use a word you don’t agree with. Are you going to get upset if I call a white person a honkie?

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  *honky

                • smrnda

                  Is it bullying to tell white people not to use the n word?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Maybe, just maybe all this will make Michael stop and think and use a tad more tact next time someone uses a word he doesn’t like, which should happen in the next 3 days.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  More likely, people will start thinking about their word choice, and, being compassionate and kind, stop using ableist slurs.

                  Except for you, of course…

            • Michael W Busch

              This isn’t about “words I don’t agree with” (although I do disagree with the misuse of many words). It’s about dismantling harmful stereotypes that persist through the culture.

              For example: you now refer to my calling people on ableist language by references to female-coded undergarments. Don’t do that either.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                I’ll do and type as I please thank you very little.

                • Michael W Busch

                  You have freedom of speech. But you should not contribute to harmful stereotypes with bigoted speech. Nor should you continue to try and defend bigotry.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Then you don’t get to complain when you are rightly called out for using ableist slurs or other bigoted language.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Funny how those three little words — “don’t do that” — will send some people into a rage, innit?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  Do you have children?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Irrelevant.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  So the answer is no.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  No, the answer is, that’s entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

                  You are, however, behaving like a child.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  It is 100% relevant but I already know the answer to the question.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Mmm, no, it’s still irrelevant, no matter how much you want it to be otherwise.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  See you in a few days when we get to do this again.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Funny how those three little words — “don’t do that” — will send some people into a rage, innit?

                  Yes, it is. Sometimes, I find myself wanting to avoid that. But then I consider that through accidents of social privilege, I personally get far less vitriol directed at me for calling people on bigoted speech than many others would for doing the same thing. So I can’t justify remaining silent.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                  And you would get a much more welcome response from people if you simply said can you please refrain from using such language instead of telling.

                • Michael W Busch

                  Your tone trolling is noted.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Thank you for standing up for the less-privileged.

      • Cake

        Meh.

    • YourDad

      Late to the discussion . . .

      I used to use the word ‘retarded’ to describe things I thought were stupid or ridiculous. I just liked the sound of it.

      Then I read this piece by John C. McGinley, and it really struck a chord with me.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-c-mcginley/spread-the-word-to-end-th_b_483157.html

      Ultimately, like him, I’m all for free speech, and I don’t support banning words. But I won’t use the word anymore, because it hurts people. And I don’t want to be a part of that.

      “Verbally assaulting those who have done absolutely nothing wrong and cannot even begin to defend themselves, is an exponentially more egregious transgression. Only bullies and cowards pick on the defenseless.”

  • Rain

    Pascal:

    But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.

    Lol couldn’t have said it better myself. Too bad Pascal was too “godbotted” to realize what the hell he was saying.

    EDIT: Redacted “dishonest” and put in “godbotted” instead.

  • Philbert

    Pascal’s wager basically says that if my god exists then I’ve got mine, and if no god exists then you can’t touch me because I’ll be gone and so will you. And therefore I’m going to make your life worse in the name of my religion because I can, because it might benefit me in a fictional afterlife and you can’t do anything about it.

    It’s selfish and immoral, gambling with other people’s lives and freedom in the hopes of winning a ridiculous lottery of the gods.

  • Justin Rawlings

    I run into Pascal’s Wager at least once a week. I usually tell them they no longer have credibility if they insist on using an argument that has been rebutted so many times.

  • Michael Harrison

    My rebuttal is very simple: anyone who is a Christian due to Pascal’s Wager is a coward.

    • Art_Vandelay

      I think I was a Christian due to PW at one point but to be fair I was a child who was threatened by people who had authority over me. I had no reason to think that they would lie to me.

      • Michael Harrison

        No, I’d say that’s Christianity through credulity. I was the same way.

      • LutherW

        I would say you were a Christian via threat, or just went along and said you were by threat or to get along. Unless they actually convinced you of PW,

        • Art_Vandelay

          Well, isn’t that all PW is anyway? Just saying that you believe it? As if you can trick an omniscient deity.

  • Matthew Baker

    I have always wonder who find Pascal’s Wager compelling. I also am amazed at how this and Paley’s watchmaker arise spontaneously without any knowledge of said philosophers.

  • stop2wonder

    Anyone who uses Pascal’s Wager has already lost the argument.

    They are no longer arguing the truth of their god claim; they’re just making an argument for hedging their bets.

  • Timothy R Alexander

    Stupid people on stupid show using stupid theories. Why I’m shocked! Shocked I say!

    • Michael W Busch

      Not “stupid people”. Poorly educated and playing to a particular demographic.

      Not “stupid show”. Bad show.

      And not “stupid theories”. Fallacious arguments. A theory is a statement about the universe that is consistent with and supported by the available evidence. Pascal’s Wager is not a statement about the universe, and is not supported by any evidence.

  • wvsasha

    My dad explained this thought as “fire insurance faith”.

  • sara

    When I hear this argument I leap to the conclusion that I am speaking to a rather stupid atheist who can’t find a reason to believe, but has been frightened by Christian rhetoric.

    • Michael W Busch

      Pascal’s Wager is usually used by theists who are willing to accept fallacious arguments in an attempt to support a pre-existing belief.

    • RobertoTheChi

      Your comment makes absolutely zero sense. Should I leap to the conclusion that you are indeed a simpleton?

      Edit: Please disregard the above comment. I rushed through reading what sara was actually saying and misunderstood it.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        She’s not insulting atheists. She’s saying that the Wager is such a desperate argument that it sounds like something you’d hear from a person who doesn’t believe in God but who is terrified of not believing, and who isn’t bright enough to even cling to Apologetics instead. (And that it’s even more horrifying that such is not even the case.)

        • RobertoTheChi

          Ahh geez… I feel like an idiot now. I obviously jumped to conclusions without taking the time to read into what she was saying. Reading the comment again, I can see where I screwed up and see what you’re saying. I guess I’m just hyper alert (and probably a little paranoid too) with the trolls that have been showing up. Thanks for pointing this out to me, C.L. I believe I owe her an apology and I will be doing that now.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            I could have done that just as easily.

    • Matt D

      Well, this article is about the patron of the Duck Dynasty, who uses Pascals wager, and is a Xtian.
      .
      I’m not sure why you’d say a “stupid” atheist would be using this method when clearly, we’re the ones deriding it.

    • RobertoTheChi

      I believe I owe you an apology, sara. I’m sorry for my previous response. I rushed through reading your comment and didn’t pay attention to what you were actually saying. I feel awful about my comment and I am deeply sorry. The simpleton here would be me. Again, I apologize. I hope there are no hard feelings, sara.

  • rhodent

    I’m not sure why you’re surprised at any Christian still using Pascal’s Wager. Sure, it’s been discredited hundreds of times, but it’s not like that ever stops Christians. It’s sort of like how they keep arguing against homosexuality on the grounds that “you won’t find it in nature” despite the fact that it’s been documented in the wild in over 100 species.

    • observer

      As long as the sheeple will take it, the shepherds will still deliver it.

    • David

      When they use the nature argument, I kindly point out that only about 5% of animal species practice monogamy and mate for life.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        The number is far far less than 5%. Vertebrates make up only ~1% of all animal species (and that is being very generous). Arthropods, Nematods, and Mollusks make up the vast majority of animals. So really the natural way of having sex is to have as much as possible and then die.

        • David

          Not just that but a great many species (clown fish, seahorses, etc.) are able to change sexes to fit their current mating partner.

    • Mackinz

      Wasn’t it closer to 1500 species?

      And one of those include South American porpoises having blowhole sex?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        But… but that’s their NOSE. Wouldn’t that suck for the catcher?

        I once had the sad duty of telling an artist friend that the extra breathing hole they planned to give their original alien species was going to end up being used for sex in other peoples’ renditions.

        • The Other Weirdo

          That’s classic. Every possible use I ever envisioned for the TNG holodeck was for participatory pr0n.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            I could never decide if I was more intrigued by the fantasy applications of the Holodeck that weren’t appropriate for television or for ST storylines, or else weren’t doable with the available effects, or more horrified at the prospect of walking into a machine designed to project and focus immense amounts of energy and trying to relax.

            • The Other Weirdo

              A machine, it must be noted, that had a nasty tendency to create fully articulated sentient beings. For all of the Federation’s fear of genetic enhancements, it was shockingly laissez-faire about randomly creating life. And bullets. I never understood why the writers were permitted to do that.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                I suspect it was because early ST:TNG, like a lot of shows, depended heavily on cheaply rented existing sets and the skillsets of their actors, which necessarily revolve around performance. That’s why so many episodes revolve around soundstages of ’30s bars and London streets and so many scenes focus on, say, Data being able to play an instrument. It’s a good way to keep the budget under control, but it harmed the show’s overall direction.

                And they just plain had bad writers for a while. :P

          • Tainda

            Just ask Tuvok lol

            • Michael Harrison

              Or Reginald Barclay.

        • Mackinz

          Doesn’t matter, had sex.

        • allein

          Maybe they’re into erotic asphyxiation?

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            WHYYYYYYY

      • rhodent

        It may be closer to 1500 species. Honestly, I don’t know the exact amount (particularly for “in the wild”) and didn’t have time when writing that to find it. I know it was in the hundreds and so I put “over 100″ because I knew that was accurate and even if the number was 102 that would still be more than enough to prove my point.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *facepaw*

    *sigh*

    My money’s still on the Netjeru*, particularly Bast.

  • C Peterson

    he did something I’m surprised any Christian still does: He used Pascal’s Wager

    You’re surprised, why?

    There are no rational arguments supporting any of the key points of Christianity. Not a one. Every aspect of it has been thoroughly and unarguably shot down. Its proponents are no different from conspiracy theorists, and like them, use the same type of arguments. When their points are knocked down, they temporarily move on to something else, until the next time. And then, they bring up the same old arguments again, pretending like they’ve never been addressed.

    It’s all they have.

  • Stev84

    It also doesn’t make the Christian god look good. He is basically saying that his god prefers insincere belief over sincere disbelief. Pretty weird coming from people who constantly try to upstage each other about who is the the most devote believer.

  • Normand Bertrand

    he also said during one episode that if he ever saw an atheist he would kill them!

    • gwf1213

      do you happen to know what episode that was

      • LesterBallard

        Curious about that myself.

  • Ryan

    Hedge your bets everyone!

  • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

    Well this was given at Rick Warren’s church. Should we be shocked that the content was as vapid as it was fatuous?

  • Art_Vandelay

    I think Galileo said it best…

    I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.

    In this respect, if I’m wrong, I have every reason to thing that this thing…whatever it is…would be proud of me.

  • Robster

    After his significant observation, this fellow probably wandered off with his friends in some sort of christian “fellowship” (they love that!) for a feed of baby jesus then slapped each others backs for “getting those atheists”. He’d then spend the rest of the day with the “fellowship”, confirming each other’s beliefs with ignorant, vaccuous, meaningless statements that sound impressive but offer nothing else.

  • smrnda

    I heard Pascal’s wager defended as ‘it’s not about persuading people, it’s about justifying my own faith’ or something to that effect a few times. Tells you how weak most honest Christians will acknowledge it to be. Once you admit that you’re just pulling out all the stops to justify a belief and you know it isn’t persuasive, you’d think you’d realize it…

    • islandbrewer

      I think the entire field of Christian Apologetics is solely for the purpose of assuaging Christian insecurities. I’ve never seen an example of it doing anything else.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I think of it as “the art of convincing people that they aren’t smart enough to ask questions.”

        • randomfactor

          “The organized study of exactly which logical fallacies can best shore up a losing argument.”

  • ZenDruid

    No, he’s no relative of mine.

  • WingedBeast

    It’s also worth noting how much they’re devaluing hope by expressing “the atheist is without hope.” They mean “hope for an eternal afterlife sitting in the glory of God.”

    Of course, if that’s the only thing you can ever hope for, then your emotional life is pretty limited. I, for one, have family. If my only hope is for eternity with God in Heaven, I would have to not care about them at all. Because I can be moved to offer that fecal sampling in their regard, at the very least, I have hope that they will live happy, healthy lives. There are people I once knew but have not had contact with in years. I have hope that they’re still okay and doing well. I have hope that I will do okay and well.

    If your only possible hope is to be in eternity with God, you’re a selfish psychopath who doesn’t care about anybody or anything besides yourself. In that case, go ahead and make your bets. Personally, I’ll work with the hopes I have right here.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    One day you atheists are going to come unstuck, when a theist brings up an argument that you can not show to be invalid, incorrect or just plain wrong.

    It could happen, don’t you love the word “could”, it allows you to do so much with a statement.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Oh aye, it could happen. That’s why most of us request evidence of 1) any sort of deity and 2) that it is the deity you happen to worship. If you could provide said evidence, I at least would change my mind.

      However, until such time as that happens, the only rational conclusion to come to is that there are no deities, fairies, unicorns, yetis, or loch ness monsters. Having seen the same arguments used and reused by theists without much realization that I’ve heard it before, I’m not holding my breath.

      • baal

        I’ve been looking for christian apologetics that I haven’t seen before and that haven’t been refuted, repeatedly and at length. I think that if there was some sort of killer proof of god, we’d (I’d) have seen it by now.

    • Brian

      Well, at least you understand the BURDEN OF PROOF. It is up to theists to prove God exists, so if they were to present such an argument, then im sure we will become “unstuck” at that point and convert.

      But…we won’t hold our breath. If a God does exist, i seriously doubt he cares what hole guys stick their penis into, or what kind of food we should be eating.

    • TheG

      That is a pretty dishonest statement. Because most “little-a” atheists admit that there is the possibility of evidence that would convince them of the existence of some version of a deity.

      However, I’m not sure it works the other way.

      I’ll admit (and it requires a great deal of explanation) that I can be convinced of a deity. I might one day become “unstuck”. Many people have tried to unstick me with their arguments, but it hasn’t happened yet. That doesn’t preclude me from actively seeking out an argument that works.

      For your assertion to be logical (or, at the very least, fair), you would have to admit what evidence it would take to make you “unstuck” and renounce your adherence to your particular faith in your particular deity.

      Is there anything? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Psst! Mike is joking, guys.

    • The Other Weirdo

      It is indeed a possibility that some day in the future, some theist is going to come up with an argument that cannot be easily refuted. However, today is not that day, and you are not that theist.

    • Michael W Busch

      One day you atheists are going to come unstuck, when a theist brings up an argument that you can not show to be invalid, incorrect or just plain wrong.

      It could happen,

      Such a thing could happen. And if and when sufficient evidence is presented for the existence of any supernatural entity, most atheists would change their minds.

      It is however extremely unlikely, since all evidence to date has been entirely consistent with the non-existence of anything supernatural.

      And many currently-popular supernatural entities cannot exist. E.g. there is no Christian god who regularly reacts to prayers by supernaturally fulfilling the requests of its followers – that is disproven by prayers not actually doing anything outside of the brains of humans.

    • Edward

      I’m not going to say that will never happen – but frankly, having spent the better part of a year trying to find a good reason to stay a believer, and failing miserably – I’m not holding my breath.

      That said; If I am presented with irrefutable evidence that god(s) then…

      I will change my mind.

      And if later I learn something that proves the former false – then I will change it again.

      Feel free to present such evidence, but I warn you, there’s a good chance we’ve seen it before.

  • Brian

    And I’m putting my money on the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Ramen.

  • David McNerney

    I presume he’s made the Hajj by this stage of his life. I mean it’s only a little trip to Mecca, it would be insane not to do it, considering the downside.

  • rustygh

    Haha Pascal’s wager, just goes to show you from the duck dynasty patriarch down, those guys are pussies. Such a chicken shit cop-out.

    • Michael W Busch

      Cut out the sexist slurs.

      • rustygh

        6. Taboo slang chiefly US an ineffectual or timid person

        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?rd=1&word=pussies

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          It has the meaning you want to imply because it is a sexist slur. It wouldn’t mean “ineffectual or timid” if it weren’t associated with female, thereby implying that women are ineffectual or timid.

        • Michael W Busch

          Every time you use “pussy” as an insult, you link “having a vagina” to “being a lesser person”. That is wrong. Cut it out.

  • Tom

    Alternatively, he read the rebuttals and disagreed with them?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      No. No he didn’t.

  • Kenneth Polit

    I’m suprised he was able to take his pecker out of his sister long enough to make that speech.

  • baal

    Yeah! I like Pascal’s Wager since it’s an excuse to flog for my favorite diety, Cthulhu! But I’ve recently made the argument that you need to worship the meanest, most evil god (think of the down side risk for getting it wrong!).

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      But baal, there’s no downside to not worshipping Cthulhu except that if you go mad, you have less direction for your cult without him.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Ergo Jesus.

      • baal

        Seeing your familiy and friends subject to an endless living undeath is worse than hell!

  • Michelle

    Pascal’s Wager is based on the assumption that belief is a choice. You choose to believe in a god, or you choose not to. This confuses me. I have never thought of belief as a choice. Belief is a place I arrive at after following evidence, using reason and deducing what is most likely true, regardless of my desires and fears. Sound beliefs follow truth and logic, not what will benefit a person the most in the end. If I simply decided what to believe in based on desire and possible benefits, I would be putting a stocking out every Christmas Eve.

    • Gus Snarp

      This is, to me, a key problem with Pascal’s Wager, particularly when applied to Christianity. While my beliefs and approach to them is similar to yours, for Christians it can be different. They may believe because of some event, some mystical experience in which they felt they came to “know” god. So for them too, Pascal’s wager fails. If this kind of experience is true faith, then simply behaving as a Christian and saying all the right words will fail to gain you salvation, because God will see through to whether or not you have “true” faith. Even if a Christian has arrived at their believe through a (deeply flawed) consideration of the evidence (which includes poor evidence like the Bible) using reason (the includes fallacies like the appeal to authority), they would still not have arrived there because of Pascal’s wager.

      In any case, whether you’re an atheist, a follower of another religion, or a Christian, Pascal’s Wager ought to fall flat on its face when considering a god who lets you into heaven based on the faith he sees in your heart. Pascal’s Wager just can’t get you there. What it really amounts to is a zinger for the Christian who realizes he has no argument. “Oh yeah, well if I’m wrong we’re both doomed, but if I’m right, only you are going to Hell!”. Yeah, that’s a helpful argument.

      So why was it ever given the time of day, let alone why is anyone still using it? Someone should have told Pascal he was being an idiot and the idea should never have been heard again. Sadly, it’s so simple that people keep coming up with it and thinking they’ve had a brilliant though.

  • closetatheist

    Why, exactly, are we surprised that Christians still use Pascal’s Wager?

  • Ryan Hite

    There are so many problems with Pascal’s wager.

  • phantomreader42

    I don’t know why you’d be surprised that he’d use Pascal’s Wager. It’s an increidbly stupid argument, but it’s also VERY common. I see it so often I have a standard copy-and-paste response, since attempting to communicate sensibly with someone stupid enough to mistake Pascal’s Wager for a valid argument is a waste of time.

    On the distressingly common occasions that I see someone post Pascal’s Wager, here’s what I respond with:

    Pascal’s Wager is a worthless load of shit. By using it you’re admitting that there’s actually no good reason to believe your cult’s idiotic dogma, you just pretend to believe it because you’re afraid of the boogeyman. It also implies that your god is incredibly stupid, narcissistic, cruel, and in general wholly unworthy of worship even if it actually existed (which isn’t likely, since by resorting to threats you admit that you don’t have any actual evidence). Your argument is the argument of a stupid, lazy, self-centered, willfully ignorant terrorist. In short, your argument is garbage, and so are you.

  • Ian Glazko

    I’d just like to leave here my favorite response to Pascal’s Wager.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU


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