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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pascal's Wager

Pascal Style Wagers go something like this. If you follow the religion you potentially get benefits (maybe on Earth and in Heaven) from a Deity, but if you do not follow the religion all sorts bad things (maybe on Earth and in Hell) could happen to you.  So it makes more sense to follow the religion because you don’t lose much when following it and have much to gain.  Some may add that the religion advocates good traits, so even if the religion is false you gain on Earth. Some people tweak the argument that even if there is only a small percent chance the religion is correct you should follow it. 

It is a sort of fall back position when the apologetic gives up trying to convince you based on logic, reason and evidence for their religion. To keep you ensnared or to ensnare you they may use the Pascal Style Wager.

1) A  problem for Judaism is the wager works better for the religion that claims the worst sort of punishment and the best benefits for following it. Probably some Christian denomination would qualify.

2)  There are competing, contradicting, mutually antagonist religions and religious denominations, and some claiming that if you follow that other ‘guys’ religion or denomination  you are doomed.  

Most if not all religions think they have at least some evidence that truth is on their side. Each can use the Pascal Style Wager, leading to logical conundrums.   

3) The argument assumes the Deity of the religion will behave a certain way. Meaning if you follow the religion even for disingenuous reasons the Deity will deal with you in a kindly manner.  

Sincerity is the sort of trait I assume "G-d" would desire.  If there is “G-d” I  assume it would be more or less repelled by following the religion for such reasons as advocated by Pascal Style Wagers. 

However, a religion may claim it's Deity does not care about sincerity and then I think my objection fails for that religion.

Do you want to worship a Deity who has no issues with the reasons to worship as advocated Pascal Style Wagers ?

4) Suppose there is a religion that advocated or advocates evil or unfair laws or negative traits ? Will you follow the religion because Pascal Style Wager ? 

I do not think the Torah or Judaism is exempt from this critique. If there was a "G-d" I assume it would not want you to follow a religion that advocated or advocates evil or unfair laws or negative traits.  If it did,  it is not a god I desire to worship, nor could I. That is something out of my control. 

5) There can be costs and  sometimes dangers associated with following some  religions. 

Consider Orthodox Judaism. It is an expensive religion. Yeshiva  tuition and Kosher food are expensive. Maybe you would love to eat shrimp but can not because the religion forbids it. There are numerous Holidays and the weekly Sabbath  that can  restrict income potential and uses of your time. And that is just a tiny example of the  huge costs associated with Orthodox Judaism. ( Some may object that Judaism is not burdensome and or that the earthly benefits of Judaism are so great as to outweigh the costs. That is not an intellectually honest response; this post is not the place to refute it).  Orthodox Judaism is expensive, can restrict potential enjoyments in life and proposes some negative traits. THESE ARE ACTUAL REAL TANGIBLE NEGATIVES AND COSTS as opposed to alleged rewards and punishments from an alleged Deity. 

6) When entering a wager,  you desire assurances the terms and outcomes of the wager can be fulfilled. 

For example. An individual offers you a wager. Toss a coin. If it lands heads he will pay you 613 million dollars. But if it lands tails you pay him only 13 dollars.  Seems like a good bet but only if the coin has at least some chance of landing heads. If it does not you should not accept the wager.  But we may also reject the bet even if the coin toss is fair. Maybe the guy will just run away after the bet so you will never get anything even if the coin lands heads.  In short, unless the terms of the bet can be reasonably expected to be fulfilled why bother with the bet ?  
There are good reasons not to take the Pascal Style Wager seriously. We do not have assurances the terms of the wager can be enforced or will be enforced. There are good reasons to believe the alleged benefits and punishments are bogus. It is very unlikely there is any existence of a ‘life’ after death. There are many religious people who have not enjoyed great rewards on this Earth and have suffered  greatly here on Earth.  There is no valid evidence for supernatural,  any religions or cults.  So the threats and rewards are more bluff and puff than substance.

For Orthodox Judaism there is also evidence it's claims are not likely true. This makes the application  of the Pascal Style Wager for it even more problematic.  For example, if you know the individual offering the toss coin bet is not truthful or not  reliable you become even more reluctant to accept his wager.

7) Why should we consider there is X% probability or X%  chance the religion  or cult is true or even the possibility it may be true ?  Does it make sense to consider  invented probabilities within a calculation ? 

There are and have been thousands of religions and denominations and cults.  Suppose we give each a tiny percent for each being true, then you may  end up with with the conclusion that there is a high probability at least one religion or cult is true.  This only happened because of invented probabilities.  

To what may this be compared ? Lets  assume there is a tiny percent chance elves exist or existed, a tiny percent chance flying fire breathing dragons exist or existed, a tiny percent chance the  phoenix exists or existed etc: etc: then you may end up with with the conclusion that there is a high probability that a fantastical creature exists or existed. You could make up other examples. 

One way out of this conundrum is to use probabilities that have support and not just assign made up probabilities that XYZ is true.


I would rather make decisions based on the best evidence and what seems most likely,  not wagers on things that there is at best tiny evidence for their existence. 

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