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25 January 2012

The wisdom of Homer (Simpson)

A long time back, I made a post talking about an atheist wager that should take the place of the ill conceived Pascal's wager that theists like to trot out so much.  What it says is:

Instead, my wager is that if there is a god, and it is a just god, then living a just and moral life will be acknowledged regardless of ones beliefs. If there exists an unjust or immoral god, then I could never satisfy both my conscience and such a god. My wager is that if the christians are right (or any of the other millions of religions mankind has thought of) about god being just and all-knowing and all-loving, I will be rewarded if I act in morally sound, justified ways.

I don’t have any evidence that there is a god (and neither does anyone else). To me, the idea of a god, or even of an afterlife pales in importance to what we experience everyday. Life. Life is the only thing that I “know” I have and when that is gone, I doubt I’ll be around to care, however, others will. I must live my life as I please, and since I believe I will only ever get one chance at it, I want to live it in the best manner that I can and help others do the same.

So I was somewhat amused when I saw an article in The Guardian that delved into this idea a bit more.  Especially considering my recent post about the huge number of variations even within each religion.  Everything that I am seeing from at least the US evangelicals really drives to the second sentence of my wager.  The god fellow they are so concerned about seems like a total douche (omnidouche?).  I cannot support such a petty, cruel, vindictive, incompetent, and downright stupid creature even if it were to exist.  Given these characteristics, and the 38,000 versions of christinaity, I am betting that even if Pascal's wager had any merit, the chances of picking the right one even amongst christians is a long shot, let alone the myriad of gods mankind has come up with outside that particular death cult.  Or as Homer Simpson said: "What if we've picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder?"

I urge you to read the whole article, but here is an excerpt from it that seems to sum up the whole idea behind Homer's Wager:
So let's call it Homer's Wager, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Here's how it works. Let's start with the very generous assumption that we think it more likely than not that God exists. To put a number on such things is ridiculous of course, but for the sake of argument, we'll use the figure of 67% which was the one a risk assessor came up with a few years ago. You might think that, if this is true, you should believe in God. But here's the problem: does it matter which God you believe in?

Maybe it doesn't matter, but it does matter if it matters. If it doesn't matter which God you believe in, it's because there are no important rewards or penalties for believing in the right or wrong God. But if that's the case, then it would not seem to matter if you didn't believe at all. A God who didn't care if you got belief right would hardly come down hard on those who didn't believe at all. I think we can safely conclude that the probability of a liberal God fascist – one who doesn't mind which version of him you believe in, but if you don't believe in him at all, he'll let you rot in hell – is negligible. As Homer Simpson put it when arguing that he shouldn't go to church: "Don't you think the almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week?"

So if it doesn't matter whether you believe in such a vague God or not, you have no compelling reason to bother. The atheist bus slogan could just as easily be "There's probably a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

If, on the other hand, it matters which God you believe in, it's because there are certain important rewards of belief that you will not receive if you don't believe in the right one, or punishments for failing to believe correctly. But even Homer Simpson can see the problem with this: "What if we've picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder?" Choosing the wrong God might be worse than believing in none at all.

So to continue with the mad maths, even if you think it more than 50% likely that a God exists who will treat you differently – not just over the next few short years of your life but for all eternity – whether you believe in him or not, you still have no reason to believe in such a God, because you simply can't know which one to go for and life is too short to try them all out. In case you think that's overstating it, you only need to go into one church to find that there are almost as many Gods worshipped there as there are worshippers.


eric c said...

I love this quote. "I cannot support such a petty, cruel, vindictive, incompetent, and downright stupid creature even if it were to exist."

The funny thing is that in the act of anthropomorphizing God you just described most people. LOL!

I think to need physical proof to something that is inherently non-physical is unreasonable.

The sad thing is that organized religion likes to anthropomorphize God to appeal to the masses.

Personally I like the arguments that show how non-spiritual religions have become. The fact that there are Atheists lends to that conclusion.

eric c said...

I have mad a blog essay based on your insight here.

Thanks for sharing.

Larian LeQuella said...

Thanks for the comments Eric. Here is a hyperlink to your blog: