Saturday, December 16, 2006

John's Wager

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 ExistGod Exists
ReligiousTime WastedHeaven
Non ReligiousNothingHell
Note: for the sake of simplicity, lets ignore the time you waste as a religious person and say that everyone is the same if there's no god

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 ExistGod Exists
Non ReligiousNothing-infinity

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 GodWhiny GodGood God
Non ReligiousNothing-infinityx
where 0 ≤ x ≤ infinity

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.


kopisusu2 said...

Amen, brother. I just can't sign up for a god who consigns anyone to holy fire, or even one who banishes people to a cold sad place far away from Himself (the kinder-and-gentler, modern hell). If god doesn't appreciate one's efforts to be good and kind and to appreciate the amazingness of the world, and if god doesn't give second, third, and 178th chances to people who are mean, I don't want anything to do with god.

See you in hell! If you, me and some of our associates are there, we can at least sing some good songs.

mr_john said...

Pelangi, pelangi...

Harvard said...

And that reminds me of the fellowships in university where Buddhists pick up chicks.

kopisusu2 said...

Hmmm ... isn't there some play where hell turns out to be a bunch of people in a room ... all singing Pelangi Pelangi over and over again?

morley said...

I anticipate your video. If only to masturbate to.

Achmad Sudarsono said...


What more proof do you need than the Holy Quran ? This - the most sacred text of Islam - tells of the entire story of creation, including foretelling the final day. I recommend, Friend, that you read it and embrace the true faith of Islam.

Not only will you save yourself, but you will achieve Peace.

At the same time, as a foreigner, you'd benefit from studying Pancasila, the state philosophy of Indonesia. My own theory is that the inferior morality of many foreigners, especially Bules, stems from their lack of exposure to Pancasila. So it's not really their fault.

This is an opportunity to correct these faults, Friend. So no more silly-billy talk of Atheism !



mr_john said...


Thanks for your response.

Do you truly believe that a person will go to hell unless they say "La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad ur Rasuul Allah" and really mean it they will go to hell? What about innocent children who die at birth, or people living in complete isolation in the South American rainforest who have never heard of Islam (or Pancasila for that matter).

I think that any belief system that dooms a righteous person to hell for reasons completely beyond their control can not possibly be correct; and if it is, then I'm not going to have anything to do with it.



PS - Congratulations on your enormous penis.

Achmad Sudarsono said...


Thanks for your visit to my Blog. The main point of that comment was to say that you can't rely on such things in life - even if you have them.

You have to have faith. Above all, however, Allah is fair and merciful. It is my opinion that he also shows faith to people of the book, that is Christians and Jews. It's a good point about the South American rainforest - I think they'd get an exception.

But Indonesia is not the South American rainforest.

As for Hell and the like, who are we to question His word ? Better we just practise as good Muslims and leave the judgement to Allah.

Pancasila's optional for foreigners, I just think it'd help most of them.

Hope to see you at Jumatan.

Increase da Peace...


Achmad Sudarsono said...

Sorry - I meant to say Allah shows mercy to the people of the book because he is All Wise and All Merciful.

mr_john said...

That's exactly the point. Why would a god show such favouritism? What about righteous Hindus, or righteous atheists for that matter.

I also see no compelling argument that "you have to have faith"... In fact, Indonesia could do with a lot more scepticism. Dukuns, pawangs and other shysters steal billions of rupiah from Indonesians every year. The person telling you to have faith is normally the person who is cheating you...

As much as I'd like to check out Jumatan, I attract enough attention as a 2 meter tall white man in Indonesia. Explaining to people that I'm an atheist and I just went to check it out might rub people the wrong way.

mr_john said...

Oh, and by the way. In this manner, some parts of Indonesia are quite a lot like the South American rainforest... Some areas of Papua and Kalimantan and incredibly isolated and the inhabitants could not be reasonably expected to know that Islam just happened to be the right religion...

Also, could you quote me a surah that specifically says that people who have never been exposed to Islam but live morally get to go to heaven? I'd be very interested in knowing where to look for it. Unfortunately I don't know the Qur'an anywhere near as well as I should.

Achmad Sudarsono said...


Islam does not condone traffick with spirits and Djinn.

Actually, the words of the Holy Quran seem to focus more on the tortures that await the infidels in hell. Some Surah describe the tortures quite explicitly and in graphic detail.

But dear Friend,

Allah S.A.W. is all-merciful and just.

It'd be a bit unreasonable to cast a Kalahari bushman or a Yanomamo Indian into the deepest pits of Jahanam. Admittedly, I'm surmising somewhat, but deep down, I don't think God is a bastard.

Hindus in India, and even many Papuans in those funny dickybird things they wear, have heard the Word. There are mosques in Papua.

And Friend, you have truly heard the Word. You imply you have at least a little knowledge of the Koran - how could you not be transformed merely by touching the Holy Book.

You seem like a very intelligent young man. It'd be a shame to see you commit to a future of spiritual darkness.

mr_john said...

Again, can you find me a surah in the Qur'an that excludes Kalahari bushmen from hell? Seriously, I'd love to know where it is.

If there isn't one, then I think there's only one conclusion to be drawn that that belief system (and Christianity as well for that matter: Mark 3:29 "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:") is wrong, and to my mind, evil. If I can forgive someone for insulting me, surely an omnipotent being can handle a little ribbing now and then.

This is not to mention all of the evil done in the name of the religion, and not just by the extremists... Persecution of homosexuals, the jailing of women as prostitutes in Tangerang without due legal process, the implementation of Syariah in Aceh only applying to the poorest levels of society.

I would rather spend eternity in hell (and suffer a future of spiritual darkness) than be party to such evil and injustice. In fact, if I truly believed that the above were evil (as I do) I am honour-bound to do all in my power to reject them; and that means rejecting orthodox Islam, Christianity, and almost all organised religion...

Achmad Sudarsono said...

Ok Friend,

I don't think there is an explicit Surah which lets people who haven't heard the word off the hook.

And to be honest, I don't know Arabic well enough to decode all the possible nuances of the Surah. Centuries of bearded psychos from the Middle East and Western Orientalists gave the translated Quran a pretty medieval flavour in parts.

Who knows, instead of "almonds and milk," maybe Muhammad meant endless frisbee games in the afterlife ?

But you seem like a nice fellow so I don't see why the Almighty would be so small-minded as to throw you into the Eternal Fire.

In fact, let's think about it. He created alot of mind-blowing things, Black Holes, Wormholes, Galaxies, Dark Matter, Velcro, Ipods. Surely this is more interesting than inflicting pain on lesser beings ?

But Thanks, Friend and good luck on your Quest. Hope you make it to the Great Frisbee Field of the Afterlife.

Increase Da Peace,


Achmad Sudarsono said...


I didn't mean to suggest God couldn't multi-task. He could, say, recreate all of space-time whilst having the Demon of Cacophony sodomize a screaming infidel in Hell.

And I'm sure pondering whether to Smite Kenny G (the bad sax player), whilst whipping up the Armani spring collection wouldn't even break a sweat.

But the main punishment would just be being separate from Him.(That's God not Kenny G or the Demon).

Thanks, Friend.

Increase Da Peace

Achmad Sudarsono said...

Halo Mr. John,

I just wanted to say Happy Islamic New Year and say sorry if I do the bad thing or the wrong thing. Also if I am many offend.

Please you are to have the Peace.