A Response to Pascal’s Wager (Fiction)

A Response to Pascal’s Wager (Fiction) June 30, 2014

In celebration of 500 posts at this blog, I’d like to run a few excerpts from my 2012 book, Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey. These may run a bit longer than the usual post, but I think the fiction format is an interesting way to explore apologetics arguments.

A bit of background: Jim is a wealthy, housebound, and somewhat obnoxious atheist, and Paul is the young acolyte of a famous pastor, doing his best to evangelize. It’s 1906 in Los Angeles, and they’re in Jim’s study. Jim is in the middle of repairing an electric fan.

Paul cleared his throat and began. “Okay, I’m sure you’ll agree that you possess only a tiny fraction of all knowledge.”

“Of course.”

“Then isn’t it possible that there is compelling evidence that God exists, but you just don’t know it? Doesn’t this throw great doubt on your belief that God doesn’t exist?”

“Great doubt? Hardly,” Jim said as he strung the power cord through the fan’s base. “I’m also not certain that leprechauns don’t exist. No good evidence argues that they do exist, so I assume they don’t. By this logic, I also think God doesn’t exist. Give me the information that would convince me otherwise. If he exists, that fact is apparently not well publicized or not convincing.”

“Evidence for God’s existence is both well publicized and convincing,” Paul said. “The Bible tells us, ‘Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, so that men are without excuse.’ ”

“How can his invisible qualities be seen?

“What I mean is, the majority of your fellow citizens believe in God.”

“And the majority of people don’t. The preponderance of evidence says that there is no God, so that’s what I believe. That’s what I must believe. If I stumbled across new information that showed my position was wrong, I should indeed change it.”

Jim mounted the motor on its base. “You raise a dangerous challenge. Turn it around: given the tiny fraction of all knowledge that you possess, how can you reject the hundreds of belief systems that exist today and have existed through history? Aren’t you concerned about being a bad Muslim? You don’t want to spend eternity in Muslim hell. Or a bad Buddhist? I’ve seen pictures of the hell of Tibetan Buddhism, and you don’t want to go there either.

“We’re both atheists. We agree that the thousands of gods in history are fiction, with the single exception of the Christian god—you think that particular god, out of all the others, actually exists. I rejected the Christian god with much more deliberation than you used when you rejected all the others. If you think that I’m obliged to consider Christianity’s claims, surely you’re obliged to consider the claims of the other religions.”

Paul said, “I consult my feelings and know the Christian path to be the true one. Faith is believing what you know in your heart to be true.”

“That’s something a believer from any tradition could say. What religion would you claim if you grew up in Egypt or Morocco or the Ottoman Empire? If you were of a spiritual bent, you would almost surely be a Muslim. You’d be a Hindu if raised in certain parts of India, a Confucian in China, and so on. Were you just extraordinarily lucky to have been born in a place and time in which the correct religion happened to be dominant?”

Jim poked his screwdriver toward Paul. “Why are you a Christian? Not because Christianity is the truth. It’s simply because you were raised in a Christian community. It’s the same with language—you speak English because you were born in America. You didn’t evaluate the world’s languages and rationally decide which one to speak—it was a decision made for you by society. You’re simply a product of your culture.”

Paul squeezed his hands into a fist so hard that he could feel his fingernails digging into his palms. “Then how do you explain the hundreds of millions of Christians? Christianity is the most popular religion the world has ever seen.”

“Truth is not a goddamn popularity contest.” Jim slashed with the screwdriver to punctuate his words like a manic orchestra conductor. “Some religion will be the most popular—does that make it the correct one? And how do you explain the hundreds of millions of Muslims? Or Hindus? Or any of the other religions that have been around for centuries and seem to satisfy the spiritual needs of their adherents? Is it delusion? Superstition? Custom? Indoctrination? However you explain the success of those religions should answer your question about why Christians believe. Look at the new variants of Christianity that have sprouted in this country in just the last century—Mormonism, Christian Science, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why is your flavor of Christianity not invented just like these were?”

Sweat tickled Paul’s skin as it ran down his sides. He couldn’t control this slippery conversation. Now would be a good time to help, God, he thought as he launched into Samuel’s approach to Pascal’s Wager.

“All right, let’s think of this like a bet,” he began, “the most important bet imaginable. Suppose your concerns are correct and there were just one chance in a hundred that Christianity is correct. Let’s suppose the time, energy, and money you would invest in the church amounts to ten thousand dollars over your lifetime. For it to be an even bet, the return on a win—Christianity being true—must be a hundred times your expense, or a million dollars. That is, you wager ten thousand dollars for a one-in-a-hundred chance to win a million dollars. Would you say that that’s a fair bet?”

“Yes, that’s a fair bet,” Jim said, smiling.

“But wouldn’t you also say that the prize of eternal bliss instead of torment is much more valuable than a million dollars? Doesn’t that make betting on Christianity the obvious choice?”

“Sam and I came up with that argument on our own. We were quite pleased with ourselves—only later did I discover that Pascal had beaten us by 250 years.” Jim wiped his hands with a rag as he stood and walked to the bureau holding the chessboard. “I don’t know about Sam, but I’ve thought quite a bit about these arguments over the years. What seemed very compelling to us long ago has a lot of holes under close examination. If all you’ve got is Sam’s arguments from twenty-five years ago, then I’m afraid he hasn’t armed you very well.” He pulled open a wide drawer, poked through its clutter for a few moments, and returned to the sofa with a deck of cards. The low table in front of the sofa held several open books, which Jim closed and dropped with a thump on the blue and white Oriental rug.

“Since we’re talking about betting, let’s simulate your argument with cards,” Jim said, as he held the cards face down in one hand and fanned them with the other. “What card shall we use to represent the Christian jackpot?”

Paul groped for a symbol, and the image of the princess mother from the fairy tale came to mind. “How about … the queen of hearts.”

“Okay, and let’s improve your odds. Let’s say that you must pay just a thousand dollars for the privilege of picking a card, but if you pick the queen of hearts, you get a million dollars. That’s about what you’re saying, right?”

“Sure.”

“But is that really analogous to our situation?” Jim turned the cards over and leafed through them until he found the queen of hearts. He put that card face up on the sofa beside him and fanned the remaining cards as before, offering them face down to Paul. “How about now? Would you pay a thousand dollars to play now?”

“Of course not,” Paul said. “There’s no chance of winning.”

“Right. So which game are we playing—the one with the winning card in the pack or the one with no winning card?” Jim looked at Paul for a moment before slapping the cards onto the table. “There’s no winning card here! Show me why that’s not completely analogous to your wager. If you said that you worshipped the sun, at least I could know that what you worshipped actually existed. And this wager applies to you as well. You can’t offer this wager to me without making a similar bet yourself with a thousand other religions.”

Jim returned to sit on the floor in front of the fan and pushed the blades onto the motor shaft. “Another thing: I can’t choose to believe. I won’t pretend to believe either—I don’t respect hypocrisy, and if God exists, he doesn’t either. I can’t choose to believe in God or Jesus just like you can’t choose to believe in Zeus or Hercules. Christians seem to imagine faith in Jesus like a plate of sandwiches passed around at supper—I can take or not as I choose. But belief doesn’t work that way, so don’t imagine that your religion has provided eternal salvation for the taking.”

“But what if I’m right?” Paul asked.

“And what if I’m right? Then you will have missed seeing your life for what it truly is—not a test to see if you correctly dance to the tune of an empty set of traditions; not a shell of a life, with real life waiting for you in the hereafter; not drudgery to be endured or penance paid while you bide your time for your reward. But rather the one chance you have at reality. We can argue about whether heaven exists, but one thing we do know is that we get one life here on earth. A too-short life, no matter how long you live, that you can spend wisely or foolishly. Where you can walk in a meadow on a warm spring day, and laugh and learn, and do good things and feel good for having done them. Where you can strive to leave the world a little better than you found it. Where you can play with children, and teach someone, and love.”

Jim gestured with increasing vigor until he sprang from the floor and paced like a preacher, looking at Paul as he did so. “There’s simply no reason to imagine that there’s a beneficent Father in the sky to lean on, to take care of us, to clean up our mistakes—the evidence says that we’re on our own. That reality can be sobering, but it’s also empowering. We’re the caretakers of the world, and if we blunder, we pay the price. But if we create a better world, then we and our descendants get to enjoy it. This is no hollow philosophy. It’s joyous and empowering—and it’s reality. I would rather live in reality than in a delusion, no matter how delightful. I don’t want my mind clouded by superstition just like I don’t want it clouded by opium. And making the most of today is better than living for an imaginary tomorrow in heaven.” Jim stared at him with his hands on his hips.

“Well …” Paul stared at his note card, looking for his next move. “Well, let me ask you this: what would you say if you died and found yourself standing in judgment before God?”

“I would say that I followed reason, not faith,” Jim said as he walked back to the towel and set the brass cage in place around the blades. “That I didn’t allow superstition to govern me and saw no sin in being intellectually honest. That I tried to lead an ethical life driven solely by my love of my fellow man, not by fear of punishment or desire for reward in the afterlife. And what about you? If there is a God, maybe he will say to you, ‘You had no evidence to believe and yet you did. Is that what I gave you brains for—to follow the crowd? You had a powerful tool that you didn’t use. I gave you brains for you to think.’ ”

Jim set the rebuilt fan on the floor next to the bureau. He plugged it in and the blades swung into motion with a hum, sending a cool breeze across the room.

“Remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?” Jim asked as he returned to the sofa, wiping his hands. “Jack sells the family cow for five magic beans. His mother throws out the beans and scolds the boy. But the next day they find an enormous beanstalk. Jack climbs up, finds an evil giant, takes all his treasure, and kills him—a happy ending.”

He threw the rag onto the center table. “But is this good advice? Should we all be like Jack? Would you recommend that someone trade his most valuable possession for some magical something, with no proof?”

“But look at what happened,” Paul said. “Jack made the bet and won. He took the leap of faith, and things worked out well for him.”

“It’s a story! It’s just pretend. Is Christianity compelling in the same way—because it’s also a story?” Jim jabbed his finger in the air to punctuate his words. “You should not … take your life lessons … from a fairy tale. You should not trade a cow for ‘magic’ beans, and you shouldn’t trade away your most valuable possession, your life, on a mythical claim without evidence.”

“My life isn’t my most valuable possession—my soul is.”

“Show me that your soul is any more real than magic beans and I’ll see your point.”

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  • RichardSRussell

    I solicit advice and counsel of my fellow atheists.

    I’ve been trying to engage CodyGirl in meaningful dialog here on Cross Examined but have been finding it an incredibly repetitious, meandering, evidence-averse, frustrating, and non-productive experience.

    In other people’s opinions, is there anything to be gained by continuing to pursue this attempt, or am I just wasting my time?

    • Greg G.

      Now you would be wasting your time because she won’t be responding anymore. EDIT: For the very reasons you list.

      • hector_jones

        She’s gone to a better place.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Where? New Jersey?

    • SuperMark

      Surly you’ve met self-righteous people before Richard, and I think Cody clearly falls into this category.

      I will say that I myself have spent time in this way of thinking, so I know these conversations can have an effect. Even if Cody won’t admit it (unless she is just a complete simpleton which i doubt) she can see the problems with her beliefs through conversations here on this blog. Even if she never accepts the truth perhaps these conversations will make her a more rational christian.

      So, even though it is completely exasperating for all of the regulars here on this blog I think it’s worth the time.

      • MNb

        You’re more optimistic than me.

        • SuperMark

          Hey it worked for me, but maybe it’s genetic. I am incapable of ignoring my own cognitive dissidence whereas people like Cody and Justace seem to revel in it…

        • MNb

          I didn’t write you were wrong about Cody! I fully recognize the possibility that I am mistaken. That would be far from the first time.

      • wtfwjtd

        I agree with MNb, for Cody that’s awfully optimistic. My advice: engage the Cody types if you feel like it, but don’t burn yourself out on them. Save your best stuff for the younger generation. In my experience, they are more persuadable, and respond better to good arguments with evidence. Septuagenarians like Cody are nearly impossible to reach, as their faith is based not on evidence, but on…well, faith, and emotional experiences. At least, this is my general experience, FWIW.

        • SuperMark

          Oh wow is she really that old? Damn, this is an issue I’ve grappled with personally over the past few years with my father. He’s as smart as I am but I feel like because of his age he will never change no matter what evidence/argument is presented to him. I just don’t get it, why do we all get so set in our ways and unable to change when we get past a certain age? I see it all around me in my personal life and honestly it scares the shit out of me because I don’t want to fall into the same trap. Is it just biological and if so is there anything I can do to prevent it with myself? One of the great weaknesses of the human race I suppose.

          However, on a related note I have been making headway with my father on the matter of climate change. This has been much easier than religion because the evidence is so overwhelming and it doesn’t stand in stark contrast to the Bible like evolution does.

        • MNb

          “Is it just biological”
          Yes. The way the human brain works changes when aging.

          “and if so is there anything I can do to prevent it with myself?”
          Yes, but a deliberate effort is needed and it’s hard. First of all you need to keep your brain active, no matter how. Take up the study of a branch of science you’re not familiair with. Do brain games. Then adopt the healthy skepticism as formulated by Richard Feynman:

          “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
          In other words: when it comes to your intelligence and wisdom display (to yourself in the first place) the humility christianity preaches and so many christians forget.

        • SuperMark

          Thanks for the advice, I’m gonna try. People like Hitchens and Russel give me hope. For now I’m gonna stick with reading as much as possible, non-fiction has always been my forte and I’m hoping that will keep my mind open for the time being.

          I just have dementia and Alzheimer’s in my family so maybe I’m just overly paranoid. I just hope science can find an answer before it becomes a problem for me or before the world blows up.

        • MNb

          There are indications that old people who keep their brains active are less likely to get Alzheimer and dementia. It makes sense from a materialistic point of view. The athletes Johan Cruijff and Pele are even at 70 in excellent shape, because they keep on training.

        • smrnda

          Not a physical marvel, but the mathematician Paul Erdős stayed productive until quite late in life.

        • MNb

          Viktor Kortchnoi has played professional competitive chess while over 80.

        • MNb
        • wtfwjtd

          Open-mindedness is a trait that you must work on to keep functioning properly as you age. I try to always allow myself the freedom to change my mind about things based on the evidence and good arguments.
          A good example that I can relate is not just religion or politics. I grew up watching, playing, and enjoying American football. I loved the game, and it was a casual and enjoyable past time for me. However, a few years ago I started reading about CTE, and some of the early reports and denials were rather unnerving. I started doing some research on my own, and discovered that it is indeed a huge problem, and not only that, but one that has been known about and covered up for quite some time. After my research, I can no longer watch or enjoy this game, as I know what it is doing to the players, and what they are sacrificing. Knowing this, I find it ghoulish and inappropriate. So, after a lifetime of following this sport, I have discovered it is no longer something I can enjoy. And BTW, if I had a son that wanted to play, no way would I knowingly let him do so, given what we now know about CTE.
          Anyway, just a personal example, we can be open to personal growth and change, and we can be persuaded by evidence. But it is something that doesn’t come automatically, and we have to work at it.

        • smrnda

          I don’t quite understand US football, but given the recent news about brain damage, I’ve seen people who were huge fans react as you yourself did, finding that now that they know how dangerous it is, they just can’t enjoy it anymore. Or sometimes, when I find out something really negative about a particular writer, director or artist, it’s like the work changes and I no longer see it as so positive, particularly if you catch traces of bad propaganda.

      • Greg G.

        You should remember that even though she used the same words and sentence structure as a Norm Donnan does, whe does not mean the same thing. That is what gets exasperating. God is not an immaterial being for her, God is the universe. A soul is not a separate part of your person, it is what the brain does. I tried to argue for days with her on a topic until I pinned her down and made her say what she meant. So she would argue and argue without cluing you in that she was not saying what a regular Christian would be saying with the same words.

        • smrnda

          This is a problem with many religious believers. They don’t precisely define what they believe in or what the words mean, so the argument goes around in circles. Seriously, if you’re just talking about the universe and what the brain does, say universe and brain. Don’t muddy the waters

        • I think you’re right, but why wouldn’t she she be eager to avoid confusion? She has the odd position, so why not be quick to point out where we would be confused?

        • Greg G.

          But that wouldn’t drag out the argument.

    • MNb

      You’ll have to answer that question yourself. Regarding CodyGirl – she’s gone.
      But let’s assume we’ll meet some other version. For me the simple question is: do I enjoy the dialogue? If yes I continue and am not wasting my time. If not I quit because it is a waste of time.
      Never forget: this is just internet. There isn’t anything at stake but your own pleasure.

    • Partial_M

      When the Nye vs. Ham debate happened a co-worker of mine said, “What’s it matter? You’re never going to change anybody’s mind.”

      My response: “They said the same thing to Galileo. They were right—he didn’t change very many minds. But we’re all glad now that other people kept pushing heliocentricism, and we all know now that he was right.”

      See, IMHO, we aren’t just “fighting a battle” for today. We’re trying to bring reason to a world that has been hooked on mythology since we covered our butts in bearskins. This will (optimistically) take centuries, so don’t measure your success in this as you would in most other things.

      Like that old cliche, “The journey is more important than the destination.” I’ll never see the end of this particular trip; so I’m just going to enjoy it, and play my own small part, for as long as I’m here.

      If you enjoy the debates, then by all means continue. When they stop being fun, feel free to walk away—with or without a goodbye.

      I rather enjoyed communicating with CodyGirl, myself, if only because she seemed to be thinking, not trolling. Her statements and questions were repetitive and nonsensical, but this is just what she (and her peers) have been taught. The circular logic and closed perceptions are an artifact of her (religious) education. Get used to that, if you intend on debating theists.

      You may not have convinced her of anything. Heck, she may have forgotten Saturday’s conversations already. But a legion of other people saw your comments and—the Internet being what it is—thousands more may read over those comments in years to come.

      You may change hundreds of minds—and never know it. You may change just one—but who knows what effect that one person may have down the road?

      If you must see some gain to continue, I would say that honing your arguments, arranging/examining the data in your own mind and researching the topic at hand (which will always lead you to more knowledge) are good enough reasons.

      Me? I just do this as practice for family reunions and the holidays. 😉

    • wtfwjtd

      My personal feeling: As for getting Codygirl to change her mind, your engagements are indeed a waste of time. She’s a septuagenarian +, a product of her time, and with her displayed limited patterns of thinking she was obviously here just to preach and preen, and not to learn.
      However, that’s not the whole story. There are some excellent comments from several posters here that contain some very good reasons for going ahead and engaging her type anyway. While you and I likely won’t live to see much in the way of a changed world due to changed belief systems, our children will, and for me this is a great incentive for you (and others) to make your case. Speaking personally, I have very much marveled and enjoyed your engagements with her, and reading your posts and those of others who took the time to engage her was an instructive an useful experience for me personally, and I thank you and the others who took the time to do so.
      And finally, it’s good to keep in mind that everything can be overdone. While Codygirl served a useful purpose for a time, there came a time when I felt she was causing too much clutter to to be of any real value. Just my 2 penny’s worth..

      • Greg G.

        There are some excellent comments from several posters here that contain some very good reasons for going ahead and engaging her type anyway.

        I learned a lot of things from the links MNb posted. That alone made it worthwhile. Everything else was icing on the cake.

        Sure, she was exasperating but that makes the small victories and concessions all the sweeter.

    • Fox

      If you really want to interact with her, try Tom Gilson’s Blog, The Thinking Christian. She posts there as Jenna Black. On a very recent post about the Arizona Atheist she mentions that she was booted from this blog for reasons she doesn’t understand. She and other Christians there think it is because her arguments are too logical for the atheists here (her presence in this blog raises the overall IQ too much for Bob to handle was one comment). I think Christians and atheists need to listen to one another more and The Thinking Christian is a place where you can voice your thoughts so long as you provide sound arguments and evidence for your thinking. Cheers!

      • I kicked her off after many hundreds of comments from her. It’s not like she didn’t have a chance, and it’s not like she shouldn’t know exactly why she was kicked off.

        She’s simply a waste of time. I publicly coached her several times to make clear what we’re looking for, and she was unable to provide it. She is unable to respond to challenges and is only able to parrot the weak arguments that she’s heard, not defend them or even provide new information.

        There’s a lack of thoughtful Christians who are able to engage the actual arguments in an open-minded fashion. If you are one (or you can find one at Thinking Christian), we need more around here.

      • And to your last point, I’ve interacted on Thinking Christian a couple of times until the name calling made it a waste of time. In the (admittedly modest) amount of time I’ve spent there, it has been a poor place to interact with thoughtful Christians.

        • Fox

          I wasn’t defending her. I was merely responding to RichardSRussel who expressed an interest in dialoguing with Cody/Jenna Black. I agree that condescension reigns there and I’ve therefore never commented though I read it regularly. I much more prefer liberal Christian blogs like Randal Rauser’s. However, there is so much lack of understanding and tolerance for atheism in more evangelical venues (and those are the people I live around) that I have hopes of communicating an understanding with such as these some day. It’s Fox vs Hedgehog thinking, really (Isaiah Berlin). The more foxes we can get to sit at the hedgehog table to patiently explain our side,the better. It’s not for everyone, but if Richard Russel wants to go there, that’s great.

      • hector_jones

        Atheists have been forced to listen to Christians for 2 millennia now. So no I don’t think the problem is Atheists need to listen to Christians more. The problem is Christians.

        The Thinking Christian is a place where you can voice your thoughts so long as you provide sound arguments and evidence for your thinking.

        If Jenna Black is a regular poster there, then this statement is clearly false.

        • Fox

          I think so long as any of us are saying we don’t have to listen to others, we’re not going to get anywhere. Not all Christians are the same, nor are all atheists. Thus, it becomes really easy to talk past one another. I, for one, am interested in what makes people tick and I wish to dispel some of the myths that stand in the minds of Christians. As for my comment you quoted, perhaps I should have said that *atheists* have to provide sound arguments and evidential thinking. He is friendly to Christians. But it seems to me, that it’s not your think anyway. My comment was to RichardSRussel who expressed an interest in interacting with her. Cheers.

        • hector_jones

          I’m sorry but I find your comments on this about as sensible as saying that the solution to crime is to have victims and criminals sit down and dialogue with one another.

          I’m happy to argue and debate with christians, but I have no patience with the idea that they have good points that I just need to listen to. I’ve been listening all my life and they have nothing but threats and lies.

      • Pofarmer

        Too logical? No. The problem was that Jenna Black “knew” a lot of things that were simply wrong, and would never concede a point. She was also evasive and disshonest and changed definitions as it suited her. She was booted because she repeated the same refuted points over, and over and over, after having been given sources clearly refuting said points. So, if you want to interact, stick around and try it out.

        • Fox

          I was summarizing Jenna Black’s comment on another blog. She said her comments were too logical. I am not defending her. I have no need to understand why she was booted. I’m not a Christian, so my sticking around to interact is irrelevant. Again, my comment was in response to RichardSRussell ho started this thread. Cheers.

  • busterggi

    Well now I have to wonder if Jack didn’t climb his beanstalk, rob Heaven and cause Yahweh to die.

    That would be a happy ending.

    • MNb

      Why would he? If YHWH exists we atheists are part of his plan – we serve some divine purpose. I can do theology too: that purpose is to teach all those nasty, stubborn bigot christians a few lessons. After all kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden didn’t help; neither did the Great Flood nor Jesus’ Resurrection.
      I’ll leave it to the experts to provide the appropriate Bible quotes.
      Basically YHWH has become an atheist himself.
      Mutatis mutandis for every single religion.

      • Greg G.

        In answer to the question “Who created God?”, without realizing it, Christians insist that God is an atheist.

        • Ron

          Even says so right there in the bible:

          “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but Me.” Isaiah 45:5 (Holman)

          Now what was that verse about “the fool hath said in his heart…” again?

        • Greg G.

          It is interesting how 2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV), 1 Kings 8:23 (NIV), 2 Kings 1:3 (NKJV), 2 Kings 1:6 (NIV), 2 Kings 1:16 (NIV), 2 Kings 5:15 (NIV), 1 Chronicles 17:20 (NIV), 2 Chronicles 6:14 (NIV), Psalms 10:4 (NASB), Psalms 14:1 (NIV), Psalms 53:1 (NIV), Isaiah 44:6 (NIV), Isaiah 44:8 (KJV), Isaiah 45:5 (NIV), Isaiah 45:14 (KJV), Isaiah 45:21 (KJV), and 1 Corinthians 8:4 (NIV) agree on one thing.

          NIV LINK
          KJV LINK
          NKJV LINK
          NASB LINK
          BONUS LINK

        • Ron

          It always amuses me that the second stanza of Psalms 14:1 & 53:1 (“They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good”) frequently gets omitted, even by preachers.

          I guess they realize that the existence of non-believers who do good deeds and lead otherwise morally exemplary lives stands out as a direct indictment against the truthfulness of the psalmist’s claim.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Or they could specify good as “anything good done in the name of God/Christ/whatever”. But I doubt anyone, even the psalmists, would seriously consider someone saving a child from a well or feeding a homeless person to ever be anything other than good, whether the person did it in the name of Thor or Shiva or Quetzalcoatl.

          I guess it’s okay for Christians to insert subtext into the Bible where it wasn’t intended so long as it supports their overall beliefs.

        • wtfwjtd

          I dunno, 2 Chronicles 6:14 says “there is no God like you in heaven or on Earth”. Implying that , there may be other Gods out there, just none quite like Israel’s God?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Well you could say that God believes in God because he believes in himself. But he certainly wouldn’t believe in a higher power, which makes me wonder…If God is the only thing that can give our lives meaning, then what gives God meaning? Why does God decide to do anything but just lie around in his spaceless, timeless non-dimension? If he’s motivated to create a universe by something, that something can’t be him, or else we could ask what motivates/causes that something and go on and on and on.

          This is something that always comes to my mind whenever I hear any form of the Cosmological Argument.

        • A related question: why did God create stuff in the first place? Wasn’t everything perfect before? If so, doing anything to rock the boat would be less than perfect.

    • Greg G.

      I was scrolling and scanning when “happy ending” caught my eye and I thought it might be a euphemism so I read the first sentence looking for euphemisms. I think I found three new ones.

  • MNb

    “the fiction format is an interesting way to explore apologetics arguments.”
    Plato agreed with you, so you are in highly respectable company.

  • wtfwjtd

    A great excerpt from a great book. I sure do like that Jim fellow!

  • SuperMark

    Love it Bob, even though I’m sure this isn’t a veiled attempt to sell your book I’ll be sure to pick it up as soon as I have some cash to spare. Is there a way I can buy it from you so you get more of the loot than if I just bought it from amazon?

    • Amazon is the best place to buy one or multiple copies. Thanks for asking.

  • King Dave

    When ancient holy books used phrases like “moral decay & Hell on Earth,” they could have easily been referring to places like modern day Nigeria.

    The question is whether this sectarian violence is a remnant of the past or a glimpse into the future

    • smrnda

      Speaking of moral decay, if you want a decent place to live with less violence, any secular country beats any religious nation.

      • King Dave

        That seems obvious at first thought, but history records secular nations such as Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’ s russia, Saddam’s Iraq, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot of Cambodia.

        Perhaps you should have just said the USA, which I am quite proud of and feel fortunate to live here

        • smrnda

          I would probably be better to confine that statement to the immediate present. Problem there is we don’t have a very long historical precedent of nations with large % of unbelievers to. Of course, there is a difficulty in contrasting secular nations by government or society. The population of the UK is more secular than the US, but they have a State church (along with a few other European nations as well which have a less religious population.)

          And yeah, I think Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution is a good example that one can be anti-religion, but also totally against reason, logic and human decency. Oddly that many Chinese Communists painted the Taiping Rebellion (led by a man who had a vision of himself as the brother of Jesus) as well.

          I’ve lived in many places, currently in the US though for a few reasons I might be moving, though where I live in the US is nice and secular.

        • Deanjay1961

          Secularism is government neutrality toward religion. Oppressing religion isn’t being neutral to it.

  • KarlUdy

    You misrepresent Pascal’s wager here. As Pascal expressed his wager, choosing to believe in God is a win big vs win small bet, not a win big vs lose small bet.

    • Wesley Brock

      No Pascal’s Wager is a a misrepresentation of betting itself. It assumes that there is only one god and creates a false dichotomy. It ignores the possibility that no god could exist or that said god(s) could be evil in fact or just apathetic. Pascal’s Wager is one of the worst apologetic tools out there. Hands down.

      • KarlUdy

        I’m not defending Pascal’s wager. I’m just pointing out that Bob has not accurately represented the argument here. Pascal argues that a life lived as if God exists will be a net gain, whether or not God exists. The argument is not simply that the potential reward is so great that it justifies the outlay.

        • John Lev

          //Pascal argues that a life lived as if God exists will be a net gain//

          How so? The way I see it, many if not most religious people who subscribe to belief and dogma rob themselves of life experience. They’re bound and forbidden from partaking in certain events, eating certain foods, marrying certain people or even interacting with them. Then we can discuss the self-harm that religion can inflict upon people. Worrying about pleasing a deity and not ending up eternally tormented or wondering what you, or society, did to displease it and trying to unjustly correct it.

        • Wesley Brock

          Well if that’s what Pascal is arguing then he fails even at that. How is living as if a deity exist providing a net gain? It only provides a net gain if the deity ACTUALLY exist. And then ONLY if you happen to pick the right one since it seems most deities are jealous, vengeful and mutually exclusive in nature. This ignores that there may be deities you are unaware of that will punish you for not knowing they exist.

          Pascal’s Wager may have been Pascal’s attempt to help him self but now his wager is used by people who see it as an apologetic tool. So I believe the way Bob addressed it here is consistent with it’s modern use.

    • MNb

      You haven’t read BobS’ piece closely enough. The bet is based on a hidden assumption – that there is a god. The card game analogy makes it clear. Pascal’s wager assumes the Queen of Hearts is in the deck; if that isn’t the case though – and a priori that is very possible – the bet becomes a fraud.
      There are other problems with Pascal’s wager of course.

      “choosing to believe in God is a win big vs win small bet”
      That’s a hidden assumption as well; thanks for making it clear. What is the big win here? Imo spending eternity in Heaven, doing nothing but praising that god is a harsh punishment, not any better and perhaps worse than spending eternity in Hell. After all in the only source that matters to you, The Bible, the devil comes across as a much nicer guy than JHWH. Also note that Pascal’s wager implies polytheism – it assumes that your god has the devil as a counterpart. Still I rather prefer buddhist Nirvana. At the other hand wasting my time by worshipping a god I don’t like anyway is a huge bet for me.
      So to me Pascal’s wager is rather a lose big vs win huge bet. Go figure. If anything it is like a Nigerian scam.

    • Greg G.

      According to my recall, and Wikipedia supports it citing Pensees, Pascal’s Wager is a win big or lose nothing proposition.

      Paul disagrees that a loss is a lose nothing proposition in 1 Corinthians 15:19 with various translations describing the loser of the wager as “most pitied” and “miserable”.

    • wtfwjtd

      As Pascal expressed his wager, choosing to believe in God is a win big vs win small bet…”
      Jim merely demonstrates how this is a false dichotomy. How is this a misrepresentation?

    • The Man With The Name Too Long

      It’s also possible that there is a God and that he punishes those who believe in him (Not sure why, but if I’m going to make it a religion then my followers years from now can handle the apologetics) making it a lose big vs win small bet. Now we have to factor in any other possible reward/punishment we could get for believing in a God that does exist and you can see just how it isn’t really a two-sided coin.

      • Ron

        Ha! Ask the apologists: What if you arrive at the Pearly Gates only to discover that life’s test was to see who followed reason instead of blind faith— i.e. the non-believers go to heaven and the believers get sent to the hell they imagined for others? Wouldn’t that suck?

        • A variation of this paradox: Christians are eager to give “God” the benefit of the doubt. We aren’t as smart as him; he must have his own good reasons; and so on. Problem is, they think they have a ticket to heaven. But a god that they can’t understand could simply cancel the ticket, pull the lever, and down you fall through the trap door to hell.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          So, perhaps we are being tested in this lifetime – but it’s for god to weed out the people who he wants to hang with for eternity from the jerks who fail to use their big, expensive brains which he ok’d with his angels of evolution. Whether he made us in his image or the other way around, he’s like us in hating ignoramuses, so he tested us with that talking snake story and books full of hateful rants just to see who was smart enough to see through all that.

    • TheSquirrel

      The fallacies are the same. If it applies to atheism, it equally applies to all other religions. Additionally the point of the hypocrisy of claiming to believe something you don’t stands. Besides, I like his point. Why should we expect the deck to contain a winning card at all?

    • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

      What does any of this matter when you don’t actually believe what you are betting on? Saying you believe something doesn’t make it so. Belief isn’t something you make up your mind to go with, it is the product of a process which convinces you of an idea (or doesn’t). Therefore, there’s no point in taking a gamble (least of all with a god who hates gamblers) and say you believe in a god when you doubt that such a deity makes any good sense – you may as well embrace your doubt, and become the wiser for it.

    • Deanjay1961

      Is it the job of the religious character to represent Pascal’s wager accurately? ‘Close enough for horseshoes’ seems to be the resemblance to Pascal’s exact formulation I get from most Christians.

      • KarlUdy

        To not represent an argument or position accurately to allow the misrepresentation to be used to argue against instead of the original argument is pretty much the definition of “straw man”.

        For the record, it’s not OK if Christians do it either. But other people making straw man arguments doesn’t make it OK for Bob to do it.

  • Sophia Sadek

    Do not underestimate the power of magic. I have seen it used to drive people insane. I have also seen it used to bring the insane to their senses.

    BTW, I like to tell people that I have two souls: one on my left foot and one on my right.

  • smrnda

    Pascal’s wager never made much sense to me, aside from the absurdity of *deciding to believe* it strikes me as like actually giving someone money trying to sell you the Brooklyn bridge, or put money in a pyramid scheme. It ISN’T low cost. The alleged *infinite reward* is just a way to rig the expected value to always win, no matter how intangible the probability.

  • SuperMark

    My thoughts exactly:

    “What Pascal overlooked was the hair-raising possibility that God might out-Luther Luther. A special area in hell might be reserved for those who go to mass. Or God might punish those whose faith is prompted by prudence. Perhaps God prefers the abstinent to those who whore around with some denomination he despises. Perhaps he reserves special rewards for those who deny themselves the comfort of belief. Perhaps the intellectual ascetic will win all while those who compromised their intellectual integrity lose everything.

    There are many other possibilities. There might be many gods, including one who favors people like Pascal; but the other gods might overpower or outvote him, à la Homer. Nietzsche might well have applied to Pascal his cutting remark about Kant: when he wagered on God, the great mathematician ‘became an idiot.’ ”

    ― Walter Kaufmann, Critique of Religion and Philosophy

  • If anyone is convinced by Pascal’s wager then I want them to know… that I can get them into heaven if they give me 20 dollars.
    Now I might be lying, in fact the odds are very, very, very heavy that I’m lying. But it is concievably possible I’m telling the truth, and what’s a mere 20 dollars to ensure you get into Heaven on that slim chance?

    • Greg G.

      I’m tempted but I need a double-my-money back guarantee if it doesn’t work so I can feel assured that you aren’t lying.

      • Ron

        No problem, I’m willing to sell you a double-your-money-back insurance policy for only $40.

  • asmondius

    I’m really disappointed – this doesn’t address Pascal’s Wager at all. You’ve concocted something to support your own conclusion, but you haven’t refuted Pascal.

    I sensed you were in trouble when I saw this sentence: ‘How can his invisible qualities be seen?” What? This is a logical defense?

    Pascal’s Gamble is a simple matrix – rows are Believe and Don’t Believe, columns are God, No God. The BINGO jackpot is eternal reward.
    Considering the possible combinations, you’ll see the only way to ‘win’ is to believe. Conversely, the only way to ‘lose’ is to not believe.
    Try to redefine the reward and you’re playing a different game, not Pascal’s Wager.

    • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

      Last time I checked, we were told we must believe in order to get into heaven. Gambling isn’t belief, it’s just taking a chance. Likewise, just going along with what others say isn’t belief either. What’s your point in this argument now?

      • asmondius

        ‘Last time I checked, we were told we must believe in order to get into heaven’.

        That’s Pascal’s conclusion also – congratulations.

        ‘Gambling isn’t belief, it’s just taking a chance’.

        Although termed a ‘Gamble’, it’s really just a simple logic construct.

        ‘Likewise, just going along with what others say isn’t belief either.’

        I agree, but where do you see ‘going along with others’ in the matrix?

        ‘What’s your point in this argument now?’
        I simply clarified what Pascals Gamble really is – I can put it in other terms if you like.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          ‘Last time I checked, we were told we must believe in order to get into heaven.’

          That’s Pascal’s conclusion also – congratulations.

          Snarks right back at you!

          ‘Gambling isn’t belief, it’s just taking a chance’.

          Although termed a ‘Gamble’, it’s really just a simple logic construct.

          Really, how is this any better than me saying your logic construct is on a gamble? This is turning childish.

          ‘Likewise, just going along with what others say isn’t belief either.’

          I agree, but where do you see ‘going along with others’ in the matrix?

          Where do you really not see that sort of behavior going on? It’s what the species Homo Sapiens does best. The peer pressure is strong when you consider whether to support an idea held by 2 billion people.

          By “go along” I don’t mean just going through the motions at church – you may practice the prescribed rituals and devotional practices of that faith in private as well, and you may try real hard to make yourself believe it’s all for something real, but if you are one of those people who see the difference between empirical evidence and the anecdotal apologetics which its ideas are supported by, then you won’t ever really believe it. The fact that we are having this discussion puts your true belief in doubt.

          ‘What’s your point in this argument now?’
          I simply clarified what Pascals Gamble really is – I can put it in other terms if you like.

          No need – I think you’re fooling yourself, but you aren’t fooling me nor others.

        • asmondius

          I congratulated you because I was happy someone got the point – sorry if you thought it was just an insult.
          The matrix is simply an arrangement of all possible circumstances, it is not religious in nature. Logically either God exists or He doesn’t – right? People either believe or they don’t – right? Do you see any other possibilities which are missing?
          Incidentally, since the choices are belief or disbelief, disbelieving but going along for the ride obviously does one no good at all.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          What is this “matrix” jabber? Not that I think it matters…

          You are wrong in your reductionism regarding your god’s existence. You present only two possibilities: your god (specifically, your god) exists, or not. It’s an extremely self-centered view, because the number of possibilities are infinite. The answer may be any number of infinite possibilities, one of any number of infinite possibilities, or none at all.

          You think only your own god warrants consideration just because it’s the only one being discussed by anybody in your airtight world, but your Jesus was once known only to a handful of Jewish fishermen and his fanboys who followed him around before he was crucified.

          People have been trying to answer the same questions through their own gods, who they had no less sincere faith in, thousands of years before a Joshua, who the Greeks called Jesus landed on this earth. Maybe if those deities had more populist appeal to the illiterate masses, who would always be happy to help their priests burn libraries, destroy books, and murder heretics, maybe then their gods would have enjoyed lasting power, and then Jesus would not have been able to compete. People don’t need to stay illiterate once the cycle begins of children learning well-intended, but damaging ideas from an early age at their mother’s knee. Add to this a shot of American jingoism, the culture of revival rallies, and any such lie could go on drawing people in by the billions until human extinction, and still be a lie.

          I find it so un-Jesusy the way his apologists invoke the might equals right argument concerning their bible – would that have been his philosophy? Can a powerful ad campaign be false? Maybe there’s other reasons why Jesus is so big in the world today: It started in a time much like the world of today – the great empire was crumbling, there was much fear and discontent, and people were questioning their old ways. The timing could not have been better for new religious ideas, and unlike most gods, Jesus wasn’t being pitched toward rich men and the ruling class – this one was a deity for the slaves!

          In Alexandria, the largest library in the world was built. Because travel in those days was slow, and the intellectuals who were developing rational ideas (not religion) and wrote books liked to meet with like minds to collaborate, this library became the one and only place where they could effectively do that. That library had more non-religious books of science, math, and philosophy than the rest of the world combined, but it was also in a town with a huge slave population. Somewhere else in town the slaves were meeting together, not only to learn Xtianity, but to organize a revolt. They revolted on numerous occasions, looting and burning the city, and since the Xtian priests feared the competition of ideas which would leave no room for them, they led the mob against the library. Today, next to nothing of it remains. The mob did the same under the leadership of Xtians in the temples of other gods, and wherever conflicting religious works were to be found. Mob uprisings happen when the wealthy elite enslave and abuse the poor, as if they could sustain their advantage over them indefinitely. The mob found it’s inspiration to rebel in Xtianity (and later Islam, which eventually won out in that city), and then soon the world was under the control of a few religious con artists who’s wishes were enforced by the uneducated, and the superstitious. Like Xtianity, Islam learned that new trick of empowering itself through mob activity.The impact of these priest and mullah-led uprisings wasn’t just to scientific inquiry, it was to nearly all books excepting their scriptures. For over 1000 years, the Catholic Church controlled all book production in countries which were not usurped by Islam, and unsurprisingly the mullahs were hostile toward books other than the Quran. This is why Xtianity has such a powerful hold on the culture of our inheritance today, with Islam not being too far behind. So, how can we be sure that Mohammad wasn’t right about Allah? I kinda like the idea that Mohammad was just a mortal man. I mean, Jesus had major anger issues, and we’re supposed to believe that he was the perfect son of god?

          People still aren’t finished inventing new gods, or different versions of them, but you have the (again self-centered) presupposition that only one god is true, and of course that’s your god. It was only after thousands of years after humans began to build cities before the Jews claimed a one true god who revealed himself to them, and then a couple more thousand before somebody claimed to be his messiah “son”, so how can you be so sure that any real god has revealed himself to anybody at all? Maybe sometime in the future he’ll wake up from his cosmic nap and really talk to us, or maybe it’s a god with only a few followers who nobody believes in now (Jesus started out like that) – it may even be the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster. My guess is a logical conclusion, based on an infinite dearth of supporting evidence for deities, and and how life evolves into complex organisms in a universe which is clearly chaotic: in all likelihood there is no god, and it’s even more likely that this being true would be for the best in human society.

        • asmondius

          A matrix is simply an arrangement of information in rows and columns like a spreadsheet, a train schedule, or a bingo card. In this case you simply cross-reference a row to a column to find the result of any combination.
          Existence is a logical state which can not be broken down any further. You either exist or you don’t. I don’t see how you get ‘infinite’ from that.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          I don’t see how you get “god” from the fact that I, you, or anybody exists. That makes no sense at all. It’s a fallacious conclusion based on pre-suppositionalism. If everything that exists necessarily had to have a maker, then somebody would have had to have made your god.

        • Pofarmer

          God gets a pass, because, God, and Jesus.

        • asmondius

          God is not making a wager – you are.

        • asmondius

          ‘I don’t see how you get “god” from the fact that I, you, or anybody exists. That makes no sense at all. ‘

          That is precisely why the columns are ‘God Exists’ and ‘God Does Not Exist’. It has no dependence upon our existence at all.

          Our existence is not in play here. Obviously we do exist, or there would be no one to place a wager.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          That is precisely why the columns are ‘God Exists’ and ‘God Does Not Exist’. It has no dependence upon our existence at all.

          It’s already been spelled out for you why you are wrong on that – open your eyes! It cannot be reduced to only two columns for one who must consider the possibility of your god over the possibility of an infinite number of other gods which may exist in reality. If your god doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other powerful gods out there. If I wasn’t able to reason out the unlikelihood of any gods existing, and I was certain that yours does not, then I would spend my life wondering which god out there is the real one. Fortunately, I know I’ve nothing to worry about other than the idiots here in this world.

        • Asmondius

          Nothing in the matrix says ‘My God’ or ‘Christian God’ . It simply says ‘God’.
          ‘If’ some god existed somewhere, then surely spending your life searching for the true one is a better wager than simply betting that none exists. One has a probability of success, the other has none at all.

        • Greg G.

          The insistence that the reward is based on meeting the conditions of the god makes it theological. If the matrix revolves around the conditions of your theology, then it is your god that you are talking about.

        • Asmondius

          It’s not a ‘reward’ – it’s the payoff for your wager.

        • Greg G.

          Allow me to praise you for the most beautiful distinction without a difference that anyone has ever made in these comments.

        • Asmondius

          Vocabulary is everything.

        • Pofarmer

          “spending your life searching for the true one”

          How would you go about doing this? And how would you separate your true God from somebody elses True God?

        • Asmondius

          You won’t get a head start by hanging around this blog – for starters.

        • MNb

          It’s your problem, Mr. Braindead, not Pofarmer’s. He already has made up his mind – all gods are false. For him, like for me, the best possible outcome of your bet is no reward at all. Assuming you’re right and you have “won” then the question is totally valid how you decide which god is the right one. According to your very own Holy Book your god is assumed to despise it when you worship the wrong version. So how do you know you “win” and don’t “lose”?

        • Pofarmer

          Do you think arrogantly dissmissive posts somehow increase your credibility or shore up your argument?

        • Pofarmer

          The problem is, people searching for God tend to miss a wbole lot of the mechanics of the physical world. People seardhing the mechanics of the physical world, willbne the most likely to find a God if it exists, so your argument is exactly backwards.

        • Asmondius

          Let’s go back to square one.
          Concerning God – He either exists or He doesn’t exist. Right?

          Do you see another logical possibility?

        • Pofarmer

          Myriad other gods that people believe in could also exist.

          There could be many gods.

          There could be another god besides the Cristian God.

          You could believe in the correct God, but the way you are worshiping that God could be incorrect, or you may have misinterpreted what that God wants.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          The chance that your god exists is an equal one to all of the gods ever worshiped by their people, plus any which one may have a future revelation of. What does that make the odds of your god existing? If you continue to insist there are only two possibilities, then I’m done with that sort of brain-rot!

        • Greg G.

          If your only hope of prolonging an argument is to insist on a false dichotomy, you have lost miserably.

          “You might receive an eternal reward if you believe but you will receive nothing if you don’t believe” makes it a case where you should believe. But, “you might receive an eternal reward if you don’t expect it, but you will not receive it if you do expect it” makes it a case where you should not expect a reward.

          Both statements have the same logical structure but both are invalid because they present a false dichotomy.

        • Concerning Zeus – He either exists or He doesn’t exist. Right?

        • Asmondius

          Exactly.

        • Asmondius

          Pascal does not make God’s existence dependent upon anything – it is simply a state. He either does, or He doesn’t.
          You existence is assumed because otherwise you would not be making the eager.
          Everything that exists in the physical world must have a maker, but we have no idea if this would be true outside the realm of time and space.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          Existence is a logical state which can not be broken down any further. You either exist or you don’t.

          Well then in that case you should not exist at all – your existence cannot be broken further down, but an organic life form cannot possibly exist if it cannot be broken down into cells, them into their components, including DNA/RNA strands, then the molecules which make up all of the above, and then finally the atoms and their subatomic particles upon which everything hinges.

          Doing the above would likely take awhile, but probably not a couple billion years. Life had that much time from the point that it began, and the process by which it changes is far, far simpler than the end products themselves. Complex life forms also scream quite loudly of an accumulation of changes which stuck around like band-aids to fix legacy problems which can only exist due to lack of past design – there is no evidence that any intelligent designer was ever there.

        • asmondius

          My organic components can not exist by themselves – they do not each have the value of being a uniquely independent entity.
          This is logic, not biology.
          Not sure what your speech has to do with Pascals Wager.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          That is just plain dumb! Your organic atoms drifted from the remains of distant stars through space before they formed the earth, from which life sprang forth! That is science!

        • Asmondius

          Since you were referring to subdividing me, where the components of my physical body were prior to my existence is naturally quite irrelevant. You’ve put the cart before the horse of your own argument.
          My body is a living organism, none of the components can exist independently from the body.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          You said your bodily components cannot EXIST independently of you, you did not say they cannot live independently. On the latter, so what? If this is supposed to be your version of the Blind Watchmaker argument to disprove evolution, well congratulations – it’s even weaker than the original! Just when I had thought the Xtians had given up on trying to use that one – what a joke it is to try and disprove an observed, and straightforwardly simple fact by complicating it with irrelevantly false analogies! As I’ve said before, argument never proves anything – only facts are good for that.

        • Greg G.

          Have you never heard of the HeLa cell culture? A cancer tumor was removed from a woman for study. Many labs had trouble containing the culture as it could infect the labs.

        • 90Lew90

          What tripe are you talking now?

        • asmondius

          Read the string first and then get back to me.

    • The Man With The Name Too Long

      The point is that Pascal’s Wager itself is malformed in that it doesn’t consider all the possible outcomes of the wager. According to Pascal’s own belief there is only the outcome of eternal bliss for believing and eternal torment for not believing. We can’t be sure that God doesn’t reward you for being skeptical and not believing for some reason or any other possibility.

      If we redefine the reward, as you say, we are not accurately describing Pascal’s Wager. Rather, we are trying to reform Pascal’s Wager to how it would apply in reality, and not as in Pascal’s thought experiment in which there is only salvation for believing and damnation for not believing.

      • asmondius

        As I said, if you attempt to change jackpot, you are playing a different game. You wish to add a column which says ‘God Doesn’t Care’. If God doesn’t care at all how we act there is probably no game, period. There is no penalty for losing other than you don’t win the jackpot. Would that be ‘eternal torment’? Perhaps.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Think of it mathematically, where what happens to you after you die is a function of whether or not you believe.

          Some of the possible input/outputs of the function are:

          1) You believe -> you go to heaven
          2) You believe -> you go to hell
          3) You believe -> nothing happens
          4) You don’t -> you go to heaven
          5) You don’t -> you go to hell
          6) You don’t -> nothing happens

          This isn’t Pascal’s Wager anymore but it’s probably more accurate to reality.

        • asmondius

          What Pascal did here is what a modern database person would term ‘normalizing the data’. That means each of the elements is unique and can not be broken down any further from its current state. Whether there is a heaven and a hell or indeed whether anything happens at all is really dependent upon whether God exists. Since heaven and hell are not independent, they can not be normalized elements. ‘God’ is a normalized item because His existence is independent of whether a person believes in Him or not.

        • Zeke

          True, but Pascal left out a few columns. If it turns out that Allah is the one true God, then the bingo square becomes the eternal penalty box (sorry to mix metaphors). Given the preponderance of Gods competing for our souls, the matrix quickly becomes large and hedging our bet becomes impossible. Choosing to believe entails pissing off at least one God, turning a positive into a negative.

          Pascal wished to prove mathematically that Christian beliefs are rational. However, it only served to prove that the adherents of every religion make the same smug arguments, and that very crazy ideas can be found rattling around in the heads of very smart men.

        • asmondius

          I’m sorry to cut and paste, but this post from above will address your concern as well.

          Let’s say humanity has believed in 1 million gods. If God exists, a believer has a one in one million chance to get the jackpot by having believed in Him, perhaps even better odds if God is kind. The unbeliever’s chance in this same instance is none, goose egg, nada, zero, nicht. Even an infinitely small chance is a better bet than no chance at all. That is Pascals Wager.

        • Zeke

          You are correct, but of course this changes the calculus significantly.

          Now the 1 in a million chance of hitting the jackpot is more than offset by the cost of choosing wrong. What if choosing to believe in Allah leads one to murder apostates? What if it leads you to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Christian Scientists and your child dies for lack of a blood transfusion? What if you choose the Westboro Baptist Church and join them in picketing a military funeral, and a burly gay Iraq war vet caves your head in with a tire iron? Rational decisions demands consideration of all the statistical possibilities.

          Pascal was a brilliant mathematician, which makes his blindness to the possibility that the Judeo-Christian myths are equivalent to the axioms of mathematics so astonishing, and paradoxical. But then again, such was the state of human scientific knowledge of our reality in the 17th century. You’re right – God either exists or He doesn’t. But faux statistical analysis doesn’t further the discussion.

        • Asmondius

          The ‘cost’ of choosing wrong is simply to negatively affect the chance of winning the jackpot.
          You call it ‘faux statistical analysis’, yet your criticism is emotional (‘myths’), not mathematical.
          Please explain to me how this simple matrix has been undone by the calendar – doesn’t 1+1 still, equal 2?

        • Ron

          Actually, 1+1 can also equal 0, 1 and 10.

        • Asmondius

          Since there is no sign or subscript in my statement, you can assume that I am referring to whole numbers in base 10.

        • Zeke

          Well I see that the semantics of ‘myths’ struck a nerve. You seem to share with Pascal that (rather unappealing) lack of humility that the Bible demands. But you do share a belief with me that other religious adherents are at least partially deluded. We both agree it’s a myth that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged steed, right? But I digress from the terms of the wager.

          The matrix is only simple if you disregard other religions that are also billed as the one true faith. Then the jackpot becomes, as you rightly supposed, one a million rather than 50/50. Rational, yes, perhaps still. But certainly not the slam-dunk case that a truly sentient being would be a fool not to see thevrational strength of the ‘wager’.

          Which makes less ‘rational’ apologetics often fall on deaf ears. As an aside – would you really welcome such a person who ‘believes’ purely due to cold, soul-less statistics as part of your flock?

        • Gehennah

          I’d throw in that if I were an all powerful, all knowing being, then I’d know whether or not someone worshiped me because he truly wanted to or to avoid hell. Those doing it to avoid hell, why would I reward them?

        • Asmondius

          Claiming that you have ‘struck a nerve’ in another individual through the medium of text is simply an exercise of prayer on your part.
          The same can be said of telling another person what they ‘really think’.

          All this really reveals is that you are perhaps just another person completely befuddled by the matrix and have decided to head for the exit.

        • Zeke

          Thanks for ducking the real statistics.
          Befuddled is close, but I’d say more perplexed at how faith can cloud the mind of such a brilliant mathematician.
          I can assure you that atheists have no confusion over the supposed downside of disbelief. But as the Christian equivalent of telling kids the water will turn red if you pee in the pool, we’ve figured it out.

        • 90Lew90

          Why assume the god cares if anyone believes he exists?

        • Asmondius

          God’s existence and belief in Him are independent possibilities in the matrix. If a person believes in Him, assuming that He cares is an afterthought.

        • MNb

          The way you speficy the reward makes god’s existence a dependent possibility in the matrix. If god’s existence is an independent possibility you are not capable of deciding whether the reward is desirable or not. That’s what my bear version of Pascal’s Wager makes clear.
          Of course Mr. Braindead never will get that and if he will he will be too dishonest to admit it. Mr. Braindead will choose the tactic all apologists choose: not reply, neglect the problem and continue promoting his argument somewhere else, hoping it will go away by itself.
          Forget it. Not as long as I’m around. I will remind you ad nauseam that your version of belief is like jumping into an empty or not bear pit, until you withdraw it.

        • Asmondius

          Existence is not dependent upon anything whatsoever – you either exist or you don’t.

          This is a wager, which by nature means that one is never certain of the outcome. One simply plays the odds the best they can. I don’t know very many people who would pass up an alternative to a worry-free existence as opposed to being deleted.

        • Greg G.

          The wager also has the possibility that the god rewards intellectual integrity and punishes faith. You keep ignoring this. A dependable god would despise blind faith.

        • Asmondius

          Since one can have both intellectual integrity and faith (ie Barack Obama), I don’t see your point.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          If your faith is blind, then your intellectual integrity is not informing your faith. Then whatever intellectual integrity you have is not being put to use with regard to the belief you have blind faith in.

          It’s completely possible to be a brilliant scientist or just to possess great knowledge about certain topics but believe in all manner of untrue things, which is why appeal to authority is fallacious. People can even hold two conflicting beliefs at the same time, expressing either one whenever they see fit (this is called compartmentalization). A person can be very rational and skeptical towards certain things and blindly accepting of others.

          Humans are a weird bunch.

        • Greg G.

          Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
          1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

          Intellectual integrity is accepting that things hoped for do not have substance and unseen evidence is not evidence. Faith is accepting a position beyond the strength of the evidence for it. Intellectual integrity is holding a position equivalent to the strength of the evidence. Faith takes over where intellectual integrity ends.

          It is possible to maintain intellectual integrity for certain beliefs while having faith for other beliefs. Intellectual integrity is reasonable and faith is not reasonable. The unreasonableness comes in when you believe in things you hope for. I hope for Santa Claus but I don’t believe in it because the evidence doesn’t support it. I would like there to be a magic man in the sky but I don’t believe that either because the evidence doesn’t support that. Your own disbelief in the existence of Santa Claus might be from the lack of evidence in favor of him plus the evidence that the concept is imaginary, so that would be intellectual integrity. Your belief in God is despite the lack of evidence for him so you may manufacture ambiguous evidence as a substitute and that is faith and not logic or evidence.

        • Asmondius

          If you are trying to say that religious faith and intellectualism are mutually exclusive, then you are claiming that an awful lot of people, including the President, are not intellectual material. This is simply your opinion, there is no objective logic to it.

        • Greg G.

          This is simply your opinion, there is no objective logic to it.

          A deductive conclusion requires a valid logical structure and true premises. If the premises are based on faith, you lack evidence that they are true, so the conclusions are indefinite.

          People can function with cognitive dissonance. They keep their Sunday beliefs quiet while they function during the week. I work with electronic technicians who troubleshoot computer-controlled machinery. No matter how much religious faith they have, they never look for supernaturally-induced machine problems.

        • MNb

          Yeah, but the (philosophical) problem here is that conclusions based on faith while indefinite not necessarily have to be in conflict with conclusions based on deduction and/or induction. No matter how much I would like it (last nail in the coffin and such), I therefore cannot maintain that the scientific method (like your electronic technicians apply) disproves religious faith. So here

          “Faith takes over where intellectual integrity ends.”
          I disagree with you.
          Of course there are countless examples (Asmon being a prime one) where faith based conclusions do collide with intellectual integrity based conclusions. But here we run into the problem of Induction by Simple Enumeration – no matter how many examples we meet, there may be one version of religious faith left that remains standing upright.
          So I prefer to concentrate on concrete examples, like the Resurrection.

        • Greg G.

          I am not arguing that faith-based conclusions are always wrong or even that empirically derived premises are necessarily true. It’s possible to guess right for all the wrong reasons, so a faith position could be correct for wrong reasons. It is faith that holds that it is true. Only after the position has been tested and found true by empirical menas or logical deduction does it become a matter of intellectual integrity to hold the position.

          Our empirically based premises are held provisionally. At some point during the testing, it becomes absurd to doubt that the tests are giving consistent but inaccurate results. Then it becomes a matter of justified knowledge.

          To me, faith is accepting a position for bad reasons while intellectual integrity is accepting a position based on justified knowledge.

        • Gehennah

          Except now you have a multitude of gods that may or may not exist.

          It isn’t whether or not god exists, it is whether or not one of the millions of gods out there exists. Not all of these gods are going to reward you for belief, not all of these gods care if you believe. So you go back to the 1 in a million+ chance at a reward at the very real cost that you are wasting your life.

        • Asmondius

          I know you are a latecomer, but I already addressed this issue earlier in the discussion.

          You would have to explain how holding a religious belief equates to ‘wasting a life’. If you completely cease to exist as an entity at death, your life is a waste as well, no? No, one who wagers shrewdly is never wasting their efforts.

          You see, the Wager is a logical construct yet many of you wish to interject the emotion of your personal beliefs into it. The most infinitesimal chance that my worship results in a jackpot is still larger than the making the choice that can never yield a result.

        • Gehennah

          And yet if Islam is true, you go to Islamic Hell with me.

        • MNb

          That’s not a particular strong rebuttal, because Pascal Wager can be embedded in a more general theology that maintains that it doesn’t matter in which god you believe.

        • Gehennah

          I understand that, I’m just talking about the specific god Asmon believes in (Yahweh).

          There are a multitude of potential gods, so worshipping any one really doesn’t give him a 1 in 2 odds of winning like the wager suggests.

        • I figured that what you’d like to be the case would enter into it at some point.

        • Asmondius

          As any player in a game, I would ‘like’ to win.

        • 90Lew90

          Cuckoo.

        • Gehennah

          Then why believe until you have evidence?

          There is a possibility that unicorns exist or they do not exist. Why would I believe in unicorns until I have evidence?

        • Asmondius

          You are trying to defeat a logical construct with mockery, which is a purely emotional response. That never succeeds.
          The Wager makes no judgment and thus requires no ‘evidence’ – God’s existence or non-existence are equal possibilities. The issue is how does one play the odds given these potential outcomes.

        • Gehennah

          Actually I’d wager that they are not equal possibilities.

          When spinning a penny, there aren’t equal possibilities of it landing on either side. The evidence shows that it is more likely to land on tails (at least with the older Lincoln Memorial pennies). In reality, we look at the universe. So far everything once attributed to a god that we now know the cause of has been natural causes. No evidence of the supernatural. Therefore even using your only 2 possibilities (which I reject anyways) the odds are still in favor of no god with the available evidence.

        • MNb

          The Wager does make a judgment – it judges that the outcome of believing and an existing god is something desirable. The only way to arrive at that judgment is presupposing that same god – an omnivolent one. For all the information the Wager provides the outcome of believing and an existing god could be undesirable – a realm of utter misery, like DWR formulates it. That totally changes the optimal strategy. Hence the Wager falls flat on its face. You’re just too dishonest to admit it, hence you prefer to neglect it.

        • hector_jones

          “God’s existence or non-existence are equal possibilities.”

          You’ve only had it pointed out to you about a dozen times that this is absolutely false. But it is interesting that you think there’s only a 50% chance that your God exists.

        • MNb

          “Even an infinitely small chance is a better bet than no chance at all.”
          OK. Then let me present you my version of Pascal’s Wager. In a pit there may be bears or maybe not. The chance that there are actually bears is somewhere between infinitely small and 50%. You don’t know, because all your senses have been blocked (earplugs, blindfold etc.) and nobody tells you. The reward of taking this chance and jumping into the pit is getting attacked by those bears.
          According to your logic you will jump, because “even an infintely small chance” – that there are bears – “is a better bet than no chance at all” – ie not jumping.
          Replace pit by Paradise, god by bears and the attack by eternal boredom and we have Pascal’s Wager.
          I as an atheist rather won’t jump.
          Your only possible answer is to argue that god is no bear, but then Pascal’s Wager turns into the logical fallacy called begging the question – you presuppose the conclusion.
          Pascal’s Wager is meaningless.

        • Asmondius

          You have created a fictional story relying on a range of probabilities and conditions. Not like Pascal in the least.

          Pascal simply says God either exists or He does not and you either believe or you do not. As a simple grid of possible outcomes, it could never be a ‘logical fallacy’.

          The idea of a wager is to win something, not to avoid something.

        • MNb

          Pascal and you have created a fictional story relying on a range of probabilities and conditions.
          I simply say there are bears in the pit or not. You believe there are bears in the pit or not. The idea of my wager is totally to win something – an attack by the bears. That you don’t desire that reward makes you a bear-atheist.

        • Asmondius

          Let me see your logic – Pascals Wager is a fictional story because you made up a silly story for yourself.

        • Pofarmer

          It seems to me that another column needs to be “God does not exist, but people believe anyway.”

        • Asmondius

          That’s a possible result within the Matrix, it does not need to be a column.

    • Zeke

      Part of the conversation between Paul and Jim touches on the major weaknesses of Pascal’s Wager. “I can’t choose to believe in God or Jesus just like you can’t choose to believe in Zeus or Hercules.”
      Our beliefs result from many factors; we can’t simply switch them by imagining alternatives to be true. Does God not know our minds?
      And of course this simplistic notion implies the vile conclusion at all unbelievers will not just be denied entry to this grand celestial after-party, but that something far worse is in store for them. Which seems like a stiff price to pay for disbelieving in one of the thousands of omnipotent deities due to insufficient evidence.

      • asmondius

        God either exists or He doesn’t. We either believe or we don’t.
        This is easy to understand.
        The matrix is a way to bypass all of the emotional arguments.

        • Greg G.

          If the Catholics are right, everybody else is doomed. If the Baptists are right, the Catholics are damned.

        • asmondius

          Ahem – there is no Catholic column or Baptist column.

          Incidentally, no branch of Christianity considers all of the others automatically doomed.

        • Greg G.

          There are other interpretations of the Bible and other Christianities. I have heard preachers who are graduates of Bob Jones University preach from the pulpit that Catholics are going to hell. The pew sitters give a hearty “Amen!”

        • asmondius

          Pascal avoided this issue by breaking the possibility down into simply whether God exists or not. If He doesn’t, all religions are irrelevant.

        • Greg G.

          No, he didn’t. If a God exists, you have to have the proper belief or unbelief for all gods humans believe in and all gods not imagined.

        • asmondius

          Look, this is Pascals Gamble we are discussing.

          If you want to design your own, feel free.

        • Greg G.

          PW is a false dichotomy. It takes about 15 seconds to discuss it and reject it as meaningless.

        • asmondius

          Oh, here’s another person intoning the ‘false dichotomy’ chant to make an argument they don’t like go away. Throw some salt over your shoulder as well.

          You’ve said absolutely nothing to challenge Pascal’s logic in a meaningful way. Instead of addressing what it is, you want to attack what it isn’t.
          If you wish to reject logic, I guess you’ll just have to turn in your Unbeliever pin.

        • Philmonomer

          A different commentor below provided this (which, while not set up like a matrix, easily could be):

          I promise I can get you into heaven for $20. Give me the $20, and you’re in.

          Are you willing to give me the $20?

          My guess is no. Why not?

        • Asmondius

          You’re right – it’s not a matrix and it’s certainly not Pascal’s Wager.
          Is there a point you are trying to make?

        • Philmonomer

          Yes. According to your logic, you should give me the $20. But you won’t. Why?

          I think trying to get at the heart of why you won’t give me $20 would shed some light on “Pascal’s Wager.”

          (BTW, here is the matrix,

          On the one side:

          I really can get you into heaven for $20 dollars.

          I really cannot get you into heaven for $20 dollars.

          On the other side:

          You give me the $20 dollars.

          You don’t give me the $20 dollars.

          Now fill in the boxes. The jackpot is you give me the $20, and I get you into heaven.)

        • Asmondius

          It’s not ‘my logic, and the Wager concerns outcomes, not money.

        • Philmonomer

          It’s not my logic

          Huh? Do you mean it’s Pascal’s logic? Or do you mean logic is the wrong word? Regardless, I don’t see what this has to do with anything.

          and the Wager concerns outcomes, not money.

          Right. Just like my wager as well.

          ————-

          Your response as a whole adds nothing of value. Does that mean you don’t have anything substantive to say?

          Also, does that mean I can expect to get $20?

        • Asmondius

          You have not disproved the logic of Pascals wager.

        • Philmonomer

          And using the exact same logic as Pascal’s wager, I’ve proposed my wager. But you reject my wager, while accepting Pascal’s. Strange.

        • MNb

          No, that’s Mr. Braindead for you. He rejects my wager too.

          On the one side: there are bears in the pit.
          There are no bears in the pit.

          On the other side: while robbed from the usage of his senses he will jump.
          While robbed from the usage of his senses he will not jump.
          Jackpot: getting attacked by those bears.

          A perfect matrix: we don’t have to bother with questions like “how do you know it’s bears and not crocodiles?”

          Suddenly he doesn’t jump. Why? Because his version of the bet begs the question – the reward presupposes god.

        • Asmondius

          You also have dreamed up a little story – it is not a matrix.

        • MNb

          Yours is exactly as much dreamed up. God, Paradise, all dreamed up.
          But I must admit that you begin to show signs that you’re not totally braindead – you’re getting dishonest. That’s not really an improvement of course.
          You’re dishonest because you don’t like to answer the crucial questions. Why would we assume that your reward is something positive, something desirable? Do you agree that if the reward is something negative, something undesirable, like Prometheus’ punishment (as much dreamed up as your Paradise), that the optimal strategy totally changes? If yes you admit that the logic of Pascal’s Wager is invalid.

        • Asmondius

          No, you’ve made a fiction. It is not a logical argument.

        • MNb

          Your argument is as much fiction.

        • Philmonomer

          No, you’ve made a fiction.

          What you mean is that you believe reality is found along the row in my matrix labeled “I really cannot get you into heaven for $20.” And you choose to place yourself in the outcome square (on my matrix) where you aren’t going to give me the 20 dollars. But this isn’t a “fiction,” it is simply where you have placed yourself on the matrix (you cannot avoid the matrix–as there are no other possibilities.) You have made your choice, but it is not the optimal choice (as Pascal’s wager shows).

          As you yourself said “The only way to ‘win’ is to give me the $20 (i.e. believe) , the only way to ‘lose’ is not give me the $20 (i.e. not believe).”

          It is not a logical argument.

          Again, it is a logical argument in the exact same way as Pascal’s wager is.

        • Asmondius

          There is no ‘if’ in the matrix, as there is in your little fable. It’s either/or.
          You are trying to disprove something by making up your own version of it. Interesting but not logical.

          ‘.

        • Philmonomer

          There is no ‘if’ in the matrix, as there is in your little fable. It’s either/or.

          Huh? There is no “if” in my matrix either. Mine is “either/or” too.

          (I fundamentally don’t understand what you are getting at here–it seems you are just making up distinctions that don’t exist–and your reply is essentially nonsense. Do you think you’ve provided a meaningful response?)

          You are trying to disprove something by making up your own version of it. Interesting but not logical.

          I am trying to get you to explore why you accept the wager in one scenario, but not another. I think it might be helpful.

        • Greg G.

          I told you I came up with the same logic as a teenager. When you set up a false dichotomy, the results are invalid. That destroys the heart of Pascal’s Wager. Only a Christian with no other argument would defend it.

        • Asmondius

          God either exists or He does not.
          This is not a dichotomy – there is no comparison of God to anything else.

        • Greg G.

          God either exists or He does not.
          This is not a dichotomy

          The definition of dichotomy is a difference between two opposite things. The statement is a dichotomy. Pascal only considered the Christian position and ignored every other possibility. That makes it a false dichotomy.

          It is not really about the existence of God because a god could despise Christians and their made up theology more than anything.

        • Asmondius

          Pascal clearly considered the only two possibilities – God does or does not exist. There is no outcome for a ‘difference’.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I think what’s causing all the confusion is how you define God. Here a sufficient definition for God would be, “a being that can give you an eternal life/bliss if you believe in it” (yes, I know there’s more to God than that). So what the wager is concerned with is whether or not “a being that can give you an eternal life/bliss if you believe in it” exists or not. Hence, believing in such a being yields the favorable outcome of the wager.

          When everybody else is saying to factor in the other gods people have believed in, they are basically giving more specific versions of capital G “God”. So Thor, Vishnu, and Quetzalcoatl are different versions of this God that Pascal is proposing we wager exists, as is the Abrahamic God (usually referred to as Yahweh). Some or none of which may actually exist.

        • Asmondius

          See my comment above about 1 million gods.

        • MNb

          But you still refuse to consider the possibility that your god despises christians and that you will be screwed when you die. I don’t think it a particular strong rebuttal, but it is something you have to consider.

        • Asmondius

          Nothing in the game says ‘Christian’.

        • Greg G.

          That is a dichotomy. If a god exists, it does not mean there is a heavenly reward. If there is no god, it doesn’t rule out that humans continue to exist as ghosts floating in space, unaffected by gravity. There is a component of theology to PW but not a comprehensive component. That makes it a false dichotomy.

          Is this your best argument for God? If it is, you should stop believing. If it is not your best argument for God, you should move on to that.

          If you understand the difference between a dichotomy and a false dichotomy, then please demonstrate to us that you do to try to salvage some of your credibility.

        • Pofarmer

          YA know, that’s an interesting idea. Our minds possibly could, and I do mean could, continue to live on as quantum energy at some level, without the intervention of any diety. There is no evidence for anything like this, although I have heard it used to explain abnoramal experiences or thoughts, because of the possibility of quantum pairs

        • Greg G.

          I think Sean Carroll, the physicist, has talked about how many quantum events it would take to change the state of a single brain cell would be something like a once in a universe event. IIRC, in the video he was discussing the forces of the different scales from quantum to the molecular size to the cellular size, so it would be orders of magnitude too small. If there was some force that bridged the gap, they would have seen some of them in the trillions of experiments.

        • If it’s a ridiculous argument, there’s no point in addressing it.

          It’s a ridiculous argument.

        • Greg G.

          Pascal’s Wager is what you are talking about. We are discussing an improved version. Do what you want. Others will do what they want. Most of us find Pascal’s version lacking.

        • asmondius

          You can’t improve upon a logically sound construct.

        • MNb

          That’s correct. The problem is though that Mr. Braindead is not capable of understanding and/or admitting that Pascal’s Wager is logically unsound.

        • Asmondius

          Please demonstrate how – ‘logically’.

          That means without name-calling or other emotional outbursts.

        • Greg G.

          PW misses the big picture and so do you. It is a false dichotomy.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Pascal’s wager is logically valid, that is it’s structure makes sense. For instance, let P = God exists, Q = You believe in him, R = You go to heaven, and S = You go to hell.

          Pascal is basically saying these are all true propositions:

          (P ^ Q) -> R
          (~P ^ Q) -> ~(R v S)
          (P ^ ~Q) -> S
          (~P ^ ~Q) -> ~(R v S)

          Given that S is what we want to avoid, R is what we want, and Q is the only proposition who’s truth value we can control, Pascal is saying that we should wager based on Q being true (that we believe). As you can see, where Q is true S is always false and R may be true. Where Q is false R is always false and S may be true. So we should have Q be true.

          This argument is not sound because some or all of the premises may not be true. For instance, what if
          (P ^ Q) -> S or (~P ^ Q) -> S? We don’t know. That’s what’s in dispute and why Pascal’s wager is not sound.

        • MNb

          “Pascal’s wager is logically valid”
          No, it isn’t. The reward (Heaven, Paradise, whatever) is presented as something positive, something desirable and hence presupposes god. So the argument is a form of begging the question.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          It doesn’t presuppose God. It is entirely possible that there is a heaven but there is no God or vice-versa. Do you agree that IF those premises are true then Pascal’s wager is valid? The premises are what I have a hard time believing.

        • MNb

          No, I don’t agree. Heaven without god doesn’t make sense, because the only heaven I am ever told about is created by god. In general terms: if god doesn’t provide the reward, who does?
          Moreover: how do you know the reward is not something negative, something undesirable? From the information provided by Pascal’s Wager the reward may be a punishment a la Prometheus. If that is the case the matrix remains the same, but the optimal strategy totally changes.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          You don’t believe that God created this world because you don’t believe in God, right? So then you can believe that it’s possible there’s some alternate world full of nothing but happiness that also was not created by God and that you can go there under the right circumstances (excluding approval by God, regardless of whether or not God exists).

          I’m assuming that this happy realm is somewhere you want to be regardless of whether or not it’s a reward for something. That’s why we can’t discount something like (~P ^ ~Q) -> R.

        • MNb

          “I’m assuming that this happy realm is somewhere”
          Why? Why not an unhappy realm? Because an omnivolent god. Why else?

          “So then you can believe that …”
          This is what I challenge. It’s a non-sequitur. Without an omnivolent god I can’t believe there is such an alternate world. How could I?

          For the sake of clarity: I do not dispute your claim that Pascal’s Wager is unsound.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          That’s not the point. The point is that any number of any kind of world may exist without having to have been created by any gods. This world, a world full of nothing but happiness, a world full of nothing but sadness, etc. I’m saying the existence of any of these worlds and your ability to access them is not contingent upon any gods, if any of these worlds exist in the first place (except this one, it obviously exists).

          There may be gods behind some worlds but there aren’t necessarily any. That’s the point I’m trying to make. The favorable outcome of Pascal’s wager might be achievable in ways other than what Pascal proposes which is why it is unsound. But it may not be achievable at all.

        • MNb

          “The point is that any number of any kind of world may exist without having to have been created by any gods. ”
          Why? How? You refuse to answer that question. The question is valid, because if the outcome of PW is belief in god indeed that god will be assumed to have created all those worlds.
          But even if you manage to address this problem the other remains.

          “This world, a world full of nothing but happiness, a world full of nothing but sadness”
          So we make a little progress. Do you agree that in case of afterlife being a world full of nothing but sadness the optimal strategy changes? If yes then PW is logically invalid, exactly because it assumes that the world we enter after we die will be full of nothing but happiness (or at least overall positive and desirable). The only possible reason to accept that assumption is an omnivolent god.
          Hence PW begs the question.
          Now I have explained this a couple of times and I strongly dislike repeating myself, while you have brought up nothing to address this second problem, so this will be my last response to you regarding this subject.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t addressing Pascal’s Wager at all. I was just pointing out the possibility that there is a world full of happiness separate from this one. When I said, “The point is that any number of any kind of world may exist without having to have been created by any gods” I was making reference to the fact that you don’t believe this world was created by a god (and I’m not concerned with why you believe this or whether or not you’re right). This establishes that it’s conceivable for you to imagine a world not created by a god. Since you don’t believe a god created this one, then you should be able to comprehend any number of worlds not created by any gods, including a world full of nothing but happiness.

          Without regard to Pascal’s Wager do you find it conceivable that any given world aside from this one was not created by any gods? Or is there something special about a world of pure happiness/sadness that requires it to have been created by a omnibenevolent/omnimalevolent god? It’s sort of an irrelevant question to Bob’s article, but I’m just curious.

        • Asmondius

          Now atheists believe in Heaven?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          There are probably some out there. I’m not one of them though.

        • Asmondius

          Then you are contradicting your own intuition:

          ‘It is entirely possible that there is a heaven….’

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I meant to say that I don’t believe that there is definitely no heaven, just that I don’t believe there is. I acknowledge the possibility because I’m not all-knowing and therefore am not sure there isn’t one. My main point was that whether heaven exists at all is completely independent from whether or not there are gods, hence it is not logically contradictory to be an atheist and believe in heaven.

          Note: I use heaven here to refer to a place of nothing but happiness, not necessarily as a reward from a deity.

        • Asmondius

          You are not giving me a logical counter argument, only yet another opinion. If you don’t like the prize, you don’t play the game. That doesn’t invalidate the game. If your poor wager makes it impossible to win, it’s quite irrelevant whether you like the jackpot or not.

        • Asmondius

          Hell is not a result in the matrix, and this is simple matrix, not an equation.

          There are no premises, only possible outcomes.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          The premises are the conditions that yield a given result. A matrix is used for arithmetic so by it’s very nature will result in some kind of equation. I can express any possible outcome of the wager as an equation, i.e. god exists + you believe in god = heaven or (P ^ Q) -> R.

        • Asmondius

          A matrix is simply a tool – it need not result in a equation at all, any more than a ruler or bus schedule should. Here it simply cross-indexes a set of possible outcomes. A premise is not a ‘condition.’ The premise is that God either exists or He does not and people will either believe or they will not. If you see a logical problem with those, let’s here it.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “A premise is not a condition. The premise is that God either exists or He does not…” The outcome of the wager is either you go to heaven or you don’t. The outcome is dependent on whether or not God exists and whether or not you believe. Therefore, a particular outcome of the wager occurs if/on the condition that God exists and that you believe. So yes, the premises are conditions in this case.

        • Greg G.

          You can’t improve upon a logically sound construct.

          Of course not but

          Look, this is Pascals Gamble we are discussing.

          We’re not discussing a logically sound argument because it is a false dichotomy.

        • asmondius

          I’ll give this issue of yours one more try.

          Let’s say humanity has believed in 1 million gods. If God exists, a believer has a one in one million chance to get the jackpot, perhaps even better odds if God is kind. The unbeliever’s chance in this same instance is none, goose egg, nada, zero, nicht. Even an infinitely small chance is a better bet than no chance at all. That is Pascals Wager.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t forget that there are some gods that treat believers of other gods worse than non-believers so that has to be taken into consideration.

          A deist position might be right where the god made sure he left no evidence so he is most upset by believers of imaginary gods, despising faith but embracing intellectual integrity.

          Those “mysterious ways” are where the evidence doesn’t fit your idea of god, but it wouldn’t disqualify a Deist deity. But you shouldn’t believe in him because it might make him mad.

          So as I see it, if there is a god with rewards to hand out, I expect atheists would be more likely to get them than Bible believers as they accuse the hypothetical deity as being guilty of drowning the world, ordering genocide of the Amalekites, Canaanites, and another that doesn’t come to mind at the moment, plus you as a Bible believer accuse that deity of sanctioning slavery. At least atheists are innocent of those. Plus, atheists don’t put any gods before him so we could get in on a technicality whereas by calling yourself a Christian, you are putting another god before whatever god might happen to exist.

          But don’t worry about Matthew 7:22-23. The New Testament is just fiction.

    • MNb

      Eh? How is the only way to ‘win’ to believe? Frankly I think the combination “god exists” and “to believe” the big loss of your little game, even a little worse than “no god” and “to believe”.
      See, you haven’t told us yet what the prices of your little game are (you call it reward, but that assumes a priori it is something positive and why should it?) and how you know that these are the prices. So at the moment I’m free to make my own guess.

      The price of “no god” and “believe” is crystal clear: a huge waste of my time. Instead of praying, going to church and the likes I’d rather do fun things (you may think praying etc. fun, but I think them borefests), like playing chess or bullying you on this blog.
      What’s the price put on “god” and “believe”? Heaven, or formulated honestly, eternal boredome? Thanks, but no thanks – that is as bad a prospect as Hell.
      So in any case the price of “believe” is actually not a ‘win’, but a 100% loss.

      What’s the price put on “no god” and “no believe”? And on “god” and “no believe”? Nothingness after I die? I’ll go for “no believe” without any further thought and I have 100% chance of winning.
      So at this point you have nothing left but scaring me off with Hell. This means we have another little bet. Will the price be nothingness or Hell? Let me be charitable to you – extremely charitable. Let me grant both a chance of 50%. This is unfair, as you argued yourself underneath that the idea of Hell depends on “believe” and “god”, which makes your little game meaningless. But let me overlook that problem, just for the sake of argument and in this very comment. I reserve the right to go back at this problem at any time I see fit.
      I don’t see any difference between Heaven and Hell. Both are eternal torture; like I wrote Heaven is eternal torture by means of boredom.
      The rational choice is to go for the 50%, ie “no believe”.

      That’s the fun thing of theology. You can twist any line of theological thinking in such a way that it shows exactly the opposite of what the apologist wanted to show.
      Your problem here is that every single argument you can produce to challenge my view can and will be used against your very own argument. End result: you have shown nothing, nada, zilch.

      • asmondius

        The only ‘price’ here is missing out on Paradise. Economic or health conditions could cause one to miss out on a lot of ‘fun’ things as well.
        Besides, fishing for a few decades will pale in comparison to breaking rocks for eternity.
        Incidentally, Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever. You should check it out, I believe it will be right up your alley.

        • Pofarmer

          “christian belief does not include human souls being in heaven forever.”. So, I suppose you are talking about Crists triumphant return when all the faithful are raised from the graves?

        • Asmondius

          That is Christian belief, yes.

        • Pofarmer

          So, is that what you are talking about, or something else?

        • Asmondius

          That’s it.

        • Pofarmer

          So, Jesus said he was coming back during his disciples lifetimes. Paul said Jesus was coming back in the lifetime of his followers. I think it’s safe to assume it ain’t happenin.

        • Greg G.

          Paul expected to be alive then, as seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:17

          Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

        • Asmondius

          ‘We’ is not ‘me’ – he was speaking figuratively. No wonder you have difficulty with the Bible.

        • Gehennah

          So were all of the Miracles figurative too?

          Were the saints rising from their graves and walking into Jerusalem figurative or literal?

        • Ron

          Well, according to Christian apologist Michael Licona, the resurrection of the saints described in Matthew 27:52-53 “should probably be interpreted as apocalyptic imagery rather than literal history.

          Further down (2nd paragraph), he goes on to argue:

          My conclusion in reference to the raised saints in Matthew 27 was based upon my analysis of the genre of the text. This was not an attempt to wiggle out from under the burden of an inerrant text; it was an attempt to respect the text by seeking to learn what Matthew was trying to communicate. This is responsible hermeneutical practice. Any reasonable doctrine of biblical inerrancy must respect authorial intent rather than predetermine it.

        • Asmondius

          The trick is to string words together so that they form meaning

        • MNb

          Something you way too often fail at. That’s why I claimed in the Turin shroud thread that Asmondius and reasonable don’t go together. This comment of yours confirms it: it that Turin shroud thread you complain that nobody wants to address your arguments. Now Ron does provides arguments , including a source reference, and you provide nothing but failed sarcasm.
          You’re one of the most pathetic apologists I have ever met.

        • Pofarmer

          He’s a Catholic, so the dismissive arrogance comes naturally. The failure to actually interact with the counter arguments mentioned seems natural too. I mean, how could anyone disagree with someone educated in the One True Church?

        • MNb

          I can assure you that at least in The Netherlands such an attitude is not a catholic privilege. Asmon is an extraordinary example though.

        • Gehennah

          I don’t really buy it though.

          The Resurrection stories read like reboots of movies. each trying to one up the previous one, not actually being bothered by the “facts.” (see Spiderman, to the Amazing Spiderman)

          But at least that is a more rational approach than the Bible literalists that will go to no end to try to say that it did actually happen.

        • Ron

          Oh, I don’t buy it either. I just thought I’d inform you and other readers that this new “interpretation” of the text is now out there.

          As for Asmondius, I concur with what MNb below said: most pathetic apologist I have ever encountered. Not even worth the effort of reading, let alone responding to.

        • Gehennah

          Oh, I know the new interpretation. Been talking to someone else that had a similar one too (except he’s accepts reincarnation and is playing Pascal with that).

        • Asmondius

          Well, I thought a common idiomatic expression would be self-explanatory.

          You are referring to events as opposed to the use of a pronoun – no relevance there.

          But it’s indeed very good that you ponder over these things, because that process will eventually lead you to discernment. I know you must fancy yourself to be some sort of clever prosecutor, but in the end you are simply another seeker.

          Have a good day.

        • Gehennah

          So in other words instead of actually answering the question, you evade it.

          One does think that the Dunning-Kruger effect is strong with you.

        • Asmondius

          ‘So in other words ‘ = straw man

        • Gehennah

          I asked a question, you refused to answer it.

        • Asmondius

          Explain to me how a common use of a pronoun in text has anything to do with miracles and I will be happy to answer your question.

          I do tend to ignore illogical questions from persons who confuse semantics with substance.

        • Pofarmer

          The point is, you take the common pronoun “We” and say that in this sentence it means “you other guys” where the pronoun “We” typically means “all of us together.” So, you change the common definition of “we” and try to suggest a common pronoun was somehow used figuratively in this case, but don’t want to discuss if all the Saints rising from the graves would also be figurative or literal. This is especially vexing when many Bible Scholars do, indeed, believe that Paul was talking literally, and when there were many apocalyptic and ascetic cults at the time who believed the end was coming any down now, just as there are today. So, basically, you are equivocating and being evasive when posed with an actual, ya know, question, as you have on numerous other occasions.

        • Asmondius

          Christianity is obviously not an ‘apocalyptic cult’.

        • Pofarmer

          Really?

          “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35″Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37″For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.…”

        • Gehennah

          It doesn’t. I never said it did.

        • Greg G.

          Read the passage from verse 15. He speaks of the dead in the third person. If he was speaking figuratively, why didn’t he use the same convention where it would have actually applied to him?

          Paul read the Old Testament as history and thought he was reading revealed mysteries so he seems to have inferred that these revelations to that generation were signs that the Messiah was coming during that generation.

        • Asmondius

          Is life strictly material?

        • Greg G.

          I take it you have conceded my point since you are changing the topic.

          Biological life is the chemical reactions within and between the cells. Information is configurations of matter and energy. The brain does information processing. The mind is what the brain does.

          If you want a “yes” or “no” answer, you should use less ambiguous terms. Do you mean biological life or sentient awareness? Does “material” mean “only matter” or does it include “energy”. How strictly are you using “strictly”? Define “is”. Oh, wait… you can forget the last one. 80)

          Christians have a habit of equivocating with these words so that no matter what the answer is, it is twisted to something else deliberately.

        • Pofarmer

          He is probably showing you a kindness by not correcting you.

        • MNb

          Yes – but I reserve the right to find the terms Greg is using underneath as I see fit. Even the slightest deviation will be a strawman.

        • Pofarmer

          post hoc rationalization. The Bible is much more interesting when you read what it actually says.

        • Asmondius

          You just indicted everyone on this blog.

        • Pofarmer

          Indicted how? On the specific question raised, many biblical scholars, including Bart Ehrman et al, believe Paul was an apocalyptist. There were plenty of groups running around spouting end of the world stuff, much like today. Paul appears to be just another one.

        • Asmondius

          My, my – people can have different opinions.

        • Pofarmer

          That must be vexing to you.

        • And given such a subjective foundation, I’m amazed that you think you can build on it the remarkable supernatural claims of Christianity.

        • Pofarmer

          FWIW, “We” normally includes all of us together.

        • Asmondius

          Look up the word ‘context’.
          You like a Bible-thumper.

        • Pofarmer

          So, fine, quote the passages in question, and explain to us the context we are missing.

        • 90Lew90

          “Context”. You’re very keen that everyone here should look up “context”. That was what you urged me to do in your very first communication to me. Perhaps everyone else here knows full well what “context” is. Perhaps the problem is yours.

        • hector_jones

          Norm Donnan could come up with a better reply than this.

        • Asmondius

          Well, this one seems sufficient to stump you.

        • Asmondius

          Jesus said no such thing.

        • Pofarmer

          “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35″Heaven and earth will pass away, “

        • Yeah, you’d think that A would know his Bible better than that. Or, if he had already anticipated your (obvious) answer, he’d have made clear how it didn’t apply.

        • Pofarmer

          Oh, I imagine he’s setting some clever theological trap.

        • Asmondius

          Not even the reference – how unprofessional.

        • 90Lew90

          That’s the best cop-out “answer” I’ve seen in a while.

        • Greg G.

          Perhaps you should run your Christian beliefs by Paul and his Christian beliefs in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, and Philippians 3:20-21. Then you should check Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:13, Daniel 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8 to see where Paul got those ideas. Paul talks about the dead being raised and the living being changed by putting on imperishable bodies. Where is your citizenship?

        • Asmondius

          I simply said that is the Christian belief. If you disagree, say why.

        • Greg G.

          You claimed above:

          Incidentally, Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever.

          but here is an example of another church teaching that souls do go to heaven forever:

          Those who decide to put their full trust in Jesus Christ will spend eternity in HEAVEN (John 3:18,36; Acts 16:31).

          When you say it is the Christian belief, you are arrogantly saying your Christian belief is the Christian belief.

        • Asmondius

          Ah, I’ve caused you to read the Bible again.

          Excellent.

        • Greg G.

          Actually, I’ve studied the Bible for a few years, especially Mark and the Pauline epistles that are considered to be authentic.

          Do you concede that your version of Christianity is not the Christianity? Remember that there are over 43,000 denominations, each thinking they are led by the Holy Spirit but differing in their interpretation of the Bible enough to separate themselves from the rest of the Christians.

        • Asmondius

          Did you study formally, or by thumbing through it on the bus and/or digesting every tidbit and claim made on the Net?

          Since Christian denominations all come from the same source, it is rather foolish to claim they disagree more than agree.

        • Greg G.

          What makes the difference how I study? You seem to be aiming toward an ad hominem. I don’t claim to be a scholar. Just deal with the arguments.

          You have conflated your Christian beliefs with the Christian belief. Nobody but your imagination claims that denominations disagree with more than they agree.

        • Asmondius

          You did make a claim – if it was irrelevant to the argument, the fault is not mine but your own.

          All Christians share some fundamental beliefs which far outweigh their differences..

        • 90Lew90

          You said you tend to ignore “illogical questions which confuse semantics with substance”.

          I’d say you avoid questions generally. I’ve yet to see you give a satisfactory answer to any substantial question that’s been put to you here. I mean, the above is just blatant evasion. Do you think people are that stupid?

        • Pofarmer

          He just has that little respect.

        • MNb

          Yes, Lew is so kind to remind you that you never answer substantial questions and not nasty enough to harrass you with this concrete example, but I fortunately am:

          “I guess you didn’t hear – someone brought a request for indictment concerning the abuse cases to the International Court in Geneva. It was thrown out.”
          See, as long as you either don’t tell us what request or admit you made this up you have exactly zero chance to gain any credibility on Cross Examined.

        • Asmondius

          Not having ‘credibility’ here is probably a blessing. If you were not so naughty I would have given you the information.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Like the little boy who claims he can outrun a dog but refuses to show because he doesn’t feel like.

        • hector_jones

          This could well be your most pathetic comment yet.

        • Greg G.

          You said a week ago in this thread:

          Incidentally, Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever. You should check it out, I believe it will be right up your alley.

          Pofarmer responded:

          “christian belief does not include human souls being in heaven forever.”. So, I suppose you are talking about Crists triumphant return when all the faithful are raised from the graves?

          You responded:

          That is Christian belief, yes.

          I then pointed out that “Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever” is not a generally held belief in Christianity, I cited three Pauline passages and cited the Old Testament passages where Paul seems to have received his information. The question “Where is your citizenship?” is an allusion to Philippians 3:20, one of the verses I cited.

          You replied:

          I simply said that is the Christian belief. If you disagree, say why.

          I provided a link to a religious group that taught that human souls would be in heaven forever.

          You did make a claim – if it was irrelevant to the argument, the fault is not mine but your own.

          You made a claim that was factually wrong, I called you on it, and provided Biblical teachings that differed from your claim and provided you with the teachings of another church that believes the opposite of your claim.

          All Christians share some fundamental beliefs which far outweigh their differences.

          Yes, I have said that before and again now in the third consecutive post in this subthread. But it appears that there are more differences in the 43,000 religions than there are generally held core beliefs. One of the generally held core beliefs is that the Holy Ghost is speaking to Christians but the diversity shows that this is not a reliable claim. That belief should be called into question and when you do that, they should all be called into question.

          You are resurrecting old threads to make false claims.

        • Asmondius

          You:

          ‘I then pointed out that “Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever” is not a generally held belief in Christianity…’

          You again:

          ‘I provided a link to a religious group that taught that human souls would be in heaven forever.’

          A quote from your ‘religious group’ link:

          ‘Will We Be On Earth?

          Many have the idea that believers will spend eternity in heaven and will have no relationship to the earth. The Bible does not describe the eternal state in such a way. Revelation chapters 21-22 describe the eternal state.’

          I did you a kindness by not responding to your errant claim – don’t mistake kindness for agreement.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, you got me on that link. Here is another that says the New Earth is Heaven: What are the New Heavens and the New Earth?.

          So my point stands. Your Christianity is not the Christianity.

        • Asmondius

          My comments in this regard have specifically referred to Christianity in general, not ‘my Christianity’ (whatever that may be).

          Here’s a good quote from your current citation:

          ‘After the events of the end times, the current heavens and earth will be done away with and replaced by the new heavens and new earth. The eternal dwelling place of believers will be the new earth. The new earth is the “heaven” on which we will spend eternity. It is the new earth where the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, will be located. It is on the new earth that the pearly gates and streets of gold will be.

          Heaven—the new earth—is a physical place where we will dwell with glorified physical bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). The concept that heaven is “in the clouds” is unbiblical. The concept that we will be “spirits floating around in heaven” is also unbiblical. The heaven that believers will experience will be a new and perfect planet on which we will dwell. The new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will likely be similar to our current earth, or perhaps even a re-creation of our current earth, but without the curse of sin.’

          This is rather a good explanation that reinforces what I told you – thanks. In Christian theology a human being is a union of body and soul.

          Here is the Apostles’ Creed, which tradition holds originated from the Apostles (emphasis is mine):

          ‘”I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, and life everlasting. Amen.”

          For brevity’s sake, here is the last paragraph of the Nicene Creed (Council of Nicaea, 325AD):

          ‘I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic
          Church.
          I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of
          sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the
          dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. ”

          You can see that this is not some new or unique concept for Christianity as a whole. Now, of course some group may say that after death we become eternal sugar cubes in God’s iced tea, and they may call themselves Christian, but they would not be following basic Christian belief, as I have stated.

        • Greg G.

          I attended many church services when I was in the military with various denominations behind the pulpit. I had teachers from many backgrounds. I never heard anyone say that the New Earth was anything but heaven.

          Then there’s:

          Philippians 3:20-21
          20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

          Many take that as a spiritual body.

          There are 43,000 different denominations. Not all of those splits are over trivial details. Some are over basic questions like this.

          I was unaware when I was a Christian that Christian doctrines differ as widely as they do. You should be aware of that, too. Conservative Christians consider themselves to be mainstream and everybody else are “salad bar” Christians. Liberal Christians call themselves “mainstream”. Baptists think Catholics are going to hell and Catholics think everyone who are not part of their church are doomed.

          Some Christians don’t even believe in hell.

          Now, of course some group may say that after death we become eternal sugar cubes in God’s iced tea, and they may call themselves Christian, but they would not be following basic Christian belief, as I have stated.

          This dispute is not as simple as your example. You quote creeds, they quote the Bible. If you quote the Bible, it is interpretation vs. interpretation. I wouldn’t have said anything if it was a simple matter as your example. I really don’t care much because both sides are spectacularly talking out of their butts.

        • Pofarmer

          Will, I can honestly say that as a presbymethyterian growing up, we never thought of going anywhere but heaven after death. Streets of Gold, Pearly Gates, all that, all that was in Heaven. If there was a “New Earth” it was Heaven. I have to admit, not until my Grandmothers Funeral (First Christian Church) had I heard it preached that all the dead will be raised from the Graves. That was a new one for me. So, maybe it’s a matter of degrees. It seems to be another piece of nit picky nonsense that doesn’t really matter. And that’s all Assholemondius wants to harp on.

        • Asmondius

          Let’s go back to square one – I said that Christian theology does not expect humans to exist as disembodied souls forever. You have yet to dispute that. in any meaningful way. Your examples have in fact contradicted your statements.

          I also said that Christians agree more than disagree – someone denying the divinity of Christ, for example, could not be categorized accurately as a Christian. Since I did not say that they don’t have differences, you have said nothing to dispute this either.

          This makes me wonder if your knowledge of Christianity has some gaps.

        • someone denying the divinity of Christ, for example, could not be categorized accurately as a Christian

          Because those who accept the divinity of Christ have a copyright claim on the word “Christian”? Do we just say that truth is defined by the majority view?

          (Those who deny the divinity of Buddha are called Buddhists.)

        • Greg G.

          I said that Christian theology does not expect humans to exist as disembodied souls forever.

          False. You originally said:

          Incidentally, Christian belief does not include human souls being in Heaven forever.

          Pofarmer quoted it (without the “Incidentally”) for clarification and you replied:

          That is Christian belief, yes.

          I pointed out that it was not a universal Christian belief. I gave one link that actually didn’t support my position but I gave another that did equate the New Earth with heaven. The second is compatible with every sermon about heaven I heard when I attended various churches in the military. It is also consistent with the teachings of my Sunday school class that I attended every Sunday for nearly a decade. I doubt that John Q. Pewsitter would agree that “souls would not be in heaven forever”.

          You have yet to dispute that. in any meaningful way.

          I haven’t disputed it because it’s a new claim and I don’t care.

          I also said that Christians agree more than disagree – someone denying the divinity of Christ, for example, could not be categorized accurately as a Christian. Since I did not say that they don’t have differences, you have said nothing to dispute this either.

          I said I basically agree with this but the number of disagreements probably are greater than the number of disagreements. By that I mean that if there were 99 points of complete agreement but 101 different interpretations for point #100, then the disagreements would outnumber the agreements 101 to 99. It’s similar to Ehrman’s claim that there are more discrepancies in all the New Testament manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

          This makes me wonder if your knowledge of Christianity has some gaps.

          I challenge you to name an existent person whose knowledge of Christianity has no gaps.

        • I challenge you to name an existent person whose knowledge of Christianity has no gaps.

          Easy, now. Asmondius is about to reveal a straightforward understanding of the paradox of the Trinity. He might be the one person who can rebut your challenge.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol. Why would you assume that Atheists don’t read and comprehend the Bible?

        • Asmondius

          I don’t like to generalize, but there is very little comprehension evident on this site, at least.

        • Greg G.

          Just because others disagree with you does not mean that the comprehension problem is due to the others. 43,000 denominations indicates that the problem could be with the believers.

        • Asmondius

          Seems to indicate that Christianity is very adaptable and prolific.

        • 90Lew90

          Adaptable? Sure. You can take any old thing you want out of it. It kind of makes a mockery of its own truth claims though.

        • Greg G.

          Christianity is prolific the way human parasites are prolific, simply because their hosts are prolific. Christianity benefited from being intermingled with the society that became post-Christian.

          “Adaptable” means that it doesn’t stick to the truth, because respect for truth is not healthy for religion.

        • Asmondius

          You are entitled to your opinions, even the purely emotional ones. There is certainly no logic behind this type of lashing out at others.

        • Greg G.

          You seem to have responded to my post by mistake. There was no lashing out in my post.

        • Asmondius

          ‘Christianity is prolific the way human parasites are prolific…’

          ‘….respect for truth is not healthy for religion’

          Nope – no lashes dealt there, right?
          Did someone key a cross onto your car door today?

        • Pofarmer

          PERSECUTION! OMFG!

        • Asmondius

          OPD

        • Greg G.

          OK, “human parasites” is ambiguous. I was referring to the species of parasites that specialize in the human species like body lice and tapeworms.

          If there are major religions that are fundamentally incompatible, they all can’t be true, yet they persist because their practitioners do not care that their religion might not be true. If a religion adapts, it shows that it no longer respects its origins as authentic truth. It shows that its changes are pragmatic when the adaptations are not in response to new evidence, it is not directed toward truth.

          There is no lashing out. It must all be in your head.

        • Asmondius

          All of these statements are mere rhetorical slurs, with no logical or philosophical underpinning. Thus they are simply bigoted statements voiced against something you do not like.
          I’d call that ‘lashing out’.
          Incidentally, the parasites you mention do not ‘specialize’ in humanity.

        • Greg G.

          Pediculus humanus humanus

          Your “lashing out” accusation seems to be projection.

          Pediculus humanus humanus is human body lice. It differs from Pediculus humanus capitus, head lice, by the way its eggs attached to hair instead of clothing. The genetics show they differentiated 100,000 years ago which is thought to indicate when humans started wearing clothes.

        • Greg G.

          This is the type of thing I was referring to when I said “human parasites”. Note the phrase being used in the title.

          From Paleoparasitology: the origin of human parasites:

          ABSTRACT
          Parasitism is composed by three subsystems: the parasite, the host, and the environment. There are no organisms that cannot be parasitized. The relationship between a parasite and its host species most of the time do not result in damage or disease to the host. However, in a parasitic disease the presence of a given parasite is always necessary, at least in a given moment of the infection. Some parasite species that infect humans were inherited from pre-hominids, and were shared with other phylogenetically close host species, but other parasite species were acquired from the environment as humans evolved. Human migration spread inherited parasites throughout the globe. To recover and trace the origin and evolution of infectious diseases, paleoparasitology was created. Paleoparasitology is the study of parasites in ancient material, which provided new information on the evolution, paleoepidemiology, ecology and phylogenetics of infectious diseases.

          [my emphasis]

          From the body of the paper:

          In such a peculiar host as humans, different opportunities were offered to parasites. Humans have spread to every part of the globe, carrying inherited, or heirloom parasites to different biomes occupied and transformed by them, whenever environmental conditions allowed the life cycle of the parasite.

          [my emphasis]

        • MNb

          Thanks so much, oh Mr. Braindead! You have no idea how many hours of sleep I have lost last few weeks because I was not sure if you entitled me to my purely emotional opinions.

        • MNb

          Be sure Paradise is unequally unattractive to me. Call it Heaven or Paradise – it’s all the same: eternal boredom.

          “fishing for a few decades will pale in comparison to breaking rocks for eternity.”
          In terms of boredom, totally yes, That’s why your/Pascal’s price on believing is a bad loss, not a win. As I explained above.

          “Economic or health conditions could cause one to miss out on a lot of ‘fun’ things as well.”
          That’s an excellent reason to stop worrying about afterlife and save our energy for improving those conditions. Then we will have more fun, something I won’t have in your version of afterlife.

        • Asmondius

          It’s simply the belief that human beings are more than worms or weeds, that our existence goers on beyond this world.
          Your physical life is mortal, no matter what you do.

        • Pofarmer

          So, why should human existence go on beyond this world, while chimps or dogs or dolphins or pigs or cows do not. Aren’t we related to them all? Didn’t we all evolve on the same planet?

        • Asmondius

          If you wish to be a pig or a cow, be my guest.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I believe Pofarmer was trying to say that humans shouldn’t be the only sentient beings that can retain consciousness after their bodies crumbles to pieces. Do you believe cows or pigs have afterlives like you believe we do? I’d like to hear your explanation why or why not unless it’s “because the Bible says so”. That is not accepted as a sufficient answer here.

        • Pofarmer

          Obviously other animals have “minds” even if they are not fully human minds. Many animals can problem solve to some degree. Many animals have some level of empathy and/or self awareness. So, if you would posit that the human mind exists outside the body, why not the mind of a dog or a dolphin?

        • MNb

          There is nothing but physical life.

        • Pofarmer

          The “price” isn’t missing out on paradise. The price is fundamentally missinderstanding what and who we are, and then applying that missunderstanding in ways that are demonstrably harmful, starting out with the misstaken theology of “the fall” and working out from there.

    • Greg G.

      1 Corinthians 15:19 says that if one only has hope for Christ in this life (the lose position of Christianity) then the believe is to be most pitied.

      But you are only considering your interpretation of the Bible. Pascal’s Wager can be applied to every religion. So you need a more comprehensive gamble. My interpretation is that the faith position is the big lose on earth and the afterlife as any reasonable god would favor intellectual integrity over faith.

      • asmondius

        The reason why Pascal’s construct works is because its components can not be subdivided any further. You either believe in God, or you do not. I don’t see how believing in God makes one a ‘big loser’ on Earth – all share a fragile mortality, regardless.

        • Greg G.

          People believe in thousands of gods. You have to assume the right religion from the start or you only make matters worse. You have to have the right interpretation according to many believers.

          I came up with the wager when I was a teenage believer. I was surprised to learn that i had come up with the same idea as Blaise, though I found out after I stopped believing. Pascal’s version is as naive as mine was.

        • asmondius

          You are misunderstanding the construct here. It is not a belief system, it is simply an arrangement of possibilities and their outcomes..

          No specific God is mentioned.
          You have put yourself in the row that says God does not exist. Regardless of whether you intersect with the ‘Exist’ or ‘Does not Exist’ reality column, you can not possibly win. You have made a choice that removes any chance of winning the jackpot – that is never a good wager.
          If you wish to believe that your parents, your children, all whom you know are nothing more than temporary animations of physical bodies that just disappear upon death, no more significant than moths or trees – that is your choice.

        • Greg G.

          Since there is no way to distinguish between a real god and an imaginary god, you must include all gods imagined by every person in the past, present, and future plus all that could be imagined but aren’t. It’s better to not antagonize any of them.

          If we are temporary beings, then every second is infinitely more precious than if we exist eternally. You are failing to fully appreciate the only life that you can be certain of.

        • asmondius

          Reality distinguishes – God exists, or He doesn’t. Why is this so tough? Reality is independent of what you or I ‘imagine’. Making a wager means you are not certain of the outcome, so you bring the odds as close to your favor as you can.

          ‘If we are temporary beings, then every second is infinitely more precious than if we exist eternally…’
          Precious to….who? Your memories are useless since you will be erased. That all means a hill of beans once you are feeding the worms.

        • Greg G.

          Precious to….who? Your memories are useless since you will be erased. That all means a hill of beans once you are feeding the worms.

          If this is all there is to life, it is imperative to make the most of this life while you have the chance. For the Christian, this life is not appreciated. Paul says so in at least three letters: 2 Corinthians 5:7-8, Philippians 1:21-23, and 1 Corinthians 15:19

          The Bible doesn’t say much about what heaven is supposed to be like. Most of the claims about heaven are exaggerations of the Bible. The Bible says the Gates are made of pearl. What are the gates for? Are they made just as an excuse to irritate clams? Are the gates supposed to keep someone out or to keep souls from escaping?

          The sales pitch for heaven is that there is only happiness and no sorrow. But it also says that many people’s loved ones won’t be there. Since they can’t feel sorrow about that, are they ecstatic that their loved ones are being tortured forever? Either your memories are removed or your human empathy is removed. Is it really you that is left over once some parts of you have been removed?

          If life matters to me now, it will always have mattered to me, even when I am gone. Death cannot change that.

          Your best hope is to be locked in a gold cage with your memories of having an actual life being erased just so you can kiss ass for eternity.

          Life is pleasant, death is serene. The transition might be troublesome but we all have to go through it. You shouldn’t fear death so much. Heaven and hell are imaginary. You should reject the indoctrination. Life is much better that way.

        • 90Lew90

          Very well said. Best post I’ve seen for a while in comments.

        • Asmondius

          Low expectations often result inn high praise,

        • Greg G.

          Yes, you have lowered the bar for all of us.

        • Asmondius

          Since I have not received one iota of praise here, apparently my bar is set much higher than yours.

        • Greg G.

          Say something smart sometimes.

        • MNb

          You’re asking too much.

        • Asmondius

          I asked nothing, I expect nothing. I am here for you.

        • Greg G.

          He wasn’t talking to you.

        • Asmondius

          Put me in the penalty box, Ref.

        • MNb

          Not necessary. You have put yourself in the penalty box already and more effectively than anyone of us ever could.

        • Asmondius

          I need only speak the truth.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, you should try it sometime.

        • Pofarmer

          I agreed with you yesterday on something, so there.

        • Asmondius

          It must have gotten lost in all of the flack

        • 90Lew90

          What do you want praise for? Man made in hid god’s image? Respect where it’s due.

        • Asmondius

          Just an observation – not asking for anything.

        • 90Lew90

          You never did substantiate that claim you made about the Geneva case you said was “thrown out”. Still waiting.

        • Asmondius

          ‘If life matters to me now, it will always have mattered to me, even when I am gone. Death cannot change that.’
          This doublespeak – if your very existence ends at death, there is nothing at all to matter about once you are gone. And it is not a transition, it is an ending.
          Paradise is simply the concept that human life goes on after death. Seems strange that any normal person would not wager for Life. The Wager does not provide any details of Paradise at all.
          Incidentally, you and others here have a clear misunderstanding of Christian beliefs concerning the afterlife. Deceased human beings will not remain as disembodied spirits for eternity.

        • Greg G.

          When we watch a movie reel, we are aware of one picture at a time. But the whole movie exists whether or not we are experiencing it. The universe could be four dimensional space-time continuum where our awareness is only shown a moving slice of the time dimension, even though the past and future exist outside our moment of perception. I don’t have any evidence and I don’t hold it to be true but it can be modeled mathematically by extrapolation from our measurements of reality. That’s more than you can say for your model. So my feelings at any moment in my life would exist continuously even though the current moment of my experience is past or has reached its end. Yours too, but you feelings are diminished by your Christianity.

          The Bible says the brightness when the Lord comes will be like seven suns plus the light of the moon makes it 8 suns (Isaiah 30:26), so the black-body temperature would be enough to vaporize sulfur. But descriptions of hell say that sulfur will be in liquid form (brimstone, Psalm 11:6). Are you sure Paradise is all it’s cracked up to be?

          Don’t confuse your Christian beliefs with the beliefs of other Christians. Christian beliefs are all over the map because there are no reality checks.

        • Asmondius

          This is straight forward logic, not Star Trek. The wager does not involve theories about alternate universes – it simply considers the possible outcomes if God does or does not exist and if someone does or does not believe in Him.

        • Greg G.

          That model is not an alternate universe, it is a projection of this universe. Heaven is an example of an alternate universe.

        • MNb

          Yup – like my version simply considers the possible outcomes if there are bears in the pit or not and if you, robbed from all your senses, believe in those bears or not.
          Jump, faithist, jump!

        • Pofarmer

          The passage and viewpoint that I really despise, is about this life as a “walking shadow”. What a way to miss out, and what a doctrine to cause all kinds of bad behaviors.

        • Pofarmer

          “If you wish to believe that your parents, your children, all whom you know are nothing more than temporary animations of physical bodies that just disappear upon death, no more significant than moths or trees – that is your choice.”

          Why the fear of where the evidence points?

        • Asmondius

          What ‘evidence’ have you to offer?

    • Pascal’s Wager is a joke. It begins, “Imagine if you will that there are only choices, Christianity and atheism.” But, of course, that is ridiculous–you’re just playing an imaginary game if these are your only two options. The Wager is DOA.

      QED.

      • … but I see others have nicely responded to this issue much more promptly. (Sorry–I’m behind.)

        • Asmondius

          And failed miserably. Like you, they applied emotion to a logical construct.

      • Asmondius

        Christianity is not in the matrix – you’re obsessing.

        • No idea what you’re saying.

          I’m surprised you didn’t respond more positively to my comment. I’m agreeing with you–I’m ignoring Pascal’s Wager.

        • Asmondius

          I’ try gain – ‘Christianity’ is not in the matrix, so your statement was false.

    • The Old Colonel

      Assmo, I suggest you just go ahead and get a giant fish tank and fill it with consecrated Hosts. That way you’ll always have proof of God’s existence right there in your living room. But keep your giant spider in the garage. That can make some people uncomfortable.

  • Fox raises an interesting question: what Christian blogs are useful, either to read and/or to chat with thoughtful Christians?

    Thoughts, everyone? I usually feel overwhelmed by the deluge of content, but I could always improve the too-few sources I consult regularly.