Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pascal Wagering myself to a new man.

I've seen Christians on quite a few blogs proclaiming that that even if their faith proves to be false, at least they've lived a good life, and don't lost anything. Yet if all the non-Christians are wrong, there will be hell to pay.

That moment of brilliance just came to me. I didn't plan the paragraph that way.

Yet, Christianity is also supposed to be life-changing. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've seen a Christian saying about another Christian that "s/he is doing it wrong." True Christians aren't hateful, spiteful, mean, rude, cruel, anything negative you can think of. A true Christian has been re-born, and now has the Holy Spirit residing in him/her, and is slowly growing to develop the fruits of the spirit.

I don't see how the two ideas can co-exist. If you're clinging to faith out of a fear of hell, or feel that if you're wrong in the end, you won't have lost anything, how can that be life-changing? How can that type of attitude produce any sort of growth, or make someone throw off the old man for the new? Pascal's Wager is -- in today's times -- pretty much a fear-based wager. And how can fear help develop any sort of Spirit-fruits?

I feel that Pascal's Wager discredits a major claim of Christianity -- the complete moral overhaul, which produces a "new man."

12 comments:

Lorena said...

Let's see if I can understand.

Say I marry a guy because he said that, if I don't, he'll kill me in 20 years.

So I marry him and go around claiming that even if he were lying about killing me, I am still happy because living with him is so awesome.

But how awesome can it be to live with a man who "charmed" me into marrying him under a death threat?

Sarge said...

Applause for Lorena!

The "system" envisioned by Pascal is kind of limited in it's scope and allows for no variables.

And in the end, the whole thing depends on fear and the suspension of rationality.

Rick Lannoye said...

Good point.

But the wager doesn't even really hold up if one only considers the afterlife:

Let's say the Christian "wins the bet," that there is a Heaven and Hell.

S/he dies and goes to Heaven. But once there, and it's confirmed that billions of others lost the bet and are somewhere outside the Pearly Gates shrieking in utter agony from the fires of Hell and, then, one has to look at God/Jesus with the knowledge that he is keeping those flames on full blast, it's not going to be too long before the "saved" have to begin wondering, "When am I next?"

The reason? Because any deity who is capable of committing such a heinous act for any length of time, much less eternity, is not the kind of person you can count on to be nice to you, and hold to whatever promise he made to treat you any differently! The joy of Heaven would quickly be replaced by a sick foreboding, making it no Heaven at all! So, Pascal had it backwards, winning the wager is to learn there is no such place as Hell, for if so, there's no Heaven either.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: www.ricklannoye.com).

Sarge said...

The odd thing is, I've heard no few people opine that observing the agonies of the damned would be one of the things that MADE Heaven, well, heavenly and worth while.

Aparently, after an eon or so of shouting adulations to the most powerful entity in the cosmos (who seems to have some personality issues) and observing a bunch of saints casting an inexhaustable supply of crowns down beside a glassy sea, one might feel a bit jaded.

If so, an excursion to the edge of heaven is laid on for the weary worshiper, and for recreation one is able to observe the "justice" meted out to the "unsaved".

One has been told that it will be one of heaven's greatest rewards, to shout over the side, "I TOLja so, didn't I"?

And then return for an eternity of singing praises.

And how will people I know to be otherwise compassionate and quite kind come to enjoy such a thing?

Well, they say they'll be 'changed' so as to be able to 'come into god's presence' and this will be part of that change.

And they're looking forward to it.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**But how awesome can it be to live with a man who "charmed" me into marrying him under a death threat?**

At which point, the response probably becomes "God doesn't send people to hell, people send themselves to hell." For I had this conversation with an evangelical friend, where I said I can't worship a deity like that, and she said that God doesn't send people there, people choose to go there.

I don't have the research to back this up, but I'm pretty sure that the Christian history does not have that viewpoint -- rather, God has no problem booting people to hell. It's only a recent thing, where the responsibility shifts from God to people.

And my question is why? The very fact that the shift (in theory) occurred tells me that Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of God directly sending people off to be tortured. A God who does in fact do that is perhaps not a God who can be described as good.

Yet why does their discomfort allow them to redefine how God operates?

OneSmallStep said...

Rick,

Does your book address the differences between heaven and Earth? Because I think a response to that would be that God can't break His promise, and so once one gets in Heaven, God has promised that the person will remain there. And there's the fact that many Christians say that no one will sin in heaven, because no one will want to. And if there's no sin, there's no reason to get sent to hell in the first place.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

So ... part of being born-again and infused with God's Spirit is the ability to become someone who gloats over others in agony and does absolutely nothing to help them ...

And! These people are in theory being remade precisely in the image of Jesus. The whole new creation casting off the old. So, if in heaven they can only behave as perfectly as Jesus does, then doesn't this mean that Jesus/God also gloats over the torments of the damned, and delights in their sufferings?

Lorena said...

Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of God directly sending people off to be tortured.

Exactly, they defend Him and cover up for Him in unimaginable ways.

Not unlike the mother of a wife-beating man would tell her daughter-in-law that she's being beat because she is misbehaving, not obeying her husband, doing things to piss him off.

But when it comes to humans, we usually maintain that NOTHING justifies abuse. We say that there is nothing a person can do that would justify a savage beating.

When it comes to Bible-God, however, the justifications abound.

Sarge said...

According to some folks I've run across, this is, in fact what they believe. Has some vague thing to do with Lazarus being denied food at the rich man's table, blah, blah, blah, is where they kind of get it from.

I once asked an adherent of this view if he thought this was the image of his deity in him, or him in his alleged deity.

His answer was ...

Well, it turns out he was a very vulgar and rude man. ;-)

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**But when it comes to humans, we usually maintain that NOTHING justifies abuse. We say that there is nothing a person can do that would justify a savage beating.**

Yes. The standards applied get relaxed when discussing God.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

**Has some vague thing to do with Lazarus being denied food at the rich man's table, blah, blah, blah, is where they kind of get it from.**

This must be yet one more example of how different I am, but I never saw the point of that parable as proving the existence of hell. I saw it as a remark on how the poor should be treated. Because even look at the rich man begging to warn his brothers -- isn't he begging to warn them to change their behavior towards the poor?

Sarge said...

There are also some writings by the early church fathers that also espouse this idea. Until I can talk again my wife won't pewrmit me to go in the attic, so I can't get at the books I would use as reference, so I can't say just which one. (Wife says that if I fall up there and can't get down and can't call for help, and I survive it, SHE'LL NEVER LET ME FORGET IT!!! My life is going to be a lot shorter than I had planned on, but THAT I don't want as the leitmotif for what I have left.)

I figured, like you, that it dealt with kindness and charity, but the interpretation of such activities among many of the faithful seems to be pretty adequetly discribed by the man I trained horses for, "Ooooeee! H'it's cold as charity this mornin'"!

But "The Wager" makes certain assumptions which are to be recieved as givens without evidence. Only the "givens".