kurros

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #30 on: July 29, 2020, 07:42:03 pm »
What can you choose to believe?

Does that mean that you believe that your belief that one cannot choose his belief is itself not-chosen, but somehow this was engraved in your mind? If so, doesn't that... make it irrational? Because it, then, isn't according to reason, but according to brutish mental violence done to your mind. For all you know, this belief of yours just "is", and there's no criterion for why it is there - it's just there, inside your mind for no logical reason.

That depends on your view on how well human brains work. If they work pretty well, as I believe they do, then believing something because your brain makes you believe it is a good reason to believe it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't critically examine beliefs, because if your brain works well then it will also update your beliefs based on new information or analysis in a sensible fashion.

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shoyt

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2020, 10:56:31 pm »
What can you choose to believe?

Whether or not Epstein killed himself.

;-)

Brilliant! :)

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shoyt

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #32 on: July 29, 2020, 11:07:37 pm »
What can you choose to believe?

Does that mean that you believe that your belief that one cannot choose his belief is itself not-chosen, but somehow this was engraved in your mind? If so, doesn't that... make it irrational? Because it, then, isn't according to reason, but according to brutish mental violence done to your mind. For all you know, this belief of yours just "is", and there's no criterion for why it is there - it's just there, inside your mind for no logical reason.

We believe whatever we think is true and we cannot choose what we think is true. No engraving required. Yes, doxastic beliefs are irrational. Irrationally doesn't entail such beliefs are not true or are not warranted. See Nietzsche's Twilight Of The Idols for great arguments as to why that is, reason being an idol for one. Yes, for what I do know, doxastic dispositions indeed just "are". What I do know is from theories of mind and studies in neuroscience. There are reasons beliefs form and those reasons need not be ones I am aware of at all. Yes, it may in fact be the case in Epistemology that justificatory practices have nothing to do with belief formation in some direct sense and is merely equitable to rationalization of why we believe or better, a means to get agreement and that's it.

Second, notice that doxa and propositional attitudes are very different things, which is where we in fact get to second-order musings like justification.

The thing is that in all your musing, you haven't given me anything you think you can choose to believe.

Please, if you don't believe there are deity, will yourself to believe it

If you do believe there are deity, then will yourself to disbelieve.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 11:10:10 pm by shoyt »

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rstrats

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #33 on: July 31, 2020, 12:42:32 pm »
ChristianInvestigator,
re:  "Right, the original Pascal's Wager fails because it doesn't take into account additional live possibilities..."

Actually the wager would be flawed right from the start even if there were only one possibility in consideration, because the wager is based on the idea that beliefs can be consciously chosen.  But as has been touched upon, it is not possible to consciously choose to be things.     
« Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 04:09:24 pm by rstrats »
The City of Happiness is in the State of Mind.

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #34 on: July 31, 2020, 02:24:40 pm »

ChristianInvestigator,
re:  "Right, the original Pascal's Wager fails because it doesn't take into account additional live possibilities..."A

Actually the wager would be flawed right from the start even if there were only one possibility in consideration, because the wager is based on the idea that beliefs can be consciously chosen.  But as has been touched upon, it is not possible to consciously choose to be things.   

We can rephrase the wager to be about actions rather than beliefs, which helps things a bit; even if you can't will yourself to believe God exists, it may be pragmatic for you to act as if He exists.
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shoyt

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #35 on: August 01, 2020, 04:30:31 pm »

ChristianInvestigator,
re:  "Right, the original Pascal's Wager fails because it doesn't take into account additional live possibilities..."A

Actually the wager would be flawed right from the start even if there were only one possibility in consideration, because the wager is based on the idea that beliefs can be consciously chosen.  But as has been touched upon, it is not possible to consciously choose to be things.   

We can rephrase the wager to be about actions rather than beliefs, which helps things a bit; even if you can't will yourself to believe God exists, it may be pragmatic for you to act as if He exists.

there's no consistent idea of what we mean by god. we can't even say we have a concept of god. nor does the existence of god entail we would, could, or should act one way or other.

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Iapetus

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #36 on: August 02, 2020, 01:36:03 pm »
I think this video, Betting on Infinity, which requires 16 minutes of your time, covers the ground quite nicely:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #37 on: August 02, 2020, 02:06:07 pm »

there's no consistent idea of what we mean by god. we can't even say we have a concept of god. nor does the existence of god entail we would, could, or should act one way or other.

I'm sorry to say that your perspective doesn't make sense to me. How do you come to these conclusions? They seem counter-intuitive.

"There's no consistent idea of what we mean by god." -- Granted, every religion ascribes different attributes and qualities to God; but if God exists, then some of those religions will be more 'on target' than others.
"We can't even say we have a concept of god." -- Why not? Even though God is undoubtably beyond human understanding or description, we can understand God by way of analogy; this is how we can talk about a God (that may or may not exist) who is omnipotent (an analogy from power), omniscient (an analogy from knowledge), etc.
"The existence of god does not entail we would, could, or should act one way or another." -- Depends on what kind of God exists. If the Islamic concept of God is closest to reality, we should follow the five pillars, Sharia law, etc. in order to gain a life of bliss in paradise. The existence of the Islamic God entails that you should act in a certain way, if you want to maximize your wellbeing and minimize your suffering (which most people do).

I've read some of your posts on Ignosticism, and I'm sorry to say it doesn't make sense to me. Can you point me to a layman-level explanation of your view? Thanks!
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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #38 on: August 02, 2020, 04:02:58 pm »
I think this video, Betting on Infinity, which requires 16 minutes of your time, covers the ground quite nicely:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZpJ7yUPwdU

Just finished the video; it was a good summary of the objections against Pascal's Wager, but I didn't see anything I didn't already address in the OP; there was a variation of the Many Gods objection, the False Belief objection, and the Selfishness objection, each one of which I addressed (a bit) in the OP.
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Iapetus

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #39 on: August 02, 2020, 07:00:53 pm »
Reply to ChristianInvestigator:

"Just finished the video; it was a good summary of the objections against Pascal's Wager, but I didn't see anything I didn't already address in the OP; there was a variation of the Many Gods objection, the False Belief objection, and the Selfishness objection, each one of which I addressed (a bit) in the OP"

I am astonished that you might think that you have addressed any of the content.


It will take some space, but I feel obliged to give a brief rundown of some of the main elements of the video:

Pascal posits a two-horse race on which you must place a wager.  Either God is or God is not.  He claims that if you bet on God, there is an infinity of happy life to gain and if you lose, you lose nothing

The next section provides details – with quotes, of some of the various direct contradictions in various statements which Pascal makes.

He encourages us to engender belief through practices such as ritual, holy water and masses, because,“… this will dull you, quiet your critical intellect”.

Anyone wish to have their intellect ‘dulled’?

An omniscient god would know your actions were the product of a mercenary bet rather than sincere belief.

He claims that, if you lose, you lose nothing.

Integrity?  Critical thought? Untold hours of empty ritual?

“The benefits, if you gain, will be faith, honest, humble, generous, a sincere friend”.

Since many non-believers already meet that standard – and many believers don’t – belief is clearly not a key factor.

Pascal denies any personal bias towards Christianity, yet allows himself countless biased assertions.  Dismissing non-Christian religions, Pascal offers a false dichotomy; the choice is to believe, or not, in CHRISTIANITY.

But which version?  The video names at least two dozen.  Even agreement among the smallest subgroup isn’t guaranteed.  The result is not one consistent belief but a very broad constellation.

Pascal tried to dismiss other religions, of which the video names 29.

Gods punish belief in other gods.  Denominations condemn other denominations.

One infinite reward is set against many infinite punishments.

Suddenly the odds aren’t looking so attractive.  Furthermore …

Any ‘true deity’ may be yet undefined.  After all, every religion was unavailable to those who came before it.  And we must allow for future religions …

The wager must allow for divine concepts we will simply never imagine.

The gamble must reckon with an infinity of gods.

Divine entities aren’t the only only explanations for what we experience as existence;
-   intricate dream of an alien who sleeps for decades
-   psychedelic hallucination or delusion
-   a virtual reality computer game which you only exit if you embrace rationality and reject all superstitions.

These are also part of the true proportions of the wager.

For every unknowable idea that rewards a particular behaviour there is another which will punish that very same behaviour.

We might dismiss many of these unknowables as bizarre, feeling that familiar unknowables like ‘gods’ are more likely.  But one unknowable cannot be graded more or less likely than the next.

We do have a choice, but not the one that Pascal presents …

We can invest in things we can never know.  But to do that is nonsensical.  With the potential infinity of conflicting ideas it presents, there is no hope of formulating a best strategy. 

Alternatively, we can invest in the knowable;
-   exploring our universe with intellectual honesty and rigour
-   living with respect and awareness alongside our fellow humans.

If we get supernatural punishment for that, the cards were so stacked that none of us ever stood a chance.

We know what we’ll be investing in.

Want to place your bets?
 

Here is the totality of your ‘criticism’:

"Many gods objection -- What if some other religion is true, like Hinduism? My response is that Christianity is the most evidentiary supported religion in existence, so you are justified in following Christianity instead of some other religion.
False belief objection -- You can't just make yourself believe something because it's practical; either you think it's true or you don't. This is an interesting discussion to have; I think there are techniques to bring yourself to belief (which may or may not involve brainwashing.....)
Selfishness -- Pascal's Wager is such a selfish, worldly idea. It's like a cosmic gambling match; faith isn't supposed to be mercenary. I agree that this is a good objection, and that's why I think it's better to apply Pascal's Wager to Evangelism, rather than personal belief."


These points are independent of the video and barely touch on the points made. 

That is not the end of the story.  Theramintrees made another video as a rebuttal to objections which were subsequently presented - by others, not you. The link is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXSjzCf1waA



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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #40 on: August 02, 2020, 09:48:29 pm »
Reply to lapetus

Thanks for the transcript! This makes it easier for me to address specific objections, I appreciate the effort you put into this.

First, my general response to this video -- Pascal's Wager is bogus. In its original form, at least; but the basic principle behind Pascal's Wager (using Decision Theory to make choices relating to the Afterlife) can be utilized to "update" Pascal's Wager into something that actually makes logical sense.

Quote from: lapetus
Anyone wish to have their intellect ‘dulled’?

This is a genuine problem with Pascal's Wager; according to the argument, in this case (deciding between religions) where your information and proof is limited, you have to make a decision on the basis of incomplete evidence. Pascal literally used the term "Dull the intellect," which implies you have to willingly believe something stupid (or brainwash yourself) in order to maximize your expected value. Of course, most religious people (except for Pascal, apparently) don't think their religion is stupid or anti-intellectual; Christian apologetics, for example, is the (possibly futile) task of intellectually defending Christianity. You don't have to ignore sound reasoning in order to be religious; you simply have to be content with incomplete/limited evidence for your worldview.
Don't get me wrong -- this is still a valid objection; but it may not be enough to discount Pascal's Wager entirely.

Quote from: lapetus
An omniscient god would know your actions were the product of a mercenary bet rather than sincere belief.

Sure; but depending on which religion we've decided on (I'll get to the 'Many Gods' objection in a bit), the God of that religion may or may not care what your religious beliefs / actions are motivated by. If Islam is true, for example, you may be able to please God by following the Five Pillars and submitting to Sharia Law; in that case, it doesn't matter whether your beliefs are sincere or not.
If we've decided on Protestant (specifically Evangelical) Christianity, things get a little trickier, since Evangelical Christianity places a strong emphasis on faith. Would the Evangelical God prefer:
a. Someone who is not convinced that He exists to seek and trust Him anyway.
b. That same person to declare He doesn't exist and live like He doesn't matter.
Option (a), IMO, is more likely to work out in your favor; and maybe there's an option (c) -- where what starts as just 'the product of a mercenary bet' develops into genuine saving faith as the spiritual seeker grows in a relationship with God.

Quote from: lapetus
He claims that, if you lose, you lose nothing. Integrity?  Critical thought? Untold hours of empty ritual?

If this is what Pascal's Wager originally claimed, it's not right. Here's a better way to look at it:
If you "wager" on God, and you are correct, your gains are infinite.
If you "wager" on God, and you are incorrect, your losses are finite.
Therefore, you should "wager" on God to maximize expected value. (Of course, it's more complicated than this -- I'll get to that in a second.)

Quote from: lapetus
The gamble must reckon with an infinity of gods.

This is a variation of the Many Gods objection; although the prospect of using Decision Theory to decide between a countless amount of gods seems daunting, the venture isn't "lost from the start" as the video originally implies.
You should "wager" on your religion (or non-religious worldview) based on two factors:
1. How likely it is in your mind that the religion/worldview is true.
2. What the rewards are if you are right, and the punishments if you are wrong.

The paper Gordon linked to earlier does a good job of explaining this:
https://philpapers.org/archive/JACSPW.pdf (Pages 4-6 are what matter in this case)
But I'll do my best to describe why I think this objection can be averted, in my own words.

Obviously the vast majority of religions in the world (Ancient Greek and Egyptian, for example) are going to be epistemically unlikely from your perspective; you don't even need to include these in your decision-making process, because it would clutter up your table and distract you from more probable options.
Once you've decided on a handful of worldviews (including Atheism) and religions that you think have a non-negligible chance of being true, you can narrow them down by how probable each one is, and how much you will gain or lose if you "wager" on that one and you are wrong. (Note that we should just ignore "future religions" and "unknown religions" for the sake of our decision table, since if one of those is true, we're screwed no matter what we "wager" on; we might as well aim for a known religion or worldview, since we have a chance of being right.)
I personally think that if one religion is true, that religion is probably Christianity, since it's the only religion that grounds its claims in a historical event (the life of Jesus), and is thus at least marginally able to be confirmed by history; you might reach a different conclusion than me about which religion (that will grant infinite rewards if you choose right) is most likely to be true.

Quote from: lapetus
We can invest in things we can never know.  But to do that is nonsensical.  With the potential infinity of conflicting ideas it presents, there is no hope of formulating a best strategy.

I'm afraid that the video is too confident in claiming that there is no hope of formulating the best strategy; the vast majority of potential ideas can be dismissed as either very unlikely when compared to the other possibilities (in the case of Ancient Egyptian religion, for example) or as useless hypotheticals (in the case of unknown or future religions); if one of the hypotheticals is true, our best strategy is to go with the most probable known religion (or worldview), and hope that the true god of the hypothetical religion will be merciful, since we didn't even know about him/her/it/them.

(The video didn't even mention the objection "you can't choose what to believe," so I won't bother addressing it.)



Is that a fair / comprehensive response? Once again, thanks for the time you spent transcribing / analyzing the video!

As a final thought, Pascal's Wager is probably a useless tool for someone completely convinced of Atheism; it can be a fun intellectual exercise to figure out exactly what's wrong with it, but it's not a useful motivation for actually seeking and responding to God.

However, for a "spiritual seeker" who thinks (for example) that Christianity might be true, but doesn't want to commit to something without complete proof, Pascal's Wager is a good argument that the best decision she can make is to believe in God and follow Christianity, even if the evidence for Christianity is limited. As long as Christianity (in her mind) has a greater than 50% chance of being true, she should commit to it.
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They could not take your pride."

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Iapetus

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #41 on: August 03, 2020, 08:04:18 am »
Reply to ChristianInvestigator:

Thankyou for, this time, taking the trouble to formulate a response which attempts to address the argument as a whole.   I did, however, also attach a link to Theramintree’s second refutation, which again dealt in detail with some of your points.  So I shall attempt a response, though it will again make a fairly long post.

You seem to accept that Pascal's Wager is bogus, “in its original form, at least.”  Glad we have got that bit out of the way. But you suggest that it might be possible to, "’update’ Pascal's Wager into something that actually makes logical sense".  I don’t think that you have succeeded.

Pascal explained specifically that reason could not be brought to bear on the details of this wager and he did indicate that “this will dull you, quiet your critical intellect”.  The original French passage was, “Naturellement même cêla vous fera croire et vous abêtira”.  Your response was :

“Don't get me wrong -- this is still a valid objection; but it may not be enough to discount Pascal's Wager entirely.”

I never suggested otherwise.  I pointed out many, many other objections and you appear to accept that they are valid.

I quoted an extract from the video; “An omniscient god would know your actions were the product of a mercenary bet rather than sincere belief”. Your response included this extract:

“the God of that religion may or may not care what your religious beliefs / actions are motivated by. If Islam is true, for example, you may be able to please God by following the Five Pillars and submitting to Sharia Law; in that case, it doesn't matter whether your beliefs are sincere or not”.

The video names 29 religions apart from Christianity.  It does not claim that the list is exhaustive.  Are you seriously trying to tell me that, for these other religions, there are no rewards for ‘good’ behaviour and no punishments threatened in the afterlife for nonbelief?!!  Your quote in relation to Islam, alone, is a clear indication that your understanding is minimal.  The bet is, by definition, mercenary in seeking reward for an action taken.

I am not quite sure where you are headed with what followed:

“If we've decided on Protestant (specifically Evangelical) Christianity, things get a little trickier …”

I was not aware that we had. In reference to the need to bless oneself with holy water and have masses said, Pascal seems to have had quite a different idea. And all with the intention of dulling the intellect!  The video pointed out the huge variety of different interpretations and beliefs within Christianity and you appear to be keen to reinforce that point.  You seem to have attempted a justification for your own personal belief but, of course, everybody on the planet could attempt something similar.

I shall return to ‘Evangelical God’ later.

I quoted; “He claims that, if you lose, you lose nothing. Integrity?  Critical thought? Untold hours of empty ritual?"  This was your reply:

“If this is what Pascal's Wager originally claimed, it's not right. Here's a better way to look at it:
If you "wager" on God, and you are correct, your gains are infinite.
If you "wager" on God, and you are incorrect, your losses are finite.
Therefore, you should "wager" on God to maximize expected value. (Of course, it's more complicated than this -- I'll get to that in a second.)"


But your ‘better way to look at it’ is exactly what Pascal claimed and what you admitted was bogus.

The next point on which you picked up was, “The gamble must reckon with an infinity of gods". Here is your interesting response:

"You should "wager" on your religion (or non-religious worldview) based on two factors:
1. How likely it is in your mind that the religion/worldview is true."


Does "in your mind" equate to ‘in your own opinion’?  If so, and everybody has their own distinct opinion, then what is the point of any discussion?  There is no appeal to reason here, as Pascal himself admitted.  Truth has nothing to do with it.

“2. What the rewards are if you are right, and the punishments if you are wrong.“

This seems to be a ‘might is right’ argument.  The wager is most likely to be secured by the religion which promises the greatest benefits and threatens the most horrifying punishments.  I find this truly bizarre.

Your next observation:
“Obviously the vast majority of religions in the world (Ancient Greek and Egyptian, for example) are going to be epistemically unlikely from your perspective; you don't even need to include these in your decision-making process, because it would clutter up your table and distract you from more probable options.“

What is the relevance of ‘obviously’ in this statement?  Is this another, ‘in your mind’?  You have included the term, ‘epistemically’.  Does this mean that you have a method for distinguishing one unjustifiable claim from another?  If so, then you have not explained it.  Instead, you have swept aside the pantheon with barely a mention.  Sorry if it clutters up your table, because we would not want to get in the way of your personal prejudices.  I didn’t think I should have to remind you, but many Egyptians in the past felt sufficiently strongly about their own beliefs that their edifices have endured for twice the time scale of the Christian age.

“… we should just ignore "future religions" and "unknown religions" for the sake of our decision table, since if one of those is true, we're screwed no matter what we "wager" on; we might as well aim for a known religion or worldview, since we have a chance of being right.“

You really don’t seem to grasp the point of the argument and you have clearly not listened to Theramintree’s refutation.

“I personally think that if one religion is true, that religion is probably Christianity, since it's the only religion that grounds its claims in a historical event (the life of Jesus), and is thus at least marginally able to be confirmed by history …“

Now we are getting down to the nitty gritty.  You have decided that your own personal belief is what matters and you are prepared to ignore all others as unworthy of consideration.  This is one of the definitions of prejudice.  You have assumed that one religion might be ‘true’ but there is an ‘epistemic’ problem with this claim; they can’t all be ‘right’ but they could all be ‘wrong’.  Your personal belief, in terms of a philosophical argument, is completely irrelevant.

I find it interesting that, at the end, you mentioned that ‘you can’t choose what you believe’.  To some extent I would echo that sentiment.  But you can certainly take an active interest in what others believe and why they claim to do so, without dismissing them out of hand.  And you certainly cannot assume that what you believe is what others should believe.

Which brings me to the ‘Evangelist God’.  You may well feel that you have a message to impart.  Are you equally prepared to receive different messages from others?  You don’t sound as if you are.  Would you be prepared to accept, on an equal basis and by similar means, messages from muslims, atheists and anabaptists?

12
Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #42 on: August 03, 2020, 11:35:36 am »
@ lapetus:

Very good response; I'll do my best to probe it further.
I haven't yet seen Theramintree's follow-up video (I'd rather respond to you anyway), so I'll check it out later today.

A general principle: I don't think of Updated Pascal's Wager as a philosophical argument that means that everyone who accepts it should be a particular kind of Christian; instead, I think of it as a tool, a variation of basic Decision Theory. I think that many people from all different kinds of religious persuasions and bents can use Updated Pascal's Wager as a tool / method to help them choose the right beliefs. This is why I use words like "in my opinion" and "epistemically;" Updated Pascal's Wager is a tool/method where you "input" your current epistemic beliefs, as well as the credence you give that each religion/worldview is correct, and "output" what beliefs/actions you should take given that information.

To put it another way -- Pascal assumed that trying to determine which religion was true was a futile exercise, that it's impossible to decide one way or another whether God exists, and so we should ignore any other evidence/logical arguments and jump right into evaluating consequences/rewards. As you say, for Pascal, "Truth has nothing to do with it."
I am arguing that, contra Pascal, you can find (objective and sometimes subjective) logical arguments for preferring certain religions over other religions; you bring that knowledge "to the table" with you when you wager. If a Mormon believes she has good logical evidence that Mormonism is true, but even better evidence that Atheism is true, she can use the Modified Pascal's Wager to realize that she should be a Mormon anyway, because the potential rewards are greater (as long as all other religions, in her mind, based on other reasons, are in third place, fourth place, etc.) Someone who considers the arguments for Islam to be quite good might use the reasoning of the Modified Pascal's Wager as a reason to convert to Islam.
When I say that Christianity, in my mind, is the most likely worldview to be true after Atheism, I say that based on other objective arguments, which we probably shouldn't get into now.

One more way to put it -- Pascal's Wager isn't enough. If all you have is Pascal's Wager, there's no way to know which religion is most probably right and you're screwed. In order for this to work, you have to bring other arguments and reasons with you to "judge" between the potential religions and worldviews.

Hopefully this resolves some misunderstanding.

Okay, on to your other points...

Quote
The bet is, by definition, mercenary in seeking reward for an action taken.

I think you're right, but in the end, I don't think it will matter whether your actions/beliefs are "mercenary" or not. If the Modified Pascal's Wager + Other Arguments leads you (for some reason) to conclude that you should become a Muslim, then the God of Islam probably won't care whether you are motivated by religious fervency or a mercenary desire for paradise; the actions are what matters most, not your motivations.
Even if you've decided to follow a religion that, if true, takes your motivations into account in the afterlife, it's possible that your motivations won't stay mercenary throughout your lifetime; what starts as a mercenary, actions-only religion has a good chance of developing into a real, sincere faith.

Quote
The wager is most likely to be secured by the religion that promises the greatest rewards and punishments. I find this truly bizzare.

Not necessarily; most religions describe paradise and hell in relatively similar terms; there's not much difference in terms of desirability between the rewards and punishments of Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, etc. The real tie-breaker comes down to logical arguments and reasoning.

Quote
Does this mean you have a method from distinguishing one unjustifiable religion from another? If so, you have not explained it.

I went over this in the intro -- I do think you can justify certain religions over other religions using logical argumentation.
The reason why I (personally) have no qualms dismissing the Egyptian Pantheon is because, if the gods were real and wanted to be believed in, they would not have allowed themselves to die out. Someone else may bring different arguments and assumptions to MPW and come to a different conclusion, but I can't think of a good argument for believing that the Egyptian Pantheon is more likely to be true than any of the more widespread religions of the world.

Quote
Are you equally prepared to receive different messages from others? You don't sound like you are.

Where did you get that impression?? I love to hear different perspectives from Mormons, Muslims, Atheists (why do you think I'm here?), etc. I sure hope that you listen to arguments from other religions/worldviews on occasion, if only to figure out exactly why they're wrong!

Thanks for the discussion! I hope I didn't miss any of your points.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 06:37:09 pm by ChristianInvestigator »
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They could not take your pride."

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Iapetus

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #43 on: August 04, 2020, 03:13:18 am »
Reply to ChristianInvestigator:

I need to start by saying that is a pleasure to hold a conversation with somebody who accepts critical commentary so positively and who attempts to answer the post as a whole.

I think, however, that you have entirely missed the point of Pascal’s wager, which is about what happens if you are wrong. The wager, necessarily, is based on a risk.

You seem to have accepted that the basis of the ‘classical’ wager is bogus.  Yet you appear to think that you can formulate an updated version whereby you can use ‘tools’ – perhaps Decision Theory – to ensure that you have made the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ or ‘true’ choice.  You have completely ignored the possibility that anybody else in the world could do exactly the same thing and arrive at completely different choices.  The evidence for this is that different people believe different things.  You can throw all your supposed logic and reason at that issue and it will not change.

If you have discovered the miraculous ‘right’ choice then, on this earth at least, you will be surrounded by a sea of ignorance and Pascal’s wager will not apply to you because there can be no risk involved.  Though how you could possibly know this is beyond me.

If, on the other hand, there is a possibility that you could be wrong, then the concept of a wager comes into play.  That is why dismissing any and all other beliefs and religions defeats the purpose of the argument. 

If you die and end up in your anticipated heaven, then you have won the wager and joy abounds.  But what if you were wrong?  Is there really nothing to lose?

What if, by failing to worship Satan, you end up in a form of hell?  What if, by denying Ahura Mazda, you end up being diverted in the nasty direction at the Bridge of Separation?  What if, by insufficient obeisance to Persephone, you end up in the realms of Hades?  There may be an infinite range of possible ways you could lose by failing to win the wager.  That is precisely why the video was entitled, Betting on Infinity.  That is the ‘true’ cost of Pascal’s wager.  It involves real risk.  That is why it is bogus.

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Re: A pragmatic argument for Evangelism (Pascal’s Wager)
« Reply #44 on: August 05, 2020, 07:33:45 pm »
Reply to Iapetus:

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I need to start by saying that is a pleasure to hold a conversation with somebody who accepts critical commentary so positively and who attempts to answer the post as a whole.

Sure, no problem! I enjoy digging into these things.

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You seem to have accepted that the basis of the ‘classical’ wager is bogus.  Yet you appear to think that you can formulate an updated version whereby you can use ‘tools’ – perhaps Decision Theory – to ensure that you have made the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ or ‘true’ choice.

There's a few things to address here. Pascal's Wager (at least my version) is basic Decision Theory (or maybe Game Theory?), except for the fact that we're applying it to questions about the Afterlife and that we are using infinities in our calculations.

I don't think my version of Pascal's Wager should be used primarily for attaining a 'true' choice. Pascal's Wager takes into account 'what happens if you are wrong' (and what happens if you are right), and so there are other factors in play than a basic evaluation of the evidence for one religion/worldview or another.

Here are some better adjectives to describe what this is good for --
Making the most 'pragmatic' choice. (The choice most likely to lead to the best outcome)
Making the 'wisest' choice. (Because it's looking at the long-term consequences for being wrong, rather than making a quick decision based on the current evidence.)*

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What if, by failing to worship Satan, you end up in a form of hell?  What if, by denying Ahura Mazda, you end up being diverted in the nasty direction at the Bridge of Separation?  What if, by insufficient obeisance to Persephone, you end up in the realms of Hades?  There may be an infinite range of possible ways you could lose by failing to win the wager.  That is precisely why the video was entitled, Betting on Infinity.  That is the ‘true’ cost of Pascal’s wager.  It involves real risk.  That is why it is bogus.

There's a non-zero probability that any of these scenarios could be true -- but they are all (in my opinion, and I'm sure in your opinion, too) very slim. That's why I'm justified in "wagering" on Christianity.
Do you agree with this statement? "If there were only 10 possible religions to choose from, Pascal's Wager would not be bogus." You're arguing that there is an infinite range of possible ways to lose (I agree)... but at least I'm trying to wager correctly. You're wagering on "Atheism," correct? You, too, have an infinite range of possible ways to lose. Most possible gods wouldn't go easy on an Atheist or treat you any better than if you "wagered" on a different god.

If you want to argue that Pascal's Wager is not a useful tool for making pragmatic, wise choices about the Afterlife, you're going to have to bring up an objection separate from the "Many Gods" objection, since that one affects you too.

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If you have discovered the miraculous ‘right’ choice then, on this earth at least, you will be surrounded by a sea of ignorance and Pascal’s wager will not apply to you because there can be no risk involved.  Though how you could possibly know this is beyond me.

I wanted to come back to this -- your argument seems to be, "You have very little hope of "Wagering" correctly, so you might as well not wager and go for the greatest Finite gain possible (Atheism)." (Correct me if I'm wrong). I want to provide some reasons why I think "Wagering" correctly is not a lost cause, even though there is an almost-infinite number of possible gods to decide between.

I said before that my version of the wager calculates Maximum Expected Return by multiplying the probability a certain religion/worldview is True (based on evidence/logic/reasoning) times the expected outcome if I am correct (which includes gains from not choosing wrong / being punished).**
You might think that analyzing every possible religion is a lost cause, something impossible for a human to do; however, the vast, vast majority of possible religions are highly unlikely to be True, leaving a relatively small amount of religions left to sort through.

For example --
Worldview A, if True, provides infinite joy to its followers. It has a 5% chance of being true.
Worldview B, if True, provides infinite joy to its followers. It has a 30% chance of being true.
Worldview C, if True, provides finite joy to its "followers". (Some form of Atheism). It has a 60% chance of being true.
The other possible (perhaps infinite) worldviews collectively make up the other 5%. None of them promise enough rewards or punishments to make up for their low probabilities of being true.

My version of Pascal's Wager says the wisest, most pragmatic choice is Worldview B, even though Worldview C is more likely to be true.
Is that a satisfactory answer to your objection, "Dismissing any and all other beliefs and religions defeats the purpose of the argument"? I'm not trying to dismiss them a-priori, I'm dismissing them on the basis of logical reasoning / evidence unrelated to Pascal's Wager.

Thanks for the discussion!





* This kind of reasoning works well for non-religious decisions, too. For example, we don't have a lot of evidence that Face Masks help to stop the spread of COVID-19. Scientific tests and analyses have been inconclusive, or with mixed results. If all we wanted was 'true' beliefs, we might decide that Face Masks are beneficial and save a few bucks by not buying one.
HOWEVER -- These tests are still in their preliminaries, and not infallible. If we (as a society) wear Face Masks and it turns out later on that they were useless, then our losses are minimal -- we lost money, we had to deal with the awkward social interactions that come with wearing masks, and we might have had trouble breathing sometimes. On the other hand, if we (again, as a society) decide not to wear Face Masks and it turns out later on that they were actually very useful in stopping the spread of COVID-19, then we lost thousands of lives and many people had to go through a difficult disease that could have been averted if we had only worn masks!
The point of this analogy/digression is to show that it's a perfectly rational thing to make the decision that will lead to a better outcome if it is true, even if the evidence for that decision is inconclusive or even tilted in the opposite direction.

** I didn't come up with this on my own, it's come from some thinking I did on the "Salvaging Pascal's Wager" article I linked to earlier.
"Early morning, April fourth,
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life.
They could not take your pride."