Agnostic Atheism Wager

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The Agnostic Atheism Wager is an informal argument against worshipping God in a religious sense, and for pragmatic/weak atheism. The wager stems from theological criticisms of the well known Pascal's Wager. Both wagers state that what one believes, and how one should act in life, can be determined irrelevant of whether God exists by comparing the consequences of different outcomes - essentially risk management. However, they differ in their theological assumptions and thus conclude differently.

Pascal's Wager concludes that one must believe in God in order to be rewarded in the afterlife, but assumes that God would not be able to see through the deceit of just claiming to believe. On the other hand, the AA wager assumes God could see through such deceit or would judge on actions, not belief, and asks what is best to do in such a situation, and so justifying pragmatic atheism even in the face of potential damnation. The AA Wager also takes into account the fact that genuine belief is difficult, if not impossible, to fake (see doxastic voluntarism) while Pascal's Wager assumes that it is fairly trivial to simply believe in God and that belief is all that is required to enter Heaven.


[edit] The wager

The AA Wager takes a similar form to Pascal's Wager in that it compares outcomes based on how one acts in life. However, it differs in its theological assumptions; namely it assumes that God doesn't hold blind belief as the important factor in deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Although there is no exact and official wording, the Agnoistic Atheism Wager as laid below is attributed to the blog An Agnostic Atheist. The wager states:

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe, when there is a significant lack of evidence of any one god's existence.

Unlike Pascal's Wager, which is an argument for a belief in God, the Atheist Agnostic Wager in this form isn't specifically an argument for atheism. It's no more than a post facto justification of non-belief, particularly if threatened with fire, brimstone and eternal damnation by an evangelist. The fact that it isn't strictly a logical pro-atheism argument isn't usually a problem, as the AA Wager is an argument for how one should behave and is just a rebuttal and response to Pascal's Wager. It is often expanded upon from this form in several ways. One addition is to state that a god that would hold judgement against a good person purely on the basis of whether or not the person believes in or worships them, rather than on being a good person, would not actually be a god worth worshiping, and that perhaps living in Heaven with such a creature would be worse than any hell. A further extension takes into account the potential losses of believing in God if he doesn't actually exist - travelling to church, praying and generally wasting time. With this expansion it could be considered as an argument for atheism, but isn't an especially strong one as the cost-benefit of religious practice, assuming God does not exist, is very subjective.

[edit] Comparing wagers

A tabulated form of Pascal's Wager can be laid out below. As can be seen, the best outcomes are associated with believing in God.

God exists God does not exist
Believe in God Infinite gain in heaven Insignificant loss
Disbelieve in God Infinite loss in hell Insignificant gain

The Agnostic Atheism Wager compares to this by adding an extra layer regarding behaviour of the individual and how God would take this into account, rather than just the blind belief of the individual. As mentioned above, this is considered by proponents of the AA Wager as a more justified theological assumption.

God exists God does not exist
Be a good person Believe in God Infinite gain in heaven You have made the world a better place
You've wasted your time believing
Disbelieve in God Infinite gain in heaven You have made the world a better place
Be a bad person Believe in God Infinite loss in hell People think you're a twat
You've wasted your time believing
Disbelieve in God Infinite loss in hell People think you're a twat

So the AA Wager proposes that the most positive outcomes are associated with behaviour, and are independent of belief as Pascal proposed. Assuming belief, in the event of God's non-existence, is waste of time the most favoured option is to be good and not believe.

[edit] Criticism

Although the theological assumption that God would judge according to actions rather than belief is favourable to both atheists and believers alike, and also more in line with descriptions of God as a good character, it is still an assumption. Therefore the AA Wager falls down should this assumption turn out false, but only in the event that God exists - and most real evidence suggests otherwise, which is the point.

Like Pascal's proposal, the AA Wager suffers from the fact that there are multiple religions. Pascal's because you would have to pick the "right" religion to believe in and the Atheist Agnostic's because different religions and interpretations of God can consider different things to be "good". In some religions merely spreading the word of that religion is a good act in itself, which is why Mother Teresa is considered a saint when she never actually aided anyone, really. One particular Christian doctrine, sola fide, literally states that salvation comes "by faith alone" and is the distinguishing mark of Protestant belief - though as before, proponents of the AA wager would simply state that this makes God a complete dick and not worth worshipping as a good being.

In a more objective scope, both the AA and Pascal's wagers suffer from giving the Judeo-Christian concept of God far too much privilege, and ignore the potential for other religions (whether they are practised on Earth or not) to be the real thing. Although this can be excused in the case of the AA Wager because it is a direct response to Pascal's, this makes neither of them particularly comprehensive of all potential gods. Because of this, to follow the AA Wager one would need to deal with trying to find the good way to live between many different, often conflicting, definitions of what it means to be good in the eyes of God - and that would include a God that sees belief as the one and only factor of judgement. This does tend to point out the stupidity of religious dogma, and lead one to a secular attempt to determine "how we should live".

[edit] Further considerations

The AA Wager's focus on behavior rather than belief can be expanded upon to make it completely independent of God. Even if it doesn't get you into heaven, being a good person tends to make others like you more, and perhaps even inspire them to do the same. These factors are confined to the living world, which is guaranteed, and have nothing to do with the afterlife, which is only a mild probability. Since this life is certainly real (for certain) values of real) and improving the circumstances in this life makes for a guaranteed improvement, it is favourable to be a good person for that reason alone than for a reason that is only a mild possibility. This is the basis of the "be good for goodness sake" campaign endorsed by various humanist groups.

[edit] See also

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