"If I am right, I go to heaven, if you are right, you die anyway."

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by garbonzo, Apr 6, 2012.

  1. keith1 Guest

    I am agreeable to continue this conversation, with time given to research a good contextual version of the wager (verbatim), placing it following here in this thread, or in a fresh thresh OP. My guess is that it will be as equally vulnerable to having it's "ass handed to it", as the current "out-of-context" discussion has been an appetizer to it's demise.

    And yes, Rav should return to clear up their cryptic statement. Good catch wynn.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2012
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  3. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Was it pointless for trees to sprout, grow and eventually whither away simply because they did in fact eventually whither away? Was it pointless for stars to go supernova in cases where the aftermath didn't result in a planet that was capable of supporting some sort of intelligent life? Is a black hole pointless? What about a rock on Venus? A comet in an elongated elliptical orbit around some distant star?

    As far as I am concerned, the fabric of the entire universe is sacred in a way, as are all of it's many (and perhaps even infinite number of) manifestations, because it's substance is the substance of life itself. We're quite literally made out of it. In fact in some ways, it's like a mother.

    I realize that not everyone views it with the same sort of wonder and reverence that I do, but it's really not such a stretch. It's here, it gives birth to conscious life, and we are currently a part of that. And ultimately, I think it's terribly self-important of us to suggest that it all becomes meaningless the moment we're no longer around in our current form, especially when it looks like it's going to be capable of supporting life for at least another 100 trillion years, and will have hundreds of billions of stars in hundreds of billions of galaxies in which to do it, and that's assuming that it's not spatially infinite, which it very well could be. But even more than that, it seems pretty obvious (to me, at least, primarily for what I consider to be sound philosophical reasons) that the fundamental fabric of reality is actually eternal, and it's manifestations possibly cyclical in some way. If true, it would essentially mean that there is infinite possibility (in accordance with the nature of 'nature' itself, that is). In other words, any quality that can manifest, will manifest, and a lot more than just once. In fact in the fullness of eternity (if that makes sense), everything that can be, is, has been, and will be again. It's a wholly complete and unending expression. Some pantheists call it God. I call it the universe. Existence itself.

    Of course, I don't know for a fact that all of that is a true account of the ways things are, but it's what makes the most sense to me when I let my thoughts roam free as part of my own ongoing 'spiritual' journey. And yes, I do consider myself deeply spiritual, albeit not in the traditionally theistic sort of way.

    So there you go. It's only a summary, and a lot of it is somewhat tentative, but it's me.
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  5. keith1 Guest

    Nice embellishments Rav. It's babies and grandmom approved stuff.

    Simple self-run processes, over millenniums, take on the appearance of " intelligences fighting for survival", because it happens to be an appearance that works in repetition, over millenniums . It's a "path of least resistance/lazy-man's almanac". Give me a life-form that lasts millenniums, and the brain I have now, and I will produce you a deity of comparable aspects to fit some bill required. But, as of today, it is not the case, and I must keep up other appearances...for grandma and the babies sake...(it is here the processes create the lightest schizophrenia--but we know what is truth, and what is the illusion required for sanity--and we are the most intelligent of jugglers..).

    If I should succumb to your pretty balloons, please retain the courtesy to awaken me occasionally to the idea of the "simple sobering random eternal processes"...
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  7. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    What to speak of having a control group, given that you don't have a single data point to go out on a limb for statistics, its quite obvious its all about faith ( regardless which way you insist on driving home a conclusion)
  8. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    which brings us back to the point wagers begin where the question of evidence/current data exhausts itself.

    The current data is so flimsy that it can't even properly establish the nature of what sustains life in the apparent shell of material composition, much less answer questions about what lies beyond corporeal existence.

    At the very best you are simply offering one option in a wager that clearly offers two choices ("Deities do not exist just like myths do not exist so therefore the afterlife doesn't exist" is just as valid as "Deities do exist, just as this life exists so therefore the afterlife does exist")
  9. keith1 Guest

    What of the perfectly sound processes of how proteins, near warm under-ocean vents, can (over a long time--remember the millenniums aspect?), become celled lifeforms. This concept is not flimsy.

    What happened to, "Deities do not exist, yet an afterlife has a higher rate of conceivability, than either a deity or a state of non-existence"?
  10. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    I tend to agree with Austin Cline on the matter. It’s also an appeal to force fallacy.




    But what if you are wrong? Nothing bad will happen upon your death, but the belief in an afterlife will have an impact on how you live this life. You know…the life that we all know to be true. Atheists celebrate life while you’re in church celebrating death. Enjoy!

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  11. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Then one wonders why feelings of isolation are common among atheists, while feelings of belonging and community are prevalent among church goers. You're right, it does have an impact on life.
  12. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Oh ya, you're right. Silly me. What was I thinking?

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    Those are good reasons to sacrifice critically thinking and who gives a shit about problem solving.

    Toss in some idiot compassion and I'm in.

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  13. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    That's a false dilemma, as religion doesn't necessitate a lack of critical thinking. But it sounded as if you were comparing the subjective, self-reported quality of life.
  14. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Really? So you don't think that religion inhibits critical thinking at all?

    Not so much the quality but the importance of life itself. If you believe in an afterlife, eternity is going to be more significant.
  15. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Religion doesn't necessarily inhibit critical thinking. Those with a strong aptitude for critical thinking are not likely to find religion, even if ascribed to, a limiting factor. It is a given that the less critical will tend to follow any of a number of cultural/traditional social constructs. Gender roles, beliefs, etc..

    Wouldn't you have to agree that those results of better problem solving that would add significance to life are more likely to have a greater impact beyond the very short lifetime of said individual?
  16. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The immediate context of the Wager here is some people's interest in it.

    * * *

    This is the text itself, from Pascal's "Thoughts":

    233. Infinite--nothing.--Our soul is cast into a body, where it finds
    number, dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this nature
    necessity, and can believe nothing else.

    Unity joined to infinity adds nothing to it, no more than one foot to
    an infinite measure. The finite is annihilated in the presence of the
    infinite, and becomes a pure nothing. So our spirit before God, so our
    justice before divine justice. There is not so great a disproportion
    between our justice and that of God as between unity and infinity.

    The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the
    outcast is less vast and ought less to offend our feelings than mercy
    towards the elect.

    We know that there is an infinite, and are ignorant of its nature. As
    we know it to be false that numbers are finite, it is therefore true
    that there is an infinity in number. But we do not know what it is. It
    is false that it is even, it is false that it is odd; for the addition
    of a unit can make no change in its nature. Yet it is a number, and
    every number is odd or even (this is certainly true of every finite
    number). So we may well know that there is a God without knowing what
    He is. Is there not one substantial truth, seeing there are so many
    things which are not the truth itself?

    We know then the existence and nature of the finite, because we also
    are finite and have extension. We know the existence of the infinite
    and are ignorant of its nature, because it has extension like us, but
    not limits like us. But we know neither the existence nor the nature of
    God, because He has neither extension nor limits.

    But by faith we know His existence; in glory we shall know His nature.
    Now, I have already shown that we may well know the existence of a
    thing, without knowing its nature.

    Let us now speak according to natural lights.

    If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having
    neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then
    incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. This being so, who
    will dare to undertake the decision of the question? Not we, who have
    no affinity to Him.

    Who then will blame Christians for not being able to give a reason for
    their belief, since they profess a religion for which they cannot give
    a reason? They declare, in expounding it to the world, that it is a
    foolishness, stultitiam; [28] and then you complain that they do not
    prove it! If they proved it, they would not keep their word; it is in
    lacking proofs that they are not lacking in sense. "Yes, but although
    this excuses those who offer it as such and takes away from them the
    blame of putting it forward without reason, it does not excuse those
    who receive it." Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or
    He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide
    nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is
    being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or
    tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can
    do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can
    defend neither of the propositions.

    Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you
    know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this
    choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who
    chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The
    true course is not to wager at all."

    Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which
    will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see
    which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and
    the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your
    knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun,
    error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather
    than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point
    settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in
    wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain,
    you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without
    hesitation that He is. "That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may
    perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of
    gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one,
    you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would
    have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you
    would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your
    life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and
    gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being
    so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be
    for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you
    would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one
    life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances
    there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy
    life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life
    to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss,
    and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; where-ever the
    infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against
    that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all. And
    thus, when one is forced to play, he must renounce reason to preserve
    his life, rather than risk it for infinite gain, as likely to happen as
    the loss of nothingness.

    For it is no use to say it is uncertain if we will gain, and it is
    certain that we risk, and that the infinite distance between the
    certainly of what is staked and the uncertainty of what will be gained,
    equals the finite good which is certainly staked against the uncertain
    infinite. It is not so, as every player stakes a certainty to gain an
    uncertainty, and yet he stakes a finite certainty to gain a finite
    uncertainty, without transgressing against reason. There is not an
    infinite distance between the certainty staked and the uncertainty of
    the gain; that is untrue. In truth, there is an infinity between the
    certainty of gain and the certainty of loss. But the uncertainty of the
    gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the
    proportion of the chances of gain and loss. Hence it comes that, if
    there are as many risks on one side as on the other, the course is to
    play even; and then the certainty of the stake is equal to the
    uncertainty of the gain, so far is it from fact that there is an
    infinite distance between them. And so our proposition is of infinite
    force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are
    equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain. This is
    demonstrable; and if men are capable of any truths, this is one.

    "I confess it, I admit it. But, still, is there no means of seeing the
    faces of the cards?" Yes, Scripture and the rest, etc. "Yes, but I have
    my hands tied and my mouth closed; I am forced to wager, and am not
    free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe. What,
    then, would you have me do?"

    True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings
    you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour, then, to convince
    yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of
    your passions. You would like to attain faith and do not know the way;
    you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it.
    Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all
    their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would
    follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow
    the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the
    holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you
    believe, and deaden your acuteness. "But this is what I am afraid of."
    And why? What have you to lose?

    But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen
    the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

    The end of this discourse.--Now, what harm will befall you in taking
    this side? You will be faithful, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere
    friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous
    pleasures, glory and luxury; but will you not have others? I will tell
    you that you will thereby gain in this life, and that, at each step you
    take on this road, you will see so great certainty of gain, so much
    nothingness in what you risk, that you will at last recognise that you
    have wagered for something certain and infinite, for which you have
    given nothing.

    "Ah! This discourse transports me, charms me," etc.

    If this discourse pleases you and seems impressive, know that it is
    made by a man who has knelt, both before and after it, in prayer to
    that Being, infinite and without parts, before whom he lays all he has,
    for you also to lay before Him all you have for your own good and for
    His glory, that so strength may be given to lowliness.

    234. If we must not act save on a certainty, we ought not to act on
    religion, for it is not certain. But how many things we do on an
    uncertainty, sea voyages, battles! I say then we must do nothing at
    all, for nothing is certain, and that there is more certainty in
    religion than there is as to whether we may see to-morrow; for it is
    not certain that we may see to-morrow, and it is certainly possible
    that we may not, see it. We cannot say as much about religion. It is
    not certain that it is; but who will venture to say that it is
    certainly possible that it is not? Now when we work for to-morrow, and
    so on an uncertainty, we act reasonably; for we ought to work for an
    uncertainty according to the doctrine of chance which was demonstrated

    Saint Augustine has seen that we work for an uncertainty, on sea, in
    battle, etc. But he has not seen the doctrine of chance which proves
    that we should do so. Montaigne has seen that we are shocked at a fool,
    and that habit is all-powerful; but he has not seen the reason of this

    All these persons have seen the effects, but they have not seen the
    causes. They are, in comparison with those who have discovered the
    causes, as those who have only eyes are in comparison with those who
    have intellect. For the effects are perceptible by sense, and the
    causes are visible only to the intellect. And although these effects
    are seen by the mind, this mind is, in comparison with the mind which
    sees the causes, as the bodily senses are in comparison with the


    Note that the book is a collection of enumerated fragments, some of which are connected, some are not.

    Although the Pensées appears to consist of ideas and jottings, some of which are incomplete, it is believed that Pascal had, prior to his death in 1662, already planned out the order of the book and had begun the task of cutting and pasting his draft notes into a coherent form. His task incomplete, subsequent editors have disagreed on the order, if any, in which his writings should be read.[1] Those responsible for his effects, failing to recognize the basic structure of the work, handed them over to be edited, and they were published in 1669.[2] The first English translation was made in 1688 by John Walker.[3] It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that scholars began to understand Pascal's intention[citation needed]. In the 1990s, decisive philological achievements were made, and the edition by Philippe Sellier of the book contains his "thoughts" in more or less the order he left them.

    Several attempts have been made to arrange the notes systematically; notable editions include those of Léon Brunschvicg, Jacques Chevalier, Louis Lafuma, and (most recently) Philippe Sellier. (See, also, the monumental edition of his Oeuvres complètes (1964–1991), which is known as the Tercentenary Edition and was realized by Jean Mesnard;[4] this edition reviews the dating, history, and critical bibliography of each of Pascal's texts.) Although Brunschvicg tried to classify the posthumous fragments according to themes, recent research has prompted Sellier to choose entirely different classifications, as Pascal often examined the same event or example through many different lenses.[5]


    * * *

    Who do you think Pascal was talking to?
    If you feel addressed by what he says, can you explain why you feel addressed?
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I was talking about people and how they usually go about living life -

    and how the experience of "living life as it is usually lived" is rendered meaningless [for people, obviously, in their private experience] by aging, illness and death.

    Reflections on the greatness and worth of the Universe and existence are all fine and well, but we don't live nor experience our day-to-day lives on that level of awareness.
    Our awareness can be and is more specific than that.

    We are negatively affected by aging, illness and death, and we experience it, and we can know it, we can reflect on it.
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I think it is possible to restate the troubling decision into terms that are decidable and actionable, whereby decidable on the basis of a non-controversial moral principle and actionable within a particular person's means.

    This is related to William James' idea of what a genuine option is, and to basic Buddhist principles of decision-making and acting.

    For different people, different options are genuine.

    For someone, the option in Pascal's Wager is a genuine option, and for someone else, it is not. For Pascal, it was; it is also for some other people; but for someone else, it is not.

    The mistake many people make is that they do not reflect on what their own genuine options are, and instead they simply go with whatever options are presented to them by some other people. No wonder they get upset then.

    I think that to not reflect on what one's own genuine options are, is an act of bad faith, a reflection of the implicit conviction that God, if God exists, is evil, or that ultimately, life doesn't make sense and it's all for naught.

    A basic practice in Buddhism is to reflect on one's intentions before performing and action, while performing and action, and after performing an action.
    When one is about to perform and action, one ought to reflect "Is it going to lead to harm to myself or others? If I see harm for myself or others coming from that action, I shall refrain from it. If not, I should do it."
    A similar reflection for while one is performing an action, and afterwards - if one has seen that harm for oneself and others has come from an action, one should refrain from it in the future.

    If one is attentive, one can restate all decisions and actions into such terms, so there is no need for giant leaps of faith and wagers.
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    The question is why do atheists interpret it that way.
  21. Rav Valued Senior Member

    And again, I don't think anything is meaningless, especially not my own life, even though it will end. So I guess we'll just have to continue to disagree on this point.
  22. Balerion Banned Banned

    I think it's sad that some people require a deity for their lives to have meaning. It shows a terminal absence of self-esteem, creativity, and imagination.
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    There has never been a philosopher who could endure a toothache.

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