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Discussion 4 to Meditation 58
On Pascal's wager

by Virtual Volition

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re: Meditation 58 - Late Night Thoughts on Pascal's Wager

When using logic to decide matters of religion or spirituality, it is important to first recognize the limitations of any logic system(s) being used.

Meditation 58 makes the point that Jehovah's Witnesses believe that 256,000 people will be admitted to heaven, and therefore, having some 7 million members, obviously, many aren't going to make it, even though they are members of the "right" religion (assuming, just for the moment of course, that this is in fact the case).

The final point made by meditation 58 is that you should therefore "carefully pick your religion so that your group has fewer members than allotted spaces in heaven" for otherwise, you are gambling on a losing proposition.

This is a poor use of logic, it fails on at least two major points, and the rest of the meditation fails on several other minor ones, most of which I do not bother to refute. 

Apology section follows.

This criticism is not intended to defame the "patriarch" or anybody else who may have written it.  This web site has much clear and even interesting thinking on many topics, and clearly has much well thought out advice pertaining to interpersonal relations that would be of benefit to ANY group of humans.  It has its share of nonsense and contradictions, even in its name.  This is not unique to the teachings (or ramblings) of any religion to which I have so far been exposed, nor should it be unreasonably maligned for having such. 

"WHAT?", you say.  "How is the church promoting a contradiction in its name?"

Well, if you look in the dictionary (this one comes from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, dilithium Press Ltd.1994, printed by Barnes & Noble) apathetic is defined as 1: having or exhibiting no emotion.  2: not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive.

I claim that the church is hypocritical in advocating that it is apathetic, and I further claim that this is proven by their own actions and responses posted right on this web site!  I have no problem with this, but the patriarch seems to believe that it would be hypocritical to admit members who also claim to be Christians, and if you are unwilling to be a hypocrite, then you need to examine all of your actions for any evidence of hypocrisy.

If you read enough of the material, you will detect plenty of emotion.  Sometimes playful, sometimes anger, sometimes resentment, sometimes, even the indifference claimed in the first place, (but it is not universal).

Given any indication of emotion, it would seem that the church at least partially fails the first definition, and does so most of the time.

As far as the second definition goes, it seems equally clear, that the founder of the church at least, fails to meet this criterion as well.  A truly apathetic or indifferent individual would hardly bother to put up a web site and maintain it.  This is a lot of work and usually, a thankless one at that.  Given the position taken by the church, this job is even harder to deal with than would be usual for some innocuous subject.  Potential members, being apathetic, would hardly bother to join it nor would they even bother to make the claim to others that they were members, whether they formally joined or not.

Taking the time to respond to any opinions, solicited or not, clearly invalidates the possibility of being uninterested, and, by definition, unresponsive.  I believe the genuine concern and thoughtful advice on interpersonal issues clearly shows that the church fails to meet the "unconcerned" part of the definition as well.

It would seem that I have already belabored the point of the hypocrisy of the church's name before even getting to the reason for my response, but I am an idiot also, and this is one of my perpetual failings in life.  If you are bored so far, I apologize, and hopefully, will correct this shortcoming immediately.

Thus, it seems clear that the main purpose of the site is not, as it is purported, to advance the cause of apathetic agnosticism, but to have a good time and hopefully meet with likeminded individuals, at least via e-mail.  The possibility is even left open to actually meeting someone with the knowledge to explain where any chain of logic or opinion fails to meet the test of truth, (shades of Pascal's Wager?)  Freedom to respond, whether pro or con is openly and actively invited.  This is exceptionally openminded for a church, and is to be lauded as a commendable example for other more "supposedly Christian and charitable" organizations to emulate.  Of course, the name is also intended to irritate fundamentalists by claiming to be "unconcerned" with their beliefs and preachings.  This is a very good strategic move, as it is a powerful defense against their attempts at coercion, and will undoubtedly accomplish the intended purpose nicely, but it should be remembered that one of our true goals in life is to discover truth, and though the patriarch elsewhere seems to recommend the judicious use of lies to promote marital harmony "you are the most beautiful woman in the world to me", it is prudent to keep in the back of your mind that you have in fact told a lie.  The ideal church or organization would not feel the need for such a thing, in my opinion, and thus, though effective, I do not personally endorse it, just in case anybody misunderstood my earlier statements, or even cared, one way or the other.

Now, having said all that, the patriarch will hopefully not slaughter my remaining criticism as mercilessly as he might otherwise have done.  He does, in fact, always get the last laugh, as HE is the final arbiter of what gets published on HIS web site.  In fact, in the interest of having entertaining postings on his site, I hope he deletes the entire preamble to what I say next, starting from the "apology" above.

There is no doubt that whatever exists, exists.  Just because humankind does not know of it, nor because they understand it poorly or wrongly does not change how it is.  The earth was once thought to be flat.  For the most part, and for most people on a purely practical level, it is.  However, we now think of it as a sphere, (okay, okay, oblate spheroid for you nitpickers, though that isn't quite perfect either), though we have to go to a much larger scale than most humans would be capable of doing in order reach this conclusion.  What all those people believed way back when, did not and does not change the actual shape of the earth one bit.  It also completely demolishes the famous rhetorical argument; "Can everybody be wrong?"  The answer is, "They most certainly can!"  Making this point clear may very well be the most valuable contribution this web site and church can make to humanity.

In the same way, just because some cult, sect or religion believes that 256,000 or 5,000,000 or 13 members will make it to some place called heaven does not mean that this is so, nor that any are going to be "left behind" once all the places are filled.  It is far more logical to assume that any deity or designer who has gone so far as to make organized rules for the physical interactions of matter, and probably had a hand in designing bodies that somehow "know" how to digest food and repair themselves automatically without any direct, conscious knowledge or control on the part of the inhabitants of that body (you, for a quite personal and practical example), quite likely also has in place some mechanism to assure your continued education on what ever level you are in need of.

I offer no proof that there is life after death, but I do know that you can't possibly learn everything you would need to know in order to fit into a "perfect" and eternal society in one earthly lifetime.  If there is ANY way to actually achieve such a state, then there must be a way to allow potential candidates to master the required qualifications for such a state if you ever want to have any members.

Just because everybody (and thus, every religion), is wrong about any particular thing, doesn't mean that they are all totally wrong about everything, or that they aren't working on some worthwhile goal, and making incremental progress on an actually worthy task anyway.  There is quite likely substantial value and worth in attempting to master a set of personal morals, whether adopted from some religious creed or whether developed arduously by yourself.

My personal guidance was kind enough to answer the following question directly, (and in plain English so I could understand and comprehend it), when I complained incessantly about all the incredible idiocy being taught in the congregation I had been directed to attend, (I had been directed to attend it, as I was obviously not pursuing knowledge on religious matters during my life to any notable degree prior to that date).  "Not all delusions are equally harmful", was the understated and quite probably profound response.  In any event, I was effectively silenced immediately.

My favorite theory, (based purely on amusement value), though by no means one that I place any particular belief or stock in, other than to explain the frequent observation on this site that people are INCREDIBLY stupid, is that we all are in an insane asylum for a technologically advanced civilization.  They don't "execute" their criminals or insane elements.  They just send them here, where they can learn to get along with each other (or die, if they choose not to), but more importantly, where they don't mess up the rest of the place for everybody else.  Australia was an interesting example of a similar type of place for England a few years back, when they sought to export all their "criminals".  I hear it is rather a nice place to live today, if any conclusions can be drawn from that particular social experiment.

In any event, don't make logical conclusions based on seemingly intelligent sounding observations, without first analyzing what the inherent limitations of your unstated assumptions might be.  You will be led far astray if you do, and Pascal's Wager (or some other theological line of reasoning) might very well come back to bite you in the ass if you happen to conclude arrogantly and wrongly, just as all those people you enjoy poking fun at appear to have done from YOUR perspective.  It is also popular to deride people's mistakes in spelling.  I have known idiots who couldn't spell, and I have known geniuses who couldn't spell either.  Once you resort to laughing at someone who can't spell, or who doesn't take the time to spellcheck their document, you open yourself to such ridicule also.  The patriarch was himself guilty of misspellings in the very document where he pointed out the admittedly laughable failings of another.  You will undoubtedly find over a dozen in this article, though I have gone over it for well over two hours attempting to rid it of every last one.  Laugh at me too, if you will.  That IS, after all, part of what the purpose of this site is all about.  We can't really take ourselves so seriously when we are all so obviously clueless.

Many of the "contradictions" and "discrepancies" in the Bible that I have logged in my database as indications or even proof of the fallacy of the Bible have been later shown to still be possible by means of an explanation that never occurred to me at the time I wrote the refutation down.  I am not impressed by the implausibility of some of the "saving possibilities", but it has powerfully shown the limitations of my supposedly "impeccable" logic, and it keeps me from thinking I have any of the answers anymore, (much less ALL of the answers, as I once seemed to believe).

I am now maintaining more of an attitude of alert openness, and I find that I am learning much more than I ever anticipated or expected, though I may privately (or publicly) disagree on any number of specific issues and instances.  What you choose to do is certainly completely up to you, but I offer my experience as a possibly more useful and productive avenue for you to examine or consider for adoption in your personal search for truth.

I hope our trails meet up again down the road and you can share what you have learned from your experiences next time.  Thanks for the soapbox.