Retarded arguments against atheism #3

A commenter recently took me to task regarding my take on the first cause argument, saying:

the first cause argument is inductive, it was never intended to convince non believers, it requires belief and provides clarity so long as you take the premises. arguments such as the first cause argument were proposed by school of thought such as Kalam or great thinkers including thomas aquinas, all of which seem to be alot more intelligent than you. i suggest a little more open mindedness is required. after all theres always the brilliant argument of, theres no harm in believing, but if you argue so strongly against a God and then He turns out to exist, then you’re in trouble.

Nevermind the idiocy of an “argument” which is not intended to be convincing, but which yet somehow is supposed to provide “clarity,” check out what’s at the end. Yep, there it is, good old Pascal’s wager, that “brilliant argument”, a nice juicy soccerball all tee’d up for me to kick the living shit out of, although it’s such a dead horse, it’s not really much fun kicking anymore. But, to stretch the metaphor beyond its carrying capacity, since this commenter has seen fit to toss the fossilized bones of this carcass my way as if it were still a live argument, kick it I shall.

Sometimes I think theists must imagine that because “Pascal’s wager” has a person’s name attached to it, then it must considered to be a good argument. Nope, Pascal’s wager is notorious mainly for the idiocy it contains.

Oh, where to aim my first rhetorical kick?

Here’s an example of something I found in youtube comments:

DONT READ THIS. YOU WILL GET KISSED ON THE NEAREST POSSIBLE FRIDAY BY THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE. TOMORROW WILL BE THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE. HOWEVER IF YOU DONT POST THIS COMMENT TO AT LEAST 3 VIDEOS YOU WILL DIE WITHIN 2 DAYS . THIS reaLLY WORKS

Well, “…after all theres always the brilliant argument of, theres no harm in believing, but if you argue so strongly against…” the veracity of this comment then it turns out to be true, “…then you’re in trouble.”

So, do you believe that you’d better post that comment? Aren’t you worried that you might die in 2 days? No? Why am I not surprised. Yet, exactly the same “logic” is at work in Pascal’s wager. Those who accept Pascal’s wager ought to be off on youtube right now, posting their 3 comments, on fear of death. Likewise, Pascal’s wager works for Santa Claus. What’s the harm in believing? The reward is hey, presto, presents! (And I remember getting Christmas presents from Santa, so Santa has one thing going for him religion doesn’t — actual hard evidence — in toy form. (Evidence better explained by other hypotheses of course — I have to write this down in case you, dear reader, are determined to be deliberately obtuse, and suppose that I think Santa exists.)

A threat is not evidence. Not even a credible threat is evidence, never mind an incredible threat. If a very real thug burst into your house brandishing a shotgun and an fMRI machine to read your thoughts, (yes I know, an fMRI can’t really do that, play along for a moment) and pointed the shotgun at your face, and the fMRI machine at your brain, and said, “Start believing that the earth is flat, or I’ll blow your head off!”, you might be afraid, you might tell him that you believed the earth was flat, but, you could not actually believe the earth was flat. The shotgun pointed at your head has no bearing on whether or not the earth is flat. It is merely an unrelated threat, artificially linked to your (lack of) belief in the flatness of the earth by a homicidal maniac.

Now, lets change the scenario a bit. The homicidal maniac doesn’t burst in, instead he makes a website. The website says, “Whoever reads this had better start believing my garden gnome’s finger is a shotgun, or else my garden gnome will hunt down your children and blow their heads off with his finger-shotgun, but he’ll wait until after you’re dead to do it!”

Now, there’s still an “argument” which consists only of a threat, but the threat is not credible, and what the “argument” wants you to believe, (under penalty of this threat) is that the threat is true!

How retarded is that? Pretty fucking retarded.

Pascal’s wager suffers from identical retardedness.

You are threatened with denial of entry to heaven, and in most cases, you are threatened with a ticket reading “ADMIT ONE TO HELL” for the “crime” of failing to believe that these threats are true (along with some other baggage.)

No evidence is given for the existence of any afterlife, nor is any evidence given for quite specific claims made about what such an afterlife would be like, nor is any evidence given for the very specific claims made about what actions one might take to influence how this purported afterlife will turn out. Essentially, you are presented with an “argument” which is really the assertion a threat which is not credible, and one of the things the “argument” is attempting to get you to believe is that the very threat it makes — the sole coercive power of the argument — is true!

What a complete and total piece of shit.

Ignoring that the wager utterly fails on the above grounds,
there are still more problems to be found.

Which god? In which god am I supposed to believe, if I accept the wager? Odin? Thor? Zeus? Allah? Yahweh? Cthulu? the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Quetzlcoatl? The wager is silent on this weighty matter. Choose wisely, for if the wager is valid, and you be so unlucky as to choose incorrectly, “… then you’re in trouble.” Suddenly, the odds don’t look so good. But don’t worry, your mommy and daddy already figured this out, and that’s why you can just accept the same religion they did without any real consideration of the others.

There is not even any suggestion in the wager that there is a correct answer to the question, “which god?”

Who’s to say that the supposed deity responsible for this testing is testing us not for faith, but wants only those who aren’t gullible fools? Who’s to say he hasn’t planted all these conflicting religions to weed out the gullible, and the rewards and punishments of the afterlife are meted out according to how skeptical or gullible (faithful) one was, respectively?

Imagine you are confronted at death with this deity, and it says to you, “You were one of the smart ones, not easily fooled. None of my traps caught you, not Christianity, not Islam, not even Buddhism. Good for you.” or, maybe it says, “Tsk tsk! you fell for Christianity? The talking snake? A deity impregnating a virgin, to be born as a human, having himself killed, supposedly resurrecting himself — all this supposedly more than 2000 years ago, and you believed this on the say-so of a book? What’s wrong with you? Sorry, you are defective. Report to the repair center to get your brain fixed and try again — that’s right, hell’s not real either.) You may scoff, but there is just as much evidence for such a deity as this as the Christian or Islamic deity — which is to say, none. The Christian and Islamic deities are exactly as improbable as this one.

And, lest you think, say, the Christian god would not deceive you so… Oh really?

II Thesssalonians 2:11

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

If this supposed god can lie to one set of people, it can lie to another.

So, were I idiotic enough to think that Pascal’s wager was a good idea, I could take the wager — and wind up as an atheist with respect to all the religions of the world, on account of not wanting to wind up on the bad side of a god who was filtering out the gullible.

So Pascal’s wager, ignoring the fact that the argument just plain doesn’t work, doesn’t actually argue for anything specific. It can be taken as an argument for belief in any god, as well as for an argument for belief in none of
the proposed gods
.

A third problem with the wager is that even if, say, Christianity (or whatever religion the wager is applied to) turns out to be true, and even ignoring that the wager is not the least bit convincing (at best providing only motivation to find convincing evidence elsewhere), if one is motivated by it, isn’t that a rather selfish motivation? For a religion supposedly mainly about being unselfish, isn’t it a bit problematic that the motivation for sticking to this “unselfish” religion is at its core, selfishness? You’re being “good,” sticking to the religion, seeking out reasons to believe, shutting your eyes to arguments which might convince you that you’re wrong — because you want to get to heaven, and avoid hell — doing it for entirely selfish reasons. You don’t think your all-powerful, all-seeing deity will see this? “Oh, he’ll forgive you, the important thing is that you believe, not why you believe.” Excuse me while I roll my eyes. If that’s your deity, it sounds like an idiot.

A fourth problem with the wager is more of a problem with the Abrahamic religions in general than with the wager specifically. Why the threats? Why the attempted coercion? If these religions are really true, then what’s the problem with having some straightforward reasons for believing in them? Why this need for “faith”, of which the best definition I have found is “believing to a degree of certainty which exceeds what is warranted by the evidence.”? Why the coercion? These sound like the ideas used to prop up an idea which can’t stand on its own.

“Oh noes, our religion is implausible!”

“Quick, invent ‘faith’, the notion that believing our religion to a degree of certainty which exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence is a virtue.”

“Oh, good idea.” But let’s make the definition less explicity, and all vague and goofy. The idea is to get people to feel good about themselves for believing, and bad about themselves for disbelieving. We can’t have the bald definition spelled out like that.

RIght, of course. How’s “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,”‘

Perfect.

Ooh, let’s invent a bad place to send unbelievers after they’re dead, full of fire and pain… it’ll scare the crap out of little kids, and they’ll be surefire believers.

Good idea… and we’ll need a good place for the believers to go.

It’s obviously a load of crap. There’s no evidence of any afterlife, and everything we know about the workings of the brain, which is quite a lot these days, seems to indicate that there simply is no afterlife.

Also embedded in the wager is that nothing is lost by believing. So, there’s no sacrifice in being, say a Christian? All this talk of how difficult it is to be a good Christian, etc., is just a pack of lies? You don’t have to go to church, and listen to some idiot prattle on every Sunday? You don’t have to tithe? You don’t have to go around feeling like your an unworthy sinner? You don’t have to be careful what you read, lest you read something which might shake your faith? You do lose something. You have to enslave your mind to faith.

Ok… I guess this horse is dead enough for now.
Edit: May 13, 2008. Here are links to #1 and #2 in this series (#2 contains the comment which lead to this post, #3).
Retarded arguments against atheism #2 (first cause)
and Retarded arguments against atheism #1 (appeal to consequences).

~ by scaryreasoner on May 13, 2008.

12 Responses to “Retarded arguments against atheism #3”

  1. Wait… placing some dead guy’s name next to an argument *doesn’t* give it validity?

    Man, have *I* been going about things the wrong way. Odin will not be pleased… πŸ˜‰

  2. Nice rant. πŸ˜€

    Some more material on the first cause argument. N is for naturalistic worldview, and S is for supernatural worldview. X is a floating variable. πŸ˜‰

    S: God is the First Cause.
    N: Why is God exempt from having a cause?
    S: Because X.
    N: But the atemporal void is also X.
    S: But something can’t just come from nothing.
    N: We just showed that, because of X, the atemporal void is exempt from causality. So why not? Isn’t causality a temporal phenomenon anyway? Who are you to tell me how causality works in an atemporal environment?
    S: But that’s just silly.
    N: And an invisible sky wizard isn’t?

  3. Don’t forget the often overlooked cost of believing…
    Even if the ‘believer’ does not consider the personal costs to be of consequence; many, with blind acceptance of religious dogma, demonize other segments of society on no evidence. Does not religion often demonize homosexuals? … subjugate women? … demonize other belief systems? The cost may not be personal, but hate has a cost to society. Hating others on no evidence is a moral and intellectual failing of the highest order. Hence, Pascal’s Wager fails because there is documented, real costs to society.

  4. **Standing to applaud**

    This might just be the wittiest response to Pascal I’ve come across, thankyou thankyou for the uber-Fab read. πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks for the comments.

    And Mike, I haven’t forgotten. Ebonmuse has a good take on Pascal’s wager over at ebonmusings.org, (maybe not as funny as mine — which I wasn’t really shooting for actually — but probably even more substantive.)

    Lucy Lowe: Glad you enjoyed it. I wasn’t going for witty, but I suppose I must have unwittingly outwitted myself. πŸ˜€ I guess I’ve beem outed as a wit. There are worse fates, I suppose. (One of which might be, by too much punning wordplay on “out” and “wit”, etc. to cancel one’s own so recently bestowed status as a wit.)

  6. Witty, yes, with overtones of John Belushi starting to wave a samurai sword around. It’s a good thing the poor bastard is probably not bright enough to grasp the thrashing he got. God help him.

  7. NO U

  8. Sage wrote: “NO U”

    Uh…, what?

  9. Kinda funny that those who have no faith, wanting a perfect world of peace, saying the those of faith make all the trouble, are in fact the biggest trouble makers of all.

  10. Jack, what the hell are you even talking about? Who said anything about a perfect world, or that those of faith make all the trouble? Did you even read my post?

    Are you attempting to defend Pascal’s wager or not?

    If not, then what the hell are you arguing against? Not something I wrote in this post, to be sure.

    If you are attempting to defend Pascal’s wager, you’re doing a piss poor job of it.

  11. It’s hard to believe, but Christians still seem to think Pascal’s wager is a good argument. It is not.

  12. I so loved this page.
    However apone hearing ‘god’ described as an ‘invisible sky wizard’ I fell off my chair.

    Oh ‘invisible sky wizard’ how I love this page.
    ^_^

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