Bad Religious Arguments, Part 2
As I mentioned last time, in all the years Iíve spent in church programs and internet forums, I have heard many arguments for the existence of God over and over. None of them have really been convincing to me, but they are often taken seriously by millions of seemingly-intelligent people. Letís cover some more of them.
Pascalís Wager: To paraphrase, this says ďWhile it is impossible to know whether or not God exists, it is better to believe. If God exists, belief will give you infinite reward and disbelief will give you infinite punishment. If God does not exist, your choice has no eternal consequences.Ē The wager asserts that anyone who thinks itís even slightly possible that God exists will be compelled to accept the infinite expected value (infinite reward times a nonzero probability) of the choice to believe in God. I see so many things wrong with this argument that I hardly know where to begin. First, what sort of belief is this? Most beliefs rest on the perception that something is true. The belief of Pascalís Wager is shallow, resting on uncertainty and calculated benefits. If God exists, would this sort of belief be pleasing or acceptable to him? Second, the argument is question-begging. If a person begins with no belief that God exists, he will not accept the existence of infinite rewards or punishment. Only someone that already believes that Heaven and Hell likely exists will be swayed. Third, itís a bad policy to judge the truth or falsehood of a proposition by what would happen if the proposition were true or false. Beliefs should be based on knowledge and evidence, not possible outcomes. Fourth, the form of the wager can be used to promote belief in many things, even competing deities, using the same logic.
Hmm, I had anticipated covering more than three arguments in two articles, but I donít remember any more that are worth writing about. There are other arguments, of course, but I donít feel like going through them. Theyíre all made of begging the question fallacies or defining concepts such as the greatest thing in the universe or the first cause as God.