Monday, June 13, 2011

Laurel's Wager

Today's blog is by guest blogger Laurel. It's a tribute to her younger brother who died two weeks ago. This is dedicated to all the young people in our lives.
I recently read about an interesting philosophical position called Pascal's Wager. Basically, it says that reason dictates that you should live your life as if God exists, whether you believe in Him or not. It's kind of on a par with the “chicken soup” theory, i.e. it can't hurt, and it might very well help, so go ahead and hedge your bet in this Grand Game of Life by either believing in Him, or at least acting like you do.

Well, here's “Laurel's Wager”....

Live every single minute of your life as if there is no God, whether you believe in him or not. Live it as if you do not get another chance at it. Live it as if you have to leave this earth a better place than what you found it because your kids and grand kids and moms and dads and sisters and brothers and friends and loved ones have to stay in it after you are gone.

Live it as if you need to savor every single drop of it... the joy, grief, laughter, tears, work, failures, successes...all of it...because you may not be reincarnated after you throw this one away, and there may not be either a heaven or a hell or a big loving Daddy Person in the sky passing out the warm fuzzies you just couldn't find a way to get while you were here.

Fight just as hard as you can to stay healthy; don't do drugs or abuse booze or fill your veins with fat and salt and sugar and nicotine. What if your body isn't just a temporary vessel to hold your spirit until it gets to go some place more fun? What if it happens to be the only medium by which you get to stay here for as long as possible, and when it's broken and battered so badly it no longer works, you end...forever...?

Hold those you love close to you now, and don't count on being able to smile down on them from some nebulous golden fairyland and somehow have them “just know” how much you really loved them. Spend time truly interacting with them instead of throwing away your minutes and hours and days and weeks and years thinking you either get a “do-over” or a piece of pie in the sky by and by, just as long as you embrace God right before slipping out of existence.

Do something with your life that leaves a lasting, loving legacy in this world, something that enables your children to lead better lives while they are here, something that people remember as a gift to this life, here and now.

So instead of buying into Pascal's Wager, consider Laurel's Wager. Think of it as “chicken soup” can't hurt and may very well be the only chance you ever get to experience incredible joy, sorrow, accomplishment, wealth, poverty, failure, success, and most of all, love. And if there is a God out there, and I tend to believe there is, I think She would be very pleased with your wager...


  1. Pascal's Wager would make the sense if it wasn't for the fact that belief is not the product of a deliberate process. That means, the wager completely disregards and disrespects the intellectual process behind belief. A belief occurs when the available evidence satisfies your standards of knowledge, not because you "want" to believe. You cannot convince yourself unicorns exist because they'll get a pot full of gold when you die. It doesn't work like that. Belief doesn't work on rewards or lack thereof.

  2. plus...
    "Let's suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs -- He's a personal god -- but that He is a just god. He's concerned with justice. If you have a just god, he could not possibly punish an honest error of belief where there is no moral turpitude or no wrongdoing involved. If this god is a creator god and He gave us reason as the basic means of understanding our world, then He would take pride in the conscientious and scrupulous use of reason the part of His creatures, even if they committed errors from time to time, in the same way a benevolent father would take pride in the accomplishments of his son, even if the son committed errors from time to time. Therefore, if there exists a just god, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of belief.

    Now we came to the last possibility. Suppose there exists an unjust god, specifically the god of Christianity, who doesn't give a damn about justice and who will burn us in Hell, regardless of whether we made honest mistakes or not. Such a god is necessarily unjust, for there is no more heinous injustice we could conceive of, than to punish a person for an honest error of belief, when he has tried to the best of his ability to ascertain the truth. The Christian thinks he's in a better position in case this kind of god exists. I wish to point out that he's not in any better position than we are because if you have an unjust god. The earmark of injustice is unprincipled behavior, behavior that's not predictable. If there's an unjust god and He really gets all this glee out of burning sinners and disbelievers, then what could give him more glee than to tell Christians they would be saved, only to turn around and burn them anyway, for the Hell of it, just because he enjoys it? If you've got an unjust god, what worst injustice could there be than that? It's not that far-fetched. If a god is willing to punish you simply for an honest error of belief, you can't believe He's going to keep his word when He tells you He won't punish you if you don't believe in Him because He's got to have a sadistic streak to begin with. Certainly He would get quite a bit of glee out of this behavior. Even if there exists this unjust god, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish universe, but we're in no worse position than the Christian is."
    --George H. Smith.

  3. I've never liked Pascal's Wager, but I definitely like Laurel's Wager! It rings true with me. Good stuff!

    Wahrer of the Worlds

  4. I agree. There is no guarantee that there will be a second chance, so you sure better make the most of this one. Well done!

  5. Was considering your phrase: "don't do drugs or abuse booze"

    I think you have allowed a bit of bias to slip through there. I think (hope?) you mean something like: "use drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) responsibly and with thought to consequences"

    Because I can name several presently illegal "drugs" that are safer than alcohol by almost all measures (and certainly in aggregate risk profile): Cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline cacti, Ayahuasca, salvia divinorum, iboga (all with extremely long histories of natural use) and MDMA and LSD are a couple of synthetic examples. All of these have demonstrated clear benefits to human beings when used responsibly. There are certainly other drugs which are far more harmful - what I'm objecting to is treating all drugs as if they are all only harmful.

    For one heart wrenching counter-example, please read the case of "Nancy" found here:

    Of course, everything carries risks but that is an assessment the individual needs to make based on accurate information (not misinformation). Skydiving is extremely dangerous, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing it ever. You could certainly take a substance and become traumatized as a result, but the same thing can happen from even minor car accidents:

    I care about this because people are misrepresenting the facts about the relative dangers and it is harming our society to feed trillions of dollars to the most violent criminals our world has known. We have traded the safety of EVERYONE on the planet to try to stop a relative few from harming themselves or committing relatively minor crimes. It's much easier to catch a strung out Heroin junkie who steals a few hundred dollars than a trained murderer and criminal who has tens of thousands of dollars in weapons and who has corrupted the police, judicial, and prison systems. And even at the extreme, if Heroin junkies could get treatment and access to clean needles and drugs they would be far less of a burden on society than imprisoning them has proven to be.

    One definition of insanity is when you do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome - and the current system is insane.

    Everyone I've known that had drug issues had underlying mental and physical/emotional abuse issues and they try to self-medicate because the "system" simply cannot help them. If you address that problem you will resolve much of the addiction problems we face without tossing peaceful people into prisons and feeding vast criminal undergrounds which in turn corrupt our political, police, judicial, and prison systems.


Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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