Tract browsing


We have a good selection of Christian (protestant-evangelical-charismatic) evangelism tracts here in the office, and I spent a portion of my lunch break perusing them. They are all written by the same author, and they target a wide range of religions–everything from Islam to “unsaved” Catholics to the Bahá’í Faith.

Just one of the tracts is written for atheists; it is entitled “Who has the most to lose?” and predictably puts forth a summarized version of Pascal’s Wager–a closed dichotomy between evangelical Christianity and atheism:

When confronted with the claims of Christ, many people want to know what happens if Christians are wrong and there is no God. Conversely, the major concern of Christians is what happens to unbelievers if THEY are wrong. Who has the most to lose?

Suppose unbelievers are wrong….Most of all, dwelling in hell for all of eternity is the most horrible consequence imaginable.

I’m sure you can imagine where it goes from there. But wait, what about all those other religions? What if Christians are wrong and Muslims are right? What if neo-paganism is the best way to go and Mormonism is wrong? Why did the author of these tracts seem so ready to talk about other religions before he narrowed in on atheists and had to establish a false dichotomy that ignored other options beside Christianity?

This is the disingenuous reasoning behind every variant of Pascal’s Wager. If the best thing you can put forward in a tract for atheists is “better play it safe,” then the alternative option to atheism should simply be the religion that promises the worst hell. That would probably be Islam. But heck, I could make up a worse hell right now. On what grounds would that not become the new exclusive option in the dichotomy?

On no grounds whatsoever, of course. And those are the same grounds upon which Christianity is the exclusive option. There are other significant issues with Pascal’s Wager, but this one stands out to me the most. Can any serious person take the Wager seriously?

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5 Responses to Tract browsing

  1. Bruce says:

    In the criminal injustice system, the object is to win – justice has nothing to do with anything. Just win, baby, win the conviction regardless of what the truth is or what is fair and just.

    The same basic principle applies here. Truth or intellectual integrity have nothing to do with anything. It’s all about saving souls for Jesus (or whichever sky fairy is being promoted). In fact untruths or any other unethical tactic in the pursuit of saving souls is perfectly acceptable. Promoting the sky fairy takes precedence over the well being or ethical treatment of their fellow human beings. To paraphrase a saying from the ’50s (an era which most fundies would like our society to revert to) – better dead than atheist.

  2. mikhailovich says:

    Clearly, some self-described Christians are more interested in Pascal’s Wager than others. Who’s the True Christian? Whichever Christian I’m talking to at the time, so for now, I’ll assume that True Christians don’t really care about the Wager.

    Not to belabor the point, but I want to get this straight: are you saying that if someone is willing to being regarded as a fool by society and put to death for a belief system, that their belief has validity on those grounds? I’ll reply when I have your answer.

    And incidentally, the Wager is talking about a “safe bet” for the next life, not safety in this life.

  3. T. Tennent says:

    Christians are, at most, only mildly interested in Pascal’s Wager. Your criticism of it may be grounds for proving that the so-called \Christian\ tract you saw was surely sub-Christian. In fact, the NT never envisions Christians as a \safe bet\. Precisely, the opposite. To be a Christian was to be regarded as a fool, disenfranchised by the society, and, quite possibly, fed to the lions. If anything, it was more of \safe bet\ to be crucified to a cross, or drowned, or put into the arena, or speared to death. Nevertheless, they couldn’t stop proclaiming what they had seen and heard. Jesus Christ is Risen – and that was, for them, an indisputable fact. Christians have never proclaimed a generic \god\ which could stand as a place holder for the \god of the philosophers\ or \Allah\ or \Nirguna Brahman\ or the \Tao\ or fill-in-the-blank. Christianity stands or falls on our faith that Jesus Christ rose from the grave. We proclaim Him.

  4. BillK says:

    In the criminal injustice system, the object is to win – justice has nothing to do with anything. Just win, baby, win the conviction regardless of what the truth is or what is fair and just.

    The same basic principle applies here. Truth or intellectual integrity have nothing to do with anything. It’s all about saving souls for Jesus (or whichever sky fairy is being promoted). In fact untruths or any other unethical tactic in the pursuit of saving souls is perfectly acceptable. Promoting the sky fairy takes precedence over the well being or ethical treatment of their fellow human beings. To paraphrase a saying from the ’50s (an era which most fundies would like our society to revert to) – better dead than atheist.

  5. Islam doesn’t have the worst hell, Cthulu does.

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