I've mentioned the hilarity and cunning of Douglas Adams before on this blog, but I neglected to mention an even more delightful combination of comedy and enlightenment: Adams and Dawkins.
While reading Richard Dawkins' recently published book, The God Delusion, I came across a passage which I simply must share.
In his book, Dawkins very patiently takes the time to consider and dismiss every argument for god that has even a glimmer of credibility (I'm using the word "glimmer" quite generously here). A few god-argument-dismissals into the chapter, he comes to Pascal's Wager. Of course, as is obvious from the denotation itself, it is not an argument at all, but instead it is merely a bet, a wager. Up to the task to gently guide all ghost-believers on their journeys toward sanity, Dawkin's takes a moment to explain Pascal's Wager. I will do so as well.
You should believe in God because if you do, you statistically have a better plight after death. To illustrate this, consider the following: Either (1) God exists, or (2) God does not exist. If you believe in God and (1) is true, you go to heaven. If you believe in God and (1) is false, no problems arise. If you do not believe in God and (2) is true, again, no problems arise; however, (and here is the kicker) if you do not believe in God, and (1) is true, you go to hell and rot forever! So, you should believe in God!
The countless ways that Pascal's Wager is erroneous is not the point. Perhaps it is the case that (3) Zeus exists, and he is angry that you believed in a god other than him. Perhaps (4) God rewards skepticism, is true, and all skeptics go to heaven after death! Woo-hoo, etc. Fill in the blank with your preferred possibility. Perhaps the most preposterous thing about Pascal's Wager is that he seems to assume that you can simply choose whether or not to believe in something. As Dawkins points out, we can go to Church, we can read the bible day and night, and do other mildly amusing religious activities, but that will not force ourselves to believe in an all-powerful being or an unmoved mover (from Aquinas' proof of God's existence, which Dawkin's also cordially thwarts). We can perhaps feign belief, but an omnipotent God should probably be able to pick up on that fairly quickly. To be fair to Pascal, it is very possible that the Wager was just a bit of comedic relief from all of his work in mathematics.
Dawkins goes on to cite the work of a satirist worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with Jonathan Swift himself, Douglas Adams. I will let Dawkins take it from here.
From The God Delusion:
"The ludicrous idea that believing is something you can decide to do is deliciously mocked by Douglas Adams in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, where we meet the robotic Electric Monk, a labour-saving device that you buy 'to do your believing for you'. The de luxe model is advertised as 'Capable of believing things they wouldn't believe in Salt Lake City'."