Sunday, August 10, 2008

Take 2 on My Last Post, Or Bob's Counter to Pascal's Wager

I reread what I wrote and I don't think it was very clear. I will try another approach.

Evidence is insufficient to determine conclusively the truth or falsity of Belief A. The decision to give assent or to with hold one's assent to Belief A is therefore based on factors other than considerations of the Truth or Falsity of Belief A.

Of course, person's giving their assent to Belief A, especially when it is emotionally rich as is the belief in God for some people, will oftentimes vehemently assert the unequivocal truth of their pet beliefs. The greater the vehemence, the less the likelihood that their assertion of truth is rooted in careful and ongoing consideration of alternatives. This only means that believers present themselves as psychological case-studies.

This means that the counter to Pascal's wager is not a reckoning of probabilities of God's (non-)existence. It is not enough as Dawkins argues that it is almost a certainty that the Christian God does not exist. An eternity of hideous, horrific punishment, if at all avoidable, is to be avoided. Crossing streets without looking first, will most of the time not end badly. However, the one time when it would have been good to look both ways before crossing easily outweighs all the times of not looking.

In the gap between what we know to be true and what we wish to be true our character shows itself. Given the same evidence, why does one person find that evidence compelling, and another with comparable training, intelligence, and background dismisses that same evidence as proving nothing?

Do beliefs possess powers of attraction? It seems that truths, beliefs, propositions, and the like have aesthetic qualities independent of their truthfulness.

If this is so, why would anyone hope for the possibility of eternal punishment? Why would Tertullian or Aquinas consider the sight of the tortures of the damned to be one of the major benefits of heaven? Why all the fear and desire to punish? If Evangelical Christians are taken at face value, they can imagine no greater pleasure and exertion of power than punishing.

Bob's counter to Pascal's Wager? Why would anyone want Christianity to be true?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Lyricism of Belief: An Observation on the Grounds of Belief and Faith

It is a bit of a truism among Christians that the existence of God cannot be conclusively proven with absolute certainty.

Since God cannot be proved or disproved, so the thinking goes, it is possible to be an "honest Christian"(!). Probably the best known variation is Pascal's wager. Rather than argue that there is evidence to believe or not believe, I propose another approach to the uncertainties intrinsic to belief in the supernatural.

If faith in God, Jesus, and all the mechanics of redemption cannot be grounded in reason, then assent to belief or disbelief is not a consequence of the truth or falsity of those beliefs. Less confusingly phrased, assent is not given because of the truth or falsity of the beliefs in question, but for human, all too human motivations.

This means that the accounts given for belief, and equivalently for disbelief, are amenable to a meaningful analysis similar to what one might expect in literary analysis. The phrase, lyricism of belief, comes to mind.

Even though keen insight is not a prerequisite to grasp that quite often it is not love, either of truth or human beings, that motivate faith in God. One name suffices to illustrate the point: Fred Phelps. Or if that is not enough, consider the homophobic teachings of Evangelical Christianity.

Psychologically considered, justification of one's assent to doctrines and teachings by appeals to "truth" are an impediment to truth. "Truth" especially when mouthed by Christians and other ideologues is a license to avoid unpleasant and unsavory truths about oneself and about life, the universe, and everything. Truth that can not be examined, questioned, and even abandoned means in practice, "There be dragons."

Truth is a curtain behind which passions run free and wild accountable neither to God nor man. This means that character and ethics are prior to belief and truth.

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