Why not believe in God?

General questions only.

Who posited that one may as well believe in God, since the rewards of belief if He exists are great and nothing is lost if He doesn’t?

I remember reading many, many years ago that this idea was flawed. What was the (actual, historical) argument against it?

I’m not looking for a debate. Only who said it, and what were the arguments that put the nail in its coffin?

I can help with the first part of your query. That is [Pascal’s Wager.](pascal’s wager)

Some rejections of Pascal’s Wager.

Ah, Pascal raises his ugly head again (WellI I shouldn’t say that, the etchings I’ve seen make him out to be fairly good looking).

But honestly… first of all, how do you go about deciding to believe in something? You have belief or you don’t. Secondly, and I as an agnostic consider the more important point, if there is one we no nothing whatever about him, and shouldn’t presume.

But that’s not what you were asking. But I doubt this is is a GQ question.

One problem is that the argument applies equally to the god of Christianity and to the god of Islam. However, belief in one implies disbelief in the other (except perhaps as a distant reflection of the real god). So if I choose to believe in Allah, but Pope Benedict is the leader of the one true faith, then I’ve lost the wager.

[nitpick] Those are the same god. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism all believe in the same deity, just different prophets. A better example would be “the Judeic god and the ancient Greek Pantheon, as well as the Invisible Pink Unicorn.” [/nitpick]

Saying “Sure, I believe in God” doesn’t make it so. If you don’t believe then you don’t believe and unless something happens to change your mind, you’re not really going to be sincere. If God does exist and reports of his powers are accurate, he knows you’re just paying lip-service and you’re no better off than someone who is an honest non-believer anyway.

I could put on the face of a believer, go to church every Sunday, preach the good news to others and adhere to the teachings of my faith but it wouldn’t change the fact that in my heart of hearts I simply do not believe in a God.

No, they aren’t. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is God. Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was an ordinary human being, just one of the prophets who came before the Prophet. How can a god which includes Jesus Christ and a god which does not include Jesus Christ be the same god?

The logical fallacy of Pascal’s Wager is that it begs the question. It assumes that there is a reward in the afterlife without offering any proof of that. It says that the pleasures of the afterlife are so great that they far outweigh any sacrifice you make in this life to achieve them. But that’s not true if the pleasures of the afterlife are non-existent - in that case you’ve sacrificed the pleasures of this life for nothing.

It’s also not true if a deity, if one exists, rewards believers and non-believers equally, afterlife or no. That is believed by many religions.

Christians believe Jesus is/was the son of god. He clearly cannot be god and the son of god. The actual god is the same (unsurprisingly as they are all decended from the same religion, historical Judaism), it is purely the place of Jesus in the idolatry that is in dispute.

William James wrote a very interesting essay in the late nineteenth century called “The Will to Believe,” in which he dealt with some of these thorny issues surrounding the question of belief. In looking at how we come to belief, James set up a series of dichotomies:

living vs dead
forced vs avoidable
momentous vs trivial

and he argued that an option was only really genuine it was living, forced, and momentous. He, of course, placed belief in that category, but i think he had not really come to terms with the fact that, for increasing numbers of people in the late nineteenth century, belief was more and more a dead option. And while he was rather dismissive of the “language of the gaming table” that he saw in Pascal’s Wager, he nonetheless still has a rather odd confidence that we can will ourselves to believe under the right circumstances.

Anyway, the essay is very interesting, and written with James’ usual panache. I teach it to my American Intellectual History students, and i recommend it if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

William James, “The Will to Believe”

The same way that Christians and Jews can agree that they are worshipping the same God without any controversy. Christians don’t believe that Jesus Christ is a different deity from the Abrahamic, monotheistic God, they just believe that Jesus was/is a particular manifestation of that same God.

If my wife and I both see a guy at the mall who looks like Ringo Starr, and I think is IS Ringo but my wife does not, we do not have different definitions or concepts of Ringo Starr, only a disagreement over whether that guy was him.

To the OP:

The main problem with the Wager is that it’s a classic false dilemma. It falsely presents only two choices when there are actually an infinite number of choices, none of them guranteed to be any safer than another. Forget just choosing the right God, what if there is more than one God? What if you have to believe in 50 gods – and exactly the RIGHT 50 gods – or else you’ll be reincarnetd as a maggot? What if it’s 49 gods? what if it’s a 167? You can literally do this to infinity. Not only does it impose a false choice but it also arbitrarily assumes consequences/rewards for those choices without any basis at all for doing so. What if God wants you to be an atheist? There is no guaranteed safe choice.

Beyond that, there is also a false presumption inherent in the wager that belief is a voluntary act. It isn’t. You can’t just force yourself to believe something. You are either persuaded to it or you are not.

It’s less of a problem asserting that the G-d of Judaism is the same as the God of Christianity, at least partly because Jesus Christ preached that they were the same. However, I suspect that most Jews would have a problem with the assertion, because like Muslims they don’t believe that Jesus was God – not just the son of God, but part of the Holy Trinity.

But Muslims are strict monotheists, and find the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, in which God somehow is three persons, to be an incorrect belief about God.

You can assert – and most believers in those three religions would accept this – that the Judaic, Christian and Muslims views of God are different views of the one deity. However, beliefs in the Judaic G-d, the Christian God and the Islamic Allah are inconsistent with each other: you can’t believe in one version of the deity without also believing that the other two versions are partly false.

It’s just the same as with some things in the physical world. There is something called “gravity”, which almost certainly really exists out there; but Newton and Einstein had different theories about gravity; and you can’t believe in the theory of one of those men without also finding that the other’s theory is partly false. So Newton’s gravity and Einstein’s gravity are not the same thing – and it’s possible that gravity is in reality different from the theories of both.

So did Mohammed. You can’t say anything about the Islamic view of God that you can’t say about the Jewish view of God. There is no conflict between the Islamic and Christian view that does not exist equally between the Jewish and Christian view.

So do the Jews. There is no theological difference between the God of Judaism and the God of Islam. It is unquestionably the same God and recognized as such by both religions. You can’t say that Islam has a different God from Christians without saying that Jews do too.

There is actually no definitional conflict between the Jewish and Islamic views of God.

I have always had the same argument to this.
Who is to say that I want to goto heaven?

From all the descriptions of it it sounds like a gaudy place with all the gold streets, jewels, pearled gates, adornments and whatnot. Hell. That is not even the worst of it. I think the worst part of going to heaven would be hanging out with Born Again Christians for all eternity. I usually can hardly stand a few min of that.

The only accounts of Hell I have ever read are in the Bible. I am unsure if the authors are giving an unbiased report on Hell. It may be a bit nicer than what we are generally lead to belive.

So my argument once again.

I don’t wanna goto Heaven. Real or not.
I don’t believe in god
I am not gonna believe in god to goto a place I don’t wanna goto.
Screw Pascal’s Wager.

There are many troubles with Pascal’s wager. One example: imagine a “Gawd” that has set up the world so that people who believe in “God” are punished in the afterlife, but that non-believers in “God” are spared eternal damnation. In that case taking Pascal’s wager is a bad bet.

Nobody has added in this factor. You can’t do many things if you are trying to hedge the bet. You would still have to not break the laws of God. It has already been stated that pretending would do no good. God would know that it was a shame, and you’d still go to Hell.

Man I’ve heard people tell me to become Christian just for that reason. That God isn’t real I don’t lose anything. I despise that approach… I mean can you even be a real Christian for even saying something like that? Anyways the whole idea sickens me.

Your “link” doesn’t go anywhere. Perhaps you meant to link to the Wikipedia article on Pascal’s wager?

Whether you did or not, that article is probably a good place to start for what the OP is looking for.