Newsweek: God Debate

A recent newsweek article covered a discussion/debate between Atheist author Sam Harris and Christian author/evangelist Rick Warren. The topic was interesting, as was the article. A reasonable discussion about God, religion, society’s perceptions. etc.

But what I found particularly funny was the way Rick Warren ended the discussion (link to the last page):

Rick, last thoughts?
I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We’re both betting. He’s betting his life that he’s right. I’m betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he’s right, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right, he’s lost everything. I’m not willing to make that gamble.

I’ve highlighted the interesting part. Yes, you’re reading that right. Rick Warren just used Pascal’s Wager to summarily justify his Christian faith.

The problems with Pascal’s Wager as a logical approach to faith is that it encapsulates Pascal’s Flaw (in its various forms). Here are a couple simple and obvious reasons why Pascal’s Wager is flawed (thanks Wikipedia!):

  • Assumes God rewards belief – maybe God actually rewards skepticism instead
  • Assumes Christianity is the only religion that makes such a claim – if they’re mutually exclusive, they can’t all be right!
  • Does not constitute a true belief – if you’re only believing because you think it’s the “safest” option, do you really believe? (and do you think God would fall for it?)
  • Assumes one can choose belief – If you believe Scott Adams, there’s no free will anyway!
  • Assumes divine rewards and punishments are infinite – The Calvinists beg to differ.

Things are rarely binary-simple, unfortunately. Sorry Rick.

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