Sunday, June 26, 2011

Examining Pascal's Wager

Following up on the previous post about Pascal's Wager - should we live and act like there is a god because we have everything to gain, and nothing to lose?

The problem is - which God do we believe in? Which imaginary club built on which misconceptions about the world? According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are over 10,000 distinct religions in the world today, and over 34,000 different Christian denominations alone. I've seen roughly 2700 proposed as the number of distinct deities recorded throughout written history ... but let's be really cautious and say 1000.

What are the chances that one of these 1000 is THE ONE - the only one you should believe in? Alright, 1 in a thousand. Let's say it's Yahweh. Now, which denomination promotes the "correct" way of understanding, worshiping, and achieving eternal redemption through this god? Your chances are 1 in 34,000 of getting it right. So, we're at 1 in 34,000,000 ... and we haven't even discussed the problems with 1) my probability calculation above; 2) my argument above; 3) the idea that "god" is even a reasonable conception; 4) the idea that, if there is a god, he may be looking for folks who consciously eschew worship of god or participation in religion in favor of those living highly ethical, charitable lives that make the human condition better and the world better in both the near and long term; 5) the idea that god is wholly disinterested in any of this, and your efforts will never result in any attention from him under any circumstances.

Without getting into the criticisms of Pascal's Wager (some mentioned at Wikipedia) - it seems a bad bet to take the wager. The odds are against you.

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