Monday, November 24, 2014

What if You're Wrong?

A common Christian argument along the lines of Pascal's Wager is "What if you're wrong?" If an atheist is wrong, then they are damned to hell for eternity. But if a Christian is wrong, no one is the wiser, right? They just die and get buried and no one suffers or knows. Thus, Pascal argued that one ought to wager on faith where they can gain all or lose nothing if right or wrong. But is this true? Let's really ask the question and consider the effects of Christianity if it is wrong. This is not an argument to say Christianity is indeed wrong, but it an exercise of understanding the "what if" scenario.

If Christianity is wrong....

... then uplifting faith as a way of life is harmful since it is not grounded in reality and can lead to faulty conclusions. There would be no spiritual leading toward certain things in life and having faith would be no better than a roll of the dice for guiding life. Further, by uplifting faith in this way, many people are already making even worse decisions such as literally letting Jesus take the wheel or driving without glasses to demonstrate faith that God will heal. It would allow and even encourage people to come to drastically stupid decisions such as these while producing no true benefit if God is not guiding people in this way.

... then morality is determined by humans rather than by a book. The amount of hatred that goes toward homosexuality would be unwarranted and yet many people are being ostracized for what would be no reason other than what would be a false book proclaiming it is bad. If wrong, Christianity would ultimately be fighting for rules given to them by something no more authoritative than Cinderella and it causes harm and distress to people who could otherwise live a life which harms nobody while performing acts that have nothing to do with us.

... then abortion becomes more kind. Without a concept of a soul to go to heaven or hell, then abortion becomes exceedingly kinder than bringing an unwanted person into the world. Most abortions are done by those who either do not want the child, cannot afford to take care of the child, will be set back in life due to the child, or might risk their life. Such children often become the next generation of thieves, killers, and drug addicts. The kind thing, then, is to prevent causing more probabilistic pain and suffering of the person pregnant, the child, and society. With no immortal soul and no commandment indicating that this is morally wrong, then an early-term abortion is no worse than squishing a spider and in many ways might be more moral than killing a spider who may be missed by its children and family and may have enjoyed its life. With abortion, there is no pain, no suffering, and the end result is the same as the first: non-existence. Christianity deems this immoral by Biblical decree and yet forcing the birth would indeed be far more immoral if it is false.

... then people suffer needlessly with painful terminal illnesses who will not be healed by God nor by medicine. Such people could be given death with dignity without holding out for a miraculous cure that will never come simply to demonstrate faith in God.

... then focusing on religious education and seminary would be a waste of time, money, and talent that could otherwise be used to better mankind in ways that are actually effective. Rather than praying, studying, praising, and gathering people to jointly partake of what is false, they could better spend their time researching how to cure diseases, improve technology, develop cleaner forms of travel and production methods, and help people to logically and rationally overcome harmful thinking habits.

... then uplifting supernatural ideas leads to the corruption of rational thought and guides people to consider other more harmful practices that are not based on facts. It gives rise to the idea that there is more than what we can see and measure which causes people to run after alternative concepts of medication which rely on spiritual concepts that do not exists. It causes undue harm and yet would yield no power of its own. Any perceived power would thus be a mere placebo effect and further supports harmful practices.

... then it opens the door for many scams of faith healers who do no healing yet steal life savings, prosperity doctrine teachings that also steal money yet have no effect of God blessing the giver, and even opens the doors to Nigerian scams where someone claims to be a wealthy individual in need of help from faithful people in exchange for sharing their wealth.

... then all the money you have ever donated to a church were wasted, fruitless, and supported the many problems listed above. Such money may have been more useful on children, better causes, food, clothing, education, and uplifting the spirits of others or oneself.

... then many people are born into propagating and uplifting all the above problems rather than fighting against them for a greater and more moral society.

All this being said, if Christianity is right (which, by default means God is a good God), then surely it is the better option to obey and trust God. If he says not to abort children, then we can trust him to make it work out for good. If he says he does not like homosexuality and will thus bless us greatly if we do not partake, then perhaps it is indeed worth the difficulty in overriding such desires for the greater good. If Christianity is right, then the scams may be worth the risk given the true benefits of faith. While it seems God is not blessing us in these ways either because we are not obeying or because he does not exist, it would still be better to fight for obedience than going the humanistic route since God might further punish us for avoiding the above rather than by obeying. Although, that almost seems to contradict the good God concept and I cannot personally see why a good God would not rather us live as if he did not exist to avoid all the above problems.

If indeed God is good, then I certainly argue that modern Christian is false and we should live as if he does not exist to avoid all the pitfalls of the above which are clearly prevalent today. Thus, when wagering against a good God versus any particular faith such as Christianity, then it is best to assume he doesn't exist with any benefit or reward and yet focus on morality and kindness which he will honor and respect even if we did not believe he existed. Otherwise, morality based on reward or fear is less morality and more compulsion which is not goodness itself. Thus, with a good God, we have more to gain from a humanistic atheism than a spiritualistic theism whether we win or lose. If such humanistic atheism is right, then it yields the bounty of uplifting truth and kindness. If it is wrong and a good God does exist, then such a God will love them and reward them bountifully. It is a win/win situation.

We can see, then, that there is a world-view difference of morality based upon the assumptions of Christianity being right or wrong and even of the existence of a good God. Thus, it is vitally important to do the research and to determine what truth is. For if we do not hold the proper worldview between Christianity and atheism, we will unknowingly propagate the worst possible outcomes for society. If God is real and Christianity is right, then by all means we ought to try our hardest to obey and reap the inconceivable benefits and rewards promised to us. But if it is wrong, then we had best ditch what are otherwise harmful behaviors that poison the world.

Pascal's Wager is not as clear as Christians oft make it out to be. We must not wager, but learn. And we must forever question our assumptions and continually verify that we still believe they are true and that we did not miss any data points. It is vital for the health of the world, our children, our community, and even ourselves. Ignorance is hell.

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