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To believe or not to believe

Never in my 20 years did I imagine joining the agnostic school of thought. I am not sure how it happened, but it was a progressive change and I saw its advent over the last few months. The last and final trigger was our recent tryst with evil. The omnipresence, the omniscience and the omnipotence surely must define an upper limit to “bad”, but we have ventured into the territory of no return. Justice is as far removed from the picture as the earth from pluto. Free will is a plausible argument, but only so far.  

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My friend speculates that as people get better, they also get worse, to keep the balance. However, I doubt that good is really keeping pace with evil. Can there be a stronger entity that lures evil? Well, that would defeat the purpose anyway. 

Pascal’s Wager

Remember Blaise Pascal from Pascal’s triangle (math) and Pascal’s law (physics)? He devised a game theoretic approach to belief in a higher entity, with happiness and reason as the ultimate decision units. He trashed the ability of human reason to ever confirm the (non)existence of the entity, thereby basing a rational decision on happiness alone. Applying game theory then, the dominant strategy of a person should be to believe in the entity, because if the entity does exist, the belief is likely to result in happiness, and if it doesn’t, one stands to lose nothing. Conversely, if we  don’t believe, we are likely to be unhappy if the entity does indeed exist, and stay neutral if it doesn’t. 

It’s quite thought-provoking, the rational approach to put your wager (Pascal’s wager) on believing in the existence of a supreme power.  However, faith isn’t something that is decided out of rationality. Maybe I contradict myself. I am still traversing this uncharted territory. I’ve been reading a fair amount on the ontology of God, and I have become quite a fan of the work of Robert Ingersoll. Also, The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, has gone right on top of my I read list.

Are you a believer?

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Over 3 years ago, I gave up my home, sold most of my stuff, stored some in the boot of a friend's car, and started calling the road home. Thanks for coming along virtually on my adventures! I'm always eager to hear your thoughts; leave me a comment and let me know how your travel dreams are shaping up and what you'd like to hear about more on my blog. Connect with me on Instagram/Twitter @shivya.

9 Comments

  1. Gerry Charbonneau says

    The twenty year old person (male or female) is expected to question many assumptions about life, religion, political affiliations and existence. The tender weaning and upbringing of one’s parents and their assumptions and beliefs about life and reality at this chaotic and confusing stage of life should be sloughed off and a serious evaluation of oneself and one’s place in the world should start a personal vision quest and journey of discovery.

    The 60 year old has had 40 years of life experiences, disappointments, happiness and sorrows and a multitude of real life events that challenge and or reinforce the beliefs and assumptions made over that expanse of life. One’s religious viewpoints tend to evolve and change as the person evolves and changes. As social animals we are swayed by friends, family, the media, politicians and life in general.

    The 20 year old and the 60 year old share the confusion, the uncertainty and the many doubts that life throws their way. But the world is not a laboratory. People do not exist in a vacuum. Belief or non belief is based on how open minded or even cynical about life we become. Pascal’s wager ( at times a misunderstood cause for a chuckle) was formulated at a time of enlightenment”. How enlightened each of us become is based on personal preference, experience and life stage we’re at.

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  2. My friend speculates that as people get better, they also get worse, to keep the balance.

    That’s a simplistic way of putting it. The human always needs something to live upto and work towards. All our lives we try to reach that equilibrium aka Nirvana. But once you get there, then what? The balance HAS to tip. That’s the natural order. [Remember chemical equilibrium laws?]

    And God. He/She/It is a punching bag. Something that’ll take responsibility when we’re unable to. Something to be mad at when things get bad. Something to be grateful to when life’s good.

    IMHO. 😛

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  3. Hey must say this i went through some of the similar tidings when i was 19-20 yrs old………Its like concoction of various thoughts, aspirations confusion and to a certain extent hallucination also……….
    All said and done u’ve put it really well……..

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  4. havocxphere says

    Pascal’s wager is deeply flawed. For starters, it doesn’t tell you which of the gods to believe in. Most of the major religions hold that the believers of the other religions will go to hell, so it would require a further hap-hazardous guess.

    Furthermore, it can be applied to *anything*. I can choose to never mention gnomes in case there are invisible fairies in my garden. Choosing to do so would not “cost” me anything…its is a free bet just like Pascal’s wager, but that doesn’t make it a sane choice.

    Besides, if there is a *benevolent* supreme entity, then sure it could not fault a human for concluding that one cannot know, and consequently reject a blind faith wager on one of the gods.

    You might also want to have a look at “Occam’s Razor” and the “Problem of evil”.

    A finally hypothetical scenario: A tiger chances upon a small lamb and rips it to shreds. Is there evil in this scenario?

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  5. It doesn’t matter if you believe or not, what matters is your actions and the consequences of those actions. If you realize that Cause and effect is there in the world then that’s what matters.

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  6. Yeah well I believe we are at a crossroad…right now evil seems to be ahead in the race…but as with all things in life… we need some patience…I think one of ur previous posts said…the randy pausch wala… nobody is all evil… n have patience…n u seemed to celebrate diwali as the victory of good over evil…so how could it have been a progressive change 🙂 … I dont mean to preach or anythin…just wrote down whatever I felt like…

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  7. yeah i am a firm believer …….. believing in a supreme power does give your soul peace and silence ….. you can bank upon someone when you are totally devastated …. you can trust on someone to make things right for you …… you can hope that someone will help you to sail across ur difficulties ….

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