by Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pascal’s Wager: “How could I give up eternal salvation by choosing not to believe in God?” I’ve been asked. “By accepting God you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. It’s a no-brainer.” Here’s my response:
Which god? There are a great many different gods and religions worshiped today, each with different dogmas and beliefs regarding just about everything. Obviously they can’t all be right. But since there’s no rational way to determine which ones are wrong, if not all of them, how can I choose? What happens if I pick the wrong god? What happens if I choose a Hindu god, or Allah, or the biblical god and the real god turns out to be a jealous, vindictive Egyptian Sun God? Now I’m really dammed to hell!
Which Christian sect? So suppose I flip a coin and it comes up “Jesus is my Lord and Savior”. I still have to select from among the hundreds of different Christian sects and denominations which disagree with each other on all sorts of trivial things…like how to get to heaven, or the time of ensoulment, or the morality of birth control, abortion, homosexuality, or woman’s place, and so on. Why so many different sects? Partly because our Bible is filled with scientific absurdities, contradictions, ambiguities and inconsistencies, thus making it a “pick-n-choose” Bible.
Faking is out. Also, you can’t fake it. You have to really believe in this medieval nonsense. Feigning belief? Don’t even think about it. Any omniscient god would see right through the deception. So now what? How do I throw out decades of acquired knowledge that devastates god beliefs, including much of my entire scientific background and become a true believer?
Horrors! Suppose I “miraculously” do become a true believer, say in the god of the Christian Right and of the Republican Party. Suppose I spend the rest of my life worshiping this god and doing what I am told is his bidding. Then suppose I discover near the end of my life that this god was either the wrong god or never existed in the first place. Horrors!! I’ve just spent my life trashing large chunks of excellent, life-advancing science in this god’s name.
I’ve spent my life trashing rational critical thought and humanistic compassion in favor of an intolerant medieval theocracy! I’ve spent my one priceless life increasing the pain and suffering of gays and lesbians, and people with terminal illnesses who just wanted to die in peace and dignity. I spent my life trying to force untold numbers of desperate women with unwanted pregnancies to be unwilling embryo incubators! I’ve even fought against the survival of democracy in favor of a fascist theocracy!
I’ve squandered my precious time on Earth worshiping, sacrificing to, and fighting for some evil deity or one that never existed in the first place! In fact I’ve actually spent my life working for the extinction of the entire human species by preaching and supporting Armageddon End Times beliefs! Horrors!! And Christians actually have the temerity to tell me that I have everything to gain and nothing to lose by accepting their god!!!!
Here’s what I think. If an all-good, all-wise deity really did exist—a deity responsible for all the laws of science, including relativity and quantum mechanics—this deity would certainly not want us to waste our time kissing His ass and sending money to charlatans with bad hair pieces. Instead, He would want us to live lives of kindness, generosity and humanistic compassion. He would certainly not want us to follow the irrational, destructive, intolerant, and self-serving dogmas of the Christian Right.
Also, since this deity saw to it that we had brains which could scientifically discover and explore the workings of His creation, He would regard the honest seeking of truth as one of His highest virtues. He would want us to use our rational brains and the scientific method to improve life on Earth instead of wallowing in endless superstitions.
Hell: If Christian fundamentalists are right and I’m wrong, I could be going to Hell (I’ve been told) for trying to destroy the faith of good, honest, God-fearing Christians. (Mark 9:42). But consider: If the Jesus of the New Testament really did exist and, despite all evidence to the contrary, his words really were recorded accurately in the Gospels, then those “Christians” who have not done their best to conform to his moral dictates could also be joining me for an eternity of fire and brimstone. That could be a lot of Christians!
After all, Jesus was very clear in his explicit admonition for the wealthy to give all their money to the poor if they ever wanted to go to heaven (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-25; Luke 18:18-26). Yet, Christian Americans remain incredibly wealthy compared to the two billion people on our planet who live on less that $2 a day. So the express train to Hell might very well be stuffed with those who spent their extra money on BMWs, Botox injections, Armani shoes and trips to Vegas instead of on poverty relief. Also in danger could be those men who committed adultery by marrying divorced women, those who didn’t turn the other cheek, and those who spent their time judging and condemning homosexuals, secular humanists, Jews, and Janice Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.