Self-proclaimed agnostic Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, discusses interesting issues on his personal blog. In the past, he has taken on atheism, as well as critics of Intelligent Design, and he does it again with a pair of posts entitled The Atheist Who Thought He Was God and Pascal’s Wager. Here are some thought-provoking (and atheist-provoking) quotes.
Perhaps you will argue that being 99.999999% certain God doesn’t exist is just as good as being 100% sure. That strikes me as bad math. As other philosotainers have famously noted, a small chance of spending eternity in Hell has to be taken seriously. Eternity is a long time.
Let me put this in perspective. You might be willing to accept a 10% risk of going skiing and getting hurt, but you wouldn’t accept a 10% risk of a nuclear war. The larger the potential problem, the less risk you are willing to tolerate.
An eternity in Hell is the largest penalty there could ever be. So while you might not worry about a .00000000001% chance of ending up in Hell, you can’t deny the math. .00000000001% of eternity is a lot longer than your entire mortal life.
I realize it’s unscientific to try and compare one absurdity to another. But if you assume our perceptions are often flawed, you have to allow the possibility that some apparent absurdities are due to our limited powers of perception. So, for example, while the notion of a loving God who allows eternal damnation seems absurd, it is less absurd than assuming the world is run by invisible unicorns, or that God discriminates against those who believe in him.
The God theory has built into it the assumption we are not bright enough to understand the mind of an omnipotent being. That sounds reasonable. Hey, if God exists, and he does things different that I would, just maybe the problem is on my end. If you believe in God, the apparent absurdities have a reasonable explanation, even if wrong.
Picking the “right” religion is a long shot no matter how hard you try. But if rational thought has any value at all, it’s in narrowing down options and improving our odds of making good choices. Rational thought hasn’t led anyone to conclude that there’s a God who only saves people who don’t believe he exists. We can’t rule it out, but can’t we rate
its likelihood compared to a God who prefers that his lumps of clay hold him in higher esteem than their own eye crud?
Or the Flying Spaghetti monster? This is one of the many points where atheist criticisms of faith break down – they refuse to use logic or reason to discriminate between religious claims, because to them, they are all equally illogical because they are all equally non-verifiable. This is a serious intellectual error.
I’d prefer to make all of my decisions on the basis of peer reviewed science. But I don’t have that option when considering the great beyond. So I settle for looking at the competing absurdities and picking the one that seems relatively least absurd.
Of course, committed atheist materialists don’t even consider such “absurdities” – but their problem is that others do, and they don’t like it. At least, not in public life and public policy. So in order to keep it out of public life and policy, they try to contain it to the personal sphere. But in effect, they are limiting us to their narrow materialist world view, and are disallowing other valid epistemological methods, and other valid means of moral reasoning.