Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s Wager:
In effect, Pascal’s wager states that while we can’t know with absolute certainty whether the christian god exists, a rational evaluation should lead to a belief. If having to choose between believing (in the christian god), or not believing, the reward for being correct, and the price for being wrong, tips the balance in favor of believing.

It says, if you believe and are correct, you will gain heaven, while the price for being wrong is nothing. On the other hand, if you don’t believe, it says you will gain nothing for being right, yet lose everything if you are wrong. So, belief results in a win/neutral, and non-belief in a neutral/lose position, tipping the balance clearly in favor of the “belief” position.

Why Pascal’s Wager is a fallacy:
a) Pascal’s Wager assumes that there are only two options.
b) Pascal’s Wager assumes the christian god doesn’t care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.
c) Pascal’s Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.
d) Pascal’s Wager vastly overestimates the odds for the reward and the risk of punishment.

Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god. Including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

Also, just going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can’t fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

The price paid for the belief position isn’t nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. Sex life suffers, too.

In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order.

Risk is (simplistically) the chance that a negative event occurs, multiplied by the cost of that event. As an example, being hit by a meteorite carries a very high cost (probably death), but since the odds are extremely low, the risk associated with it is low. Similarly, the chance of getting rained on is pretty high, but the cost is very low, representing also a low risk. On the other hand the cost and chances of, and therefore the risk associated with, a traffic accident are high.

The choice whether to mitigate a risk depends on, among other things, the severity of the risk, the cost of the mitigation and the tolerance of that risk. In the above examples, the cost to mitigate each risk are; exorbitant, low and high, respectively. Methods to reduce or eliminate the risk of meteorite impacts are cost prohibitive and far exceed the risk. An umbrella and a check of the weather forecast effectively mitigate the risk of getting rained on, and is easily worth the cost. Car crashes, and their after-effects are mitigated to various degrees by expensive technology (from street surface technology to driver training, airbags and traction control). People bear those costs to their financial ability and tolerance for the risk.

A similar reasoning applies to reward. The choice whether to pursue a reward is guided by the perception value of the reward, the perception of the odds of gaining the reward and the cost to pursue it.

In the belief versus non-belief question, believers tend to irrationally overestimate both the reward for belief, and the risk associated with non-belief.

Political Pledges are Uncivilized

Because any society is made up of people with a wide variety of views, their elected officials have to work together to ensure that whatever is done to govern that society is done in a way that best represents all citizens. That doesn’t mean that everyone will get their way. It means that, on balance, everyone will be equally represented. Therefor, for a civilized society to function, the ability to compromise by its leaders is an absolute requirement.

By refusing to compromise, politicians either become like the playground bullies, if they are in the majority, or the whining child in the candy aisle, if they are in the minority. Either way is childish. Those unwilling to consider compromise are unfit to govern.

Bachmann, her fellow tea party morons and a lot of other republicans have taken to signing pledges lately. By doing so, they remove a critical part of the democratic process that makes it suitable for governing a civilized society. Once they’ve removed their ability to compromise they will have shown themselves to be unfit for elected office.

Strength in Numbers

Often an argument is made that because 2.3 billion (or some other large number) people believe in something, that belief must have some value. It is argued that it would be very unlikely that all those people could be wrong and therefor they must be right. It appears that for many beliefs, there is strength in numbers.

I find the argument unconvincing.

At one point in time, virtually everyone believed that the sun and stars revolved around the earth. People believed the earth was flat. Virtually everyone within certain geographical areas believed in the same gods. Most of these gods have since been relegated to mythical being status. Demoted because the people that believed in them were converted to some other religion, often by force.

The numbers that the strength of an argument is derived from when it comes to beliefs, appear to be mostly those of the soldiers and weapons at the disposal of the proponents of said belief.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t strength in numbers. Science derives a lot of its strength from what it does with numbers.

Dog

The Top 10 Reasons Your Dog Is Better Than God

10. Your dog will never ever send anyone to hell, though he may be flatulent occasionally.
9. While everyone has their own personal preference as to which dog is best, no one tells you that you will burn in a lake of fire if you love the wrong dog.
8. If you throw a ball and ask your dog to get it, the ball will come back to you. If you throw a ball and ask God to get it in a prayer, the ball stays there forever.
7. You cannot give God a silly haircut and a sweater.
6. Your dog never created diseases, droughts, crop blights, tsunamis, tornadoes, or other major disasters, even if he does go do-do on your carpet occasionally
5. People have never killed each other by the thousands over which dog is the correct dog.
4. There has never been any inquisitions to punish people with torture and death for improper attitudes towards your dog.
3. Your dog does not know anything about mortal sin; there is only “No no bad dog”, which is only a temporary condition.
2. Your dog always loves you no matter what you do. God only loves you if you strictly obey him.
1. Your dog actually exists.

“Borrowed” from the internet:
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/30/atheists-flying-ad-campaign-meets-strong-resistance/comment-page-9/#comment-534427

It’s not a choice

Homosexuality

It’s not a choice. If you think it is, please ask yourself when you chose to be heterosexual. For most people, that’s not a choice they make. I know I didn’t. I new at a very young age that I was attracted to the opposite sex. From friends, I know they never had to choose either. Homosexuality is, in that regard, very similar to race.

Condemning homosexuality for ANY reason is akin to racism.

When you elect to use your religion to justify your condemnation, you are trying to force your religion onto others. You also do that by emphasizing bible verses that suit your preconceived convictions, while ignoring others.

If your religion (or your particular denomination) prohibits homosexual conduct, that only applies to its followers. It really means that You can’t engage in homosexual behavior.

First Amendment

Freedom of religion.

The US Constitution, First Amendment, grants everyone the same right to freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion. To be able to freely choose a religion, we first have to be free from the religions around us. Not choosing a religion is also a valid choice.

Freedom of religion gives everyone the right to live their lives as they see fit, without having anybody else’s religion forced upon them.

Because you have freedom of religion, you are not subject to islamic law, for instance. But that freedom extends to everyone. That means that biblical law doesn’t apply to anyone who doesn’t follow the bible

Jurisdiction

You don’t have to like what anyone else does but you don’t have the right to tell them what they can or can’t do based strictly on your religion.

Your religious freedom gives you the right to not engage in the behavior that your particular flavor of religion considers a “sin”. It does not give you the right to tell anyone else what to do, or not to do. Your religious freedom ends where that of anyone else begins.

Just like Canadian law doesn’t apply in the US, and vice versa, your religious dogma doesn’t apply to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to your religion. It’s simply a matter of jurisdiction. Your bible doesn’t have any jurisdiction outside the christian community.

Peace.