Menu Close

Tag: Pascal’s Wager

I May Burn in Hell, But Until That Day Comes. . .

homosexuality hell

I am often contacted by Evangelical zealots who purportedly are concerned over my lack of belief and my indifference towards their threats of judgment and hell. Bruce, aren’t you worried that you might be wrong? Evangelicals ask. And right after they ask this question, they follow it up with an appeal to Pascal’s Wager (the number one apologetical argument used by defenders of Christianity). Evangelicals use Pascal’s Wager to attack the agnostic aspect of atheism. Since no one can be absolutely certain that God doesn’t exist, it is better to be safe than sorry. Of course, GOD in this equation is the Christian God. Evangelicals have deemed all other Gods false, even though they themselves can’t be certain these Gods do not exist. If Evangelicals were honest with themselves, they would do what they ask of atheists: embrace ALL other Gods just in case one of them might be the one true God. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

As an agnostic atheist, I can’t be certain a deity of some sort doesn’t exist. Of course, I can’t be certain that life on planet earth isn’t some sort of alien experiment or game. Perhaps, life on planet earth is more Westworld-like than we think. How can we know otherwise? Assuming that we are not AIs in a multilevel game, how, then, should rational beings deal with the God question? All any of us can do is look at the extant evidence and decide accordingly. I am confident that the Christian God of the Bible is no God at all. I don’t worry one bit over being wrong. Now, there’s .000000001 percent chance that I might be wrong, but do I really want to spend my life chasing after a deity that is infinitesimally unlikely to be real? I think not. Now, if I am asked whether I think a deistic God of some sort exists, that’s a different question. Not one, by the way, that changes how I live my life. The deistic God is the divine creator, a being who set everything into motion and said, there ya go, do with it what you will. This deity wants nothing from us, and is quite indifferent to the plight of the human race. Whether this God exists really doesn’t matter. She is little more than a thought exercise, an attempt to answer the “first cause” question.

Is it possible that I am wrong about the God question, and that after I die I am going to land in Hell? Life is all about probabilities, so yes anything is possible. However, when governing one’s life, our focus should be on what is likely, not on what might be possible. And what is likely is that there is no God, and it is up to us to make the world a better place to live. Evangelicals look to the Eastern Sky, hoping that Jesus soon returns to earth — thus validating their beliefs. This other-worldliness makes Evangelicals indifferent to things such as suffering, war, and global climate change. Jesus is Coming Soon, Evangelicals say. Fuck everything else! As an atheist, I live in the present, doing what I can to make a better tomorrow. I dare not ignore war and global warming because the future of my children and grandchildren is at stake. I want them to have a better tomorrow, knowing that all of us have only one shot at what we call “life.” It is irresponsible to spend time pining for a mythical God to come and rescue you. First century Christians believed Jesus was returning to earth in their lifetime. They all died believing that the second coming of Jesus was nigh. And for two thousand years, the followers of Jesus Christ have continued to believe that their Savior will come in their lifetimes to rescue them from pain, suffering, and death. Listen up, Christians. Jesus is dead, and he ain’t coming back.

I may land in hell someday, but until I do I plan to enjoy life. I plan to love those that matter to me and do what I can make this world a better place to live. I have no time for mythical religions and judgmental deities. I am sure some readers are wondering how I can live this way without knowing for certain that nothing lies beyond the grave. None of us knows everything. Those who say they are certain about this or that or know the absolute “truth” are arrogant fools. What any of us actually “knows” is quite small when compared to the vast expanse of inquiry and knowledge that lies before us. I know more today than I did yesterday, but that only means I learned that McDonald’s has added new menu items and the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t as good as I thought they were. Life is winding down for me, so my focus on family and friends. Well, that and photography and writing. One day, death will come for us, one and all, and what we will find out on that day is that most of what we thought mattered, didn’t. Perhaps, we should ponder this truth while we are among the living, allowing us to then focus on the few things that really matter. For me personally, God and the afterlife doesn’t make the list.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

A Social Media Discussion Between an Evangelical and an Atheist

pascals wager

What follows is a discussion between an atheist friend of mine and an Evangelical. I no longer engage in such discussion on social media, choosing to focus on my blog, but the following discussion reminds me of the discussions I once had with Christian zealots on Facebook and Twitter. In just but a few comments, the Evangelical trots out an interesting version of Pascal’s Wager, threats of judgment and hell, with a zesty seasoning of you are angry and bitter to round out the discussion.

Enjoy!

social media discussion atheist christian (1)

social media discussion atheist christian (4)

ocial media discussion atheist christian (5)

social media discussion atheist christian (3)

social media discussion atheist christian (6)

social media discussion atheist christian (2)

social media discussion atheist christian (7)

social media discussion atheist christian (9)

social media discussion atheist christian (10)

social media discussion atheist christian (8)

 

Sacrilegious Humor: Pascal’s Wager Taken to Its Logical Conclusion by Edward Current

edward-current

This is the forty-seventh installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s comedy bit is by Edward Current. Current brilliantly takes Pascal’s Wager to its logical conclusion.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

According to This Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

I recently received an email from an Evangelical named Preacher Dog. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

1. In stating you are an agnostic, although you think it is highly improbable that there is a God/creator, is it logical to think that the creature can possibly exceed its Creator in terms of intelligence, wisdom or virtue? I mean, if you are actually leaving the door open to the potential that God might exist, then it’s fair to say that the clay cannot be superior to the potter, right? Think about it. When people shake their fists and [sic] God, scream at Him, curse Him, or question Him, etc., what they are really claiming is that they are superior to Him. They are charging God with having less love, or less righteousness, or with caring less, etc. Of course, this is a very silly premise, to say the least. So if you are leaving the door open to the possible existence of God, and God does indeed exist, then you must admit and concede to God’s superiority to yourself on all fronts. Do you see my point? You are a personal being, so can God be any less personal? If you are a loving being, is it reasonable to think God is some cold, heartless, unfeeling entity?

2. Okay, let’s assume God doesn’t exist. If such is the case, then where then does this leave you? Well, it leaves you stuck in the hopeless, senseless, futureless bog of mere naturalism. Yup, stuck in the mud, as the old saying goes. All of life is the product of mere time and chance. Everything is therefore “natural” ( including religion), and there’s no sense putting morality to anything, because authoritative morality doesn’t exist under such a naturalistic worldview. Hey, the only difference between man and all other creatures is conscience and a greater dose of  intelligence, right? But as soon as chickens develop self awareness and start talking, then it will be a heinous, murderous act to sit down to a chicken finger dinner with coleslaw and a thick strawberry shake.

Bill, as I see it, abandoning a belief in God has left you greatly wanting. Throw God out of the equation of life and you will not be able to define your origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Well, you can define it, but not properly, sensibly or logically.

Bill, you are not a glorified frog.

Think about it.

meaning of life

He later emailed me and apologized for calling me Bill. Bill, Bruce, it matters not. Let me attempt to answer his questions.

In admitting that I am agnostic on the God question, I am in no way suggesting that a God of some sort exists. Since I lack absolute knowledge, it is possible that some sort of deity created the universe. In determining whether a God exists, all any of us can do is weigh the available evidence and make a rational decision. Since all of life is based on probabilities, all I can do is look at the evidence and make a decision as to whether some sort of deity exists. Having done so, I have concluded that God does not exist. Let me put it this way. It is possible that if I step outside my back door at a certain time a falling piece of an aircraft engine could hit me in the head and kill me. It’s possible, but not likely. I can, with calm assurance, walk out my back door at a certain time without a glance to the skies to see if something is hurtling my way. So it is with God. I have no thoughts or worries about the existence of Gods because I see no evidence for their existence.

I suspect that Preacher Dog thinks that I am leaving the door open for believing once again in the Christian God. I am even more certain that the Christian God is a fiction conjured up in the minds of humans millennia ago. Since I am able to read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — does not exist. Having spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years as a pastor, I think it is safe for me to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I have discovered a new “truth” about Christianity. The Bible is not an inexhaustible book. It can be read and studied to such a degree that one can fully comprehend its construction, message, purpose, and teachings — along with the various sectarian interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. I have no doubt that the supernatural claims of the Bible are false. While I think there was a man named Jesus who lived and died in first century Palestine, that Jesus bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. At best, Jesus was some sort of Jewish prophet or teacher who lived and died 2,000 years ago. His miracles, resurrection, and ascension should be rejected by rational thinkers and viewed no different from countless other mythical stories passed down through history.

People such as Preacher Dog are often clueless as to their own atheistic beliefs. While most Evangelicals — having been raised in Evangelicalism — reject all other religions but their own without studying them, some Evangelicals do study other religions before concluding that the Christian deity is the one true God. While I do have my doubts about whether someone can study world religions and still think that only one religion is right, I have had Evangelicals tell me that they had done their homework, so I am taking them at their word. Regardless of the path to Evangelicalism, once people embrace Christianity they are, in effect, saying that all other deities are false Gods. This makes them atheistic towards all Gods but their own.

Much of what Preacher Dog says in his first point doesn’t make sense to me. I think he is saying it is ludicrous for humans to say that they are morally superior to their Creator (assuming that their Creator is the Christian God). What reveals to us the existence of the Christian God? Not nature or conscience. Nature can, depending on how one views the universe, testify to the existence of some sort of deity or creating energy. However, there is zero evidence in the natural world that proves that this deity is the Christian God. The same could be said for human conscience. At best, all we can say is that some sort of God exists. I have written numerous times on the lack of a bridge that connects the God of nature to the God of Christianity. The only way that people come to believe in the Christian God is through the teachings of the Bible. Perhaps nature reveals A GOD of some sort, but the Bible reveals THE GOD.

Since the Bible reveals to us the Christian God, we can then determine the nature and morality of this God. Those who read the Bible without filtering it through the various Evangelicals interpretive filters, will conclude that the God of the Bible is an immoral monster. He is a misogynistic, violent, capricious psychopath who uses suffering, pain, loss, and death to teach frail humans so-called life lessons. While this God gets somewhat of a moral makeover in the New Testament, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the nice New Testament Jesus-God has reverted to the moral monster of the Old Testament. Look at all the things God does to people during the Great Tribulation. Such violent behavior makes the Christian God a perfect candidate an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds. There is nothing in the behavior of the Christian God that I find appealing —  or moral. Where is this God of mercy, kindness, and love Evangelicals fondly talk about?  When I compare the behaviors of Evangelicals with those of their God, I find that Christians (and atheists) are morally superior to that the God of the Bible. And the world should be glad that this is the case. Imagine what would happen if Evangelicals started acting like their God. Why, there would be blood bridle deep in the streets (Revelation 14).

In his second point, Preacher Dog regurgitates a well-worn Evangelical trope — that without God life would be senseless and meaningless. This is notion is easily refuted by pointing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of world citizens are not Christians. And if the only True Christians® are Evangelicals, then 90% of people are living sinful, meaningless lives. Preacher Dog cannot intellectually or psychologically comprehend the idea of the existence of morality apart from the teachings of the Bible. If all Christians everywhere had the same moral beliefs, then Preacher Dog might be on to something. However, even among Evangelicals — people of THE Book — moral beliefs widely vary. Christians can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?)

Evangelicals believe that the only things keeping them from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, is God and the so-called objective Bible morality. For the uninitiated, this argument makes sense. However, for those of us well schooled in all thing Evangelical, we know that Evangelicals incessantly fight about what the Bible does or doesn’t say. Just stop by an Evangelical preacher’s forum and watch them go after each other about what is the “law” of God. God may have written his laws down on stone tablets, but modern Evangelicals, just as their Pharisaical forefathers, have developed lengthy codes of morality and conduct. It is laughable to think that there is some sort of universal Christian morality. Christians can’t even agree on whether there are TEN commandments in the Decalogue. Some New Covenant Christians think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding A careful examination of the internecine wars Christians fight over what the Bible says reveals that Evangelical beliefs are the works of men, not God. There is no such thing as objective or absolute morality. Morality has always changed with the times (or with new Biblical interpretations). Behaviors once considered moral are now considered immoral. As humans adapt and change, morality evolves. There was a time when it was moral for men to have child brides. Most countries now have laws prohibiting such marriages. We wisely recognize that it is not a good idea to allow grown men to marry 12-year-old girls.

It should be obvious to everyone that morality flows not from the Bible but from the minds of humans. We the people decide what is moral and lawful. Our objective should be to build a moral framework on the foundation of “do no harm to others.” Of course, this maxim is not absolute. When a nation-state attempts to assert its will over another, war often breaks outs. Settling things often requires violence. People are injured or die as these nations settle their differences. This is regrettable, but it serves as a reminder that the maxim of “do no harm to others” can never be absolute. Let me explain matters another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-months-pregnant wife. A car hits them head on, severely injuring the wife. Her injuries are so severe that doctors tell the father that he must choose between the life of his wife or the fetus. No matter who he chooses to save, the other will die. The father can choose to “do no harm” to one of them, but not both.

Preacher Dog thinks that atheists are incapable of defining their “origin, meaning, purpose and destiny.” Again, another worn out, shallow understanding of how atheists and other non-believers understand the world. While Preacher Dog will appeal to the Bible as “proof” of his origin, the fact is he is making a faith claim. Atheists do the same. We do not know what took place before the Big Bang. How life began is beyond our understanding — for now. Unlike those whose minds are chained to the pages of an ancient religious text, atheists put their “faith” (confidence, trust) in the scientific method. It is the best vehicle, so far, for explaining the universe. We may never have all the answers, but we will continue to seek out as much knowledge as we can. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, leads to lazy thinking. Genesis 1-3 is given as proof of how the world came into existence. Science easily shows such claims are false, yet Evangelicals are content to say, God or the Bible says ___________ (fill in blank with statement of fact not in evidence).

atheist life has meaning

As far as meaning or purpose is concerned, Evangelicals such as Preacher Dog have been duped into thinking that the Evangelical God alone gives their lives meaning and purpose. Again, billions of people live meaningful, purposeful lives without believing in the Christian God, so what does that say about this Preacher Dog’s assertion? I know P Dog can’t wrap his mind around what I am going to say next, but it is true nonetheless. I am a contented, happy person. In fact, atheism and humanism have, in every way, improved my outlook on life. No longer facing the moral demands of a deity is a big relief. Not having to devote my waking hours to slavish  worship of God allows me to have time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren are more than enough to give my life meaning and purpose. I challenge the Preacher Dogs of the world to examine my life and conclude otherwise. I suspect most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and non-Christians would say the same. Life is what you make it.

What lies behind Preacher Dog’s statement is the need for some sort of divine payoff. Evangelicals are told that suffering and loss are the price they pay for admission into God’s gated community. Life is, in effect, offloaded to the afterlife — an afterlife, by the way, that no Evangelical knows for sure exists. Yes, the Bible says that there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and on obituary pages, such a belief is little more than fanciful thinking.  One thing is certain, dead people stay dead. To use a bit of reverse Pascal’s Wagers…are Evangelicals really willing to risk (and forego) the pleasures and joys of this life in the hope that there is life beyond the grave? What a waste if this life is all there is. Think of what you could have been done with all the money donated to the church or the hours spent in church services. And please, don’t tell me that living life according to the Bible is a better way to live. It is not, and if it wasn’t for the promise of eternal bliss and happiness, most Christians would abandon their houses of worship for the prospect of sleeping in on Sunday, followed by a relaxing afternoon spent with family, friends, and NFL football.

I choose to embrace THIS life as it is. Yes, life brings pain, suffering, and loss. In June I will be 59, just a hop, skip, and a fall to 60. I know a good bit about life, and here’s a nugget of wisdom I would like pass on to Preacher Dog and his fellow zealots:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been. (from the ABOUT page)

If I died today, I would die knowing that I had lived a good life — one filled with meaning, purpose, joy, and happiness. Preacher Dog’s religion has nothing to offer me. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, I have shaken off the bondage of Egypt. Why would I ever want to leave the Promised Land for the squalor of Egypt? As the old gospel song goes, I have come too far to look back now. I may not know what lies ahead, but I do know what’s in my rear view mirror and I have no desire to turn around. Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was 15 my parents divorced and my Dad packed everything up and moved us to Arizona. I wept many a tear as we drove farther away from all that I had ever known. Somewhere in the Plains states, we drove on a straight road that seem to go on forever. As I looked off into the distance, I could see how the road went on for tens of miles. And then there was a slight grade and the road disappeared. This is how view my life. There’s a lot of history behind me. Plenty of good and bad experiences lie in the rubble of my past. However, in front of me all I see is a long road. Where will this road take me? What lies beyond the horizon? There are experiences to be had, joys to be experienced, and questions to be answered. It is these things that still, even at my age, excite me. Possibilities, to be sure, but I will never know unless I put the car in drive and move forward.

[signoff]

Air Force Chaplain Jerry Fogltance Reveals How Much He Doesn’t Know About Atheism

closed minded christianity

Air Force Chaplain Jerry Fogltance Reveals How Much He Doesn’t Know About Atheism

In a recent guest editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette, retired Air Force chaplain Jerry Fogltance regaled readers with how much he doesn’t know about atheism. In fact, I found Fogltance’s screed to be a compendium of virtually every lame Evangelical argument against atheism. Fogltance is a 1968 graduate of Talbot School of Theology, an Evangelical institution associated with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). His editorial reveals that he has spent little time reading any of the leading atheist authors of our day. Had Fogltance done so, he would not have written this:

Pascal’s Wager

Atheists take pride in claiming that what they believe is based on scientific evidence while religious dogma is based on myth. But the atheist’s position that “I don’t believe in God because science has not proven that God exists” is not a default position. The position that “I believe in God because science has not proven that God does not exist” is just as valid. The question then becomes: Which position carries the greatest risk if in the end proves wrong? Obviously, the atheist takes the greatest risk for the very God he has denied may hold him accountable.

Atheists are Immoral

Larimore Nicholl declares that he does not need God to deal with life’s challenges, i.e., “we never wait for divine intervention to solve our problems.” This statement reflects the atheist’s claim that belief in God is a crutch for the weak and ignorant. But atheism is also embraced as a crutch by those unable to live up to their own moral standards and afraid of being accountable to God.

Furthermore, rejecting belief in God because one cannot explain who created God begs the question. Christians believe God is transcendent; that is, he exists outside the system of the universe, beyond the reach of microscopes and telescopes. That’s not to say that real knowledge about God cannot be known. The complex forms of the universe reveal that he is personal (an intelligent designer) and the immense size of the universe that he is all powerful. But because God is infinite and we are finite, we may never know some of the deepest mysteries of his nature.

There are also things in the universe that cannot be explained apart from the existence and creative power of God. None can explain by natural evolution where the personal qualities of humans came from – like love, creativity, the ability to communicate thought verbally, musical expression, moral motions (sic) and free will. When Nicholl says that “humans were made by the natural forces of genetics,” he infuses the personal into natural forces where it does not exist. He was correct to refer to genetics as natural forces; he was wrong to say that those natural forces can make life as though they possess the ability to think and design.

Atheists Live Meaningless Lives

The worst consequence of Nicholl’s atheism is that it leaves humans without meaning. Exactly how does one actualize all potentialities when human life in the end turns entirely into dust? Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari, also an atheist, has written a book titled: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” The title of Chapter 1 reads “An Animal of No Significance.” Harari insists that “human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan . Any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion.” Such is the ultimate outcome of the atheist philosophy of life.

Atheists Killed Millions of People in the 20th Century

Professor Nicholl is quick to blame religious people for killing others while ignoring the fact that atheists like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot are responsible for history’s greatest atrocities. These committed atheists get credit for killing millions of innocent people. The atheist idea that death ends it all implies that they will never be brought to justice for their evil, an idea that is morally reprehensible.

Atheists Suppress Their Knowledge of God and His Moral Law

Nicholl says that the ethics and morals of atheists arise from the practical necessity that no society can be run without laws against murder, assault, etc. This is a weak basis for ethics and morals as the law of the jungle has resulted in some tribes eating their neighbors to survive. And modern complex societies have been known to create crematoriums and killing fields to annihilate entire ethic groups. A better basis of ethics is to acknowledge that universal moral laws, some of which Nicholl references, have been written on the heart of every human being by the creator. When, however, humans deny God’s existence, their accountability to him, and suppress the inner witness of his laws, evil then has no constraints.

Atheists are Deluded

My philosophy of life and death is stated in the Bible this way: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I have come to know and be reconciled to the God behind my existence through faith in Christ. Every day I experience the grace, forgiveness and love of God. I experience purpose in life by helping those without meaning realize it by also trusting in Christ. Furthermore, there is gain in death. There is the gain of heaven, which means that what I do in this short earthly life has eternal implications and reward. Meaning for the Christian is no delusion.

Jerry Fogltance

Fogltance’s scurrilous claims have been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked over the years. Those of us who are atheists tire of hearing the same lame arguments over, and over, and over again. I am to the point in life where I tell Evangelicals to talk to the hand when they make these kind of claims. Blinded by their religious beliefs and narrow worldview, Evangelicals refuse to accept as valid any viewpoint but their own. Their Fundamentalist intransigence closes their minds to any belief that doesn’t fit in the Evangelical box. Until Evangelicals are willing to truly understand atheism (and agnosticism, paganism, and humanism), philosophical, moral, ethical, social, cultural, and scientific arguments supporting atheism will fall on deaf ears.

 

Bruce Gerencser