"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.


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Friday, April 27, 2007

Pascal's Wager: The Empty Wager

The Empty Wager
Pascal's wager is betting on the existence of god. It suggests that belief in god has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Blaise Pascal argued that it is a better "bet" to believe that God exists, because the expected value to be gained from believing that God exists is greater than the expected value resulting from non-belief.

This argument has some major flaws. Some of them are:
1. It assumes that god (if it exists) rewards belief and punishes non-belief.
2. It assumes that the individual has chosen the right god.
3. It assumes that the individual is a member of the right religion or sect of that religion.
4. It requires that any person who is believing in a god to avoid punishment or gain reward would need to believe in all the religions which consider non-belief punishable.
5. It assumes that god/gods would not know that you are believing in order to avoid punishment or to gain reward.

So, if you claim that we should believe in Christianity just because of the possibility of being punished for not believing in it, then what are you going to say about other religions which also make such a claim? Based on Pascal's wager, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism cannot all be correct as they do not worship the same god/gods in the same way. So, to escape punishment, for Pascal's Wager to work, you would need to believe in all 3. Or some unknown non-Christian gods might exist, and punish Christian believers for their failure to believe in them. Or some powerful entity might decide to punish those who believe in a god while rewarding non-believers. To avoid punishment from believing in the wrong god, one would need to believe in all of them. This is bound to upset at least one of them, if any of them exist in the first place.

Also, if the belief is basely solely on the expectation of reward and the fear of punishment, instead of other things as well, such as the desire to do good, it is not belief with pure intent, which, if any of the gods exist, is bound to piss off at least one of them. I am not sure that "pretending to believe just in case" would score many "god brownie points." This is apart from a lifetime spent in worshipping which my turn out to be the wrong god, or a non-existent god. Thus a life spent on either a wilful delusion or a lie. So it is a fallacy that those who believe have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

"Men never do evil so completely or cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Blaise Pascal
(Pascal's Wager always reminds me of the part in "The Mummy" where Benny is confronted by the mummy as it is hunting for body parts from which to reconstitute its own body. Benny is trapped against the wall inside the burial chamber with the egyptian mummy advancing towards him. Benny begins to pull out a dozen or so religious amulets from around his neck, and tries to use them as religious talismans to warn off the advances of the mummy. What saves him from the mummy, according to the story, is not his belief in any of the religions, but the fact that he can speak ancient hebrew. The moral of the story seems to be that it isn't belief that is going to save you from a dangerous situation, but knowledge. Specifically in Benny's case, it is the knowledge of another language which makes him useful - even if it was only on a temporay basis. Nonetheless, that part in the movie always makes me laugh as Benny is in effect, pretending to believe in all the gods, in the hope that none of the others, should they exist, be offended.)

Some of Benny's antics from "The Mummy."

LINK: The Empty Wager by Sam Harris

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Blogger Baconeater said...

Either you just set a great rat trap for theists, or you just sprayed a ton of theist repellent. Not sure what this post will end up attracting or unattracting.
Theists are sometimes hard to figure out.
The old saying is that Fundies are slippier than greased pigs.

27/4/07 3:26 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


I hope I put out the welcome sign but we will see. It's certainly more interesting when someone disagrees.

27/4/07 8:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Based on Pascal's wager, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism cannot all be correct as they do not worship the same god/gods in the same way. So, to escape punishment, for Pascal's Wager to work, you would need to believe in all 3.

Sorry, Beep - won't get much argument from me. Pascal's wager is not something I argue. Fear of Hell does not constitute saving faith although it may be proclaimed ("Sinners in the hands of an angry God") as "pre-evangelism." Saving faith requires a heart change that understands and embraces,the universe and all that is in it, including one's self in terms of the reign of the one Living Christ. Even the devils believe that God is one and they tremble (Jas 2:19) but that does not constitute salvation for them.

Saving faith is about allegiance (fide) not abstract affirmation of doctrinal truth.

28/4/07 12:27 am  
Blogger Blueberry said...

Can one really believe in all three (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism)? Wouldn't belief in more than one of these constitute a violation of that belief?

28/4/07 4:34 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


If I was a theist, I wouldn't argue in favour of Pascal's Wager either. The idea that one can believe in something just in case, is kind of weird.

Pascal's Wager also fails to express the problem that is evidenced throughout history, and that is the contrary and multitudinious gods that one would need to sift through in order to find "the right one."

Theists don't usually acknowledge this problem, as for most, the god concept that they believe in, or have faith in, is to them obviously the only true god.

Pascal's Wager infers that the bet is a 50/50 one. Where there is one die with 3 of the sides with god on it and 3 without god.

The wager, as a bet, is better visualized as thousands of dice, with thousands of different god beliefs represented.

28/4/07 9:38 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


Yes, especially if they conflict as far as beliefs and actions go.

If a hindu is supposed to do certain actions through belief in the hindu godhead, it would be contrary to what one would be supposed to do and believe if one was a muslim.

The religions are not compatable in the beliefs or actions that are required in each religion.

The Bahai's, (sort of a mixture of islam and christianity), wouldn't be able to escape this type of god choice either.

One would be left with trying to believe in all the gods that are mentioned throughout history, even those that are not mentioned which would be guarenteed to annoy at least one of them. If the one that is annoyed happens to be "the right one", it is curtains.

28/4/07 9:48 am  
Blogger DiscordianStooge said...

blueberry: I believe that what you're refering to is called Unitarianism (I love making fun of them ;))

Beep: As an RPG nerd, I like to think of it as one many-thousand sided die.

28/4/07 11:35 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Reminds me of this bit of dialogue:
"Ooh, we're not as well-off as you think. We give to eight different
churches just to hedge our bets, and the Leftorium's business has gone
way downhill since Leftopolis moved in next door." - Ned Flanders.

28/4/07 1:56 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


Yeah, you would need a finger in every pie, or in this instance, a finger in every god. (Eewwwww)

28/4/07 9:25 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


What is it with atheists? Many seem to like RPG, anime and science fiction.

28/4/07 11:53 pm  
Blogger breakerslion said...

I'm a little surprised at you, beep beep. As an atheist who is also a Carrollian (to satisfy the demands of my "spiritual" side for brain candy) I have no trouble believing in three contradictory religions at the same time. I often believe (in) three impossible things before breakfast!

I too am a fan of sci-fi, anime, and RPGs, though I don't indulge too often. I think it might just be the alternative to the fantasyland of religious belief. We are all the product of Natural Selection, and one of the results is a susceptibility to emotional manipulation through storytelling. Our brains crave this kind of mental candy. This tendency has served the priest class well. One of the keys to the success of Judeo-Christian/Islamic mental constructs is the fact that they are repackaged, re-told, and re-sold ad nauseum. I call it the Neverending Godfomercial.

29/4/07 2:58 am  
Blogger said...

You know, I totally agree with you.

29/4/07 5:52 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Yeah, you would need a finger in every pie, or in this instance, a finger in every god. (Eewwwww)
Not unless it was the Apple Cobbler deity, or Almighty Jambalaya, or even Chocolate Jesus.

29/4/07 6:11 am  
Blogger DiscordianStooge said...

Anime is not for me. Nor is Animism.

29/4/07 7:07 am  
Blogger concerned citizen said...

forget chocolate. the concept of heaven is the ultimate orgasm.

29/4/07 9:04 am  
Blogger Plonka said...

Chocolate Jesus? No way. Heaven is made of caramel...!

I too like RPG's & Sci-Fi and the more "out there" and completely unbelievable the better. I guess that's why I really dig the lab scenes in NCIS. Well, that and Abby...:)

29/4/07 11:44 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Chocolate Jesus? No way. Heaven is made of caramel...!
Which prompts the query: is there diabetes in heaven?

29/4/07 3:21 pm  
Blogger Lexcen said...

I feel the concept that GOD requires us human beings to "believe" in him/her without any other requirement is pointless. Belief makes no sense without accompanying behavior for that belief. You either modify your lifestyle to reflect the belief or there's no point in believing.
Choosing the correct GOD to get the brownie points is the hard question, assuming there is a GOD(s) in the first place. I'm putting my money on no GOD, no afterlife, no divine justice. If I'm right then I won't have wasted my one and only life. If I'm wrong then I'll end up in the company of the most interesting people to have walked the face of this planet.

29/4/07 3:29 pm  
Blogger concerned citizen said...

lexcen, What!? you mean to say you don't want to go to heaven & hang out with Christians for eternity?

I also say the best for me would be no afterlife, nothing, nada.

I've never thought of the afterlife as a dilemma anyway. Even if there was a Christian God, he's supposed to be perfect, right?
If he does exist & that is true, then I'd only get what I deserved, anyway. Why would anyone expect anything else?

29/4/07 4:52 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

What is the purpose of a god anyway? It sounds like some petulant teenager that wants its arse kissed on an eternal basis or it gets the shits. Think I will pass.

29/4/07 5:52 pm  
Blogger Plonka said...

KA: Which prompts the query: is there diabetes in heaven?

Most certainly not! The spectre of diabetes is the very embodiment of evil, not to mention the arch nemesis of caramel and as such, has been banished! Besides, a caramel Jesus would simply be able to miracle it away. Caramel heaven is surely a place where you can "super size" with impunity...:)

29/4/07 7:55 pm  
Blogger Dikkii said...

Not sure about the chocolate caramel thing, but it isn't as good as a stripper factory and a beer volcano.

Our heaven is better than yours!!

1/5/07 1:28 am  
Blogger 日月神教-任我行 said...


21/5/10 4:35 am  

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