Note: Given the propensity of Christians to continually deceive themselves with this argument, I have decided to bring this back to the front of my site. In case you are wondering, I often prefer to use the informal indicative rather than the more formal subjunctive. – May 2005
IF CHRISTIANITY IS TRUE
Wayne Everett Orgar
Over the past few years, one of the most frequent comments I have heard from Christians is paraphrased as follows:
If Christianity is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.
If it is true and I don’t believe, I have eternal punishment.
If it is false and I believe, than I will have only lived a lie.
This is nothing more than Pascal’s wager watered down. Bet on Christianity and you lose nothing.
WRONG! You lose plenty.
First, though, let’s recognize this is only a statement of fear and presents evidence of nothing except the fear of hellfire and brimstone. Supposedly, believing in Christ on faith is the key to salvation. Believing in Christ because it is a safe bet is not faith and disqualifies you from salvation. This is fear, not the courage of one’s conviction.
- This argument provides no evidence for a god or for gods.
- It presents no evidence of an afterlife.
- It presents no evidence for the truth of Christianity or the belief that these practices will bring you that eternal life. You still have no guarantee that being a Christian brings eternal life if there was an afterlife.
- It represents a false dichotomy. The choice is not between Christianity and atheism. It is a choice among atheism, Christianity, and the thousands of other religions that respective believers think will get them eternal life. If eternal life existed, it could belong to only the Hindu.
- If Christianity was false and you believed, you could lose more than a life of lies. If Shintoism were true instead, you would lose eternal life. You better get out there and believe in Shintoism to hedge your bet.
Consider the underlying reasoning behind the argument and it falls apart.
If religion A is true and I believe, than I have eternal life.
If religion A is true and I don’t believe, than I have eternal punishment.
If religion A is not true and I believe, than I will only have lived a lie.
You could use this to justify believing in any religion. Just substitute Islam for religion A. If you use this reasoning to justify believing in Christianity, the moral principle of fairness requires you to allow other religions to use it with equal justification and hope of salvation. Otherwise, you are being hypocritical and you are deceiving yourself.
You could use it to hold conflicting beliefs and be in total self-contradiction. Why would anyone respect this argument?
Now back to my original point. You have plenty to lose with Christianity
- You lose a lot of time and money on religious organizations and icons, time and money that could be better spent on real problems.
- You have to worry about guilt and shame from the imaginary concept of sin. Big brother is watching.
- You have to stand on your head and do verbal gymnastics to “apologize” for ridiculous Bible stories and verses.
- You have to worry about the increasing knowledge of the facts of the universe and try to rectify them with the Bible, written by people who knew nothing about their universe.
- You have to worry about the increasing civil rights of women and other minorities such as homosexuals, atheists, ethnic groups, and other religious groups that are increasing in this country.
- You have to constantly worry about non-believers watching your behavior as Christians and pointing out that you do not behave any better than non-believers.
- You have to worry about your friends and family going to hell for an eternity. If you don’t worry about this, you either don’t truly believe or are a very callous individual.
- You have to worry about breaking arbitrary “rules of men” that were attributed to a supposed deity thousands of years ago.
- You have to worry about those secular humanists (all 20 of them) that have taken over every school, government body, university, media outlet, and ice cream stand in the country.
I could list more. I found no comfort from Christianity. It is not a sure thing and I certainly would not want to bet my life or well being on it.
February 2006 – The stupidist thing a Christian has ever said to me in regard to this is that non-belief in Christianity has consequences and the above is therefore not true. Other religions have no consequences? Tell that to an Islamic believer who insists that Christians will go to hell!
Don’t you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don’t you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out “Don’t you believe in anything?”
“Yes”, I said. “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”
Well, this settles it.