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Passions in Poetry

Mislooking for God

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Stephanos
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25 posted 06-21-2011 11:38 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Pascal's Wager as a commendation of belief in an evidential vacuum (the popular misconception of it), or Pascal's Wager within the context of religious thought as expressed in his "Pensées"?

I don't think the Wager is a perfect argument, but I do have a hard time with how it is usually represented (by both Christians, and antagonists).

Stephen
Brad
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26 posted 06-27-2011 06:59 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

It's like I'm asking for a bunch of sermons today:

Could you expand on what you think Pascal's wager means?

Now, my point was simply that many people who practice and profess Christianity often harbor doubts.

That seems entirely natural and reasonable.

[This message has been edited by Brad (06-29-2011 07:21 AM).]

Stephanos
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27 posted 07-05-2011 04:23 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad, I've had no time.  But I plan on getting back to this ... (bookmark).  



Stephen
Stephanos
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28 posted 07-05-2011 10:38 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad, I won't go into too much detail, unless you ask me to.  But to begin, the Wager is best understood as an a fortiori argument.  In effect Pascal asks: if it would be reasonable to believe in God / search for God/ commit to God, in an evidential vacuum, then how much more in a world where we are provided evidence, albeit incomplete.

In Pensees, Pascal seems at times to be the anti-rationalist.  He's even been called the first existentialist, for all of his comments about the problems involved with human certainty and knowledge.  He did indeed divine the limitations of reason, in dealing with the rationalists of his day.  And yet, one finds other statements of defense of the Christian Faith, along the lines of history (fulfilled prophecy), psychology, anthropology, and science.  


For this reason, the wager is best taken as a thought-provoking bit of rhetoric, a beginning rather than an end ... in the larger context of Pascal's thoughts, not as a smug invitation to blind faith (the common misinterpretation of unbelievers), and not as a slam-dunk logical argument for God (the common misinterpretation of believers).  


Stephen  
rwood
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29 posted 07-07-2011 10:45 AM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

What if one has a limited imagination?
Brad
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30 posted 07-07-2011 06:11 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Okay, but we still have to deal with the misconceived argument on a daily basis.

On the other hand, there are people who don't believe in God and yet think they should believe in God.  I'm not one of those but I see no reason to deny them the opportunity to try it.
Stephanos
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31 posted 07-18-2011 11:37 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

Does their belief that they should, stem from religious belief or unbelief?  In a Christian view of things, it can only be the former.  You mentioned that believers are not typically without doubt. (condeded, though I'd make a distinction between doubt and conclusive unbelief).  I would certainly say that non-believers aren't strangers to doubts of their own.  
Bob K
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32 posted 07-19-2011 02:48 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



quote:

Does their belief that they should, stem from religious belief or unbelief?  In a Christian view of things, it can only be the former.  



     And yet not all is motivated by religious belief of unbelief, is it?  People may feel they should believe in God or a Christian God or any other sort of God by many different things.  Among them may be a wish to fit in with family or the larger community or to distance one's self from it.  Everybody in Duluth believes, therefore it would be best if I believed as well.  Some communities are communities are communities of faith, and they can be especially motivating for people who may have no particular feelings when the arrive.

    Love of members of a community can be very persuasive.  If your Husband is a Druid, for example, you may feel some obligation.  You may feel you should believe, whether you do or not.  And these situations I'm positing are without coercive elements.

     Fear is something that can make somebody feel that they should believe not only in God, but in a particular version of God.  Believers may not be aware of the effect of positing a God that is willing to put a non-believer into Hell for eternity for non-compliance.  It certainly effects people with no particular belief structure.  Many religions in fact are willing to say outright that wisdom begins with the fear of God.  The other stories about God's love and Faith will come later.

     In short, there are many reasons to feel you should believe in God.  Faith is only one of them, and one that precious indeed.  However, I know of no religion that has ejected members who have found God within their particular ranks for reasons other than having had the fortune to be blessed by faith and God's abundant grace.  Usually, any reason is enough, and any problems can be worked out later.

     Of course this is mostly observational, and other folks here may have observed vastly different situations.
Brad
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33 posted 07-20-2011 07:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

I don't understand the question.

The only answer I can think of would be both and I don't know.  

Yes, non-believers are [supposed to be] full of doubt.

Stephanos
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34 posted 07-21-2011 09:26 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

I don't mean doubts about God.  I mean doubts about doubts about God.  

Stephen
Stephanos
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35 posted 07-21-2011 10:09 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob:
quote:
Believers may not be aware of the effect of positing a God that is willing to put a non-believer into Hell for eternity for non-compliance.  It certainly effects people with no particular belief structure.  Many religions in fact are willing to say outright that wisdom begins with the fear of God.  The other stories about God's love and Faith will come later.



As to whether it is simply 'posited' or not, is the whole question of faith or unbelief.  However, the doctrine of Hell cannot be so neatly separated from the Grace and Love of God.  In short, it is bad Theology to make the two contradictory, though of course it is the latter (the love and grace) that makes it possible to avoid the former.  The fact is, the best of loves can possibly be spurned.


In C.S. Lewis' "The Pilgrim's Regress" there is a conversation between the main character John, and his Guide or interpreter, that illustrates what I'm talking about:


quote:
John:  What about the charge of cruelty?'


Guide:  I was just coming to that. The Landlord has taken the risk of working the country with free tenants instead of slaves in chain gangs: and as they are free there is no way of making it impossible for them to go into forbidden places and eat forbidden fruits. Up to a certain point he can doctor them even when they have done so, and break them of the habit. But beyond that point -- you can see for yourself. A man can go on eating mountain-apple so long that nothing will cure his craving for it: and the very worms it breeds inside him will make him more certain to eat more. You must not try to fix the point after which a return is impossible, but you can see that there will be such a point somewhere.'


John: But surely the Landlord can do anything?


Guide:  He cannot do what is contradictory: or, in other words, a meaningless sentence will not gain meaning simply because someone chooses to prefix to it the words "the Landlord can." And it is meaningless to talk of forcing a man to do freely what a man has freely made impossible for himself.'


John:  I see. But at least these poor creatures are unhappy enough: there is no need to add a black hole.


Guide:  The Landlord does not make the blackness. The blackness is there already wherever the taste of mountain-apple has created the vermiculate will. What do you mean by a hole? Something that ends. A black hole is blackness enclosed, limited. And in that sense the Landlord has made the black hole. He has put into the world a Worst Thing. But evil of itself would never reach a worst: for evil is fissiparous and could never in a thousand eternities find any way to arrest its own reproduction. If it could, it would be no longer evil: for Form and Limit belong to the good. The walls of the black hole are the tourniquet on the wound through which the lost soul else would bleed to a death she never reached. It is the Landlord's last service to those who will let him do nothing better for them.



I guess, what I'm trying to say, is that it is the very grace and mercy of God to receive those who come at first for sheer self preservation, rather than out of love.  That's certainly not the highest motivator of faith by any means.  But for many, contemplating the destiny of one's will, is a unsettling starting point that gets them going.  


I would say if this truly "effects" people of no religious inclination, it is the jarring imposition of truth.  The answer one gives to the question of whether this is merely a psychological side-effect of social values upon an individual, or a truth about reality that is communicated through culture (and existentially through one's own thoughts), will still largely depend upon belief or unbelief.


Things like moral guilt, fear of perdition, and apprehension of the numinous, are things that happen to "unbelievers" as well.  Yes, of course these can have their false foundations (for example, we all know that false-guilt exists, and can be imposed by others or self for fallacious reasons).  But false examples do not invalidate that there are real ones.

    
Stephen
 
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