iron chariots

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Counter-Counter-Apologetics 1: Redeeming Pascal’s Wager

When I first started to get into apologetics, one of the first sites I stumbled upon was Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics site.

This site’s mission statement is “Iron Chariots is intended to provide information on apologetics and counter-apologetics. We’ll be collecting common arguments and providing responses, information and resources to help counter the glut of misinformation and poor arguments which masquerade as “evidence” for religious claims. ”

Note especially the scare quotes they use around evidence. This is a tactic atheists are very prone to using. Anything they disagree with, they put quotes around to make it look less true. Atheists are “right.” See? Fun, isn’t it? Does it do anything of value? No.

Anyway, it was sort of disturbing to see that there are those who are trying any means necessary to get around theism. I left the site a little scared, wondering if Christian Apologetics was all it is said to be. Well it is. After much more studying and forgetting completely about this site, I stumbled back upon it the other day, and decided to see what the anti-theists are saying about apologetics. Not much of value, in my opinion. And because I feel like it, I’m going to start countering their counter apologetics in a series of posts that will happen randomly interspersed with my others. These posts won’t just include arguments from this site, but will also include things like my counter for the “Argument from Atheism” (AKA “One Step Further Argument”).

This article will focus on Pascal’s Wager. Before I proceed, I should note that I absolutely do not think Pascal’s Wager is a good tool for witnessing, nor is it all that great as an argument. But it is, I think valid, and while it should not be used as a reason to believe, it does provide what, in logic, is called a dilemma for the atheists.

Pascal’s Wager is essentially as follows: God exists or He does not exist. If He does exist, there is infinite reward for believing in Him, but infinite loss for not believing in Him. If He does not exist, there is nothing to lose. “Nothing to lose, everything to gain,” is often the summing-up of this dilemma.

Iron Chariots accurately, in my opinion, points out that there isn’t nothing to lose by disbelieving. If there is no God then,

“For one thing, if you go through life believing a lie, that is a bad thing in itself. Besides that, there is more to being a believer than just saying “Okay, I believe now” and getting on with your life. Serious believers spend a lot of their time in church, and contribute a lot of money as well. There’s a reason why some towns have very affluent looking buildings for churches, and why large and elaborate cathedrals are possible: they’re funded by folks who donate a tenth of their income throughout their lives to tithing. This is surely quite a waste if the object of worship isn’t real.”

The article then goes on a rant about property taxes, persecution, etc., things which will not be discussed here because, frankly, I find these arguments ineffably dull, though I may be forced to talk about them in the future.

So yes, I concede that there is a reward for not believing if there is no God. They also accurately show that there can be finite rewards for believing in God even if He doesn’t exist, because of psychological benefits, society, etc. Unfortunately, they plug these positives into a table of good life vs. bad life instead of actually in Pascal’s Wager. So I’ll just do the work for them.

Pascal’s Wager
God Exists |      God Doesn’t Exist
Belief           ∞ +            |     Finite +
Disbelief    |  ∞ –          |      Finite +

Okay so the table isn’t working so well. I think it can be figured out. Anyway, the main argument is that there is after all, a reward for not believing if there is no God. The problem is that even if that reward outweighs the finite reward of believing in a non-existant God, that still must be weighed against the infinite negative of not believing if there is a God. The argument that there is a reward for not believing, so it is logical to not believe breaks down when you weigh the infinite negative of disbelief if God exists verses the finite positive of disbelief if God does not.

There is one final point I’d like to make. That is, that the same site continues to argue that another problem is which god to believe in. I’d like to counter that by saying that isn’t the point of Pascal’s Wager. Belief in a god is better than belief in no god, because the probability for infinite reward still increases (in that it will be 1/however many gods to choose from) verses the probability for infinite negative (which would be certain if there is a God). So Pascal’s Wager still stands. I grant that the probability increase would be very low, so some may then argue that it’s not worth giving up the finite reward of not believing in a god. The response could then be that there is still a granted finite reward in believing in a god if god doesn’t exist, and any increase in probability for infinite gain verses infinite loss would outweigh the any loss of finite reward that could be gained from disbelief. In other words, the increased probability plus the finite reward of believing in a god would outweigh the definite probability of infinite negative if there is a God combined with the finite reward of not believing in a God.

Sorry for the drawn out post, but I wanted to respond thoroughly. There is more I’d like to say, but that’s where I’ll end for now.

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