Jul

22

"I don't know if there is a God or not, but there is no downside to believing in him and there's nothing but downside in rejecting him" — restatement of Pascal's Wager

Although the logic of this statement sounds good, It seems to me that the last part of the statement is one that is based on dogma and fear of consequences. Is it true? Is there really nothing but downside in rejecting God? Why? How so? Hellfire and eternal damnation? In my mind these are human constructs and cannot be taken at face value. I certainly will not attempt to persuade someone to change his beliefs, but I take issue with an argument that attempts to persuade by instilling fear.

Scott Brooks replies:

Religious dogma aside — e.g. jihad and dying in the service of your God like the Crusaders or modern suicide bombers — there is no downside to believing in God.

If that is the case, then how does that statement evoke fear?

If God is kind and benevolent, then there is no downside to believing in him. If he is a malevolent God, then "he is what is what he is" and the statement is a point in fact. If the statement is a point in fact, why blame the statement for the fear it invokes?

Chris Tucker explains:

I will accept that that religion has done much good. I merely meant to say that it doesn't appeal to me personally and so any argument I make will be biased in that direction. But when I hear "There's nothing but downside in rejecting him" I simply disagree. I don't see why that is a true statement, just a statement that says rejecting God is bad and you will most certainly pay for it. It is the subtle threat implicit in the statement that gets my hackles up. It is this fear of eternal consequences I reject.

Corban Bates says:

I understand how the "there's nothing but downside in rejecting him" claim can be made when looking at it from an afterlife perspective. There are many different religions in the world, and only one (if any) will turn out to be right. Applying statistics, the people of each religion have a certain chance that their religion turns out to be the right one and they enjoy their wonderful afterlife. All of the others will turn out to be wrong and spend eternity in some other not-so-great place. So although each religion has only only a small chance of being right, at least they have some chance. If you do not believe in anything, the chances of you having a good afterlife are 0%. So from an afterlife perspective, I see how you could make the claim that there is nothing but downside in rejecting religion. If you do not currently believe in anything, why not just pick a religion and hope for the best? If the one you pick turns out to be wrong, you're going to the same place you were going before you picked. And if absolutely nothing happens to us after we die, this will not change whether you believed in anything or not.

Nigel Davies responds:

I see the problem with this theory being not in Pascal's logic but in his implicit assumptions about the nature of existence.

Laurence Glazier says:

The issue of whether God exists has long proved a welcome distraction, and flight, from the more important project of whether we exist, as unified individuals, as opposed to rivers of fleeting whims, or espousers of popular memes. It is hard to face the existential terror, but believers and non-believers at least have common consent to the inevitability of their physical deaths. For those to whom religion is insufficient, art, though not a comfort, may be a salve and a psychological tool. Where logical thinking ends, psychological thinking begins.


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