Finding Truth Through
Gambling And Hedonism
Doug Prebble

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The "Active-X-formatted e-mail" mentioned below (we later discover -- the hard way) was actually the WScript.KakWorm. This critter can attack your system simply by reading e-mail with the preview pane on, using the stock e-mail program for Microsoft Windows, "Outlook Express." The link above tells how to stop this particular form of maliciousness from happening to you. Interesting trend. Very interesting.

Also, my response to this letter was revised on December 27, 2000, to make it easier to read. I did this in anticipation of using this material as the basis for the December editorial column.

-- Cliff Walker, December 27, 2000

 

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Doug Prebble"
Subject: Re: Cliff's letters with the Loving Christian
Date: Monday, December 11, 2000 1:53 PM

Please send no more Active-X-formatted e-mail to our domain. If all you're doing is writing, you don't need it: text works just fine. It has become a popular pastime among some Christian preachers to send us copies of the latest virus-infected material (we've received virus files from no other types of humans over the past five years). We're on top security around here, and thus get every kind of warning signal whenever suspect Active-X material comes in.

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Gambling is not a very good way to discern truth. It is about as reliable as faith. Here's why: you are assuming that the odds are that either a god exists or a god doesn't exist. That's not the discussion at all. The question is, "Is your god claim true?" This is not a decision between "Is there a god?" versus "Are there no gods?" Rather, it's a question of your claim versus the 5,000 or so other god claims. If a god does, in fact exist, who's to say that it's the god that you describe. Now, even if the god is called Christ, then we must consider that almost every sect of Christianity pronounces at least some sects of Christianity as being false sects.

Meanwhile, if I polled every theist and asked him or her which gods were the false gods, and if I then added up the results, all the gods would have a pretty dismal outlook. All of them would get pretty high ranking in the false god category.

Gambling is no way to discern truth, and the fact that you would even suggest this weighs heavily against you when it comes to your credibility with me.

Secondly, hedonism is no way to discern truth. I would never pronounce something true simply because I want to enjoy pleasure or avoid pain. This fallacy is called the Pipe Dream, and is named after the opium pipe (and this analogy reminds me of a famous quotation from Karl Marx). I need to be able to argue strongly for the truthfulness of a proposition before I'll believe it -- and certainly before I'll tell others to believe it.

Now, let's look at what you just expected me to believe: You want me to believe that I will be judged in some afterlife for disagreeing with you on whether a god exists. My question to you is, what reasons do you have for believing that this is true? Because you might experience pain if you don't say it's true (even if it's false)? because you might experience pleasure if you say it's true (even if it's false)?

Hedonism is no way to experience truth, and the fact that you would approach me and advocate self-indulgence weighs heavily against your credibility. I can just picture you issuing forth a belly-laugh at the though that I'd buy into such a shallow argument. But I don't buy it, because pleasure-seeking is not the quest for truth.

Finally, I already know I'll probably never make it to the nursing home. No amount of prayer will change this fact. So, I must do what I can while I live, because as far as I can tell, this is all I've got and all I get. If it turned out there was a god, I could make a strong case that he wasn't very fair with me, and he wasn't fair at all with my brother.

If -- after all I've been through and after what I watched my brother go through (with our ill-formed bodies) -- if it turned out that there actually was a god -- and if that god wanted to hold me accountable for concluding that there cannot possibly be any such thing as a loving god -- and if it turned out that the god's only "messengers" were people who have as little respect for truth as you have displayed here -- and if that god rewards liars like the author of that letter you describe, and condemns people who have honest doubt -- if that were the case, I'd spit in his eye.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.