5
Do you ever worry that you may be wrong?

What I mean is, what if it turns out that it is possible for something to exist outside of time, outside of what science is able to see? Do you ever worry that by perhaps denying this that something such as the Christian concept of hell may happen to you?

I have been leaning towards the idea of being atheist after being brought up in a Christian home, and once even thinking that God was calling me into ministry.

The only way I see that a God could exist would be in this situation that it has to exist as a spirit outside of time and our dimensions. So do you think it is at least possible?

Posted: May 19th 2009

George Ricker www

I readily concede I may be wrong about some or all of what I think is true. In fact, it’s probably a lead-pipe cinch that I’m mistaken about some of it.

In fact, we can be pretty certain that something exists that is outside the current ability of science to see. The more we can see, the more we seem to realize there is more to see.

However, I see no cause for worry in either of those situations. All any of us can do is consider what we think we know and make our best rational estimate about what seems true and act accordingly.

Finally, the notion that anything that had the capacity to create a universe would have such a pathological insecurity that it would need to punish anyone who didn’t believe in it seems absurd to me.

Posted: May 20th 2009

See all questions answered by George Ricker

Eric_PK

One of the differences between religious faith and scientific belief is that religious faith allows no possibility of being wrong.

So, yes, I do entertain the possibility that I am wrong on many things.

As for your specific question, like many religious questions, you run into a definitional problem. Unless you can come up with a reasonable definition for how something can “exist” outside of time, I think the question is nonsensical.

I don’t deny anything. I simply do not have the evidence that would compel me to believe. Any omniscient god would know what evidence would convince me, so I think there are three possibilities:

1) God exists, but doesn’t care if I believe.
2) God exists, but doesn’t want me to believe.
3) God doesn’t exist.

Given what I’ve seen, the first two are the same as the third one to me.

And if heaven/hell exist, any god who would condemn me to hell because I didn’t believe while knowing it would be against my nature to believe can only be described as sadistic.

Posted: May 20th 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

SmartLX www

There’s already a good answer by Bitbutter about Pascal’s Wager, so I’ll address what you’ve said directly instead of using the general case.

It’s always possible that there’s a god, because a hypothetical omnipotent being can do whatever it needs to in order to coexist with the universe, free will, evil, etc.

If it’s true and atheists are wrong, there is only one chance in infinity that any particular religion is right because there are an infinite number of possible gods and afterlives. Therefore a person of any religion is almost certainly following the wrong one. Atheists at least are not stuck with a rival god, which might make the real one jealous.

All things considered, I think we’re in the best position.

Posted: May 19th 2009

See all questions answered by SmartLX

bitbutter www

If the atheist is wrong he will suffer for eternity, if he’s right then he hasn’t gained much. On the other hand, if the Christian is wrong he hasn’t lost much, and if he’s right he’s hit the jackpot.

This is the gist of Pascals Wager, an attempt to justify belief in God through a kind of cost/benefit analysis. There are several important problems with this idea, I’ll just mention the 'many Gods’ problem.

Let’s grant that atheists might end up in something like the hell described in the bible. The horror of hell on its own doesn’t provide an incentive to pretend to believe in the Christian god, because all Christians will find themselves in hell if Islam is correct. Christians, Muslims and atheists might end up suffering eternally together if it turns out that we all face our creator Thor in the afterlife. This is just one of the reasons that Pascal’s wager isn’t a good reason to live your life as a Christian.

As for whether anything can exist outside of time, I don’t know, and i think we ought to be extremely skeptical of anyone claiming that kind of knowledge. This kind of question deals with a subject that our language and habits of thought aren’t equipped to handle.

Should we take the idea of punishment in the afterlife seriously?

In order to be punished for failing to recognise the existence of a deity, there has to be something like an afterlife. Without an afterlife, there can be no supernatural punishment. Happily, when we look at what we know about 'the self’ and the brain, we see that the idea of an afterlife (like so much in religion) collapses into incoherence when we examine it.

Brain damage affects our memories, skills and emotions—our personality can change. We often hear that a brain damage victim became 'another person’. When we die, our brain is damaged in an irreversible way, spelling the end for our memories, emotions, knowledge, skills and all the rest. Even if there is some kind of mysterious essence that persists when you die, everything that made you, you, is destroyed. All this suggests that Epicurus was right when he said:

Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.

I know it’s easier said than done to free yourself from instinctive worries about hell. From talking to many ex-Christians it seems that these fears can persist even after a person stops believing in religious stories. Maybe knowing that will help the transition I hope you’ll be able to make. Good luck.

Posted: May 19th 2009

See all questions answered by bitbutter

logicel

If I was a theist, who believes in the supernatural, I would be much more worried whether or not I have chosen the right supernatural being among the many ones available than not having chosen any!

As there is a higher probability that there is no theistic god (a theistic god would leave solid evidence of its involvement on earth, and there is not a shred of that kind of evidence) than that there is, I do not worry in general.

I can only practice self honesty. And I see no evidence for the supernatural, hence I have no god belief, of any kind. If the Christian god does exist, how could it possibly approve of my pretending belief so I would escape from being sent to hell (Pascal’s Wager fails miserably in its advocating dishonesty and insinuating that god can be fooled)? In this case, I think that honesty is the best policy and be upfront about my lack of belief in supernatural beings.

A god that does not interact with us is not a theistic one. I often joke that if there is a god, it would be the deistic kind, who created us and then went off, promptly forgetting about his creation!

Posted: May 19th 2009

See all questions answered by logicel

 

Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum