Thursday, June 9, 2011

The End of Pascal's Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven

John Loftus posted the following article by Dr. Richard Carrier on his blog on May 18th, 2011. I decided to annotate the article. My comments will be in red. For a philosopher, Carrier makes some really untenable presuppositions.

The End of Pascal's Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven
The following argument could be taken as tongue-in-cheek, if it didn't seem so evidently true. At any rate, to escape the logic of it requires theists to commit to abandoning several of their cherished assumptions about God or Heaven. And no matter what, it presents a successful rebuttal to any form of Pascal's Wager, by demonstrating that unbelief might still be the safest bet after all (since we do not know whose assumptions are correct, and we therefore cannot exclude the assumptions on which this argument is based).

Bold claims about what Carrier is going to accomplish with is arguments. Can he do it?

Argument 1: Who Goes to Heaven?
It is a common belief that only the morally good should populate heaven, and this is a reasonable belief, widely defended by theists of many varieties. Suppose there is a god who is watching us and choosing which souls of the deceased to bring to heaven, and this god really does want only the morally good to populate heaven. He will probably select from only those who made a significant and responsible effort to discover the truth. For all others are untrustworthy, being cognitively or morally inferior, or both. They will also be less likely ever to discover and commit to true beliefs about right and wrong. That is, if they have a significant and trustworthy concern for doing right and avoiding wrong, it follows necessarily that they must have a significant and trustworthy concern for knowing right and wrong. Since this knowledge requires knowledge about many fundamental facts of the universe (such as whether there is a god), it follows necessarily that such people must have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about such things are probably correct. Therefore, only such people can be sufficiently moral and trustworthy to deserve a place in heaven--unless god wishes to fill heaven with the morally lazy, irresponsible, or untrustworthy.

Dr Carrier may believe that it's reasonable to assume that only the morally good should populate heaven, but that isn't what the Bible tells us. There is no one who is good.

6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
   and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
   and like the wind our sins sweep us away.- Isaiah 64:6

And that was written about theists! How much more worse off are unbelievers!? Hell is default. It is what we deserve without God's grace and mercy - it is an undeserved and unearned gift..

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.- Romans 3:21-26
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.- Ephesians 2:8-10

Regardless of whether or not you think the Bile is true or not, you can't deny that it refutes the basis of Carrier's first argument. Strike one.

But only two groups fit this description: intellectually committed but critical theists, and intellectually committed but critical nontheists (which means both atheists and agnostics, though more specifically secular humanists, in the most basic sense). Both groups have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about god (for example) are probably correct, so that their beliefs about right and wrong will probably be correct. No other groups can claim this. If anyone is sincerely interested in doing right and wrong, they must be sincerely interested in whether certain claims are true, including "God exists," and must treat this matter with as much responsibility and concern as any other moral question. And the only two kinds of people who do this are those theists and nontheists who devote their lives to examining the facts and determining whether they are right.

I have to give Carrier a little credit here because the Bible tells us to test and question and search for truth.

20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22

But given the above presuppositions, I'd have to ask how concerned Carrier is with finding truth because he ignored what the Bible says about how people are saved. At the same time, it's not by intellectualism that theses things are discerned.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. - 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Argument 2: Why This World?
It is a common belief that certain mysteries, like unexplained evils in the world and god's silence, are to be explained as a test, and this is a reasonable belief, widely defended by theists of many varieties. After all, if no test were needed, then God could and would, out of his compassion and perfect efficiency, simply select candidates at birth and dispense with any actual life in this world, since God would immediately know their merits.

Agreed some people think this way, but this isn't what the Bible teaches. God's hiddeness and unexplained evils are not tests to see who is moral enough to go to heaven.

Free will cannot negate this conclusion, since if God cannot know us because we might freely reverse ourselves, then God cannot fill heaven with trustworthy people: for anyone in heaven may through an unexpected act of free will become or do evil. And given an eternity, it is probable that most of the population of heaven will do something evil. After all, if free will prevents him, then God cannot predict who will or won't do evil and thus he can never select those who will be forever good from those who will not, except by some inductive test.

No where does the Bible say human beings have free will especially how Carrier defines it. God knows what we will do in any and all situations. He is critiquing "Open Theism" and most Christians are not Open theists! The Bible tells us a lot about how we come into knowledge of God..

 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17: 24-31
We are all, each one of us, put in the most optimal place, time, and circumstances for us to best find God.  

Since those who will be forever good must naturally be rare in comparison to the set of all those people appearing to be good up to their deaths, it follows that, lacking a reliable inductive test, most of the population of heaven will not be genuinely good. It follows that a god who wanted better results would probably distinguish the genuinely good, and thus deserving, from the untrustworthy and undeserving, by subjecting all candidates to a reliable test, and it would be reasonable to conclude that this world only exists for such a purpose.

If God only wanted deserving people in heaven, then not one of us would ever go. God does not look for righteousness in us, he imputes it to us. Strike two.

Argument 3: No God or Evil God
If presented with strong evidence that a god must either be evil or not exist, a genuinely good person will not believe in such a god, or if believing, will not give assent to such a god (as by worship or other assertions of approval, since the good do not approve of evil). Most theists do not deny this, but instead deny that the evidence is strong. But it seems irrefutable that there is strong evidence that a god must either be evil or not exist.

The Bible does not tell us that only genuinely good people believe in a good God.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
   Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.- James 2:18-22

If demons know it, and they are evil, then of course evil people can recognize the fact of God's existence.

For example, in the bible Abraham discards humanity and morality upon God's command to kill his son Isaac, and God rewards him for placing loyalty above morality. That is probably evil--a good god would expect Abraham to forego fear and loyalty and place compassion first and refuse to commit an evil act, and would reward him for that, not for compliance. Likewise, God deliberately inflicts unconscionable wrongs upon Job and his family merely to win a debate with Satan. That is probably evil--no good god would do such harm for so petty a reason, much less prefer human suffering to the cajoling of a mere angel. And then God justifies these wrongs to Job by claiming to be able to do whatever he wants, in effect saying that he is beyond morality. That is probably evil--a good god would never claim to be beyond good and evil. And so it goes for all the genocidal slaughter and barbaric laws commanded by God in the bible. Then there are all the natural evils in the world (like diseases and earthquakes) and all the unchecked human evils (i.e. god makes no attempt to catch criminals or stop heinous crimes, etc.). Only an evil god would probably allow such things.

Why did Abraham go along with the idea of sacrificing Isaac? Abraham knew that the promises of God was contingent on Isaac living, so he obeyed God knowing that God was going to work it out. It was not an issue of evil; or good. The issue was "Can I trust God to keep his promises?" It was for this that Abraham was called "righteous".

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. - Hebrews 11:17-19

As for Job, there was a reason why Job went through what he went through. Job grew closer to God.

1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
 2 “I know that you can do all things;
   no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
   Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me to know.
 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
   but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
   and repent in dust and ashes.” - Job 42:1-6
Strike Three.
Argument 4: The Test
Of the two groups comprising the only viable candidates for heaven, only nontheists recognize or admit that this evidence strongly implies that God must be evil or not exist. Therefore, only nontheists answer the test as predicted for morally good persons. That is, a morally good person will be intellectually and critically responsible about having true beliefs, and will place this commitment to moral good above all other concerns, especially those that can corrupt or compromise moral goodness, like faith or loyalty. So those who are genuinely worthy of heaven will very probably become nontheists, since their inquiry will be responsible and therefore complete, and will place moral concerns above all others. They will then encounter the undeniable facts of all these unexplained evils (in the bible and in the world) and conclude that God must probably be evil or nonexistent.

Again there is no evidence that God is evil or does not exits. Without God, how do you even know what "evil" is? How do you know how "good" you are?

In other words, to accept such evils without being given a justification (as is entailed by god's silence) indicates an insufficient concern for having true beliefs. But to have the courage to maintain unbelief in the face of threats of hell or destruction, as well as numerous forms of social pressure and other hostile factors, is exactly the behavior a god would expect from the genuinely good, rather than capitulation to the will of an evil being, or naive and unjustified trust that an apparently evil being is really good--those are not behaviors of the genuinely good.

Actually Carrier's position is not "courage to maintain unbelief in the face of threats of hell or destruction, as well as numerous forms of social pressure and other hostile factors, is exactly the behavior a god would expect from the genuinely good". It is capitulation to one's self.  It is turning your back on the one who made you and love you.  This is not genuinely "good" but it is "stupid".

Therefore only intellectually committed but critical nontheists are genuinely good and will go to heaven. Therefore, if a god exists, his silence and allowance of evil (in the world and the bible) are explained and justified by his plan to discover the only sorts of people who deserve to populate heaven: sincere nontheists. And this makes perfect sense of many mysteries, thus explaining what theists struggle to explain themselves.

Strike four.  The Bible is proof that God is not silent. God does not tempt anyone for evil nor does evil. So He does not test us the way Carrier is suggesting. 
  13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.- James 1:13-14
  • God's hiddenness is necessary on this account, since his presence would inspire people to behave as if good out of fear or selfish interests, not out of courage or compassion or a sense of personal integrity.
Without God you have no true courage, compassion, or personal integrity.  We are sinners deserving of hell - eternal separation from a holy God.

  • A false, evil image of God in the bible is necessary in order to test whether the reader will place morality or faith first, so this tests moral courage in the face of assertions, threats and promises of reward. It also tests cognitive trustworthiness, since it is wrong to trust what someone merely wrote, over scientifically established truths and the direct evidence of reason and the senses.
It's about trusting God or our  flawed  understanding, reason and senses.
  • Natural evils and unchecked human evils are also necessary on this account, since only in such a way can a god "demonstrate" that no moral power is behind the universe, that there is no custodian, and by that means lead a rational, compassionate observer to conclude there is no god. If the universe were well-ordered, with inherent moral enforcement and the containment or restriction of evils, observers would conclude there is a god and thus, again, might act as if good out of fear or hope of reward.
Just because things aren't meted out the way you think they should be and things happen you cannot explain does not mean that God is not running things. If God eradicated all evil now, he would have to destroy all of us. In stead He decided to save some of us because Her wanted to.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 1920 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.- Romans 8:18-25
    The only way to truly test human beings is to see if we will become nontheists after serious and sincere inquiry into these matters: to see if we have the courage and fortitude to choose morality over faith or loyalty, and be good without fear or hope of divine reward. No other test will ensure a result of the genuinely good being self-selected into a predictable belief-state that can be observed in secret by god.

    Carrier failed to show that the test for being good enough to go to heaven  is contingent on choosing morality over faith. The Bible does not say that.  Carrier could deny that the Bible is true, but he based his whole argument on what Christians believe. Therefore the Bible is relevant.  It's not about being genuinely good. We are morally good and live holy lives through God's grace.

    Since this easily and comprehensively explains all the unexplainable problems of god (like divine hiddenness and apparent evil), while other theologies do not (or at least nowhere so well), it follows that this analysis is probably a better explanation of all the available evidence than any contrary theology. Since this conclusion contradicts the conclusion of every form of Pascal's Wager, it follows that Pascal's Wager cannot assure anyone of God's existence or that belief in God will be the best bet.

    It does not explain theodicy or divine hiddeness at all. If you start from the Christian viewpoint, as Carrier does, then you have to agree that God has revealed Himself to humanity. .Unbelief is not a sure the slightest because if there is a  God holding us accountable for what we do,  not one of us can meet that standard. Only one worldview, Christianity, offers a way for dealing with your sin which must be dealt with. Sorry, but Pascal's Wager is still on the table.

    The End of Pascal's Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven
    Enhanced by Zemanta

    No comments:

    Post a Comment