For various reasons I've been thinking a lot about religion, faith and supreme beings recently and have come to something of an epiphany.
Undoubtedly, as with every other vaguely philosophical epiphany I have had in my life someone will come along soon and tell me that someone else had it long, long ago, but before that happens and while I still I have impetus, I will write about it. So here goes...
Everyone knows Pascal's wager which says that assuming you're a moral person, you're better off being religious, because then the worst that can happen is you cease to be and the best you can get is heaven. If you foolishly decide to live as a perfectly ethical atheist, then the best you can hope for is annihilation, and the worst you can hope for is hell.
|God Doesn't Exist||God Exists|
Not many people buy this argument because the choice is not really as simple as that. You also need to take into account that you might be supporting an evil belief system and otherwise wasting your time. Intuitively, this sounds fine, but if you start thinking about things mathematically you actually run into trouble here.
|God Doesn't Exist||God Exists|
Now, much as I would like to, I can't truly discount the possibility that I'm wrong and there is a supreme being of some description, so I will assign probability p1 to God Doesn't Exist, and p2 to God Exists; where p1, p2 < 1. Problem for me is, no matter how I assign the probabilities, the possibility of an infinitely terrible heuristic value (or an infinitely wonderful one) should always compel me to choose religion. Here is where John's Wager comes in.
I think that the values would be more appropriately assigned as follows:
|No God||Whiny God||Good God|
Above, Whiny God refers to god existing as he does in Islam/Christianity/Judaism, damning people to hell for being homosexual, drinking alcohol, eating pork, not believing in him, etc. etc., and Good God refers to god existing, but having much better things to worry about; in this case you could get anything from nothing to heaven.
Unfortunately for me, there's still a non-zero probability that a Whiny God exists and will damn me to hell for not accepting Jesus Christ as my own personal saviour. But you know what? Fuck him. If he's going to be such a whiny little bitch about something as trivial as whether or not I believe in him then I'm going not going to believe in him out of spite.
If that doesn't sway you (let's be honest, it is a little childish), look at it from a moral perspective. Anyone who sets up a system for getting into heaven such that the vast majority of people have absolutely no chance of ever making it in because they were never exposed to the way, the truth or the light deserves to be protested against. I see it as my moral obligation to be an atheist for all of the children who die at birth, the people living in remote Papua who never meet the person who tells them about the right way to get into heaven (unless of course, their god is the right one, then we're all fucked), and the people who are just trying to get by and don't have time for all the praising and the self-flaggelation and whatnot.
Even if I go to hell, at least I'll know I was right...
Atheism: the only moral choice.