What If You’re Wrong?

This is me. Really.

At some point everyone should deeply examine their beliefs.  I say ‘should’ because not everyone does or even thinks to do this.  I believe there is a tendency for a good many people to form beliefs hastily, reacting emotionally to issues and letting their feelings govern what they believe is true.  In essence, some people determine truth based on what they feel is true as opposed to what they have reasoned to be true.  The funny thing about truth is that it doesn’t care how you feel about it, or whether you are comforted by it.  I responded to a blog which asked the following:

What if you are wrong? How important is it to you to be part of the “right” religion? What consequences do you foresee if you have chosen incorrectly? How much doubt would you say that you have about your religious beliefs?

 I’d like to flesh out a bit the answers I gave in the comment section because I think these are valuable questions for everyone to answer for themselves, regardless of their worldview.

1. How important is it to me to be a part of the “right” religion?

If God exists, then it is of the utmost importance that I am a part of the proper understanding of who that god is.  According to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example, the difference between being inside or outside the truth about God bears eternal consequences.  Since each of the world’s religions teach something different about God and make exclusive claims about who or what God is, they cannot all be true.

For me, I would rather be correct and disgruntled, than wrong and naively happy.  So, if for example, Hinduism were true and I were to become convinced Christianity were wrong; as much as I have invested in Christianity, (relationships built at the church I attend; whatever intellectual or emotional ties I have developed after years of study; etc.) I could abandon my Christian convictions if I discovered the truth were found within a different religious system, and adopt a new set of beliefs with relatively little remorse.

2. How much doubt would I say I have that the religious beliefs I hold are true?

This is a difficult question for me to answer.  Currently I do not have a significant amount of doubt.  But it is always in the back of my head that I could be mistaken.  There are some unanswered questions I have, but nothing which cause me to recoil into skepticism.  The foundations of my convictions are solid enough to support any periphery concerns.

I am not the type of person who needs every issue to bear epistemic certainty in order to feel justified in my beliefs.  I think the people who hold to a hyper-skeptical view of religious claims is doing so intentionally.  It affords them the luxury of never having to commit to a position.  They can always fall back on ignorance to avoid submitting to an idea they have spent a good amount of time and energy eschewing.

3. What if I’m wrong?

This question I answer the same way skeptics answer Theists who ask it.  ‘I guess I’m wrong then’.  The draw-back to religious debate is, even though either side believes they have enough certainty to make their decision, they could be wrong.  But neither will find out incontrovertibly until death, and by then there’s no one to tell who doesn’t already know!

But let me address this question as: What’s the alternative if I discover I am wrong about Christianity?  Over the course of my journey investigating the claims made by different religious systems, I do not see any other religious view even being possibly true, save perhaps Judaism.  If the Judeo-Christian contentions about God and soteriology are false, then I see the only other worldview which could be true is atheism. 

Unfortunately, I find the necessary conditions that philosophical naturalism entails to be philosophically impossible and therefore, false.  To name just three: 

  • A universe with no beginning or, a universe which had a beginning but brought itself into existence by physical process.
  • A purely physical universe, governed by purely mechanistic means.
  • The genesis of modern man explained by common descent.

So the place I am at intellectually is, either the Judeo-Christian worldview, which has the potential to be mistaken; or atheistic naturalism, which I believe is impossible as a viable worldview.  It is fair to say that I am and have always been open to alternate explanations.  But, just because an alternate explanation exists, it does not undermine the veracity of my (or anyone’s) view, we must have good reasons to accept the alternate view.

4. What consequences do I foresee if my view is incorrect?

Following through on my answer to question 3., I think I would be justified in invoking Pascal’s Wager.  On my view, as far as plausible religious systems, the Judeo-Christian view is the only viable option.  So if I am wrong, I have no consequence in the ultimate sense.  In the end I return to the Earth to await decomposition along with every other living organism.  If the only other possibility is an atheistic naturalism, then I have no consequence for anything.  I have no soul.  I have no evil for which I will be tried and convicted, all my undiscovered moral short-comings will never be accounted for.  At best I can leave this Earth with unpaid bills, both moral and financial.  I’ll be a winner whether I am correct or incorrect.

Really, these are questions everyone should ask and answer for themselves.  You may discover something about yourself in the process.  I think it is a sad state of affairs when someone holds a belief for the sole reason that it makes them feel good, or it’s the current fad. People should know why they believe what they do, and be open to changing their beliefs when confronted with new evidence.  It frustrates me  when someone holds an opinion that is simply attractive, and not based on anything more than its appeal and popularity.

Comments

  1. bridgetmckinney says:

    Great post! I’m still working on catching up with my own writing, but I’m actually a little bummed that you have totally stolen my usual screed. :P

    Of course, in mine, you’d have to replace
    “Christianity” with “atheism/humanism.” I can honestly say that this is the first time I have seen a believer echo my own position so exactly. I’ve personally kind of always hated the “what if you’re wrong?” question, but I think it’s worth examining in exactly this way.

    I think that it’s a tougher question for many believers than it ought to be because the “right” answer (if there is one) is that you don’t think you’re wrong so you don’t really worry about it. It seems like most believers are not to that point with their belief, though, so instead the question only highlights other unaddressed concerns and doubts they may have about their religion, so people get defensive.

  2. I loved this post. It’s important to always examine what we believe and why, to push past our comfort zones in the pursuit of truth and at times, discard old beliefs and dogma when we find them no longer applicable or true. We might receive critisim, even a loss of friendships from those that can’t accept some of our conclusions, but it’s always important in life to remember to be true to ourselves, and to God and our pursuit of His truth.

  3. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, this is a good post in deed. I think most people who hold any religious beliefs have either chosen them by emotional process or even greater part of people have actually not chosen anything, but they are born into given “reality” with no options. That is one of the reasons I find this whole “choose to believe in the right god” busines so unfair. That most people do not even have the chance to make that desicion. I also find it awfully smuck, from those who have chosen “right” to think the others deserve a fate like the karma or Hell.

    In the future I would be interrested to read more about your beliefs and especially the three points you make at “3. What if I’m wrong”. Your logic totally evades me, so it would be interresting to know, how you came to those conclusions (that sound like utter nonsense to me), but you have propably given them very much thought, since reasoning is your main message here.

    On the final issue of what kind of legacy you will be leaving in case atheistic world view is true, it seems to me, you have lost your moral sensibility. Individualist thinking may lead to a position where you might actually think: “At best I can leave this Earth with unpaid bills, both moral and financial. I’ll be a winner whether I am correct or incorrect.” But a person with good intent and working “moral compas” could not see that as a victory, simply because he/she does not await eternal punishment or prize after death. A responsible adult does “the right thing” regardless of the risk of being caught, punished, or rewarded in this life, or the other.

  4. John,
    I appreciate that you have taken the time to write a positive belief post. As I suspected before I even read the post, your answers are well thought out on the whole and worthy of consideration.
    I expect nothing less from you.

    I’m a little perplexed about how you can discount non-JudeoChristian faith systems from Pascal’s Wager, though I discount them myself. I discount them for much the same reason I discount Christianity.
    My other issue is that belief grounded in PW seems to fall quite short of the expectations of ANY God as revealed in foundational texts. I just think it is a weak argument; it is an appeal to skepticism on an issue that, from that side of the fence at least, demands a great deal more than “hedging bets”.

    My greatest concern with your post though, is both your problem with a naturalistic worldview and your assumption of the simplicity of it’s consequences.

    The only plausible objection from your three is the first, which I think has many philosophically satisfactory answers. The other two offer no problem for atheism at all.

    As to the simplicity of the consequences of an atheist world, one cannot I think discount that there is more to life than merely post-mortem consequences. Yet these seem to be the only things of consequence in your post. Why?

    • Regarding my exclusion of non-Judeo-Christian religious systems from Pascal’s Wager, I am not invoking PW prior to judging between Christianity and atheism. It is only after I have eliminated all other religious systems as contenders for the truth. So in this respect, if Christianity is true (since no others can be) then I am good, if it is false then I have no worries because the only other possibility is atheism, in which case I have no ultimate consequence (judgement in the afterlife).

      Keep in mind also this is not an argument for why I think my particular religious belief is true, the question was: what do I think the consequences are for me if my Christian belief is false. And it is in this capacity which I invoked PW.

      Since you grant the possibility of the first (which actually is sufficient to reject atheism, There needs to only be one aspect of a worldview which is impossible in order to reject it. But I know this is for sake of argument, so no discussion is needed on that!), the second (pure physicalism) I believe is false based on the necessity of strict physical determinism, and we know there are non-physical phenomena. You are aware of the implications of pure physical determinism so it’s not necessary to go into that, unless you want to.

      And third, I suppose I could have generalized the whole system. Isolating ‘modern man’ wasn’t necessary for me since I could have easily said that I don’t think a naturalistic evolution by common descent is capable of explaining the biological diversity we see. But given modern man’s uniqueness over all other animals being what I was thinking about when I wrote this, that’s what I listed.

      I focused on ultimate consequences. Since on atheism, the only consequences are greatly temporal. I am restrained only by other people, really. I can rape and pillage all I want and need only fear being locked up. That’s really nothing given the alternative of eternal consequences if Christian theism is true. So in the grand scheme of things I have 3 score + 10 to do as I please restrained only by my own conscience and the threat of punitive punishment my fellow man can impose…if I get caught. Who knows, I might be a very different person morally without my Christian convictions. And I always have suicide if I can’t handle prison.

  5. Since I am convinced that there is little chance we would find any common ground on your three problems, I will let them be in this post. If literal mountains of evidence and scholarly research won’t convince you of the sufficiency of common descent, let alone the verity, then we will not solve it in a blog thread.

    I always seem aghast each time I read Christians comment on moral issues. That they feel that if they had no belief in God that they would rape, steal, murder, molest, and torture with impunity really seems to highlight their very subjective view of morality. I’m also amazed at the abject poverty of self-respect and self-criticism that goes on in the Christian mind. How could anyone shy of a psychopath feel satisfied by the kind of attitudes you perversely fantasize about in that comment? Thank goodness for your imagination though, because if not for your ability to imagine a God to stop you, we surely have peered into what you would like to become if you were permitted.

    I know that is a harsh commentary, but given your words, it seems a perfectly logical assessment.

  6. Interesting post John. Though you don’t actually mention it until late in your post, Pascal’s Wager obviously looms large as your essential framework. I’ve always been fascinated and troubled by Pascal’s Wager — and you could say I rejected it because of its loaded circularity. Intended to be “rational,” it loads the “consequences” side of the balancing scale with all of the pre-rational dire consequences of one apocalyptic religious narrative. In other words, it proffers a rational “cost-benefit” analysis — and then piles on the “costs” with eternal damnations, the only evidence for which is the very narrative under “rational” consideration.

    Let’s say you had a divine encounter, and established the religion of Barronism, a polytheistic faith intended to represent the ultimate and natural evolution of all faiths, with respectful nods to multiple contending deities. And let’s say Barronism included scriptural descriptions of the afterlife. As it happens, according to Barronist scripture, failure to adhere to Barronism results in eternal damnation, and also the visitation of misfortune and suffering upon your family in the present life. Using Pascal’s Wager, it makes abundant sense to embrace Barronism — even more abundant sense than embracing Christianity because the Christian apocalyptic narrative only describes eternal damnation, not visitation of suffering upon family members in the real world.

    I use the example purely as a logical tool to examine Pascal’s Wager, not with intent to delve into collateral matters of narrative, historical or canonical authenticity, etc. I do, however, deliberately posit a “polytheistic” Barronism because you seem arbitrarily dismissive of even conceivable truth in polytheistic religions. I know that would be a separate post or series of posts, but I am curious about that categorical dismissal.

    And finally, regarding your claim that “people who hold to a hyper-skeptical view of religious claims” are “doing so intentionally,” because it “affords them the luxury of never having to commit to a position” — not true for me (even if I am properly described as holding a “hyper-skeptical” view). It is an anguish for me that no single religious narrative compels my belief and adherence. I would profoundly wish it otherwise — but, if I might respectfully paraphrase you, “I would rather be true to myself and disgruntled than untrue to myself and naively happy.”

    • Kendrick, I’ll respond more indepth later. But did you read my comment to George? I don’t invoke PW as a starting point, only after I have already come to a conclusion that its either Christianity and atheism. And evsn then I’m only invoking to answer the question: what are the consequences if I’m wrong, not as a justification for my convictions. I don’t appeal to PW for my views.

  7. John, yes, I read your comment to George, but perhaps didn’t adequately consider its implications. I still think (though I welcome your illumination otherwise) that by questioning the core logical sufficiency of Pascal’s Wager, I questioned it as well for the “what if I’m wrong?” inquiry — unless the “what if I’m wrong?” inquiry is itself circular, and turns on narrative assumptions that pre-ordain the answer to the inquiry without any need of actual rational inquiry.

  8. If I understand what you’re asking, then if the consequences of atheism as as most Christian theists claim, i.e. no moral accountability in the ultimate sense, then I guess I would agree, there is little use in asking “what if you’re wrong?”

    I don’t really like using PW as a defense or justification for my convictions. But in the case of the “what if I’m wrong?”, in this instance where essentially I have ruled out all other religious systems, I don’t see any other answer. It seemed that PW was the natural conclusion and necessarily followed given I have only 2 options, Christianity or atheism.

  9. John,
    What I think you are missing in the last section where you appeal to PW is that you have already started with the assumption that your decision to narrow the scope to atheism Vs. Christianity was right. What if you are wrong about that? My conviction is that unless you have a deductive proof that no other religion or possibility could ever be true, then PW is just a hat tip to its inherent ignorance.

    So answer this rephrased question: What if you are wrong to discount other possibilities before you invoke Pascal’s Wager?

    I also really wanted to take you to task for implying that atheists “only” need to concern themselves with temporal consequences. As if temporal consequences are insignificant. If you take this tack, would it not be fair to say that atheists are on the whole MORE moral than theists, since we choose to do the right thing with equal frequency based solely on “mere” temporal consequence? Does that not imply that our innate moral nature is by degrees superior to someone who, for example, chooses not to steal because they might get caught, as opposed to because it is wrong?

  10. George, let me ask a few clarifying questions so I can better answer what you are asking. But first, you might not mean this the way I am taking it, so let me just say I dont start with the assumption that it’s Christianity vs. atheism. It is after investigating many of the world’s religious system’s claims.

    Now, when you ask this: What if you are wrong to discount other possibilities before you invoke Pascal’s Wager

    Do you mean what if I discover I am wrong post-to death and the ultimate confirmation of my mistaken beliefs, and am confronted with the true deity rather than the one I think is true now? Or do you mean what if I discover I am wrong here and now and I am faced with confronting my current beliefs and holding them in spite of my new discovery, or abandoning them?

    Do you mind if I hold off on your last paragraph for now? I think it might be kind of long, and I think I’ll just post on it, I have an idea of where I would go with it, but would rather give it more attention that a comment. Is that OK?

  11. If you reasoned deductively that all other competing religions were unable to comport with reality, and the premises that you used to reach that conclusion were factually valid, then I think you have every right to do what you did.
    My concern is that your rejection of the other worldviews is either inductive, in that it is based on probably being false, or that the facts you use to deductively reason are false or fallacious.
    If this is the case, invoking Pascal’s Wager becomes as futile as skeptics have claimed for years in that it creates a false dichotomy between Christian belief and unbelief.

    I guess my answer to your questions is best answered in another question. What makes either of those two situations mutually exclusive? You should really be prepared to answer both. One is a rephrasing of PW, the other a tacit question of it’s validity.

    I hope the answer to the second question you pose is that you would be brave enough to hold a view that was less comfortable but more true. You have said as much earlier in this post.

    I expected that my other question would result in a long form answer, I look forward to that discussion.

    • I’m not sure if I’ve ever laid out where I’ve come from, religiously speaking. I have not always been a Christian. It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I came to Christianity. The home I grew up in was completely secular. My father and step mother, with whom I grew up, are atheists and the subject of God never came up. It wasn’t until I started investigating religion that I found out that my parents were atheists.

      I would say I arrived at Christianity through deduction. I had collected books and whatever I could find on apologetics for as many religious systems as I could get my hands on. Judiasm, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Wicca, other natural earth based religions, new age, lds, atheism (not saying its a religion), etc. I didn’t get to Christian apologetics until near the end. I didn’t have any inclination towardd Christianity prior bewcause I was perfecfly happy where I was. I didn’t feel empty, or like anything was missing, I just lived.

      So I could say at least from my perspective, I was argued into Christianity. Christianity was a worldview I was forced intellectually to accept. And from what you know about how certain morals are prescribed from Christianity, lust=adultery, hate=murder, views on divorce and abortion, all that was changed and I had to “force” myself into changing how I thought about morality. So in that sense I have alreadhad to force my self to affirm a view that I was not already familiar or comfortable with based on my conclusion it was true. I can do it again if I need to. Like I said, id rather be correct and uncomfortable than naively wrong and comfortable.

    • Also, I agree that PW is a useless endeavour if multiple religious systems are possible. I only invoked it because I had reasoned that it is either Christianity or atheism. I don’t think PW implies it, and I think Christians who invoke it generally do so wrongly for precisely the reason you described.

  12. Dan Trabue says:

    John, I’m curious: How did you reason it was either Christianity or atheism? How did you rule out other faith traditions?

    Also, did you rule out certain forms of Christianity, too? Is Catholicism in or out? Anabaptists? Church of Christ? Methodist, Presbyterians…?

    Just curious what makes one faith tradition “reasoned out…” and how exclusively that was done.

    I think that’s what other folk are asking, too.

    Thanks.

    • Yes, there are some who claim the name ‘christian’ who are outside the boundaries of biblically acceptable variance. I’m not sure I’m going to go that far into how or the details of my process of elimination here, that’s quite a lengthy enterprise and well outside the context of a comment section of this post, even though it is an appropriate question.

  13. I’m a firm believer that you can deductively reason yourself into a position and still be wrong. Deduction can be logically valid and still wrong if even one premise is false or incomplete.

    I’m not saying that you must be wrong, but to this point some of your dismissals seem flippant. Yes, I understand that you shoulder no burden to flesh out EVERY reason for dismissing EVERY worldview in a single post. I just believe that your position begs as many (or more) questions than it answers. I feel privileged in one sense that my worldview makes your shortlist, but a little suspect of the fact that you so flippantly dismiss the one alternative to Christianity you concede, yet seem to be certain of your reasoning regarding the other contenders.

    I actually agree in some respect with your assessment of some form of Christianity being plausible, and I can’t and won’t comment on any other faiths that I am not well informed about. Though surely with enough information I could find some sense in which they, too, might be plausible as partial truths.
    My conception of a “plausible Christianity” will differ immensely from yours though, since I know you to hold a very orthodox view on Christianity. My conception would surely fall under your label of “christian” as opposed to Christian.

  14. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, If you were born in China, and would never have met any missionaries. Would it be right that you would spend an eternity, an ETERNITY, of torment and suffering in Hell? Just for being chinese? Could you understand why someone might think it is right for you to suffer?

    Pascal’s Wager may be used to defend almost any religion. It is false, when it claims one has nothing to lose by following the commandments of a religion. A person might lose his/her identity, the respect of people he/she cared for and most importantly a person might stand to lose ethical and moral sensibility. These are major losses, if gods do not exist. But the PW is for the mindset of the gambler. The gambler believes he/she will win even though all the odds are against.

    Even if the PW was true, it is a very narrow and individual vision of morality. It completely leaves out the fact that living according to the commandments of religions may lead you to do immoral acts. Most religions are interpreted through the religious experts (priest, missionaries, pastors, shamans, pharisees, what have you). Sometimes these experts are demagogues, that twist the minds of masses to do horrible acts all in line whith some interpretation of any religion. This is possible, because the supreme authority of a god/gods rules out ethical conclusions and denies the right to question. Yet that is exactly what the PW teaches us to do. To follow the mob and a set of ancient rules and not to question the morality of those rules, or acts as such.

    If I were to turn into the “right” religious sect, and could enter a heaven after death, what kind of a person would I be, to be happy for myself there, if I knew all the people I loved spend an eternity suffering in Hell, just because they did not share my particular superstition? I would rather be there to share their suffering, to support them through that eternal and unfair hardship?

    • “John Barron Jr, If you were born in China, and would never have met any missionaries. Would it be right that you would spend an eternity, an ETERNITY, of torment and suffering in Hell? Just for being chinese? Could you understand why someone might think it is right for you to suffer?”

      I know you read “Just where do you think you’re going“, but perhaps you should read it again. I have answered this already.

      “Pascal’s Wager may be used to defend almost any religion. It is false, when it claims one has nothing to lose by following the commandments of a religion. A person might lose his/her identity, the respect of people he/she cared for and most importantly a person might stand to lose ethical and moral sensibility. These are major losses, if gods do not exist. But the PW is for the mindset of the gambler. The gambler believes he/she will win even though all the odds are against.”

      Sure, it could be used of any religion. But as skeptics rightly point out, there could also be a downfall, namely, you picked the incorrect religion. This is what I’ll say again, I do not invoke PW as a starting point in order to defend my beliefs. I used it as an answer to a question of predicted consequences if I was wrong in my choice of religious beliefs. I felt it acceptable in this context only after concluding there are only two possible options, Christianity, or atheism. I would agree the losses you cite are true losses even is atheism is true. But in the broader scope, in the grand scheme of things, they really are meaningless in a vast cold impersonal universe in which we are present 3 score and 10. PW is a no lose gamble when we consider ultimate ramifications and not just the here and now.

  15. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, I understand your point, of only invoking the Pascals Wager after determining the other religions out, though maybe in some later post it might be interresting to hear how you have come to that conclusion.

    Yet, I think the PW is false in any case. You only have definitive information about this life. There is only hearsay to market the benefits of any afterlife. So, everything you loose here and now is gone for certain, everything you might loose in the afterlife is just gamble. Do you not see the difference?

    The eternal “ramifications” you refer to are very personal in deed. You said your parents are atheists, so you believe they are going to Hell, right?
    Do you actually feel they deserve this? Can you relly be happy in Heaven, presuming there is such a place and you are on the invitation list, if you know your very own parents are suffering in the meantime for an eternity? Does that really strike you as right and just from a set of rules by an allmighty deity? I am sorry, this is a personal question, but you mentioned your parents first…

    A real estate agent might invoke the PW. It does not matter wether he did so on all the buildings he was selling. He could do so on just one property. He could claim it is so cheap, you stand to loose virtually nothing in comparison to the value of the property he is trying to sell you. He might claim it only costs a 1000 dollars, but it is worth 1000 000 dollars in reality. Now, without seeing the house, if you buy it, you stand to loose the 1000 dollars even if it is not worth 1 dollar. Well, the offer in itself might sound too good to be true, but if you do not buy the house without ever seeing it, you stand to “loose” worth of 999 000 dollars you do not even own yet. In comparrison to the 1000 dollars that is very, very much. But if you only have the 1000 dollars and no knowledge when or where you might get more money, you really can not afford to take the risk. Can you? Unless, of course, you have a gambling problem.

    • It is exactly the point that we don’t know about the afterlife that PW is acceptable. If the only choices are atheism, which offer no eternal consequence, and Christianity which offers a negative eternal consequence if one is not a believer, then according to the wager, one ought to be a believer in order to guarantee no negative consequence. For if atheism is true, then it doesn’t matter if you were a believer or not, the end is the same, nothing.

      If my parents die as unbelievers, then yes, they will spend an eternity in hell. It’s not anything I have any control over. According to the Bible, everyone has broken God’s law and is deserving of punishment. I have thought about whether believers will know of loved ones in hell, and whether one could be happy knowing this. I think there would be a certain enlightenment (for lack of a better term) which would mitigate these feelings. For example, there are people who have loved ones who commit murder and spend their life in prison. There is a sense of knowing that they must be in prison for the rest of their life because it is a just punishment for their crimes. In the same way I don’t think it is unreasonable that I would be able to know my parents are in hell, but mitigate any saddness knowing their punishment is just.

      Your analogy is not comparitive. there is nothing forcing me to chose one house over the other. I could be homeless, a third option. If I already have a home, that is a fourth option. If however I was forced to make the purchase, as you suggest, then it doesn’t matter whether I make the purchase or not. I’ll either gain the value, or lose value on my 1K. I dont really have a choice in the matter, where in chosing to believe or reject Christianity I can do either knowing the claims of each.

      Additionally, as the buyer of the home, I have no information other than a “Let’s Make A Deal!” type proposal. I don’t have to make that kind of uninformed decision about Christianity. Christianity is open to investigation in a way the homes are not. Also, if I do no buy it and it is worth 1M, I don’t actually lose 990K by not making the purchase. You cannot lose something you never had. I would just not be gaining 990K, but it’s not a loss.

  16. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, do you actually think your parents have done such a horrible crime (or many) that they really deserve an eternal punishment, torture and pain? But if Hitler recanted and asked for forgiveness from god just prior to his death, he would not be punishable by the same measure? As we can not be sure what he did during the last minutes of his miserable life.

    Have you ever discussed this whith your parents? How do you think this makes them feel? Are they proud of their son, being an idealist and true to his cause? Or do they feel they have failed whith you? That you have such little compassion towards non-believers and even your own kin, that you are ready to accept this fable as true and just?

    What is this “certain enlightment” that removes your future compassionate feelings for your parents in the afterlife? Is there a reference somewhere in the Bible to this, or how did you come up whith this? Is it like an opiat that makes you forget your loved ones are suffering in Hell? That does not sound sane. Or is Heaven for the selfrighteous, who only care for themselves?

    You actually got the point of my analogy. That you have not lost the 999 000 dollars, if you did not buy the house. That is however what the Pascal’s Wager claims. But if you buy the property you might stand to loose all the money you have.

    All the sects of christianity (and all the other religions as well) give no more verifiable information about the afterlife, than a real estate agent showing pictures of a pretty house. Pictures and stories are no actual knowledge of the condition, or even the existance of the house (and you know, there are even pictures, where the house looks rather like a ruin). But if you have doubts the real estate agent will comfort you, by saying all you need is faith that the house is just fine.

    Even if the real estate agent has weather forecasts that tell you desperately need a house for certain since a nother ice age is coming, so your trailer is not sufficient enough a home, you would need to verify that information from a neutral source. It is suspicious (to say the least) that it is the real estate agent giving you the forecast. The agent is, after all, just the guy who wants your money. You would be very gullible to buy a house on the information he has given, even though, if he was very compelling and reliable sounding and even if the weather charts were colourfull and all.

    Is the point of Pascal’s Wager that we should try to find faith as hard as we can in a non-plausible god because he will otherwise punish us? If it exists, it is truly a horrible god! An evil entity, according to that logic. If a person has moral backbone he/she will not submit to worshipping such a malicious entity. He/she may suffer the consequenses, but that is what happens to moral people around evil dictators.

    • Yes, I think they have, I know I have. Remember, it’s not my standard, or yours by which we are judged.

      “What is this “certain enlightment” that removes your future compassionate feelings for your parents in the afterlife? Is there a reference somewhere in the Bible to this, or how did you come up whith this? Is it like an opiat that makes you forget your loved ones are suffering in Hell? That does not sound sane. Or is Heaven for the selfrighteous, who only care for themselves?”

      I’m actually not going to answer this. I think you know better and your contempt is clouding your sense of reason. Do you think you can answer the questions you asked here? I think so.

  17. rautakyy says:

    You have really, actually, accepted this ancient immoral set of rules as right and just? Hmm…

    How sad. So very sad.

    Yes, I can answer my own questions from my perspective. I was only asking your perspective, and because I was not sure you have asked these questions from yourself, but you are right. I have contempt towards the low tribal morals the Bible offers and all the evil it has caused. I think my contempt does not cloud my sense of reason as religious feelings cloud the mind and judgement of fundamentalists.

    I for one, have done nothing so evil, that would make me deserve eternal punishment after death. This much I can tell you this whith clear concience.

    I apologize, if my questions made you feel uneasy.

    • You don’t make me uneasy. But you have admitted repeatedly that the Bible is far too complex for you to understand, so I take your interpretations with a grain of salt. It probably doesn’t come across this way, but I don’t mean any offense.

  18. I think you are right, John, in saying that if the Bible is correct then it is not my standard, or your standard, or rautakyy’s by which we are judged.
    As we found out in a conversation on your blog that involved you, Neil, and I, my understanding of God’s standard is in fact much stricter than even your own (or Neil’s, for that matter).
    What I would like to ask you is this. Do you not see the hypocrisy in saying on the one hand that God does not conform to our standard of justice, on the one hand, and then spouting beatitudes about how just God is, and how eminently fair the judgement is?

    Shouldn’t we just say “God is God, and his rules are fair because he wrote the rules.” His rules are not just, and they need not be. Suck it up, buttercup.”

    I know this is off-topic, but it is very topical to your conversation with Rautakyy, and is certainly grounded in past statements you have made.

  19. Maybe hypocrisy is too strong a word.
    What I think the only meaning of your own words:

    If my parents die as unbelievers, then yes, they will spend an eternity in hell. It’s not anything I have any control over. According to the Bible, everyone has broken God’s law and is deserving of punishment.

    and

    Remember, it’s not my standard, or yours by which we are judged.

    is that there is a standard by which all are judged by God which could never conform in any way with our human conception of justice.
    So I guess my problem is not hypocrisy so much as it is the preference by Christians to re-define the words “Just”, “Justice”, “Grace”, etc. when they attribute them to God.
    I also consider it talking out both sides of your mouth to claim that God is worthy of praise while tacitly admitting that He deserves no such language and in fact doesn’t require it.

    My feeling is that if you claim God is just, and that word is to have any meaning, then God must conform to our human sense of justice.

    • I don’t see the double standard, I really don’t. I swear I’m not trying to be evasive, I just don’t see your point.

      Are you saying that because God’s standard of justice does not mirror our standard of justice that there is some shortcoming on God’s part? If thay is what you are saying I just don’t think that follows. If not then there is just something I’m not getting, maybe dumb it down or give me an example of your complaint in action.

  20. I’m not claiming a shortcoming on God’s part. Far from it. The shortcoming would lie with Christians who cannot properly express the nature of God’s judgement.
    I’m saying that by calling God “Just”, they are projecting a feature onto Him that is not supported by their interpretation of Scripture, though the Bible itself says He is just.
    I guess I’m saying that the word “just” either a) has no meaning to a Christian when applied to God. b) has no meaning at all to Christians c) implies, when used in Scripture, something that is contrary to our current theology.

    I’m sure there are other options, but these seem the most logical.

    • Ok, how would you go about substantiating your assessment of how christians relate to the concept of justice as it relates to God? And then maybe I can better answer your point.

  21. rautakyy says:

    John Barron Jr, if my questions did not make you feel uneasy and you find them close enough to the topic, why would you not answer them?

    Anyhow, even though it is certainly of topic, I need to (once more) explain what I mean, when I say I do not understand the Bible, since you brought it up out of context. I mean it might be that I am utterly stoopid (I can not be the judge of that) and do not understand it therefore. But that should not matter. Should it?

    If the Bible is THE means to communicate between a god and man, then for this god to be loving and just, the Bible would require to be understandable even by an idiot. I have read it and I do not get it. It has nothing to do whith free will or such. I do not choose not to understand it the way you do. When I look at the Bible all I see is a cultural historical mythos equal to so many others. If you are right about existance of a god and the process of salvation from eternal torment, the system is unfair. If the salvation would require for us to believe the moon is made of cheese, then you propably would be condemned to suffer in Hell for ever. Would you not? Would that feel as just to you? Could you choose to believe the moon is made of cheese?

    You christian people allways claim, that a person finds god, if he/she abandons his/her own terms and approaches god by gods terms. But to me that is the same as saying abandon reason and make a leap of faith. Abandon the last 3000 years of social, philosophical and moral evolution, and return to the logic of nomadic herders of Levant. I have no ability for such an act. Therefore your precious god has predestined me (and propably your parents) into eternal torment in Hell. It really does not make any sense, nor is it just or fair on any level.

    If you claim it is fair, simply because your god says so, all that tells us is the assumed benevolent nature of this god is founded on circular thinking. Not on evidence of the claimed just nature of god. No evidence of just behaviour or “fair play” from said god. Being just does not mean the same as being fair when it happens to suit other purposes. Absolute power expected of this particular god requires also absolute responsibility. If your god has different concept of just and fair as humanity, then how are humans able to choose to believe in this god? I simply can not accept that any entity whith reason could abandon ethics and expect other sentient beings to regard it to be a moral being.

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  1. […] believe what they believe as opposed to simply arguing about random rants. It has been said that some people determine truth based on what they feel is true as opposed to what they have reasoned to… and I couldn’t agree with this more. There is a difference between fact and opinion, however, and […]

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