Two or three saturdays ago, while killing time with someone, I came across this in a library book:
It reads: “Pascal is a narrow-sighted fuck. Very lousy cost-benefit analysis.
1) Probability of god existing is unknown.
2) Payoff for living a sinful life is neglected.”
Woah, we got a bad-ass radical atheist here. Breaking the law to vandalise books to make his point.
I think the cost-benefit analysis can be broken down into: (Probability x Degree of utility) / Cost. While the vandal is right to point out that the other two factors are neglected, that’s not the point of Pascal’s wager. Pascal’s wager acknowledges the high cost and low probability, but argues that the degree of utility (not going to hell), is so great that it is still worth it.
The vandal could have made three better attacks on Pascal’s wager:
1. Rewards today versus in the distant future: Some people may place a greater value on a small sum of benefit today, than a larger sum in the far distant future. Or definite vs uncertain benefits.
2. The assumption that the cost translates into benefits: Pascal needs to be really sure that the sinful life that he gives up is sufficient to translate into the benefits he seek. I mean if he gave up womanizing, but continued, i don’t know, telling lies or kicking kittens – and that landed him in hell, it wouldnt have been worth giving up his vices. There is an insufficiently clear guideline to show whether someone is going to heaven or hell. If Pascal gave up a huge chunk of his sinful pleasures and still went to hell, FML mann.
3. According to Pascal’s wager, we should believe in the flying spaghetti monster: Pascal’s framework functions where there are only two choices, the Christian God and the godless lifestyle. This is not the case in the real world. You’ve got this variety of religions – some of which equally willing to send you to hell for being an infidel. Essentially, if we extended Pascal’s logic, he makes a case for ANY religion.
I’ll draw the link here to why the prosperity gospel is increasingly popular as a form of Christianity, seeing how it fuels the massive growth of megachurches in Singapore. Earlier I pointed out that a cost benefit analysis can roughly be broken down into (Probability x Degree of utility) / Cost. The traditional form of Christianity has an uncertain probability (afterlife in the future) and a high cost (basically every fuckshit is a sin), but the utility of going to heaven (or rather avoiding hell) justifies it.
How does the prosperity gospel change this calculation: In all three aspects of the cost benefit analysis. The benefit is increased since it includes health, wealth, and doing well in school. The probability is increased manifold since it shifts benefits from the afterlife to the current life. The cost is decreased because of the Pauline notion that faith is sufficient to justify…. and giving money to the church, of course.
Now, I’m not judging whether this is true or not. But this is one explanation as to why the prosperity gospel is so popular: from the pragmatic Singaporean perspective, it makes sense. The rest is human psychology (which I’ll discuss further next time.)
Oh wait, there’s more: “Faith, my friends, is a reward in itself. Created by man, for man. Choose to believe (or not) not based on some fuzzy ideal of salvation.”
Whoops, guess it wasn’t a bad-ass radical atheist. It was a bad-ass radical Christian. the radical atheist would have just gone home to write a blog post rather than be so burnt with passion to vandalize a BRAND NEW LIBRARY BOOK FOR THE PUBLIC. Irresponsible wanker.
And much as I agree that there ought to be a lesser emphasis on salvation from hell, the fact of the matter is that sin and salvation form the bedrock of Christian advertising/promotion/soul-catching/fishing…okay I can’t find the politically correct word for this. It is used to get the foot through the door at least – even for the prosperity churches. I must say, they’ve done a better job at it though.
If I may add, I speculate that people with comfortable lifestyles (us) are more driven by the fear of hell than the reward of heaven. After all, we’re comfortable already. It is those who are living in a shit hole, that need to hope for a better tomorrow. And if you told like this soviet peasant that he might be going to hell to eat horse shit for his atheism, he’ll be like “meh, that’s not very different from life now, is it”
Hmm, I did consider writing a response to the vandal on the book, but I guess I didn’t have any pen or pencil.