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Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Clay_10
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Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm

As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by LuckyR » October 6th, 2019, 4:49 pm

Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm
As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.
I disagree. It essentially keeps this simplistic thought experiment, at that level and prevents it from being the logical basis for deciding such a loaded topic.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 6th, 2019, 5:50 pm

LuckyR wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 4:49 pm
Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm
As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.
I disagree. It essentially keeps this simplistic thought experiment, at that level and prevents it from being the logical basis for deciding such a loaded topic.
My mistake, I did a poor job of clarifying exactly what I was saying. Let me rephrase. Obviously for this thought experiment I’m assuming that the divine creator will accept the wager as acceptance into paradise, or at least the dying atheist believes a creator would. Which would then make my final remarks a different question entirely.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by frailRearranger » October 6th, 2019, 5:57 pm

I can't say without a doubt that I am an atheist. Depending on what we mean when we say "God," I could certainly be an atheist, or I could be a theist. That said, I will try to respond to your question.

There seem to be a number of assumptions to unpack:
* If there is a God, then there is an afterlife.
* The afterlife consist of eternal happiness ("Heaven") and eternal misery ("Hell").
* Our believing in God is in some way necessary to our ending in Heaven as opposed to Hell.

After examining science, reason, personal experience, and the Bible, I am not convinced of any of these assumptions, however for the sake of argument, I will accept them all.

What is the cost to "believing in God?"

Is it as easy as uttering the words, "I believe in God?" If so, then being rewarded or punished for such a pointless thing is profoundly meaningless. If I were to go to Heaven merely for uttering some magic passphrase whilst many of my fellow human beings are damned to hell for not doing the same, I would feel that God is a being of profound injustice and evil. I would feel filthy and unworthy. All the happiness of Heaven would only mock me, and with each sweet chord the angels play, each taste of ambrosia upon my lips, each beauteous sight along the gold paved road would whisper to me, "You did nothing to deserve this, nor did your brothers and sisters do anything to deserve the Hell in which they forever burn whilst you recline on these clouds." In short, if getting into Heaven is so arbitrary, then Heaven is Hell, and it is a mockery of God and all His creations.

On the other hand, if it takes work to get into Heaven, then that work is the price we pay. If it is work worth doing, like being a good person and caring for our fellow man, well, shouldn't we do that anyway, regardless of God or an afterlife? However, if the price to enter Heaven involves doing things that we wouldn't otherwise, either requiring us to use up resources that could otherwise be put to another use, or requiring us to commit acts that we would otherwise consider to be evil, then it's not so obvious that we should be a believer. The greater the cost, the more we must ask ourselves, "Are we certain enough of Heaven to justify sacrificing so much of Earth in exchange?" Then, believing in God is not without a cost.

Naturally, we all ought to do our best to be good people, and as part of that pursuit we have to contemplate what it really means to be good. What if we become so preoccupied chasing after Heaven that we fail to be good people? Is that a price worth paying? And, are we really so sure that we know what Heaven is or how to get there? Because, if we don't, we may very well be wasting a lot of energy that could be spent making life better for all God's children.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 6th, 2019, 6:43 pm

Naturally, we all ought to do our best to be good people, and as part of that pursuit we have to contemplate what it really means to be good. What if we become so preoccupied chasing after Heaven that we fail to be good people? Is that a price worth paying? And, are we really so sure that we know what Heaven is or how to get there? Because, if we don't, we may very well be wasting a lot of energy that could be spent making life better for all God's children.
[/quote]

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Much of what you said was insightful and also reiterated what I thought were many flaws of such a wager. I do have a follow up question that I have trouble with at times: Without the assumption of a divine creator as the source of our morality, why is it natural that we ought to do our best to be good people? Why would being a “good” person be a better alternative than acting on any impulses for satisfaction or pleasure such as our fellow animals lower on the eveloutionary scale? Many redefine “good” as to meaning “actions that would better the well-being of mankind” or something similar, but there exist many things that would better mankind that the average man would consider morally reprehensible. Also, who deems the bettering mankind to be “good”? With no one to answer to after our short lives, or a set of objective rules or standards that come from something superior to us in nature, why shouldn’t we do whatever necessary to live the most pleasurable and fulfilling lives without reguard to being a good person? Sorry if it seems like I’m rambling... any thoughts or insight you can offer me on any of that would be appreciated.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by chewybrian » October 7th, 2019, 4:38 am

Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 6:43 pm
Without the assumption of a divine creator as the source of our morality, why is it natural that we ought to do our best to be good people? Why would being a “good” person be a better alternative than acting on any impulses for satisfaction or pleasure such as our fellow animals lower on the eveloutionary scale?
First, with great power comes great responsibility. We have reason that gives us the power to do great damage to the world. We also can understand the damage we are doing, and how to avoid it. And, we have a greater ability to delay gratification than the lower life forms. We are uniquely able to gather resources far in excess of our need, to the point where we put ourselves and other forms of life in peril. We also know how and why we should not be doing so, and how to stop.

Second, we have a need to work together. There is a social contract, both expressed and implied, that says we have certain duties to each other. We have to pay back society for the gifts it bestows on us. There is a free rider problem if people take what they can get from society without giving back. It is natural that we do give back, as you can see most organized societies of animals work together, and individuals often sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

Finally, virtue is its own reward in many ways. If you are not trying to get away with anything, you can sleep the sleep of the just. You don't need to be looking over your shoulder all the time, and struggling to remember what lies you told to keep them straight. Most importantly, you can form true friendships with people worth having as friends. People will learn they can trust and count on you, and your experience in the world will be better as a result. People will be friendlier and more helpful to you when you are nicer and more useful and reliable to them. There will always come a time when you will need to rely on others in some way. If you want them to have your back when the time comes, you need to show them up front that you are deserving of their loyalty and sacrifice.
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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Mark1955 » October 7th, 2019, 9:10 am

Simple question, which god or gods have I got to believe in and which sect of the god[s] in question. If you can answer that one in a convincing manner I might actually believe in your god or gods. I mean, just imagine that every Catholic pope gets to the pearly gates to discover god's a Methodist or even worse a Cather.
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Karpel Tunnel » October 7th, 2019, 10:48 am

Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm
As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.
Pascal's Wager was not for atheists, nor to convince them to believe in God. It was for Christians and intended to suggest they might as well CONTINUE to believe. People don't decide to believe, just in case. That's not how belief works, and I think Pascal, being as smart cookie, would know that. But, regardless, his wager is not aimed at atheists.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Sculptor1 » October 7th, 2019, 12:17 pm

Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm
As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.
So let's say Pascal had something.

Tell me which particular god, and which particular religion of what particular god I should surrender my life to, in the vain hope of some reward of a future state following the end of my, now, wasted, life?

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 7th, 2019, 1:14 pm

Mark1955 wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 9:10 am
Simple question, which god or gods have I got to believe in and which sect of the god[s] in question. If you can answer that one in a convincing manner I might actually believe in your god or gods. I mean, just imagine that every Catholic pope gets to the pearly gates to discover god's a Methodist or even worse a Cather.
I guess the short answer is that I don’t know. I’m somewhat knew at this and am mostly looking for responses to further my understanding of basic philosophy. I personally believe that if a god and an afterlife do exist it would be an understanding being that takes into account environmental and social factors. For example a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, “catholic” god exists, I believe that he would accept those with goodwill into his kingdom, including atheists with good intentions and hood moral standing, or worshippers of other denominations. I also think it stands to reason that Catholics would be held to an even higher standard since they have been exposed to the “truth”. Possibly, an atheist, born into a non religious family, who lives their life justly and treats others well could be welcomed to heaven over an informed catholic who lead a similar lifestyle but chose to indulge in certain taboo pleasures. Obviously this is just speculation and I’m never too proud to say my mind can’t be changed.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 7th, 2019, 1:27 pm

chewybrian wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 4:38 am
Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 6:43 pm
Without the assumption of a divine creator as the source of our morality, why is it natural that we ought to do our best to be good people? Why would being a “good” person be a better alternative than acting on any impulses for satisfaction or pleasure such as our fellow animals lower on the eveloutionary scale?
First, with great power comes great responsibility. We have reason that gives us the power to do great damage to the world. We also can understand the damage we are doing, and how to avoid it. And, we have a greater ability to delay gratification than the lower life forms. We are uniquely able to gather resources far in excess of our need, to the point where we put ourselves and other forms of life in peril. We also know how and why we should not be doing so, and how to stop.

Second, we have a need to work together. There is a social contract, both expressed and implied, that says we have certain duties to each other. We have to pay back society for the gifts it bestows on us. There is a free rider problem if people take what they can get from society without giving back. It is natural that we do give back, as you can see most organized societies of animals work together, and individuals often sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

Finally, virtue is its own reward in many ways. If you are not trying to get away with anything, you can sleep the sleep of the just. You don't need to be looking over your shoulder all the time, and struggling to remember what lies you told to keep them straight. Most importantly, you can form true friendships with people worth having as friends. People will learn they can trust and count on you, and your experience in the world will be better as a result. People will be friendlier and more helpful to you when you are nicer and more useful and reliable to them. There will always come a time when you will need to rely on others in some way. If you want them to have your back when the time comes, you need to show them up front that you are deserving of their loyalty and sacrifice.
I agree with you and am not arguing that in most organized societies beings work together for the greater good. And I agree that we have have a free rider problem and that it is our duty to give back. My question remains: Why is that our duty? Why is it just to work towards a greater good? What do we need to work together? Why are any of these things “good”? Without any standard derived from something or someone higher than ourselves, who deems these things significant? Without confirming to an objective standard of somekind outside of ourselves, it seems that we are just an irrelevant speck lost in the vastness of the cosmos, thus, any actions we make, emotions we feel, or advancements in a society we make have are equally irrelevant.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by Clay_10 » October 7th, 2019, 1:31 pm

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 10:48 am
Clay_10 wrote:
October 6th, 2019, 1:58 pm
As an atheist, with little to no doubts that there is no existence of a divine creator or afterlife, are you certain enough to deny God in your last dying breaths? Obviously it’s not entirely possible to know exactly what your thought process would be, assuming you haven’t faced near death before. However, do you see any merit in Paschal’s Wager? If you have the smallest, most microscopic inkling of a doubt, would it be worth it to accept a God that you don’t believe exists. Assuming you don’t believe in an afterlife, then, if you are right, your final destination will be the same whether you accept God or not. The basic argument remains: You have nothing to lose. Or is your “intellectual integrity” enough in itself to lose that you see no merit and making such a wager? I guess whether or not a divine creator would accept one into “paradise” based on a “just-in-case” dying whim is a different question entirely.
Pascal's Wager was not for atheists, nor to convince them to believe in God. It was for Christians and intended to suggest they might as well CONTINUE to believe. People don't decide to believe, just in case. That's not how belief works, and I think Pascal, being as smart cookie, would know that. But, regardless, his wager is not aimed at atheists.
I agree. That makes more sense that his wager was not aimed at atheists. Like I’ve said in different posts, I’m still learning and seem to learn more and more as I get more insightful responses. Thank you.

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by LuckyR » October 7th, 2019, 5:51 pm

The funny thing is Pascal's Wager (like the Prisoner's Dilemma) has a statistical logic, it just happens not to be useful in the god category, but makes sense in other contexts.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by chewybrian » October 7th, 2019, 7:07 pm

Clay_10 wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 1:27 pm
I agree with you and am not arguing that in most organized societies beings work together for the greater good. And I agree that we have have a free rider problem and that it is our duty to give back. My question remains: Why is that our duty? Why is it just to work towards a greater good? What do we need to work together?
It is our duty because others have struggled and died for progress and we can only pay back what they gave us by passing something on to future generations. It is just because we are balancing the scales, and not being the free rider. We need to work together because we can accomplish more than we ever could alone; it is a 'win-win'.
Clay_10 wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 1:27 pm
Without any standard derived from something or someone higher than ourselves, who deems these things significant?
We do. I do.
Clay_10 wrote:
October 7th, 2019, 1:27 pm
Without confirming to an objective standard of somekind outside of ourselves, it seems that we are just an irrelevant speck lost in the vastness of the cosmos, thus, any actions we make, emotions we feel, or advancements in a society we make have are equally irrelevant.
Maybe we are just a bit of mold on a wet rock floating in space. Or, maybe we are the answer to life, the universe, and everything. We have no way to know yet, and no reason to prefer one answer over the other, save this. There is no percentage for us in betting that we mean nothing. If we do mean nothing, then we lose nothing by trying in vain to accomplish something meaningful. If we do mean something, maybe we lose everything by not trying. Who needs God for Pascal's wager? Bet on yourself. I find virtue to be its own reward, and I am happier trying to be good, so it is in my own best interest to continue to try. I think it is in the best interest of others, too, potentially. But, if all I gain is piece of mind, at least I have that.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: Question for Atheists: Paschals Wager

Post by NickGaspar » October 8th, 2019, 5:47 am

Is theism still an acceptable subject in Philosophy?

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