Pascal's Wager?

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
User avatar
mackay11
Posts: 2045
Joined: 01 Nov 2012, 18:01

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by mackay11 » 05 Aug 2013, 06:25

Ann wrote:I wager that God exists. I have no good reason not to, and plenty of beautiful experiences that incline me towards Him. I've had one or two searing moments that convince me of the Atonement.

But I've had to separate the question of the existence of God and my need for a savior from the truthfulness of the Church. My relationship to the church has become more a sincere, ongoing experiment. It may not take me all the way "back" to the things the church teaches about Joseph Smith.

What I can't stomach right now is being told, in essence often times at church, chastised in a way, that my thoughts about JS are "wrong," dangerous, blasphemous.

I don't know what else to do. They are my thoughts.

My hope is that I will stop taking apart the contraption formerly called my testimony. Stop trying to reverse-engineer it back to a certainty about founding stories and people - and just move forward.
I read this today, thought you might like it:
“[W]hile all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one’s logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within.”
–President Hugh B. Brown, An Abundant Life:
The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown

User avatar
DevilsAdvocate
Posts: 1391
Joined: 19 Feb 2010, 12:56
Location: Utah

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 05 Aug 2013, 07:38

mackay11 wrote:What do you make of it?...Is that one of the things that keeps us in Mormonism? The 'just in case?'
I think Pascal had the right idea other than greatly oversimplifying things into only two basic dichotomies when there are definitely other possibilities that are also worthy of consideration. So Pascal basically saw equally compelling reasons to argue both for and against the idea of God but to him the tie-breaker was that the traditional Christian notion of an eternal reward in the afterlife greatly outweighed what little he felt he had to lose if it turned out that the atheist world-view was correct. Of course even if we assume that God exists that doesn't mean that we know for sure what exactly he expects out of us (if anything). Maybe God had something else in mind than what we typically offer as a sign of devotion or maybe God doesn't really care what people believe nearly as much as they do.

In any case, I like the way Pascal evaluated what he saw as the most likely alternatives and I think it certainly makes sense to settle on beliefs we can live with based on what we see as the most likely outcomes in each case. I think this also shows one way the Church has gone wrong by not seriously considering the alternatives to many of the traditional LDS doctrines. The result is that the Church has come to depend heavily on many very specific claims that don't withstand some of the strongest counter arguments and evidence to the contrary very well and on top of this the Church has raised the costs of believing to the point that it's not very easy to shrug off as something you can still feel good about either way (whether it came from God or man). So I think this approach will typically not work out in the Church's favor the more attention members pay to alternative possibilities but there are also other factors that tend to keep members in the Church such as family/social ties to it and/or because it's what they are already used to.
"Truth is what works." - William James

Ann
Posts: 2574
Joined: 09 Sep 2012, 02:17

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by Ann » 05 Aug 2013, 22:00

mackay11 wrote:
“[W]hile all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one’s logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within.”
–President Hugh B. Brown, An Abundant Life:
The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown
I wish I had had the backbone to only ever testify after going through the process HBB describes. Ultimately I can only blame myself for pretending to faith I didn't actually have on several specific points of doctrine. On the other hand, I think the church has done a great deal to impede "mature examination."
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

User avatar
wayfarer
Posts: 1335
Joined: 09 Nov 2011, 15:59
Location: in ye olde world
Contact:

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by wayfarer » 07 Aug 2013, 04:35

I find pascal's wager to be completely flawed. "If you win you gain all." It's a false choice.

I would like to think of god as an enlightened being. If I had a son who was a fawning sycophant, believing without hesitation exactly what he thinks I said 3000 years ago to a people who made crap up, I would be very concerned about his ability to discern truth.

If I had a son or daughter who ascribed to me genocide, and then justified it through faithful apologetics, I would be deeply concerned as to his or her moral compass.

If, on the other hand, I had a child who took full responsibility for his or her actions, did her level best to make the best out of the world s/he lived in, and cared for neighbor, what would I care what s/he thought of me? Expecially if every description of me is robed in abstraction so vague I cannot be recognized?

I would hope an enlightened god would countenance critical thinking. I think Mr Deity's interaction with Michael Shermer is very illustrative.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
My seat in the bloggernacle: http://wayfaringfool.blogspot.com

Outofstep
Posts: 33
Joined: 18 Aug 2012, 12:50

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by Outofstep » 07 Aug 2013, 10:50

Cadence wrote: Personally I think the best you can do is wager that there is a god and just do your best to be a good person. Leave the specifics of different religions out of the equation.
Yes. This. I couldn't say it any better.

Ann....exactly....to all.
wayfarer wrote: If, on the other hand, I had a child who took full responsibility for his or her actions, did her level best to make the best out of the world s/he lived in, and cared for neighbor, what would I care what s/he thought of me? Expecially if every description of me is robed in abstraction so vague I cannot be recognized?
When my son left the church, I got many statements of sorrow from fellow members. Some were sincere, and some were offensive. Wayfarer's thought above was pretty much my response to the critics. I continue to advise my son to be a good person, and care for others.

I am so glad I read this thread today.

User avatar
Orson
Site Admin
Posts: 2252
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 14:44

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by Orson » 08 Aug 2013, 07:59

"God is, or He is not" is perfectly useless in my opinion. I define God, at least as a start, as the creative force of life - therefore God IS, and from my perspective nobody can argue with that. The question that remains is: WHAT is God? (or what is God's true nature) ...which is a question that is unanswerable as far as science is concerned, . . . but can be immeasurably productive to contemplate for spiritual purposes.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

User avatar
cwald
Posts: 3628
Joined: 10 Aug 2015, 06:39

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by cwald » 08 Aug 2013, 22:34

This has been a good thread.

Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

User avatar
Orson
Site Admin
Posts: 2252
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 14:44

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by Orson » 09 Aug 2013, 12:09

wayfarer wrote:...what would I care what s/he thought of me?
I have always thought as I strive to become a more perfect person I care less about what people think and care more about who I really am.

The petty vengeful jealous descriptions of God are to me glaring images of the people who wrote them, people that could not fully comprehend the patience, love, and self-confidence of a perfect being.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

User avatar
Heber13
Site Admin
Posts: 7192
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by Heber13 » 09 Aug 2013, 12:58

DA wrote:I think Pascal had the right idea other than greatly oversimplifying things into only two basic dichotomies when there are definitely other possibilities that are also worthy of consideration.
This is mostly what I think also.

It would be nice if the complexities of this mortal probation could be boiled down to a nice logical 6-point assumption and choice list.

Since it can't, it is simply an exercise in the hypothetical, and therefore, any answer is hypothetically valid.
Cadence wrote:just do your best to be a good person. Leave the specifics of different religions out of the equation
+1

The part most flawed is:
If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
As wayfarer points out, it is a false choice.

Fun to discuss, though. Good thread.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

User avatar
DevilsAdvocate
Posts: 1391
Joined: 19 Feb 2010, 12:56
Location: Utah

Re: Pascal's Wager?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 14 Aug 2013, 07:25

wayfarer wrote:I find pascal's wager to be completely flawed. "If you win you gain all." It's a false choice...I would like to think of god as an enlightened being..If I had a son or daughter who ascribed to me genocide, and then justified it through faithful apologetics, I would be deeply concerned as to his or her moral compass...If, on the other hand, I had a child who took full responsibility for his or her actions, did her level best to make the best out of the world s/he lived in, and cared for neighbor, what would I care what s/he thought of me? Expecially if every description of me is robed in abstraction so vague I cannot be recognized?...I would hope an enlightened god would countenance critical thinking...
Orson wrote:"God is, or He is not" is perfectly useless in my opinion. I define God, at least as a start, as the creative force of life - therefore God IS, and from my perspective nobody can argue with that. The question that remains is: WHAT is God? (or what is God's true nature) ...which is a question that is unanswerable as far as science is concerned, . . . but can be immeasurably productive to contemplate for spiritual purposes.

Pascal was Catholic and came up with this idea in the 1600s so I'm not sure it is very fair to fault him for not seriously considering nuanced and unorthodox views about God and the afterlife. Basically it was a question of traditional Christianity versus atheism in his mind. To me what is interesting about this idea is not so much what he thought made the most sense as much as the way he approached the problem by facing and openly evaluating what he saw as the strongest alternatives rather than focusing primarily on his own preferences from the beginning and mostly ignoring or dismissing any competing arguments. So to simply say that I disagree with Pascal's views about God and the afterlife therefore I think he was wrong misses the real point of the exercise that for ideas like God and an afterlife there is no obvious right answer, all we really have is basically guesswork about different possibilities that can't be directly verified. That's what is still just as true now as it was then.
"Truth is what works." - William James

Post Reply