Encore: Saving Pascal

[Originally posted on August 7, 2007.]

Scott Adams is at it again, trying to defend Pascal’s Wager, which he defines as follows:

In a nutshell, Pascal was a dude who argued you should consider Christianity because if it’s true, the downside of not believing is eternal Hell. But if you become a Christian and there’s no God, all you’ve lost is your Sunday mornings. (Here I am simplifying.)

What follows is his response to the standard critiques of Pascal’s gambit, conveniently summarized on Wikipedia.

Chief among the alleged flaws in Pascal’s argument is that you still have to pick the correct religion among many, or else you go to Hell anyway.

Sure. But picking any religion that promises salvation slightly improves your odds over picking an option that doesn’t. You’re still probably doomed, given your bad religion-picking skills, but a one-in-a-million chance of reducing the risk of eternal Hell is a move worth taking, mathmatically speaking.

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Encore: How God really “works”

[This post, originally published on August 28, 2007, has been my single most popular and reposted article, with over 36,600 hits so far.]

A blogger at passionateamerica.com has a bit of Monday Morning “humor” that (perhaps without meaning to) gives us a good hard look at how God really “works”:

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor who was a vowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.” The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.

Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am God. I’m still waiting.” It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform.

The professor was out cold. The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What the hell is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting America ’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an a$$. So, He sent me.”

Funny stuff, eh? I mean, what’s not to love? The assault victim was not only a college professor (i.e. educated and thus automatically evil), he was also a “vowed atheist” (gasp!) and if that weren’t bad enough, he was even a member of the ACLU (swoon!). The author left out “Darwinist,” but that was probably just an oversight. Wouldn’t every passionate American just love to go around punching out liberals, atheists, and educated people? This isn’t just a joke, it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy.

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Posted in Encore, Society. 4 Comments »

Encore: Reality-based faith vs. superstitious faith

[Originally posted on August 21, 2007]

A commenter writes:

Belief in the existence of God or belief that there is no god requires faith.

Yes, and I’ll take it a step further: belief in reality requires a stronger and better faith than belief in superstition. And those who embrace the truth have a stronger and better faith than Christians do, because Christian faith is mere gullibility, whereas genuine faith is based on real-world truth.

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Posted in Comment Rescue, Encore, Realism. 1 Comment »

Encore: Unapologetics 101

[Originally posted as "Unapologetics 101" on July 27, 2007.]

Before we get into a detailed analysis of I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, I wanted to take a minute and look at the most fundamental and important principle for effective refutation of Christian apologetics. Debating apologetics can be a tricky matter: Christians have 2,000 years of experience in rationalizing their beliefs, and generally know better than to allow themselves to be pinned down to anything that would settle the matter fairly and objectively. There is, however, one inescapable fact, with one inevitable consequence, which can be used to force Christians to face reality no matter how much they would like to twist away from it.

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Encore: Is it wrong to say there is no evidence of God?

[Originally published as "Pharyngula: Another round in the Kleiman/Myers skirmish" on July 17, 2007.]

PZ Myers has another go at those who claim that it’s wrong to criticize someone else’s belief in God. In so doing, he voices a frequently-expressed opinion that, in my view, does a bad job of (should I say it?) “framing” the debate.

I am saying precisely that belief in god is wrong because there is no empirical or theoretical support for it; there is a concatenation of myths leavened with post-hoc justifications for them, which is not the same thing.

There’s something unsatisfactory about saying that there is no evidence for God. After all, we learn new things all the time. Just because we say “there is no evidence for God” doesn’t mean that evidence might not exist somewhere. It just means we haven’t seen any (yet).

To me, that argument comes up short. Science is based on truth, and if there’s one thing we know about truth, it’s that truth is self-consistent. More than that, the self-consistency of truth is the way–the only way–we tell the difference between what’s correct and what’s false. To be consistent with the truth is to be true. To be inconsistent with the truth is to be false.

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Posted in Encore, Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 8 Comments »