The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CXLVI (Meeting Loved Ones in Heaven/Pascal’s Wager)

October 24, 2005 | 8 Comments

Do we meet our loved ones in Heaven? An 81 year old who “question[s] everything” because of his engineering background wants to know, among other things, how the Squad would vote on that issue. After expressing their certainty that there is an afterlife, the Squad provides an answer you could spend an eternity trying to decipher:

As to whether we meet our relatives in heaven, Tom votes 10 [absolutely believes it], and Marc votes 8. The question is whether our souls rise into heaven like people in an elevator or like a drop of water falls into the ocean.

Tommy votes for the elevator and Marc votes for the ocean, but then it could be like an elevator in an ocean! The big issue is whether or not our souls are recycled through reincarnation, placed into the bodies of newborn babies to live again and try to get a better spiritual score. If that’s not true, and this life is our only life (until the end of days and the resurrection of the dead), then there’s no need for our souls to remain distinct after death. If our souls are reused, then they must remain distinct, and so it’s likely they would have some free time to check in with Grandpa Mike.

When reincarnation became “the big issue” for this Judeo-Christian duo I don’t know. But it seems to me that the implications of their theory would be the opposite of what they suggest. The soul that remained the same person through a single existence would more likely enter heaven in a distinct form. A soul that becomes, successively, a medieval serf, a Wild West cowboy and then Adolph Hitler would have to be fungible and generic rather than distinct; the distinctness is lost by “reuse.” And who, exactly, would have the free time to check in with Grandpa Mike? The surf, the cowboy or Hitler? What if Grandpa Mike was reincarnated as grandson Billy? Would he visit himself in heaven? The only thing more nonsensical than their analysis is their concluding suggestion:

In any event, if you’re into calculations and odds, why not follow Pascal’s Wager, in which you believe because if there is a God, you’ve bet on the right team, and if there is no God or heaven, it doesn’t matter, anyway, because after death, it’s just you and the worms.

I won’t delve to all of the flaws of the wager (see here for the short list), but one of the most basic problems is that there are multiple possibilities for the afterlife and betting on a God isn’t so safe if you bet on the wrong one. The Squad doesn’t instruct its readers on whether to bet on reincarnation, but the ones who reject it may run into a very, very angry Shiva when they die.

Comments

8 Responses to “God Squad Review CXLVI (Meeting Loved Ones in Heaven/Pascal’s Wager)”

  1. June
    October 24th, 2005 @ 1:20 am

    Thank you, GodSquad, for another good belly laugh. Bless you guys for the longest running parody of religion.

  2. Dawn Eden
    October 24th, 2005 @ 1:28 am

    Agreed on every count. I don’t understand the purpose of Pascal’s wager. Faith must be based on positive belief in God–not a negative belief in which God is simply the safest, least-wrong possibility.

  3. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    October 24th, 2005 @ 8:36 am

    Must be nice: to spout a bunch of gibberish and be respected by so many people for it. It boggles the rational mind I tell you.

  4. a different tim
    October 24th, 2005 @ 11:09 am

    Dawn said: “I don’t understand the purpose of Pascal’s wager….”
    Correct! Pascal’s wager is a cop out of the worst possible kind. If you’re an atheist or a theist, it’s just plain dishonest.

    I think the purpose was to allow people with doubts to square going to church with their consciences in an age when there was a lot more social pressure to be a Christian, or at least to look like one, than there is now.

  5. severalspecies
    October 24th, 2005 @ 12:35 pm

    When I first read this I thought TRA was paraphrasing the Squad. Then I read the actual answer ….The Squad must have gotten hold of some nasty mushrooms or such, then watched a few bad sci-fi flicks before they answered that letter.

    But then I do enjoy the slight rush of a fast elevator, as opposed to being in the water, as I’ve almost drowned twice. So I vote elevator!

    Maybe I’ll start an elevator religion….

  6. tracy
    October 24th, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

    Pascal’s Wager requires that you make a ‘logical’ decision about religion and then decide to believe.

    In my experience, a lot of people’s religious beliefs are based on a similar principle and people can ultimately convince themselves that they do actually believe what they have decided to believe. My mother’s religious belief seems to be based on the fact that she hates the idea of not being reunited with her family in heaven. She wants to believe in heaven so she does.

    I know I’m capable of rationalising things and then believing my explanation. I can do this over small things (justifying a buying a pair of shoes, or why I was right in an argument). For me religion is just way too important a topic for this treatment – even if I liked the idea of religion I don’t think there’s any way I could decide to believe.

    http://be-reasonable.typepad.com

  7. markm
    October 25th, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

    Ah, but which religion do you choose to believe in? In Pascal’s society there was only one (unless you liked being burnt at the stake), but we’ve got hundreds of varieties of Christianity, several grades of Judaism, at least two main streams of Islam, Wicca, Scientology, and all sorts of Buddhism and Hinduism to choose from, and they are nearly all equally silly. (There are exceptions, of course: Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are exceptionally silly, but that doesn’t cut the choices down by much.)

  8. Mark Plus
    October 26th, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

    Christians seem conflicted about the role of “chance” (ignorance of the causes of outcomes) in the universe. On the one hand they act offended at the idea that “we got here through chance,” even though every college genetics textbooks I’ve seen has a chapter on calculating the probabilities of inheritence (a throwback to the pre-biotech era). Yet on the other hand some christian apologists argue that we have to depend on “chance,” employed by Pascal’s Wager, that christianity will get us into heaven. Why do they object to the former operation of chance, but not the latter?

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