Friday, September 03, 2010

An unsolicited chat about Pascal's Wager.

Out of nowhere just now, I received a message on Gmail:

12:40 PM some guy [screen name withheld]: So you're an atheist?

Naturally I thought, "So who the heck is this guy and why is he pestering me?" Searching through my email , I found a long exchange with a Muslim, which I eventually got sick of. I even posted about it here, here and here.

12:41 PM me: We had a ten email long exchange about this already.
12:42 PM I posted it on the Atheist Experience blog and linked you to it.
12:44 PM Muslim apologist: ah thats right
12:45 PM Why don't you take advantage of Pascal's wager?

Now I had to think real hard about whether to just hit the "block" button, because I don't really want to be hassled at work by some random Muslim apologist. But then I thought about things I might say, and I was inspired. Here is the rest of that exchange.

me: Ah, you mean become a Christian.
12:46 PM apologist: Christian Muslim, Jewish, same god
so ya sure
me: Really? Because a lot of Christians believe that Muslims will go to hell.
So why don't you take advantage of Pascal's wager? Aren't you afraid of Christian hell?
apologist: So do we, I believe alot of muslims are going to hell too
12:47 PM me: So you're not afraid of Christian hell then.
apologist: of course not. Christians believe those that did wrong will go to hell
me: No.
Christians believe those that don't accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior will go to hell.
Do you accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?
12:48 PM apologist: You mean Jesus Christ as in God?
We believe in Jesus Christ
me: Yes, but do you accept that he died for your sins, and have you pledged to let him into your heart specifically?
12:49 PM apologist: We believe he never died...
me: You don't believe that he died for your sins and then rose from the dead?
Bad news, man. According to the Christian religion, you are doomed to hellfire.
12:50 PM It doesn't matter if you're a good person or not. All people who die without accepting salvation go to Christian hell.
Why don't you accept Pascal's wager?
apologist: No we believe Jesus is going to come back to earth
12:51 PM me: Then you are a heretic in the eyes of the Christian god, and you deserve eternal torment.
12:52 PM apologist: Accept christian religion was changed over years so you don't know exactly if thats true or not.
me: I certainly do not know that, but it MIGHT be true.
And even if there is a small chance, then can you afford to take the risk?
I don't understand why you would risk hellfire over the possibility that you are wrong.
12:53 PM apologist: Well no you see, if the Christian religion was not changed and remained in tact from when Jesus first revealed it then it would be exact similiar to the quran
me: That's your belief. It's your business if you want to risk your eternal soul over something when you might be wrong.
12:54 PM Hey, I'm just doing what you asked and taking Pascal's Wager seriously, you know?
Pascal was a Catholic. You're not Catholic. Do you think Pascal thought Muslims would go to heaven?
apologist: Why would I take pascal's theory. Whether I believe in Christianity, Judaism or Islam I am believing that god exists
12:55 PM Christianity and Judaism is just like Islam except for the change documents
only difference is Islam is unchanged
12:57 PM Its just obsurd to think that something came out of nothing
me: Oh I see. So you think there is evidence to support your religion.
So actually Pascal's Wager means nothing to you at all.
If it did, you'd accept Jesus as your savior.
12:58 PM Why did you bring it up then?
apologist: Jesus himself never died he was replaced by someone else on the cross which latter Christians failed to believe
Islam address this in the quran
me: So you don't believe Pascal's wager?
A simple yes or no will do.
apologist: Why would I?
12:59 PM I am in the right religion already
me: then now you know why I don't believe it, and I have answered your question ;)

Then I blocked him.


  1. Well, as long as he's certain he's in the right religion...

  2. And cue Nelson Muntz


    That's great Russell

  3. we're allowed to pester you guys on gtalk? :-p

    just kidding, great bitch slap to his first question at the end.

  4. I especially liked the part where you owned him.

  5. 3 posts and you turned his question right back around on him. Good work! =)

  6. Boy, that was something! I cannot believe that he asked you to take Pascal's Wager...yet in the end said he disregarded it completely!

    I always find funny that many theists often say "we all believe in the same God". They don't, actually even in the same denominations perception of God vary a lot from one believer to another.

  7. What is the exact content of "we all believe in the same God" when said by theists? Isn't it something along the lines of "there is one God, and I have the correct description, and those other people believe in the same God, but don't know what he's REALLY like?"

    I don't understand, by the way, how a genius like Pascal could come up with such a terrible argument. Can you even 'make' yourself believe like that? Is it sincere? Judaism, unless I'm mistaken, teaches that believing in God, and acting on that belief, if it is out of a desire to go to heaven, isn't really good enough.

  8. I remember reading that Richard Dawkins thought he was probably joking; I'll have to look it up, though... :-/

  9. I think the point may be conveyed better if the example is further outside the apologist's experience.

    I like to give a Sysiphus homage when I discus Pascal and ask them if they worry about pushing a rock uphill for eternity because they failed to sacrifice bulls to Zeus. It's also fun to concern them with the prospect of reincarnation as a hookworm for failure to practice one of the Hindu's four paths to enlightenment.

  10. The whole "same god" bit is pure politics. The Christians say it because they don't want to look anti-Semitic, the Muslims say it to get in good with the Christians, and I'm not sure I've actually ever heard a Jew say it, but I suspect it'd be useful for the whole Israel-supporting thing.

    The thing I like to point out when it comes up is how clearly false it is when you talk about mainstream doctrines. For instance, the Jewish God doesn't exist in three persons, never took human form, and never died for original sin, which doesn't exist in Judaism. Those are almost definitional to mainstream Christianity's idea of God, but Christians and Jews stop agreeing after the first sentence of the Nicene Creed.

    And much the same can be said about Islam, and especially about some of the various Christian offshoot sects, like Mormonism. It's only the "same god" if you don't look too closely and stop at "dude who created the universe and stuff."

  11. Man, it's almost like talking to a wall. Except a wall doesn't say stupid things back. ughhh

  12. @ Puzzled

    I have seen some rather intelligent people who either seem to have a blind spot with regards to the sacred cows, or who, like some apologists expend a great deal of mental calories trying to find a logical argument in support of an illogical conclusion...

    As much as I hate to say it, there have been some brilliant apologists who were like stage magicians in their ability to create "evidence" out of nothing. TAG comes to mind. Yes, it is ultimately a God of the Gaps argument, but to think that someone, somehow managed to pull that argument out of his ass...Well, that took creativity, and insight.

    (Of course I say that as a non-philosopher. To true philosophers, there may be nothing impressive about this at all.)

  13. @Puzzled-Pascal was supposed to be a brilliant philosopher, I always thought he was at best a good but doctrinal one. Blame it on his Jansenist influences.

    His wager is not the stupid thing he said/wrote. He also thought that the work of the translator was the easiest work ever, because one only has to change one word for another.

  14. I shake my head at his/her answers... I really do. How can so many believers not realise that if an argument wouldn't convince them, then they shouldn't be using it on other people.

    I suppose when you are convinced you are right, your perception of what it will take for other people to join you becomes softened

  15. :)) I am always amazed at how messed up ("That's messed up!") are many theists' brains... Even if their thinking gets closer to see the fallacies, their faith will stop them like a wall. It's just sad. When I first realized that I too am an atheist based on evidence, it was like a breath of fresh air and a beam of light.

  16. Where did the "something from nothing" comment come from?

    I still hate that inanity more than the rest since it is they who are claiming this not us. It's absurd to think something came from nothing, can't you see that god *poofed* it into existence. In the same breath they say this as if there is no conflict. All the time they say this. Something from nothing indeed.

    But despite my pet peeve about this particular drivel, it seems especially out of left field in this discussion.

  17. @rrpostal:

    It's pretty much par for the course in apologetics. A guy who has gotten himself trapped in a corner on one point he was trying to make will often shift to a completely unrelated point, saying "Okay, well what about THIS?"

    It can take some discipline not to take the bait. The new topic will likely be so full of stupid that you feel like you need to address it; but if you do, the original point is lost.

  18. bullshitting fuckwit, he has most likely not even realised what you did.

  19. I am amazed at how people know they are in the 'right religion'. Most of the time it just happens to be the one they were brought up in or is the dominant one in the culture.

    A small part of the reason I rejected my own religious upbringing was that I asked myself a couple of basic questions.

    1) How many religions are there?

    2 How many versions each of them are there?

    3) How the hell do you choose which is the correct one?

    They all just seem equally silly to me.

  20. Does anybody else get the sense that the theist really didn't care whether Russell became a Muslim, believing Jew or Christian; he was just trying to convince Russell to believe in A god, doesn't really matter which, "just for pity's sake stop being an atheist you're scaring me"?

  21. What IS it about Pascal's Wager that theists find so compelling? It's as if they can only imagine their belief system or no belief system at all as the only two options.

  22. Now that's a premium quality trolling! Pure pleasure for the eyes and mind :D

  23. What IS it about Pascal's Wager that theists find so compelling? It's as if they can only imagine their belief system or no belief system at all as the only two options.

    Not really. Every day, I see theists insisting that atheism is so a belief system. They can't image someone being without faith, in which they inevitably and fallaciously equate common "faith" in reliably repeated observations with faith on a personal level in supernatural entities. I'm sure they know that it's not the same thing, but to a proselytiser, it's just too convenient to use this handy argument anyway. We've all observed that a preacher would rather smuggle a rhetorical trick and ignore the inherent dishonesty, than to just concede and move on to evidential reasoning. To inattentive and shallow thinking listeners, such deception goes unnoticed and appears compelling.

  24. It would have been funny if an atheist converted a muslim to christianity.

  25. Regarding the whole "it's the same god" thing, I was having a go at Kent Hovind's doctoral thesis (read it, it's hilarious, if you can stand the stupid) and came across the following bit:

    "The god of Mohammedism is not the God of the Bible by any stretch of the imagination."

    (phrasing and capitalization is his)
    20 pages into the section "The History of Evolution"

    Not that Hovind is much of an authority on anything, but it's an example of a relatively prominent christian who certainly does not agree that it's the "same god".

  26. Theists will often try to get an atheist to believe in any god. Not specifically "their" god, but some sort of nebulous "creator." I believe that the source of this behavior is that theists of any stripe are just looking for any win against an atheist. I have seen christian theists try very hard to convince people that a god exists who cannot co-exist with the god of the Bible.

    Maybe they think that once they crack our armor they can bring us around to "their" god, but I honestly believe that they are just looking for a win, any win.

    I think the "all one god" argument is just an extension of that mindset.

  27. It clearly IS the same God...Loki, every so often he gets bored and appears to people as another god to start a new religion to damn a few more people, kick off religious wars, etc.

    He got the christians to wear jewelry of the thing that killed Jesus, he got muslims to dress their women like goth ghosts, and he got mormons to wear magic underwear, the hari krishnas to wear bright orange bathrobes and make it hard to tell when a hindu is going to be taken out by a sniper.

    And if you dont believe that then you're going to burn in hell, why don't you accept pascals wager?

  28. I protest What good sniper would actually use a laser scope? Outside of movies no one would use that exactly because it gives away your intention.

  29. DO NOT QUESTION LOKI!!!!!! you're so going to hell...

  30. "I protest What good sniper would actually use a laser scope? Outside of movies no one would use that exactly because it gives away your intention."

    Which, if you shoot quick, only adds to the fun ;)

  31. I wish the theists in my country were as intellectually advanced as to know about pascal's wager, it would make the arguments much more interesting, as demonstrated here.

    ps: i'm from the Dominican Republic, most people here still live circa 600 A.D.

  32. the 'Apologist' does't need to take Pascals wager as he already believes.

    Pascals Wager is all about 'IF'...

    and theres no 'If' for the 'apologist'


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