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The ethics and morality of Pascal's wager

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality' started by Pooja Sadhu, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    Sure, but we disregard the fantastical bits all the same. The question is why.

    Go look through their records and compare it to what they were claiming back in the day.

    The difference is in the documentation.

    Sure but that's the essence of it. We subject people today to more skepticism of their claims because we can.

    The problem is that we don't demonstrate metaphysical propositions as true, but we know people come up with religions all the time based upon metaphysical truths.

    The problem should be obvious.

    The wager is formulated on Christian theology, again, that's the problem.

    Part of Christian theology is the manipulative psychological attempt to get you into this sort of benefit-risk assessment in order to convince you, the wager simply highlights this fact.

    That also, problematically, says some poor stuff about Christianity.
     
  2. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    The question is simply whether something that is not accessible to (Western) intellectual scrutiny can be evaluated in other ways. Further, I don't think Pascal sees his approach as universally applicable in the way that brainwashing is. I don't think you can substitute whatever belief you like.
     
  3. grasping the after wind

    grasping the after wind That's grasping after the wind

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    If a person say to himself " I will believe this thing just in case it is not untrue because if it is not untrue I will be harmed though it seems to me that it is untrue." That is not actually belief now is it?
     
  4. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    For a number of reasons, some good, some bad. I have no problem with methodological naturalism in historical research, but we have no real way to know what was really happening. And sometimes our biases cause trouble--look at how surprised we were to find out that Troy had really existed.

    Beyond that, historians don't actually disregard supernatural claims. If medieval people were convinced that icons had healing powers, then the historians recognize and try to account for that. They don't pretend it never happened.

    What do you mean? That the ancient Israelites provided more documentation of miracles than the Catholic Church? Or the other way around?

    Can we? Some of the folk at my local Orthodox church claim to have once seen the face on one of their icons change for a good ten minutes or so. I wasn't there, so I don't see how I could possibly assess the claim.

    I don't see a problem at all.

    How so? Individual Christians can certainly be psychologically manipulative, but I don't see what's inherently manipulative about game theory. It's a style of logic that can come into play when going into any sort of serious commitment.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  5. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    Troy is just a city though, not all too fantastical.

    Believing that medieval people believed in the healing power of icons doesn't amount to a supernatural claim.

    The kinds of claims get less extravagant as we come into the present. This naturally correlates with how easy it would be to document something larger.

    Then it's probably totally true and not made up at all. I have a smartphone with me and could easily take a picture of such a thing but have never witnessed something like that.

    Strange.

    Do you think God is just camera shy?

    That's probably because your a bit credulous of metaphysical claims for some reason.

    Perhaps you can educate me then. How do we tell false claims from true ones then?

    Its pretty seriously unethical to psychologically manipulate people, with their most basic fears to do as you wish instead of presenting them with good evidence and good reasons.

    First of all it should be completely unnecessary for a God to resort to such a thing from a second hand party to make them believe, and second it pretty unbelievable that God would be OK with it as it presents God in a very negative light.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  6. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    Well certainly not. You have to be so afraid or desirous that you can actually psychologically convince yourself that you do believe it, at which point you of course do believe it because you are afraid or desirous.

    So the question is. Do you think that the God that most Christians talk about, would want you jumping through those manipulative psychological hoops to find belief in such a ridiculous manner?

    My idea? There is probably something wrong about one of the premises here of Pascals wager, Pascal's interpretation of Christianity, Christianity itself, the nature of God, or you know, God doesn't really exist.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  7. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    We could quibble over what kinds of beliefs would work, but I'll settle for agreeing that there are mutually exclusive beliefs that would work. You don't think it only works for Christianity, right?
     
  8. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    The alleged event took place years ago, well before smartphones. Though even if it were to happen now, I'm not sure the typical Orthodox reaction would be to whip out a camera and record it. ^_^

    Anyway, I am not saying that it actually happened. I have no way of knowing, though my suspicion would be that it was some sort of hallucination. I don't think they were lying, which is the sort of assumption that strikes me at cynical rather than skeptical.

    In any case, most of this discussion is well off topic, so I will skip to the end.

    I share your concerns about psychological manipulation--this sort of abuse is clearly going on in some parts of the Christian world, and I think it's a real problem. I don't think we have to assume that God is okay with abuse of any sort, though it's hard to say that he isn't and still avoid the notion of judgment. Consequences are part of the game no matter how you want to play it.

    Pascal's Wager is situational and subjective--I don't think everyone should accept it, but I defend it because I personally did. Not out of manipulation or fear or anything of the sort, so I don't see why you think such things are intrinsic to the wager.
     
  9. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    Regardless of why people make such claims.

    I still think it's reasonable that if such events actually occur, I should eventually get some smart phone recordings of them with how many people on the planet have them, and how many miracles are generally claimed to occur.

    I think they are intrinsic to it because that is what the wager is about. A psychological cost/benefit analysis where the religion plays on our deepest desires and fears.

    Not real evidence mind you, just an invisible carrot and a stick.

    Exactly like the promises of the religion itself.

    I react in the opposite manner, probably because my psychology tends to react poorly to attempts at manipulation.

    So, no, I don't think God is anything like this, if one exists. If God were so craven as to attempt base psychological manipulation, it kind of takes on a different form so to speak.

    Keep in mind that we're talking about something that is mostly spread by being authoritatively taught to small children, not adults with realistic means of defending themselves.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  10. zephcom

    zephcom Well-Known Member

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    First let me say this bit of conversation has been a pleasure to read. I just wanted to point out what I think is a major flaw in the Wager. The Wager assumes everyone WANTS to go to the Christian heaven.

    Think about this for a minute. The Christian heaven is promoted as an exclusive place reserved for only those people who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. As difficult as it is to get along with them in this realm, -why- would anyone want to spend eternity with them in the next realm?

    Pascal's Wager assumes that everyone wants to be there and doesn't explain why everyone would even desire to be in a place which excludes the vast majority of humanity.
     
  11. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    Interesting take, but I never personally get too specific on the claims of heaven and what it is supposedly like because I don't think there is wide agreement on that point.

    I think the psychological hook to the promise of heaven is avoiding death, one of the most basic fears of all living things.

    Religion has a tenancy to prey upon peoples most basic existential fears and horrors when it tries to manipulate them.
     
  12. zephcom

    zephcom Well-Known Member

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    I agree that the religion is very vague about the specifics of heaven except for one point. That point is that -they- are the only ones who will be there. I wonder what it is that makes them think that all the people who reject their religion in this life would want to go to a place where only Christians are allowed in regardless of the specifics of their heaven.

    Anyway, sorry to interrupt. It is just one of the issues around the Wager which has mystified me.
     
  13. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Not necessarily. Look at a situation where someone is trying to decide whether they want to get married--they're in love, but they're afraid of commitment. It means sacrifices, and not being in control, and not really knowing how things will play out. But they eventually realize that if they don't go through with it, they're going to regret it forever. So it's better to take a chance and take the leap of faith, rather than backing out and never knowing what could have been.

    There's an element of the Pascalian in that sort of analysis. There's a cost/benefit analysis even in old sayings like, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," since the risks tied to refusing to take a chance are being declared greater than the risks that taking one entail. Is this psychological manipulation? Carrot and the stick? An attempt to play to a desire for love and fear of solitude? In certain cases it would be, if someone else tries to use it to make you do something you don't really want to do, but there's nothing inherently manipulative about realizing that you'd regret not doing something more than you'd regret doing it, even if it ends badly.
     
  14. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    It's actually pretty vague about that point too. Here, take a look at this for a rundown of the various things that have been said: Christian Approaches to the Salvation of Non-Christians | John Sanders

    I don't think the wager even requires eternal damnation at all. I think Pascal's right, but I'm also sympathetic to Universalism, and I see no conflict there.
     
  15. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    They make that decision based upon real experience with a real person.

    So how are these two ideas comparable?

    It is "Pascalian" to make the idea of religion equivalent of real world decision making with real world consequences and a real world cost/benefit analysis. Religions strive to make themselves as familiar as possible, using ample metaphors for family, farming, productivity, and in this case a cost/benefit analysis. Comparisons though don't magically make religious metaphysical positions into those real world things. It's a cheap bait and switch.

    What it is actually doing is trading real world resources for unbounded promises.

    It's also easier to promise things you don't have to deliver in an attempt at psychological manipulation of others.

    We make our decisions about people based upon experience with those people. How they act. What they're really like. How well we think we know them.

    And yes people manipulate us all the time. It's part of being human. Religion though takes this to another level.

    We are manipulated to make metaphysical decisions in religion without much actual experience with how feasible those claims should be, the promise, solutions to our most basic existential fears.

    The price. Likely real world psychological manipulation and control.

    Christianity isn't the only religion that does this either, it's VERY common and insidiously well done. In my opinion some of the most skillful human manipulators of all time have worked on refining such ideas. So, at least some religions are simply manipulating followers with faulty promises.

    Consider for a moment an idea that you aren't religiously attached to and see if you can see it.

    The LDS church for instance has implemented some fun "pascalian" psychological manipulation upon their followers.

    From the blog I found online due to our conversation by typing in the google search string "religion is manipulative"

    Consider the following:

    Religion is manipulative

    That to me (as an outsider with no attachments to such beliefs) sounds awful, and actually quite artful/skillful manipulation.

    I consider spreading such ideas, well, wrong, the idea behind this thread. It is unethical in my opinion to spread such ideas, and certainly wrong to subject children to gross psychological manipulation in this way.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  16. zephcom

    zephcom Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the link. It is very interesting reading. It does appear that no one at all knows for sure who, if anyone, gets 'saved'.

    As far as the wager goes, I think something terrible is needed or the wager makes no sense.
     
  17. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Sure, I think I would agree with that. Yet "the heart" as an instrument seems to have less precision than the intellect, so perhaps it could guide you in the right direction without being able to give exact coordinates.
     
  18. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    And what if there are real-world consequences? I was a non-theist for most of my life, and I've found that Christianity actually does make a real, measurable difference even in the present. Worldviews affect how we view reality in the here and now, so religions do in fact involve real world decision making with real world consequences. A real world cost/benesis applies: if the choice is between two unverifiable worldviews, one of which provides temporary benefits while potentially promising eternity, and the other of which causes problems now, with the threat of those problems potentially being eternal tacked on for good measure, why pick the second? That sounds like a really stupid decision.

    Who is attempting psychological manipulation? Certainly not Pascal, since he has been dead for centuries. A religion is more a social construct than anything else--certain ideas can have negative consequences, but I don't see how they can be manipulative in and of themselves. They're not agents.

    This all seems very simplistic. You can run into social pressure and manipulation anywhere, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. Religion hardly has a monopoly on that sort of problem.

    Consider for a moment the possibility that I might not be a brainwashed victim of an evil religion, incapable of independent objective thought. It's extremely condescending to suggest I need your help to understand how manipulation works in institutions and social structures, religious or otherwise.

    I've been somewhat sympathetic to your concerns, because I actually do have serious issues with coercion and manipulation myself. That includes not just emotional manipulation and institutional problems, but also the type of passive aggressive intellectual manipulation you're been engaging in throughout this whole conversation: mockery, belittlement, condescension, accusing everyone of lying, and so forth and so on.

    I've ignored it so far, but I do think it's abusive. My background is in liberal feminism, and one of the first things I noticed about these sorts of arguments between theists and non-theists was the constant, aggressive use of gaslighting: you are stupid, you are deluded, you are ignorant, you don't know what you're talking about, you're credulous... let me save you from yourself because I am the rational one. I am the one with the power and the answers. Patriarchy 101, coopted by the anti-theists. It's not hard to notice if you know what you're looking for.

    If you wish to discuss emotional manipulation, you should make more of an effort to not come across as emotionally manipulative. You are not the only one here who reacts badly to it.
     
  19. variant

    variant Happy Cat

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    This is a non-pascal argument for your religious views. If Pascals argument were for the general real world benefits of Christianity then it would be a completely different argument.

    Assuming of course that we find that first part of argument convincing and ignore the part where it's shoddy emotional manipulation.

    I don't think a Christian worldview is obviously a benefit. But that is neither here nor there, it's not what we're arguing about. We're discussing that second bit.

    He wrote stuff down, so yes he is attempting to manipulate everyone he wished to persuade. That's the power of the written word, you don't have to be there.

    He and everyone who promotes such thinking is who I am accusing of shoddy emotional manipulation.

    Oh no, the kind of manipulation you run into in religions is amazing compared to run at the mill stuff we encounter every day.

    No in your case you made the decision as an adult, the kind of religious manipulation we're talking about, is not only sophisticated, but more often than not directed at small children. Like how I first encountered and believed religion.

    No, you're on the other side, an adult capable of rationally making decisions, openly using this as a tool to try to convince others. My purpose here is, in part, trying to convince you not to. I think it is a bad thing to do.

    I'm engaging in honesty.

    You just don't seem to like my implications. I think religions are based upon lies, that's why I am an Atheist. I think they are rife with shoddy attempts at emotional manipulation, and they perpetuate themselves mainly by something not all that too dissimilar to brainwashing small children.

    I have also told you why I think such things when asked.

    The only one I've accused you of here is that you are credulousness, as opposed to skepticism. I honestly wanted to know how you were proposing to tell false claims from true ones given your take on things. You didn't answer.

    You're also now getting kind of defensive, but I make no apologies, I'm not here to butter you up. I'm here to tell you what I think.

    I haven't been trying to emotionally manipulating you I'm simply showing my disdain. There isn't any larger motive for it other than to express myself.

    Is your criticism of me some sort of emotional manipulation by your standard too then?

    I don't see it that way.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  20. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    No problem. :) I think the most traditional answer is that salvation is found within the Church, and beyond that it's a divine mystery. You'll find people amongst the Orthodox in particular who consider it blasphemous to go around telling people they're going to hell, because that's ultimately the purview of God.

    Perhaps. Most traditional Universalists would actually view hell as truly terrible, even if it's restorative in nature and not eternal: you shouldn't set yourself on fire just because you can go to the hospital afterwards.

    I find apologetics that focus on eternal rewards and punishments problematic in the modern era, because the immortality of the soul is such a difficult concept for people these days. I ran into this when I was first exploring Christianity--it bemused me that people were trying to convince me by focusing on promises I couldn't even really conceptualize. It was cultural shock, I think, and perhaps the same problem comes in with Pascal: it's extremely religious reasoning, and I'm not sure to what degree it makes sense from the outside.
     
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