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Reply to "If the Bible Is the..."

By Joe Holman
As is the norm in a work setting, one day I end up talking with a theist about atheism
and religion. The conversation just started, popped up from out of nowhere, and
those to whom I speak are amazed, mainly because they haven't met that many
atheists who know a good deal about what the bible really says. They listen and
give the usual Christian retorts I hear so often. Then, towards the end of the
conversation when all else has failed, they ask in sincere wonder, "What if you're
wrong, Joe? What then? What if God does exist?" I am always happy when
someone asks this question because it gives me an opportunity to deflate the
implied argument that lies behind it, namely Pascal's Wager. Blaise Pascal, was a
17th century theologian who put it this way:

"The unbeliever has everything to lose and nothing to gain. If God does not exist
and I believe in him, I lose nothing. But if God does exist, and I don't believe in him, I
lose everything."

To some theologians, this argument, believe it or not, sounds good, but it is
obviously lacking so that even a Hell-fire preaching theist can sometimes see it's
flaws. The thrust of this first objection to it is, very simply, if I can't believe in
something, how can I and why should I pretend to? To pursue a course of action
without believing in it is called "going through the motions." Does God want
hypocritical service? What's the difference in Pascal's Wager and self-deceit? Not
much, sounds like! Before my resignation from the ministry, I was "undercover" as
an atheist for the last two years before finally defecting. I was pretending then,
going through the motions. I haven't met a believer yet who heard my story and
would have the gall to tell me that I was saved in that unbelieving, pretentious state
of "undercover" faith. I can fake faith all I want, and I did for a while, but faith never
came! I can fake faith in Santa Claus all I want, but faith will never come.

Believers somehow seem to think that a thought-out, enlightened atheist might just
forget about all the major biblical and doctrinal issues that caused the unbelief in
the first place, and just mysteriously become "faithful" again. This just doesn't
happen to atheists who reject the bible for valid, logical reasons. It should be rather
obvious to everyone that pretentious service to a god would not even be as good
as no service!

The second problem with Pascal's wager is that it is completely selfish in its'
application when used by believers. For instance, a Christian will ask an atheist, "Is
it worth risking going to Hell because of unbelief in Jesus?", but they fail to apply
the argument to themselves and their faith. "Christians, is it worth risking going to
Hell by rejecting Allah?" Or, I could say, "Fundamentalist Orthodox Christian, is it
worth risking going to Hell by rejecting Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon?" Or,
"Is it worth risking going to Hell by rejecting Quezalcoatl of the Aztecs?" By this
same logic, we could ask, "Is it worth risking burning in Hell for unbelief in even one
god out there who might turn out to be true?" In all these cases, the application is
the same; the Christian wants the atheist to wager on the acceptance of a god, the
Christian God, but forgets that this applies to any and all gods since they are all
equally nebulous and inscrutable, and they all could be!

It could be that Quezalcoatl of the Aztecs is indeed the real god after all, or it could
be that Allah is the true god, or every manifested god may be a god in charge of its
own small realm, or every god may be a corrupted form of an unknown god in which
case everybody's wrong, or they all might be different manifestations of god, or it
could be that god is a squirrel on a tree, a beagle in a pet shop, a star, or a quasar
a million light years from us, etc. ad nausium! I don't think Christian apologist's have
given enough thought to the fact that god may be real indeed, just an unprincipled
monster who plans to send all humans to a fiery Hell when they die regardless of
belief or non. If this is true, then we're all in a lot of trouble!

What if, what if, what if! Growing up, my mother always told me, "Joe, quit with the
'what if' questions! They're no good." That's pretty much true. Like anything
conceivable and a quintillion other things that could be true, I am not about to
wager on one unknown above another just because my culture and my parent's
religion happened to land right in my lap! By the Christians' own logic therefore, I
really shouldn't wager on the Christian God because that god is only one, whereas
any one of the hundreds of thousands of them out there might turn up! The odds
are now too great that I might be wrong. Doesn't it make perfect sense then to stay
neutral on the issue? Wagering on unknowns is bad enough - just ask anyone who
lost their money gambling!

The third problem with Pascal's Wager is that the Christian god may indeed be real
every wit like the bible describes him, in which case, me and every other atheist,
pagan, heathen, deist, anti-Christian religious person, etc. will roast in a hot fiery
furnace for a ceaseless eternity, screaming in bloodcurdling agony, every second
of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every year, of every century, of
every millenia, forever!

If Joe Holman stands before an angry god on the day of judgment, and if it is true
that all unbelievers must burn in Hell, regardless of their sincerity or honesty in their
search of the facts, and if it is true that one cannot repent on that final day and
thereafter, then I will stand speechless before my monstrous creator and accept my
sentence--remember, I won't have a choice in the matter! The problem with this
horrible scenario is that it completely displays the terror and brutish nature of the
God of the New Testament who punishes with not the slightest hint of mercy, those
who disagree with him. Pascal's Wager brings to light every intolerant and hateful
attribute of this bully in the sky called Jehovah. This god is like a mob boss who kills
those who oppose him in the most hideous ways imaginable.

In my case, I think too much and ask too many questions, so I am going to be
silenced, "knocked off" by this organized crime boss who made the worlds. Pascal's
Wager makes a man think about the eternal anger, the divine and supreme level of
unimaginable cruelty, unleashed from a being who could simply blot out the
existence of those who cross him, but instead, chooses to watch them suffer forever
and ever and ever!

If I am going to wager on anything, is it not much easier to wager against the
existence of an infinitely evil entity like the god of holy writ, heartless and vindictive
of a monster as he is, and instead, throw off that hypocritical shroud of faith and
rather, wager on science, on decency, on compassion, and human intellectual
dignity? Apologist Josh McDowell said it best when he said: "The heart cannot
accept what my mind rejects." I agree.

So I am going to wager that if a supreme being could and does exist, then it is a
compassionate and smart enough being to know what we enlightened atheists
know--that people are made the way they are by their genetics and culture and
raising, and that it is a combination of many factors that make a person who and
what they are, thus, eliminating the idea of man as an "evil," and "sinful," or
"depraved" creature who deserves an eternity of misery. Should such a god of
compassion be up there hiding, I have so many questions for him I don't feel they
could ever be answered.

I do not believe a god can exist and am wholly convinced that the god idea is so
highly contradictory and ridiculous on every level of thought that I can safely say
and stand for what I stand for today. Like any and everyone else however, I could
be wrong about the god question, but I have not the slightest reason to alter my
belief system or life to make some "wager" in the nebulous world of unknowns
where spooks walk and goblins dwell. I leave that miserable world of ghouls, gods
and goddesses alone. I want no part of it. Reason, common sense, and wholesome
humanistic values demand that the ignorance of the past remain in the past where
it belongs. (JH)