Over on Facebook, a Christian, named Shawn, attempted to challenge my atheism. He said: “The way I look at it you have a 50/50 chance of being right. So what happens if you are wrong? I will even ask you this: what happens if you are right?”

The following is my reply . . .


You’re paraphrasing Pascal’s wager, Shawn. According to Wikipedia . . .

Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal that, even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

First of all, the odds are NOT 50/50. After all these millennia, if there’s still no concrete evidence of God (or anything else supernatural), the odds are vanishingly small that any exists.

As for Pascal’s wager, it’s already been debunked a long time ago. Pascal’s wager assumes that one can choose to believe. That is not the case. As Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.“ If there is a God, does anybody really think we can hoodwink him into thinking we believe in him when we don’t? It’s not necessarily delusional to believe in (a cosmic) God but thinking you can fool him is just plain nuts.

Then there’s the matter of subordinating your life to fear. If you act as if you believe in God because you’re afraid of the consequences of not believing, then the core of your identity is wrapped around fear. It is far better to get off your knees, stand upright and seek answers.

And finally, I’ll turn Pascal’s wager around. What if there’s NO God and this is the only life you’ll ever have? Will you surrender your quest for truth and understanding to the authority of a single religion? After all, there’s thousands of them. NOW what kind of odds are we talking about, Shawn?

If I’m wrong and there really is a personal God who will condemn me to eternal torture in hell, then I’ll be proud to have lived my life without paying homage to such a monster. I’ll have all eternity to mock him.

If I’m right and there really is no God, then my purpose in life won’t have been wasted on an imaginary sky daddy. I will have lived without surrendering my quest for truth. And trust me, believing in impossible things (God, heaven, miracles, angels, etc.) IS surrendering your quest.


Originally posted at AtheistExile.com

© Jim Ashby, AtheistExile.com

Views: 175


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Comment by Prog Rock Girl on April 14, 2011 at 8:45am
All these threats of violence reflect badly on people. Just saying.
Comment by Atheist Exile on April 14, 2011 at 7:25am

@John D,

I was so absorbed in my fantasy of kicking you while Glen held you down that I missed your point tying behavior to belief.  Christians (and Muslims) would be a lot less selective in their cherry-picking of the Bible (or Quran) if they REALLY believed.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 14, 2011 at 7:18am

@paul babcock,


Your comparison of Santa and Jesus:

"once one realizes Santa is imaginary, belief in him is simply absolutely impossible"

I was reminded of an atheist blog (forgot which one) I read recently, where the blogger claimed to have seen the error of his ways and had reverted to Christianity.  This guy (if he's for real) apparently believed in Santa again.

I'm highly dubious that he ever was an atheist.

Comment by paul babcock on April 11, 2011 at 4:25pm
That sounds like a reasonable response on your part exile. Rascals wager makes me think of belief in Santa Claus. As if blind faith will increase ones chances of getting presents from him. Whereas actually no amount of belief has ever gotten anyone a present from Santa.

And too belief works such that once one realizes Santa is imaginary, belief in him is simply absolutely impossible.
Comment by Atheist Exile on April 11, 2011 at 9:04am
Thanks Ravenmoon :-)
Comment by Ravenmoon on April 11, 2011 at 8:55am
Thanks for sharing this; very nicely argued!
Comment by Loren Miller on April 11, 2011 at 8:17am

Yo, Atheist Exile!

My comment was more in regards to Pascal's Wager.  Still, I suspect there are people who believe despite their doubts because they've been duped by the prospect of hell and are scared out of their minds by it.

Still delusional, just a different flavor.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 11, 2011 at 7:53am
Hey Loren,

Are you saying believers are only pretending to believe? . . . That believers are actually afraid NOT to believe, so they merely pretend to?
Comment by Atheist Exile on April 11, 2011 at 7:51am
Hey Glen . . . you hold John down and I'll kick him! :-)
Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 10, 2011 at 8:13pm



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