• Cavacava
    2.4k
    I was very surprised to learn that Wallace Stevens, whose atheism is manifest in his poetry, converted to Catholic on his deathbed. Then I wondered what I would do, waiting to die, in a hospital bed with sad looking people coming and going, pain, fear and misery. Stevens had long talks with Hospital Chaplin. Father Hanley while in the hospital dying of stomach cancer around 1955. Will i have long talks.

    I've thought that Pascal's Wager (besides being valid) has an existential power about it, It enables us to ally a God to vanquish our fear, although I suppose some will not bend to reason. (I mean it is a crap shoot isn't it) I certain wonder what my choice would be. Maybe we all need forgiveness, especially when there is little hope of a future. What will/would you choose to do and perhaps a few words why.

    Pascal said it is a decision we have to make.
  • m-theory
    1.1k


    This is my response to Pascal's wager.

    Pascal's wager is only valid if we assume god is reasonable and rational and thus will hold up his end of the bargain.

    But if god is reasonable and rational then god would not then expect you to believe something without good evidence or compelling logic.

    If god expects you to accept something is true without good evidence or compelling logic, then god is not being reasonable and rational and we cannot be sure that Pascal's wager is valid at all.

    It could be completely invalid because god has irrational and unreasonable expectations.
  • lambda
    76
    ... which God are we supposed to believe in though?

    The Triune God? The Muslim God? The Jewish God? The Mormon God? Hare Krishna? Zeus? Thor? Apollo?

    Philosophy again succumbs to skepticism.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Well but remember you are on your deathbed, so perhaps even if you have convinced yourself in the past that you don't believe in god, as Wallace Stevens apparently did, you change your mind in light of a greater utility in that belief. Or do you M-Theory. what do you do?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Which has the most probability, which is pragmatically the best? Which do you believe in?
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    OK, I am on my deathbed (eventually I will die).
    If I decide there is a god then I can only accept Pascal's wager if that god is reasonable and rational.

    So if god is reasonable and rational then that god won't expect me to accept things without good evidence and compelling logic.

    If god does expect me to accept things without good evidence and compelling logic, then Pascal's wager fails.
    Pascal's wager fails because then I would be dealing with an irrational and unreasonable god and I would then no longer have any assurance that such a god would hold up it's end of the bargain.

    Pascal's wager only works if god is rational and reasonable, and in which case Pascal's wager is not necessary.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Ok, couple of things. You have to make a decision, evidence is lacking it always has been lacking, but clearly you have considered the choice: if there is a god, and you confess then eternal bliss, if no god, no great loss. How can you miss? Come on.
  • lambda
    76
    Which God is pragmatically the best?

    Speaking for myself, I would say the Christian God is pragmatically the best for at least the following three reasons:

    1. Christianity offers its followers a perfect exemplar for moral behavior in the person of Jesus Christ. The imitation of the life of Christ can serve as the archetype for moral human behavior. No other religion offers such a luxury.

    2. Christianity offers its followers unique access to God. If Jesus really is God then this means we have a way of interacting with God because there's a personal 'mediator' between us and God. In the absence of such personal 'mediator', how could we ever gain access to the divine?

    3. The suffering of Christ on the cross gives us resources to cope with our own suffering.

    For these reaosns I regard Christianity as pragmatically superior to basically every other religious belief system.

    Now, what do I actually believe in? I personally believe in the God of classical theism. I also believe in Jesus, to an extent. I'm just really unsure how to make sense of the claim that a human being can be God.
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    I think you are missing the point a bit.

    There is something to loose from believing in an irrational and unreasonable god.

    You loose the assurance that you will get to experience the bliss you are talking about.

    So god can either be rational and reasonable, in which case he won't have irrational and unreasonable expectations of me.

    Or god can be irrational and unreasonable, in which case I cannot be sure what are that god's expectations of me.

    So Pascal's wager is not needed, if god is reasonable and rational, because you are not being expected to believe in unreasonable or irrational things.
    Pascal's wager is only needed when you are expected to believe irrational and unreasonable things, and in that case god is unreasonable and irrational and Pascal's wager fails because you have no assurance that such a god will uphold his bargain.

    So, I do have something to loose if I believe in an unreasonable and irrational god.

    The only way I have nothing to loose is if I believe in a rational and reasonable god that doesn't expect me to believe in silly things.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Sorry it's late for me, but I think you may you have the miss application of the word "loose" with the word "lose" tks.
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    Thanks, yeah I meant lose.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Thanks, it sounds like you have already made your choice.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    There is something to loose from believing in an irrational and unreasonable god.

    You loose the assurance that you will get to experience the bliss you are talking about.

    There is no 'assurance" at stake, I wager what I choose to believe, which can be right or wrong, true or false. If I am right whoopee, if I am wrong I am still dead. My choice to believe in God places me in his hands, he forgives me for my sins, he becomes my relief from the mental anguish of my imminent oblivion. What he is as he is, if he is, makes no difference to me at this point, because my options are limited. My belief in salvation has greater utility than any other logical argument given my situation.
  • _db
    3.5k
    Pascal's Wager is flawed because, like what others said, it discounts the existence of another different deity, or assumes the deity is reasonable and benevolent. The Wager is not rational.

    Unfortunately death bed conversions are typically not rational either.
  • aletheist
    1.5k
    Pascal's Wager is also flawed in assuming that mere intellectual assent to the existence/reality of God is sufficient to satisfy God and gain whatever benefits God has to offer, in this life and/or the next.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1's outcome is strictly better than A2's. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality seems to require you to perform A1.[1]
    SEP

    Maybe you can point out irrational part of this.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    I don't know, but Christ did forgive the theif.
  • aletheist
    1.5k


    Indeed, but presumably not just because the thief gave mere intellectual assent to the existence/reality of God.
  • Barry Etheridge
    349


    Surely the real question is not whether the logical case you present is irrational. It clearly is not. The real question is whether Pascal's Wager conforms to this pattern which, as far as I am concerned it does not. The main reason for that is that there is no way to know what the outcomes of each alternative action will be let alone whether they would be good or otherwise. Are there not clear indications in the New Testament, for example, that something more than intellectual assent is required for salvation and that many who make claim in the name of Jesus will be rejected? And wouldn't a perfectly good God be bound to reject those whose belief is based entirely on self-interest?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    The decision process is there, I think, maybe not quite as Pascal posed it, but something with force enough to enable them to change their life held beliefs.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    The main reason for that is that there is no way to know what the outcomes of each alternative action will be let alone whether they would be good or otherwise.

    Not sure I follow this. The "outcomes of each alternative action" is death. Only A1's death come with a hope.

    The prodigal son is celebrated upon his return. His brother didn't like this because he was always true to the family. The father explains:
    But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
    Luke 15:11-32
  • Barry Etheridge
    349


    Death is not the outcome of either action. It is inevitable and thus entirely independent of A1, A2 or no action at all. Pascal's wager is entirely about what happens after death (another weakness being that it has no value unless it presupposes that there is an 'after', of course).

    I'm not sure just how relevant the prodigal son is here. The decision to return was not one made in the expectation of reward. It is not a decision of hope but one of desperation. Indeed he was prepared to live the life of a hired servant. It is the grace of the father that is the point of the story (parables being 'tales of the unexpected'). In Pascal's Wager the son does not return humbled and contrite but confident in his reward.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Ok, I've got it. But don't you think the earnest belief in God's Goodness, carries greater utility in it than a belief in oblivion.

    As far as the prodigal son is concerned, he was truly contrite (note that he too was pragmatic about his options away from home) and that is why his father accepts him. Aletheist previously pointed out intellectual grasp of this wager alone is not enough, it has to have existential force which deathbeds tend to bring out, God's forgiveness is predicated on a true act of contrition, at least based on my background.
  • aletheist
    1.5k
    God's forgiveness is predicated on a true act of contrition, at least based on my background.Cavacava

    Of course, this is controversial within Christian theology; as a Lutheran, I would disagree. God's forgiveness is predicated only on the death of Christ for the sins of the whole world, and an individual person's reconciliation to God is predicated only on the gift of faith that He gives us by grace. The prodigal son's father accepted him - saw him while he was still a long way off, felt compassion, ran to meet him, embraced him, and kissed him - before he demonstrated any sort of contrition.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I've thought that Pascal's Wager (besides being valid)Cavacava

    It's not valid. Here's just one other possibility of many: an "evil demon" god is what really exists, and he punishes anyone who believed in god during their life.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    I don't interpret the prodigal son parable that way. What do you think the father would have said if his son demanded his help, and say the reinstatement of his position in the family? I think any Father who has not seen their son in a long period of time may be filled with compassion at now seeing him, but it is the son's contrition that causes the Father to celebrate his return in my opinion.
  • Wayfarer
    14.7k
    The problem that I see, is that religion is presented as a set of dogmatic beliefs, inherited from tradition, to which one assents, or doesn't, and then you take your chances of 'pie in the sky when you die'. In taking that on, one is required to accept many foregone conclusions, that have already been decided in centuries past, by authorities such as Calvin and Luther, as if they too are embodiments of divine wisdom.

    Now Western culture is 'secularising', the whole idea is being thrown into question. According to secularism, we're each an island with a life of our own making, having been churned out by an unthinking process of evolution.

    I think we need to be able to gain some kind of perspective above or outside this existential dilemma of 'faith vs atheism' to make sense out of it - neither rejecting religion wholesale and lapsing into nihilism, nor being 'a believer' who swallows it whole. That, I would hope, would be a philosophical approach to the question.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k



    Here is what I asked darthbarracuda:

    575
    ↪darthbarracuda

    Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1's outcome is strictly better than A2's. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality seems to require you to perform A1.[1]
    SEP

    Maybe you can point out irrational part of this.

    I think it's a valid argument.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    I think it comes down to our own mortality, our impossible lust for a life that cannot continue, our inability to confront the void headon, as at least some of us must on our deathbed. Socrates seems to have had a peaceful death, unless you too believe he despaired at the very end in his very last words.
  • Wayfarer
    14.7k
    I don't believe that Socrates despaired at the end. Also, recall that he was condemned for (among other things) atheism. When I first studied philosophy, something that struck me was the story of Socrates visit to the Oracle of Delphi, which had the saying 'man know thyself' emblazoned over the entrance.

    Where do you read that in the Bible?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1's outcome is strictly better than A2's. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality seems to require you to perform A1.[1]
    SEP

    Maybe you can point out irrational part of this.


    I think it's a valid argument.
    Cavacava

    The problem with that is that Pascal's Wager isn't the same as the A1/A2 formulation. With Pascal's wager, we have no idea what the outcome of either case might be.
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