I"ve mused about this subject before, including in "You're religious, but are you right?" and "Anti-Pascal's wager bets on life."
The question is: what if religious believers are wrong about God, afterlife, ultimate reality? Usually the consequences of being wrong are thrown in the face of atheists and infidels.
You'll spend eternity in hell if you're wrong! So you should believe. Running the risk of sacrificing eternal joy for transient earthly pleasure is stupid.
Well, not really.
It comes down to probabilities. As I've noted before, the existence or non-existence of God isn't a 50-50 proposition. Virtually all of the demonstrable evidence points to no-God, no-afterlife.
In fact, mathematician and religious skeptic James Lindsay argues in his book "God Doesn't, We Do" that the probability of God being real is as close to zero as it is possible to get.
Here's what Lindsay says in a God doesn't exist, almost surely section.
First, when considering the claim that titles this chapter and section, observe that making it is not lost to philosophical indefensibility because it does not flatly deny the possibility of the existence of God. It claims only that the probability that God exists is zero, almost surely.
Second, notice that it serves as the perfect default position in dealing with any existence claim before evidence is provided for it.
In every situation where there is a question about a positive claim that is not settled, the only honest point in investigating the matter is one that assigns the lowest possible philosophically defensible probability for the truth of that claim.
...Since it is not the case that assuming "probability zero" means "no possibility," the severe lack of satisfactory evidence that we see in the world concerning every question about God renders probability zero, almost surely, as the only acceptable starting guess that is philosophically defensible.
Later Lindsay asks religious believers some tough questions in a "What if you're wrong?" section. Here's a sampling.
-- What if you, believer, are right about there being a God but picked the wrong one?
-- What if you're right about God but picked the wrong religion to worship Him, as Muslims, Jews, and Christians mutually claim about each other?
-- What if you're right about God and your religion but wrong about which denomination, sect, or church has it right?
-- What if no demomination or person has figured it out correctly yet?
-- Can you, in your little corner of faith, in your tiny denominational box, shaded by your own personal perception, interests, likes, and dislikes, really be so sure that all of these billions of others have it wrong and that you have it right?
-- What if you are wrong about God's existence?
-- What, then, are you doing with some or much of your life?
-- How much time and effort are you wasting chasing fairy tales out of a book that is ancient literature turned social-control manual?
-- What are you doing to yourself, to your psychological well-being, when you must constantly lie to yourself about your worldview, which does not match your view of the world anywhere you look without relying on rationalizations and contortions of facts?
-- What are you ignoring or failing to learn about the world or yourself because you think you already have answers or because you want them less than your cherished beliefs?
-- What are you doing when you support inhuman social policies, hold back education, suppress healthy expressions of sexuality, oppose beneficial measures in regards to sexual health, deny others their basic human rights, curse the names and lives of your enemies or go to war with them, vote for idiotic politicians because you like their beliefs, held without evidence, enough to act without regard of their backwards ideas on key matters of policy?
-- What are you asking from those of your friends, your family, and your community who do not believe and yet are currently all but forced to listen to and to pretend to respect your religious beliefs, delusional rambling, misplaced thanksgiving, and unflattering solipsism?
-- What actions and thoughts do you deny or attempt to deny yourself on the grounds of your faith, activities and mindsets that might bring enjoyment, pleasure, meaning, or fulfillment to your life?
-- Which of those do you do anyway, needlessly hating yourself for it even while you do it?
-- What do you do only because you hope for bonus points with your imagined creator, selfishly trying to improve the chances that you will get your reward?
I totally agree!
Posted by: Aileen Kaye | January 13, 2014 at 03:53 PM
Posted by: cc | January 13, 2014 at 04:37 PM
There are no valid "what if's", for believers or unbelievers. There can only be "what is", and we are all forever free to regard "what is" in any way we see fit. What is finally "real" is unavoidable and will not yield to personal convictions.
From the above-cited quotations, it looks like Mr. Lindsay is another "cry-baby" atheist, who believes (sic) that believers in a supernatural God are actually responsible for the lion's share of the social ills that continue to plague our species. And, that those self-same believers do not actually enjoy themselves, and do not think that atheists are capable of enjoying themselves.
Reality, under which everything that exists or does not exist is subsumed, trumps both belief and unbelief. Facts and fallacies, too.
Posted by: Willie R. | January 13, 2014 at 08:38 PM
I agree with Willie R. Many atheists sound like disappointed believers whose intellects would not allow them to rationally continue to do so. They're pissed off and alone with their mortality. So they cry out in the wilderness with their bitching. I prefer quiet, humble non-believers who leave the cushion of belief to those who choose it...as long as they leave others alone.
Posted by: tucson | January 13, 2014 at 10:45 PM
it looks like Mr. Lindsay is another "cry-baby" atheist, who believes (sic) that believers in a supernatural God are actually responsible for the lion's share of the social ills that continue to plague our species.
Why is it "cry-baby" to see the retarded, ignorant, pig-headed lunacy of religious believers as the major cause of our difficulties? Go anywhere in the world where people are committing mass murder, brutal oppression, and ecological destruction, and invariably you'll find the casus belli to be the religious precepts held by the worst offenders.
Posted by: cc | January 14, 2014 at 08:16 AM
I prefer quiet, humble non-believers who leave the cushion of belief to those who choose it...as long as they leave others alone.
The "cushion of belief" becomes a bomb when conditions change and the believer is compelled to act according to religious conviction rather than rationally. If you're living without the cushion, you know it's not only unnecessary, but a dead weight that dulls and blunts the mind, making stupid and violent behavior justifiable. If you think the cushion is benign and that cushion carriers ought to be left alone, you're carrying a cushion.
Posted by: cc | January 14, 2014 at 09:04 AM
Seems to me cc that you are the one on a jihad, but one far more dangerous than I have before encountered....Are you "The Devils Advocate?"
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM
june, you're kidding, right? What did "cc" say that makes him sound dangerous? To me, religious believers who act irrationally on the basis of faith and imagined reality are way more dangerous to both other human beings and the planet.
Posted by: Brian Hines | January 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM
No I'm not kidding.. He attacts peoples hearts. I'v seen it many times.. I consider that very dangerous..Tucson was just being impartial...But often when one is just trying to make a comment that is reconsidery he will put that person down..
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 14, 2014 at 11:40 AM
What I'm putting "down", June, is religion. The people who embrace and propagate religion are just its tools; they know not what they do.
Religion is a monster, and when you or anyone presents it as a pussycat, I roar.
Posted by: cc | January 14, 2014 at 01:34 PM
I suggest not taking cc's comments too hard or personally. Sure, he can be abrasive, but that's just his style. We have had other commenters here who can be plenty blunt. Prime example, tAo. Still, their comments can be insightful. I'm sure cc enjoys commenting on this blog because he has the freedom to express his opinions frankly and openly without having to resort to being PC and kiss somebody's fleshy posterior seat cushion. That's what it's all about...freedom.
And congratulations on your own new found freedom.
Posted by: tucson | January 14, 2014 at 02:21 PM
Atheists are incensed by the blatant condescension of Theists, especially when couched in what Alan Watts referred to as the "plainly indentifiable stink of piety".
Hmmmm....maybe that stink is the Divine Halitosis. After all, the other night, just for shits and giggles, I tuned into a John Hagee video, where that fiery preacher explained that man is a creature that was deliberately hand-formed by God out of clay, and was given life because God breathed directly and purposefully on the clay figurine. Thanks for the info, pastor Hagee!
I thought I would add a dash of levity to this blog posting - before the tone gets way too serious.
Posted by: Willie R. | January 14, 2014 at 03:10 PM
I'm sure cc enjoys commenting on this blog because he has the freedom to express his opinions frankly and openly without having to resort to being PC and kiss somebody's fleshy posterior seat cushion. That's what it's all about...freedom.
Right you are, tucson. For Brian's toleration of my religious intolerance, I am grateful.
Posted by: cc | January 14, 2014 at 05:37 PM
Quiet right WillieR, levity is good..But watch out for that Hagee man..Now he is Dangerous. He wants war in the middle east.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 15, 2014 at 09:13 AM
cc please may I give you a poem..."Abou Ben Adhem(May His Tribe Increase) Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,and saw within the moonlight of his room,and angel writing in a book of gold....Peace had made him bold and he asked.."What writest Thou?" The angel replied...The names of those that Love the Lord.....And is mine one replied Abou......Nay not so replied the angel.....Then Abou humlely but cheerly said......Then write me down as one who loves his fellow-men...The angel went then came again the next night.....And lo Ben Adhem's name led all the rest........I'm sure Leigh Hunt will excuse my poetic license....Don't know why I do this cc I just felt compelled to...
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 16, 2014 at 12:08 AM
You may be sure Leigh Hunt would excuse "your poetic license", June, but I suspect that (if he were alive) he wouldn't be pleased with your butchery of his work.
Posted by: cc | January 16, 2014 at 08:07 AM
cc if like read the poem...I just gave the highlights, no butchery intended..I don't know how to transfer direct from the internet yet...It was just to long for me to type, also the originally is a bit archaic don't you think.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 16, 2014 at 09:13 AM
I don't know what the poem says to you, June, but it conveys the sentiment that God doesn't want us to love Him, but to love each other. If this is true, God disapproves of and reproaches those who talk about God and praise God and hold religious precepts.
Posted by: cc | January 16, 2014 at 10:05 AM
"Religion is a monster, and when you or anyone presents it as a pussycat, I roar."
Write something, if you desire, that explains based on your personal experience:
Religion is a monster
Your possible unique experience may be interesting.
Posted by: Roger | January 16, 2014 at 10:36 AM
My personal experience doesn't illustrate the monstrosity of religion as well as history and current events do, but I can say that my experience with "spirituality" was much like Brian's. I awoke from a faith-based belief in "enlightenment" to the enlightening effect of being fact-based.
Posted by: cc | January 16, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Your comments seem to reflect or illustrate the monstrosity of religion. We all have our opinions, however your comments seem to bring out a person(cc)heavily damaged by religion/spirituality.
Posted by: Roger | January 16, 2014 at 02:57 PM
Religion/spirituality arrests mental development. The brain can't learn to think reasonably, logically, when it's conditioned to believe in that for which there is no evidence, and this is what religion does to young brains conditioned to believe before they're developed enough to learn to think rationally. Religion/spirituality nips intellectual development in the bud by molesting the minds of children. Is that monstrous enough for you?
The "damage" is done before you know it, Roger. It begins even before Santa Claus.
Posted by: cc | January 16, 2014 at 03:46 PM
You are ALL right
In your own very actual own space_time
You made it , be happy with what you made .... !!
Posted by: 777 | January 17, 2014 at 01:55 AM
We all have our opinions, however your comments seem to bring out a person(cc)heavily damaged by religion/spirituality.
The effect of arresting intellectual development that religion/spirituality has on the mind is not "damage". Intellectual development can be stunted, compromised, and postponed by religious belief, but a mind that is not satisfied with nostrums, platitudes, and wishful thinking will inevitably purge itself of such nonsense and awaken to rationality and the need for critical thinking.
Consider the life of Brian as demonstrable proof. It is not unusual for one to carry on as a believer for decades before realizing the error of that way and correcting for it.
Posted by: cc | January 17, 2014 at 11:16 AM
check this out.
"The Signs of God's Existence"
a scientific look at the issue
cc, what do you make of this?
Posted by: TheScientist | January 17, 2014 at 11:01 PM
Thank you The scientist I enjoyed the link a bit long but well worth it I recommend it....May I share with you a poem with gratitude........The arrow and the song..By H. Longfellow......I shot an arrow into the air,..I fell to earth, I know not where,...For so swiftly it flew, the sight could not follow its flight......I breathed a song into the air, it fell to earth I know not where........For who had sight so keen and strong, that it can follow the flight of song.....Long, long after in an oak I found the arrow, still unbroke.....And the song from beginning to end I found again....In the heart of a friend.
Posted by: june schlebusch | January 18, 2014 at 04:43 AM
what do you make of this?
If you need God to exist, you'll find "signs" of His existence everywhere, constantly. When you're young or mentally immature, you need to believe in Someone looking out for you, guiding you, consoling you, rewarding you, promising you eternity, etc. When/if your mind develops to where you're rational enough to think more in terms of what actually is than what-should-be, you leave God behind, along with all the other stimulating fantasies and super-heroes of childhood.
Posted by: cc | January 18, 2014 at 08:13 AM
at 8:30 of the video
(1) whatever begins to exist - must have a cause
(2) the universe did begin to exist
(3) the universe must have a cause
when the universe began - time and space also began at the same 'time'. (how contradictory is that - that 'time' began at a certain 'time')
This cause must be beyond time and space and matter. whatever that cause is - that is what some people call God.
You might call it something else. A rose by any other name is still a rose.
Posted by: TheScientist | January 18, 2014 at 01:04 PM
"1) whatever begins to exist - must have a cause
(2) the universe did begin to exist
(3) the universe must have a cause
when the universe began - time and space also began at the same 'time'. (how contradictory is that - that 'time' began at a certain 'time')"
Throughout history the ‘cause’ has been limited to a number of causes such as: -
The diversity of species – all thought to have been caused by God.
The weather, earthquakes, floods – all thought to have been caused by God.
The sun, moon and the earth – all thought to have been caused by God.
The movement of the planets, the sun and the Earth – all thought to be caused by God.
Science (simply knowledge of the physical world and nature), has demonstrated the true nature of these causes without recourse to a God. It has now pushed the boundaries of ‘causes’ 13.5 billion years ago to the ‘big bang’.
All of the above ‘causes’ have not needed a God. No doubt the origins/cause of the universe will someday, likewise be answered, but as limited human beings there will always be reasons/causes unanswered - and inevitably many will continue to squeeze a God into the gap.
Posted by: Turan | January 19, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Turan - watch the video I linked to above. It is talking about the Big Bang - and asking - what caused the big bang?
can the big bang just happen without a cause?
Big bang just postpones the question - it does not answer it. The universe was caused by the big bang. But what caused the big bang?
Posted by: OshoRobbins | January 19, 2014 at 12:12 PM
This cause must be beyond time and space and matter.
Is that so? How can you, who are not "beyond time and space and matter", even speculate about what, if anything, is or can be? Your above conclusion is as delusional as your belief in God.
If you're really interested in causes, inquire into the cause of your belief in God. Before you gathered your "evidence", you'd already concluded that God existed because you needed Him to be there for you. Be honest, fer crisake.
Posted by: cc | January 19, 2014 at 07:18 PM
TheScientist, physical existence could have existed forever. No need to theorize an extra "god" that has existed forever. If something has always existed, why not posit that it is what we know exists now: physical existence?
Posted by: Brian Hines | January 19, 2014 at 08:37 PM
"The effect of arresting intellectual development that religion/spirituality has on the mind is not "damage". Intellectual development can be stunted, compromised, and postponed by religious belief, but a mind that is not satisfied with nostrums, platitudes, and wishful thinking will inevitably purge itself of such nonsense and awaken to rationality and the need for critical thinking."
---Nicely copied/pasted "cc" person. You still don't seem to want to discuss what happened to you, an event or process, that makes you so bitter towards religion in general. If you prefer to be silent, so be it. Referencing other persons experiences is just a cheap distraction on your part.
---All that said, you do have the freedom of choice to comment which ever way you choose.
Posted by: Roger | January 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM
---Nicely copied/pasted "cc" person. You still don't seem to want to discuss what happened to you, an event or process, that makes you so bitter towards religion in general.
I suppose I should be flattered that you think I plagiarized what I wrote, but I'm more inclined to think you're a jerk for assuming I did.
I've explained what makes me so "bitter toward religion", so why don't you tell us what you like about it.
Posted by: cc | January 23, 2014 at 08:06 AM
"I've explained what makes me so "bitter toward religion", so why don't you tell us what you like about it."
---Please reference the explanation location. A must read, maybe and maybe not.
".....you're a jerk....."
---Thanks for the new title, "cc" person.
Posted by: Roger | January 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM
---Please reference the explanation location. A must read, maybe and maybe not.
Here it is, Roger...my response to your question...that you accused me of plagiarizing. All you had to do was scroll up to find it.
"Religion/spirituality arrests mental development. The brain can't learn to think reasonably, logically, when it's conditioned to believe in that for which there is no evidence, and this is what religion does to young brains conditioned to believe before they're developed enough to learn to think rationally. Religion/spirituality nips intellectual development in the bud by molesting the minds of children. Is that monstrous enough for you?"
Posted by: cc | January 23, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Write something specific regarding your experience with your particular religious grouping. This would be helpful for others that are going down a simular path.
Then explain why it is so difficult to let go of the bitteness and anger. Again, this part could help others to avoid what you are going through.
I don't have your type of bitterness, and am not looking for anything monstrous.
Posted by: Roger | January 23, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Roger, you seem to think my experience has misshapen and warped me because my view of religion does not accord with yours. I've made it clear why religion is a bad thing - especially for children - and you dismiss my explanation as a bitter, angry condemnation rather than the dispassionate observation that it is. Why? Is what I've said about religion untrue? If so, please elaborate.
Posted by: cc | January 23, 2014 at 03:13 PM
How did you come to develop what you call a dispassionate observation of religion? Any personal experiences with religion that you could comment on?
Posted by: Roger | January 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM
"Then explain why it is so difficult to let go of the bitteness and anger. Again, this part could help others to avoid what you are going through."
This statement reminds me of the occasions when discussing beliefs (or rather the lack of) and so on with people they often retort "I feel sorry for you". It usually signifies an expression of the ego - a way of dismissing a person's views in order to make one feel justified regarding their own views.
It seems to be a defence mechanism aimed at maintaining a sense of self based on past programming of what I believe I am; for many it is painful to their 'self structure' to contemplate that some of the conditioning absorbed may be incorrect and can almost feels like a denial of what is believed to be 'me', my 'self'.
Regarding the gist of this blog 'What if you're wrong', perhaps because our beliefs (or lack of) constitute a large part of who/what we believe we are we prefer to ignore or dismiss them.
I am not opposed to sharing personal details but it is interesting how we often use such info just to maintain an established and perhaps false sense of self.
Posted by: Turan | January 24, 2014 at 02:02 PM
Any personal experiences with religion that you could comment on?
Roger, you're repeating yourself. Personal testimonies may carry a lot of weight with you because they're the bedrock of religious belief, but I find them tiresome and unreliable. This blog exists to discuss religion and whether it has any merit, or is a blight and a pernicious influence. I've explained why I see religion as something the human species needs to rid itself of, and I'd like to know why you disagree. Pray tell, what do you like about religion? Clearly, you disapprove of those who speak against it. Why?
Posted by: cc | January 24, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Sent to a jewish group:
I hope so much that your Kaballah teachings explain the Sephiroth
and Zohar teachings
given by Melchisedek to Abraham
about the 7-th heaven
That full compassion is the method to go !
and about Jacobs f"fight" with God
That all compassionates ( VG ) can hear -not through the ears
but above their eyes the beautiful sweet sweet Sound of Our Soul,
which purifies us when we attend to it
That we can be absorbd in that Melody, The Music of The spheres, The WORD of GOD , which cannot be pronounced
but we can Dive in this ascending vibration
And that , . . YET we do so
Death is not existing anymore
because we are convinced/experienced that we Are that fantastic Beauty
WHICH EVER GROWS
That God is a Giant Love Machine
and that this Sound Is LOVE,
Good Gurus are a big help !
Posted by: 777 | January 25, 2014 at 03:00 AM
"...... and I'd like to know why you disagree. Pray tell, what do you like about religion? Clearly, you disapprove of those who speak against it. Why?"
---Nicely prepared distraction from my specific questions, directed to you "cc" person. This website is not about liking religion. What have I written, in the last 5 years of commenting here, that is of a pro religion point of view?
Posted by: Roger | January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM
What have I written, in the last 5 years of commenting here, that is of a pro religion point of view?
When you asked me to explain why I see religion as a "monster", I did, and you concluded that I was bitter and angry, damaged by my experience with religion. When I elaborated on my explanation of what's wrong with religion, you accused me of plagiarism.
It seems to me you protest too much. If you're not pro-religion, what's your objection to my anti-religious position? Why do you assume there must be something wrong with someone who finds nothing redeemable and much execrable about religion?
Posted by: cc | January 27, 2014 at 10:26 PM
THESE LAST COMMENTS ARE SO SILLY !
Religions are mostly fake and betray their founders,
THEY PRODUCE BANKSTERS
You don't need Gurus either
if you don't mind a time span of some big bangs and more to ascend
And as I said
the whole chaurasi path is about COMPASSION - ( Closest to Love item )
( vegetarism )
and all other good stuff will follow automatically
And when Love comes, . . :
it makes no sense to tell somebody in Love
that She is wrong -
All parents know that
meat is the first ( original ) sin and prevents everything
Posted by: 777 | January 28, 2014 at 03:26 AM