In a previous post, I responded to a comment left on my blog by an anonymous visitor. I outlined my belief that it is possible for someone to find meaning without the hope of an afterlife. In this post I will respond to another remark made by the visitor.
“What hurt does it do living the life of a christian...if you turn out to be wrong you lived a good life of living for a reason, having a meaning for life or dying as an atheist to find your views were wrong and suffer the consequences of hell."
This a variant of an argument originally formulated by Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, and is consequently known as Pascal’s Wager. It isn’t really an argument for the existence of God, but more a reason for believing in God.
My problem with this argument is that it uses the fear of hell as a reason to believe in God. The problem using fear is this: if I come to God through fear, can I truly and sincerely love and respect that God? If Christianity is all about relationship, what kind of relationship is based on fear? It is the kind that a wife has with her husband who beats her, or the kind that a slave has with his cruel master. If a person’s motivation to believe is based on fear, there is no chance for a healthy relationship.
Moreover, the use of fear as a reason for belief is used as a last resort by those who can’t logically argue for their beliefs. This is where I have respect for apologists, who at least appeal to reason and evidence as tools to argue for the existence of God. I have an intense disgust for any evangelist, pastor or church that uses the fear of hell as an evangelistic tool. It might get people into heaven, but only those with shallow intensions. What would God prefer: those who come to him through love, or those that come to him through fear? Which is more sincere?
When I was a Christian, I believed that Christianity was based on love and respect. I believe that this is what most Christians believe today. If this is the case, why should one use fear as a reason to believe? This is the primary reason why I don’t take Pascal’s Wager seriously at all.