Friday, October 23, 2009

The most unfulfilling aspect of atheism

I think a lot of believers think that us atheists have unfulfilled lives because we lack meaning or purpose, or a higher moral compass, or whatever. Of course we know that is all hogwash. If you can't find meaning in your life without a fairy tale to dress it up, that's kinda sad; and if you can't find it in yourself to be moral without a Holy Prison Warden looking over your shoulder, well, that's just scary.

Similarly, the lack of a paradisaical afterlife doesn't trouble me too much, because the fantasy is rather infantile. It saddens me about as much as the idea that there's no Santa Claus. I guess in theory it would be nice if something resembling the virtual construct I consider my "mind" got to continue existing even after the breakdown of the physical equipment that enables that emergent phenomenon, just as in theory it would be nice if some nice guy with a red suit and a white beard would pay for and deliver all of my family's Christmas presents. But I have trouble working up much disappointment about either one.

But there is one thing about atheism that I do find deeply unfulfilling in comparison to theistic worldviews: The lack of guaranteed vindication.

Let's say a theist and I deeply disagree, and we each are frustrated by the other's obstinance. If the theist believes in the literal heaven-as-a-reward/hellfire-as-punishment mode of afterlife, then she "knows" that she will be proven right when I die -- that there will be a moment just before I start to burn for all eternity where I will be forced to admit some pretty serious egg on my face. I, on the other hand, can bet that she will almost certainly persist in her beliefs until death, and there will never, ever come a moment where she realizes that I was right all along.

Okay, I realize that this is a rather adolescent way of looking at things (right after I criticized the afterlife fantasy as infantile, even!) but I can't help it. I find it particularly frustrating in regards to those who pitch Pascal's Wager, like we haven't heard it before and already dismissed it. I am sorry, but that line of argumentation is just so vapid, so asinine, so utterly devoid of critical thinking, that I can't hear someone recite it earnestly without getting agitated. I suppose it is a weakness of character on my part, but there it is. (In fact, it was a YouTube commenter spouting Pascal's Wager that inspired me to write this post)

I would really like to believe in a universe where every person who accepts Pascal's Wager is guaranteed at some point to have the shocking stupidity of that argument revealed to them in a dramatic and inescapable fashion, something akin to the literal theistic belief that I'll be forced to realize the error of my ways by the most bombastic method of eternal torture. But is there a dogma that will allow me to embrace that comforting delusion?

Not yet, so it's high time I create one. I propose the Church of the Fallacy of Pascal's Wager -- the "Fallacians" for short. Our central belief is that after a person dies, a copy of their body will be reconstructed in some other part of the universe, where there stands a gigantic entryway composed of calcium carbonate, with Voltaire standing guard. Voltaire will then ask the recently deceased to point out at least one fallacy in Pascal's Wager, and if they are successful then they are allowed through the gates and get to spend eternity (or however long they want) in a paradise of their choosing -- perhaps a place where hens lay soft-boiled eggs; an exclusive country club consisting of only 144,400 people; hell, even 72 white raisins if that's what floats your boat.

Those who fail will not be forced to burn in eternal hellfire, of course. I'm not that sadistic. They will also be allowed to live in the paradise of their choosing, except that everywhere they go, an angel will follow them around pointing and laughing. Well, maybe we can be merciful and the angel can ease off after 500 years or so. I just want a good few centuries to make sure the problem's with Pascal's dumb-ass Wager have fully sunk in.

Anybody want to join my church? The only requirement for membership is that you have to deposit $10 in my PayPal account. I know, I know, what evidence is there that depositing money in my PayPal account will lead to eternal salvation? Well, just look at it this way. If I am wrong, we both still die and you are only out ten measly bucks. But if I am right, you get to spend eternity in paradise!

So pay up, sucker.

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