My 16 year old cousin is a Southern Baptist and I saw him over the holidays. The debate started simple with me saying something that got him going off on his bible rant and ended with him saying he would pray for me and that I needed to go to Church. There was one time when he just stopped talking and I scarred him with a question about heaven. I asked him what it was like he said the pearly gate, gold streets stuff then said what else he couldn't think of anything. I then asked him who goes to heaven he dogged the question then I said so you just sit around all day listening to the same old stories and praising Jesus. He said Yes, I then joked that there would be whinny Christians complaining about hearing the same story's over and over. I hope he was thinking the whole thing was ridiculous but probably just thought I was going to hell.
He is probably a lost cause his parents are both hardcore Republicans he lives in the south and barely passed biology. His arguments were tired and without backup other than the bible then he gave me the what if you're wrong speech. I knew he was a fundie before but didn't realize how bad until after the conversation.

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Comment by Corey on February 18, 2010 at 1:47pm
I have not seen him since then but another time he tried to convince me a talking snake is crazy but if you call it a serpent it is completely reasonable. I've tried to talked to him a few times about what he actually believes and he believes in creationism but shaky on time frame, bible is word of god with no mistakes, Noah's Ark is real and according to him not only did it have 2 animals of every "kind" in the world also enough food for them to eat. He also debated me on Jesus, Space God and the Holy Spirit being one in the same hard not to laugh at that one.
Comment by Richard Healy on February 17, 2010 at 12:32am
Actually yeah, any follow up on this?
Comment by Richard Healy on January 4, 2010 at 4:40pm
What if you wrong?
-----------------------

If I may quote at length myself, this was what I used to demolish that same argument in a youtube comment war I had with one of the deluded, last year. Maybe you'll find it helpful.



TLP sent me the following in a PM.
"If I am wrong I have nothing to lose, But if your wrong Richard, you have everything to lose."
Well, let's examine that argument to see if it convinces.
Realise, TLP, first of all, that what you have produced is a version of Blaise Pascal's famous wager. It didn't work in 1670 and it doesn't work now but bless you for trying.

Think of this like a spread sheet and set out the various probable outcomes of the wager like this:

A1: Blank | B1: god exists | C1: god does not exist
A2: Wager for | B2: Heaven  | C2: No consequence
A3: Wager against | B3: Hell | C3: No consequence.

Built into this are several assumptions which we can consider at a later statge but lets just take them as read for now. I think these include.

1) God is not discoverable or refutable by reason (hence the necessity to form the wager.)
2) That there are only two choices, those of for and against and the diagnosed outcomes.
3) The probability that God exists is not zero or infinitesimally small.

Accepting 1-3, a fourth follows:

4)The correct action is to follow cell A2 in order to maximise the return on the wager.

That is what you imply when you ask what if you are wrong?

In order to maximise the reward for your belief, you argue you have nothing to lose (and by inference) everything to gain by believing in god.

Coming up: Why this is not a good argument.

Reason 1
1.) The wager does not make clear which god or which religion is the correct on which to stake one's belief.
Even if all gods were equally likely with comparative afterlives for rewarding belief (and they are not) it merely indicates belief is preferable. At the very least it fails to distinguish between the three Abrahamic faiths which all profess a belief in The god of Abraham. I do not think you accept that the wager makes no distinction between your being Christian and not Muslim. Which in that case is the correct wager? I know you already think you know the answer but you have arrived at that conclusion not by the logic of the wager

Just an observation but isn't belief in the wrong god blasphemy and a sin, and eternally punishable? It seems there's a lot more riding on your wager than merely believing. How you you know you are right?


Reason 2:
2.) Notice also the currency of this wager seems to be 'happiness' (assuming Heaven makes you happy and Hell doesn't. From this it follows that cell C2 is mistaken. That there are in fact consequences if god does not exist. For instance, consider the time spent in church and praying if spent helping others or perhaps with family would possibly maximise greater happiness in a utilitarian calculation.


On this basis the wager, considers theism and atheism to be equal reasonable, and yet it derives it's conclusion that theists stand to gain more is impossible to reach probabilistically as I've just shown it is not necessarily the case that the greatest happiness is to be derived from hours spent praying in church. It belongs I suggest, as an axiom determining "If you believe in God, you will believe that you gain greater happiness from worshipping him" not that you actually will.
We started off querying cells C2 and the implication that not believing had no consequences, what we find is similarly for those willing to undertake the wager and so affirm belief this belief is not cost-free either and doesn't establish the reality of the supernatural god which underlies their assumptions but not ours.

In that I've focussed on the repercussions in this life shortly I'll turn to the context of the wager that the reward is post-dated post-mortem, but first:

Reason 3

The third assumption contained in the structure of the wager that makes it a poor reason to believe is that the likelihood of god is thought to be high. Pascal thought the probability was 50% and the wager reflects that. Personally I dissent from Pascal and hold to the radical and subversive notion that the more bizarre and weird the stated claim, the more unlikely it is to be true, unless evidence convinces otherwise. (the by law - you must mention this - textbook example of this is Quantum Mechanics. Very, deeply weird but very accurately and precisely measure that tells us something about the fundamental nature of reality.) But let's just assume that there is a god and that it is aware of you; gives a damn about what you believe (especially in relation to itself, and not just about the weather) and will punish you for believing the wrong things with regard to its own existence.

Just for the sake of argument that is the reality that is proposed in the make up of this wager.
Whatever the probability for such an outlandish and peculiar series of beliefs is it is not 50%.

Further for argument's sake, assume that these are necessary properties of god, and ignore deist gods who don't care. Would this god with it's peccadillo for right beliefs at least as likely value scepticism as to value faith. If there is such a god, it goes to great lengths to hide its presence, as evidenced by the fact that the wager exists. The benefit of pleasing a sceptical god might be better better than that of pleasing a faith god. It's no use pointing to the bible as evidence in this matter, if the bible was convincing on his point we wouldn't be wagering out the outcome of belief. although we can not discern through the structure of the wager that the probabilities that god is a sceptic, can we not consider the possiblity that it is in some sense intellelectually more honest to be a courageous sceptic looking for good reasons to believe in god rather than someone who merely wagered on the outcome?

If, indeed, the purpose of god's existence and creation is to sift for the morally good to populate heaven, he will presumably select only those who made a responsible effort to discover the truth (whether by faith or by sceptical reason.) For all others states are consider unpalatible (steeped in sin, if you like), being cognitively or morally inferior, or both.

Such malnourished individuals will also have been less likely ever to discover and commit to true beliefs about right and wrong given the wager. Therefore, only such people who can enter into the terms of the wager can be sufficiently moral to deserve the reward of a place in heaven — unless god wishes to fill heaven with the morally lazy, irresponsible, or untrustworthy. But there is nothing to distinguish in the wager between the two possibilities that god values scepticism over faith.


Reason 4

The fourth assumption is that we should act so as to maximise our returns. That's the point of the wager, it is logically incongruous to select an outcome with potentially worse results for you. This should be totally obvious; why would anyone want otherwise?

One might object that as well as maximising returns, it is worth minimising risk. If, for example, Hell is not particularly bad - as in the case where God is claimed to be benevolent even to non-believing sinners, or where Heaven can be entered based on works, the less risky option is to not believe.

And finally.
Lastly, consider: If the god in which you believe as a result of this wager has the properties of omniscience; when you are dead, will they not see through your declaration of belief faith for the simple bet against odds that it is? If you believe in god for the mercenary reasons that Pascal proposes, then this belief is a rather pathetic and paltry. In that sense it parallels the argument from earlier about a sceptical god, perhasp god is not a valuer of scepticism after all and does value faith but wants that faith to be genuine and heart-sprung.
Belief based on a wager will not get not be looked upon kindly I suggest and the reward proposed as the reason for doing so may be less than advertised. Assuming it falls within gods power to sift through the deceased souls of those who truly believed from those how merely bet.

Why EXACTLY do YOU expect to get into heaven on this basis?

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