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The Pandeist's Wager

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The Pandeist's wager is a variation on Pascal's Wager putting forth arguments that the formula of Pascal's Wager, if applied to Pandeism against either Atheism or any Theism (broadly conceived), favors carrying forth in life as though Pandeism were true. Mind that Pascal's Wager is actually not concerned with the possibility of God existing, but with the logic of believing in a God, (or a Deus) whether one exists or not. Pascal well understood that the weighing of probability was in order, and that the weight to be accorded each possibility must take into account the consequences of a wrong choice.

Says Pascal: "You must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."

Pascal presumed that failure to believe in a God who exists causes the unbeliever to be denied fruits—potentially infinite—that the believer obtains. But Pascal also says "If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is." Pascal agrees that we can not know if God exists, but it also reminds us that we could never not know God's nature! Pascal's conclusion, that it is mathematically a safer bet to believe in God, incorporates belief that the potential gain from believing is "infinite," the potential loss, finite.

The flaws in Pascal's Wager have been aggressively attacked. Though the Wager favors belief in God, the premise is equally applicable to all sects, leading J.L. Mackie to observe that "the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshipers of Kali or of Odin." Theological systems to be counted include all that have long since been relegated to forgotten ages, or have not yet been devised or "discovered". Even conceiving a new idea of God necessarily introduces another possibility, however remote the concept may be from reality. and with the infinite number of possible Gods, the Wager fails to tell us which one, and in fact suggests that we must believe in all of them (or at least, any of them who promise an "eternal reward" for fealty).

Atheists, naturally, consider worship of a nonexistent God to be a substantial cost. The atheistic position is: non-religious life avoids waste of time, resources invested in religion, and strife caused by religion. but this approach puts too high a premium on time away from religious activities -- to many, group religious activities are a joyful and profoundly pleasurable experience; Atheists are correct in contending that one can have a sense of purpose in life absent faith, but it is possible to simultaneously have both nonspiritual and spiritual feelings of this type, so there is no inherent detriment to be derived from having a spiritual sense of purpose!

If the only flaw with Pascal's Wager were the difficulty of choosing the "right" God, it could easily fall into doctrinal arguments over the quality of textual evidence favoring one or another, but a much deeper problem is the presumption that the "correct" God will be one that rewards belief and punishes nonbelief, irrespective of the conduct of the non-believer. here, Pandeism offers yet another approach to Pascal's wager: rational assessment of the probabilities in play.

If there is any basis to believe based on possible negative consequences of failing to do so, it follows that the first situation to be examined should be whichever model of God is logically the most likely to be true. logically incoherent models must be eliminated. But what logic would have us adhere to a God that punishes good people for non-belief, or those having faith but in the wrong characterization of God? And in particular, what sort of God would punish a person for developing an understanding of the Universe that comports with that person's actual experience of the Universe?

The God presented by theistic faiths typically has absolute power to control the life experience that presents itself to people. Suppose such a God were to punish people for their beliefs when such beliefs are exactly what life's experience has led those people to deem reasonable -- this being would either be outright evil or at best insane, in a random sort of way. Imagine if God that informed the souls coming before it that they were to be punished for believing that the sky was blue when, God reveals, the blueness was only an illusion meant to hide the fact that the sky was green; imagine that God went on to declare that only those who correctly came to the belief that the sky was green would be rewarded! An evil God is, naturally, unlikely to actually give an "infinite reward" to anyone, and if God is insane, then there is really no telling who God would reward or punish, and for what!

But Pascal is clearly right that we must make this wager, and since the wager itself is required of us, reason demands that the examination must follow! Richard Carrier argued that if a God exists who rewards moral goodness, such a God would be unlikely to reward those who unquestioningly believe in the face of physical evidence countering those beliefs. such rote belief is indicative of a morally lazy mind, for a truly moral person would be intent on discovering truth, and would vigorously and rigorously question every belief that counters the available evidence: "since this knowledge requires knowledge about many fundamental facts of the universe (such as whether there is a god), it follows necessarily that such people must have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about such things are probably correct."

Carrier delimits that the people who meet this moral criteria as "intellectually committed but critical theists, and intellectually committed but critical nontheists". examining the evil that exists, he presumes that the world must be a test to determine which people have the requisite morality to end up in one of those categories. expounding on the evils ordered or directly carried out by the Biblical God, and the failure of God to intervene to prevent evils in the modern world, since "only an evil god would probably allow such things," Carrier concludes that not only must Bible-God be false, but that the world must be a test to see who can break away from that belief and accept that such a God does not exist, and that only the truly moral will be able to carry on nonbelief "in the face of assertions, threats and promises of reward".

This also fails to examine the probability of a God who rewards or punishes at all. If the nature of the Universe indicates that the Deus is either unconcerned with rewards and punishments, or unable to distribute them, the argument ceases to have any force as a reason to believe--but does not thereby become an argument that lack of belief is the correct position.

With Pandeism, a more sublime alternative emerges: if the purpose of the Universe is for the Deus to experience the existence of the Universe, then whatever behavior human beings engage in becomes part of that experience. If any sort of afterlife exists, it may involve being sustained as a consciousness within the continuing experience of the Deus, sharing in the whole body of those experiences. so, immoral conduct during life is not what theistic texts propound, but what contributes to the sharing of negative experiences by that collective of minds sustained in the continuing experience of the Deus. Naturally, the person who inflicts misery on others in life, would experience the very misery of his own victims.

If an afterlife that exists where our actions rebound upon us in this way, it would make sense to proceed with our lives as though every misery we exact upon another will someday be our own misery, and every joy that we bring to another will someday be our own joy! Note carefully, this is not an argument for belief in a Deus that brings about such a result, even if the result is necessarily brought about by the nature of the Deus. Pascal's Wager asks that we engage in behavior that non-believers would be right in considering wasteful if there turned out to be no God (or a God different from the one to whom belief was directed). The Pandeist's Wager runs exactly counter to this, insisting that we engage in behavior that enriches our own lives and the lives of others, maximizing positive physical and emotional experience while minimizing the negative. No waste inheres in such a consequence, even from the point of view of the committed non-believer -- so instead of proposing an infinite win for the person who calls out the correct name of God and an infinite loss for all others, this view proposes an infinite win for all who devote their time on Earth to bettering the life of others while enjoying their own, and provides a rational spiritual basis for acting in exactly this manner!

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