Here at Wizbang, the three of us tend to have a rather laissez-faire relationship with each other. In fact, the only time I can recall all three of us working on something together was last spring’s April Fool’s prank (which every now and then raises its spectre).
Last week Paul took me to task for my piece lambasting Wal-Mart over a sewage hookup. And when confronted with what he and numerous commenters said, I reluctantly had to admit I had, indeed, been talking out of my ass. I’d built my entire piece on a single fact that had been utterly wrong. I ate so much crow I’m still coughing up feathers.
But nonetheless, I feel the need for a bit of “payback.” Earlier, Paul wrote a story about a renowned athiest who had, at the age of 81, renounced his lack of faith and found God in his twilight days. Paul speculated how this guy’s conversion would have on other non-believers. I have an answer for him.
I often describe myself a “born-again agnostic.” I was raised Methodist, but since reaching adulthood (well, actually, long before that) I’ve found I simply don’t have it in me to have “faith.” I simply can’t make that leap and “believe” in something with no tangible evidence whatsoever, especially when it’s stressed that there can not and never will be any proof.
Likewise, I can’t be an athiest in good conscience, either. I can’t deny the possibility that there might be a God. To do so would require a leap of faith like the one to believe in a God — if not even greater. Further, it flies in the face of the logical fallacy of proving a negative — you can’t DISprove the existence of a God any more than you can prove His existence.
So what did Mr. Flew’s change of heart do to my beliefs? Absolutely nothing. My beliefs are strictly internal, based on my own thoughts and observations and biases and opinions and experiences. The very factors that keep me from simply taking the word of the Theists also keep me from being led by him or others of his beliefs. So he changed his mind? If it helped him find some comfort in his waning years, more power to him. But it doesn’t affect me in the slightest.
I once read that mathematician Blaise Pascal had put forth a simple logical equation where he boiled down Theism to a simple 2 x 2 matrix: That there is or is not a God, and you believe or don’t believe in Him when you die.
Believe in God + there is a God: you go to heaven.
Believe in God + there is no God: you cease to exist.
Don’t believe in God + there is a God: you go to Hell.
Don’t believe in God + there is no god: you cease to exist.
By that reasoning, you might as well believe, because it’s the only chance you have for a happy afterlife. If you don’t, it’s bad either way.
I always despised that line of reasoning. The way I see it, if there is a God, He will know that the person’s belief is simply based on self-interest, not true belief, and will Judge accordingly. From every concept of God I’ve ever read about, one thing is consistent: He doesn’t like people who try to “game” the system.
So my own ethics are based upon my agnosticism: I don’t know if there is a God or not, and in all likelihood I won’t in my lifetime. So I have to muddle through on my own. But, taking a hint from Pascal, I’m going to try to do the right thing, the moral, decent thing whenever I can, to the best of my abilities. I won’t always succeed, and often I’ll end up choosing the wrong thing, but it’ll always be on my mind.
And in the end, if I come face-to-face with my Creator, I can say with a clear conscience that I did the best I could, that I tried to always find the “right” and “decent” and “kind” thing to do. And I’m sorry that I never really believed in You, but I wouldn’t feign something so important.