Reasonable Faith: Pascal’s Wager

This post is inspired by Dr. William L. Craig’s explaination of Pascal’s Wager on his website. I have only recently discovered Dr. Craig’s writings and, while not usually a fan of Evangelical Churches, Dr. Lane appears to be an excellent logician. I did have a point to make about this argument in particular however. From the question:

“First, how do we know which God to believe in? Thousands of Gods have been claimed to exist and it seems that the probability of picking the right one is minute.”

Dr. Lane’s reply:

“In other words…God does not exist is actually an indefinitely complex disjunction of various deities who might exist if the Christian God does not.”

I often have to explain this error of category to atheists; it is even more unfortunate when I must explain it to fellow Christians. “God” and “god” are not the same word, nor are they the same category of being. “God”, correctly used, refers to the metaphysical cause, the Ultimate Reality; the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle and Aquinas’ Prime Mover. “God” is not a person, existing beyond the subject/object duality. Being perfect,”God” does not want nor act (since any lack or action-in-progress is by definition an incompleteness, and therefore imperfection). “A god”, on the other hand, is an anthropomorphic, supernatural personification of a natural force. Life, death, war, the sky, lightning… all have been called “gods” before. “A god” is a person; whatever supernatural force may be attributed to him, he still has limited perspective and incomplete understanding. Being persons, it is in the nature of gods to act in according to whatever force they personify.

Note that, in this schema, there can be only one “God”. God has been referred to by many names–YHVH, Allah, Ra, Brahman. The difference in mythology surrounding God is a function of different limited humans from different cultures attempting to understand Ultimate Reality, not a function of potentially competing Ultimate Realities. That is, Arabic culture has shaped Islam to be very different from Christianity; however, in both cases the object of the religion is “God”, and not “a god”. Therefore, the question of “which God is real” is actually nonsense. The correct question is, ‘is there an Ultimate Reality or not?’–after which different theologies may, if desired, be examined for applicability.

If I may be referred to as a “believer”, which I would call in inaccurate term, then I believe in God because I believe in a rational, investigable universe. If there is no God, no rational ordering principle of the universe, then there is no reason to assume that scientific investigation will continue to bear any meaningful fruit (nor was there to begin with). For the same reason, I do not believe in “gods.” If there are arbitrary forces which act supernally to the nature of reality,then there is also no reason to believe that science will continue to bear useful fruit.

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10 responses to “Reasonable Faith: Pascal’s Wager

  1. You say there can be only one ‘God’ but you have no proof of such a god, nor any credible evidence for that god. You have managed to discount every god but your own idea of god and you have no evidence of that god but credulous supposition that because things exist there must be a god. You don’t even have credible evidence that the universe that we know had a cause or prime mover. That is all just blusterous noise to calm the nervous. I reject all your claims that there is a god unless and until you have credible evidence to support that claim. So far, you have nothing worth talking about.

  2. So you’re telling me that Pascal’s wager is not a “believer”, “non-believer” divide, but instead a “monotheist”, “anything else” divide. And God will save Christians, Muslims, Jews, Cao Daists, members of the Babai faith, Sikhs and Mandaeists (I could go on) all the same. This is despite Christianity claiming salvation is through Jesus, and all the others I mentioned not making such a claim. Jesus would abhor suicide bombings, but Allah rewards them.
    Every monotheist religious book gives particular guidelines on being saved. Your claim that anyone that believes in a Creator God will be saved is entirely your own work. That is your speculation, not even calling on the speculation of the religions you are discussing.

    • “So you’re telling me that Pascal’s wager is not a “believer”, “non-believer” divide, but instead a “monotheist”, “anything else” divide.”

      No, I’m not directly addressing Pascal’s Wager. I’m addressing a shortcoming in someone else’s argument. Hence the link.

      “And God will save Christians, Muslims, Jews, Cao Daists, members of the Babai faith, Sikhs and Mandaeists (I could go on) all the same. This is despite Christianity claiming salvation is through Jesus, and all the others I mentioned not making such a claim.”

      I haven’t made any claims about salvation. I’m just addressing a common category error in theological argument, which occurred in the post to which I linked.

      ” Jesus would abhor suicide bombings, but Allah rewards them.”

      Your first point is correct (except that the name you want is Yeshua). Your second point requires that Mohammed’s claims about Allah be correct. My post is about the concept of God beyond specific psycho-cultural filters.

      “Every monotheist religious book gives particular guidelines on being saved.”

      Actually, there are lots of books regarding monotheistic religion which do not address salvation (such as the Book of Genesis, or the various Hadith); and there are non-monotheistic books which do address salvation (such as the Diamond Sutra and Dao De Jing). Perhaps you mean that salvation is a common topic of religious canon? Regardless, my post had nothing to do with salvation.

      “Your claim that anyone that believes in a Creator God will be saved is entirely your own work.”

      I made no soteriological claims whatever, and you will note that “Creator” requires an action (creation). If you read my post, you will find a particular point about God vs. god in regards to taking action.

      • Maybe you could make your post clearer by relating it back to Pascal’s wager (after all, that is the title of the post).
        There are still a plethora of monotheistic religions with Creator Gods. So Pascal’s wager is still at a loss… these may each be an attempt at understanding a single truth, but each one makes the assumption that there is a God.
        Not only that, but there is no reason to assume that a creator God is the God you need to worship. A Creator God could have been used up in the Creation and there only be gods left, still with the power to punish and reward. Your “Ultimate Reality” (a horrendously inaccurate term, the ultimate reality is that which is, not a God that made it so) is a nonsense assumption.

      • “Maybe you could make your post clearer by relating it back to Pascal’s wager (after all, that is the title of the post).”

        My post is titled “Reasonable Faith: Pascal’s Wager” because it is a response to an article titled “Pascal’s Wager” on a site called “Reasonable Faith”, to which I have linked and from which I have quoted. I cannot imagine why someone would need it made more clear than that. I do not ‘relate it back to Pascal’s Wager’ because it is addressed to the article of that title, not the wager itself–in which I have no interest.

        “There are still a plethora of monotheistic religions with Creator Gods (sic).”

        No, there aren’t. There are many people who confuse creator-gods with God. If you are interested, I would refer you to the Vedas for clarification (or perhaps Jewish mystagogic literature); I’m not sure how much clearer I can make the distinction myself.

        “So Pascal’s wager is still at a loss…”

        I agree.

        “these may each be an attempt at understanding a single truth, but each one makes the assumption that there is a God (sic).”

        Actually, no. While there are many people who simply accept the existence of gods or God without rational examination, there are also people who realize the existence of God as the fulfillment of rational examination. There are also people who experience God directly. Given the identical nature of such experiences around the world and throughout history, they may not be dismissed without surpassing burden-of-proof.

        “Not only that, but there is no reason to assume that a creator God (sic) is the God (sic) you need to worship.”

        ‘A creator God’ is not God at all. ‘To create’ is to take action. Action requires limited/subjective perspective. Therefore ‘a creator’ is ‘a god’.

        “A Creator God (sic) could have been used up in the Creation and there only be gods left, still with the power to punish and reward.”

        ‘A creator-god’ might have; but without evidence, that would be a superstitious assumption. God, as ultimate reality, cannot have been ‘used up’–or reality would not exist.

        “Your “Ultimate Reality”…is a nonsense assumption.”

        No, it is a certainty. If there were not an “Ultimate Reality”, scientific modelling would be impossible, since there would be nothing coherent to model.

        “a horrendously inaccurate term,”

        Actually, no. It is the failure to distinguish between a subjective supernatural anthroporphization and a non-subjective metaphysical causal principle which is inaccurate.

        “the ultimate reality is that which is, not a God (sic) that made it so”

        That statement is true, if you change ‘God’ to ‘god’.

  3. With due respect, without getting into heavy metaphysics or semantics etc, ( which I have no desire to do, whatsoever) Craig is an evangelical Christian. So while it might seem pedantic to mention this – again – as you already did in the post, his god, ‘God’ is, in actual fact, Yeshua, or the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth, and it might be unfair to suggest that he sees the god, ‘God’ in anything that does not include the character, Jesus of Nazareth?

  4. Honestly, I consider Evangelical Christianity to be a modern polytheism. Because they read English translations of Hebrew/Aramaic mythology as if they were literally true (in the English), they treat YHVH as “a god” (a walking, talking, supernaturally-powered anthropomorphization). Therefore, the son of YHVH would also be “a god” (or perhaps a demi-god). “Satan” has taken on the anti-god properties of the Zoroastrian Ahriman, and thus is also “a god”–and of course, angels have always been the equivalent of “gods”–many are even named for gods of other cultures.

    However, even in this populist Zoroastrian version of Christianity, Yeshua Ben Yosef is seen as having one substance with God-as-Father and God-as-Spirit, and therefore Lane’s “god” certainly exists outside of the man Yeshua (and simultaneously AS the man Yeshua).

    The point of this post is explain why it is not correct to conflate the classification “God” with “a god”. It is no more valid in Judeo-Christianity than it is in Hindu-Buddhism, where Brahman is clearly not atman. The Hindus just have clearer terminology for these concepts. 🙂

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