Sunday, February 12, 2012

Is it a "Safer Bet" to Believe in God? -- A Critique of "Pascal's Wager"

I encourage everyone to read and ponder upon Why It's Not a 'Safe Bet' to Believe In God, by Greta Christina, since it's a reflective, well-argued, and even humorous consideration of what has come to be known, at least in theological and philosophical circles, as "Pascal's Wager."

Although the article has a few minor shortcomings, it is excellent in that it touches upon many of the major flaws in Blaise Pascal's (in)famous assertion, and does so in a very common sense and straightforward way.

Needless to say, numerous refutations and critiques of "Pascal's Wager" can be found on-line, many of them more thorough and more tightly argued, but Greta Christina's remains one of my favorites due to its accessible and clear-headed approach, thus keep it in mind if you ever need a not-too-lengthy refutation to share with a pesky religious God-believer.

Those who have been reading about, reflecting upon, and debating such matters for even awhile quickly realize that many religious believers uncritically accept the validity of "Pascal's Wager," thus they're often taken off guard when asked to reflect upon it—and especially taken aback when told that it doesn't make much sense, even from a theistic point-of-view.

As often is the case, the challenge here is getting a religious person to sincerely reflect upon a challenging moral, ethical, and theological question—and "Pascal's Wager" touches upon all of these things—since the reason they have "faith" in some invisible and (allegedly) all-powerful being is not because of a burning desire to struggle with tough questions, but due to a desire for easy answers—answers that are spoon-fed to them by whichever religion they happen to end up in (which in the overwhelming majority of cases, is the religion they happen to be born into). I sincerely hope that this article, or others like it, will give them something to chew on...

Happy Darwin Day

What better day to start blogging again—blog postings in which I'll comment or post links related to science, skepticism, and many other topics—than Darwin Day? Rather nice that today is also Abraham Lincoln's birthday—he and Charles Darwin having been born on the exact same day back in 1809—since he was a skeptic as well.

The other day, while at my local bookshop, I read an excellent article about Lincoln in Exploring History magazine entitled Born Radical, which clearly showed that the future president was a freethinker and skeptic from his very early days. Although seemingly not an outright atheist—or even an agnostic—Abraham Lincoln had reservations about organized religion in general and some Christian doctrines in particular.  Hopefully the article will be available on-line before long...