Agnosticism? Can’t be

Romeo & JulietSuppose Romeo proposes to Juliet and Juliet says, “Give me some time to make up my mind.” Suppose Romeo keeps coming back day after day, and Juliet keeps saying the same thing day after day: “Perhaps tomorrow.” In the words of Charlie Brown’s small, red-haired girlfriend, “Tomorrow is always a day away”. There comes a time though when there are no more tomorrows.

Then “maybe” becomes “no”. Romeo will die. Corpses do not marry. The Catholic Church is God’s marriage proposal to the soul. Saying “maybe” and “perhaps tomorrow” cannot conti-nue indefinitely because life does not continue indefinitely. The weather will never clear enough for the agnostic navigator to be sure whether the port is true home or false just by looking at it through binoculars from a distance. He has to take a chance, on this port or some other, or he will never get home. Here or there. Now or never. A decision must be made.

Once it is decided that we must wager, once it is decided that there are only two options – theism and atheism – not three, theism, atheism, and agnosticism, then the rest of the argument is simple. Atheism is a terrible bet. It gives you no chance of winning the final prize.

Pascal states the argument this way:

You have two things to lose: the true and the good; and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to avoid: error and wretchedness. Since you must necessarily choose, your reason is no more affronted by choosing one rather than the other. That is one point cleared up. But your happiness? Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win, you win everything: if you lose, you lose nothing.

Do not hesitate then – wager that He does exist.


16 Responses to “Agnosticism? Can’t be”

  1. 1 Victor S E Moubarak September 24, 2009 at 02:43

    But why is it that people hesitate to come to God? Is it because the church (Catholic and others) has lost its zeal? Is it because its message has become lukewarm and wishy washy and almost non-relevant?

    Look in all the churches – will you find St Paul there with all his enthusiasm for preaching the Word of God? Or St Peter or any of the disciples with their courage and willingness to spread the Gospels?

    Or will you find satisfied priests just doing their day to day work in the belief it is sufficient?

    Have you noticed how many lay people go to the Internet with their Blogs and Websites talking about Christianity? Is it because they feel their church leaders are not doing enough?

    • 2 churchmouse September 24, 2009 at 19:03

      Very much so, Victor. If you have ever visited my blog, you’ll see comments from my readers and me as to the parlous state of affairs churches are in today. Today’s post — not that I’m plugging 😉 — is a case in point.

      You pose some excellent questions. God bless.

  2. 3 Davide September 24, 2009 at 07:22

    Beautiful post. Pascal’s wager is one of the many ways to prove God’s existence. It provides a rather selfish means of believing in God but it is a good starting point. Pascal shows with very simple reasoning that it is impossible to be agnostic, something which is unfortunately very prevalent in today’s skeptic world. And Pascal’s wager works because of the reality of DEATH. We are embarked on the journey of life from the moment of birth and this life has an end. Therefore, we have to wager. We can make the foolish wager by refuting God’s existance, which is risky since if God does in fact exist you lose everything, or the safest wager that God does exist. If He exists then you gain everything… and if he doesn’t, you lose nothing.

  3. 4 African Observer September 24, 2009 at 07:56

    Pascal in his inimitable way forces us to face the realities of existence in a direct, brutal way. What a brilliant mind! Indeed,
    the one, ultimate, fundamental choice placed before modern man is that between the man-god of the atheists and the God-man of Christian revelation.

  4. 5 Katherine Jane September 24, 2009 at 08:38

    How well put is that: ….. the fundamental choice placed before modern man is that between the man-god and the God-man! 🙂

    @ Victor: I think it is for all the reasons you mention and more. Like you, I admire the zeal of lay christians whether with blogs or by writing to bishops or in the support of their local churches, or by the way they lead their personal lives and I feel very downhearted when on the media, TV and so on our bishops show fear to stand up for our beliefs, for life, for Christ ….. and why? Because they fear they will hurt the sensibilities of some man in power? Because they fear being called old-fashioned, fundamentalist, retrogade?

    Where are St. Paul and St. Peter today? Where are our martyrs?

  5. 6 Llewellyn September 24, 2009 at 09:09

    I’ve been following a lot of interesting debates between atheists and Christians and I have noted that they do not seem to grasp the basic idea that not all religions are the same, and that even within a specific religion, there can be a whole range of attitudes from the indifferent to the violently fanatical. Blithely passing over these distinctions, they lump all religions into one category, as if there were no difference between Muslim, Catholic, Jew, and Satanist, and as if all religious believers must of necessity be fundamentalist fanatics.

    I’ve also noticed their very crafty use of historical facts. They lean heavily on horror stories and unsavory anecdotes — all the while conveniently leaving aside facts and stories that would disprove their thesis. For example, after blaming religion for conflicts and wars, they remain silent about the many schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations founded by believing Catholics. Is this a balanced reading of the facts?

    There are also many cases where the speakers for atheism base their arguments on what could happen, while conveniently ignoring what actually did and does happen in real historical events. For example, they confidently assert that atheism will result in a higher ethical standard and a greater intellectual maturity – and yet, statistics from history and even from current polls show quite the opposite.

    Very meaningful, also, is the way these atheists present themselves — as enlightened critics of despotic and intolerant religions — and yet their tone, language, and even explicit recommendations are among the most intolerant and despotic of all.

  6. 7 elizabeth September 24, 2009 at 09:18

    I would like to explain (or maybe just describe) atheists in a different, perhaps more favorable, light than given in the comments here although I am no longer one of them. For more than 50 years, I was an atheist. I did not hate the church. I did not blame God for my children’s birth defects or all the child abuse I endured because I did not think that God existed, so what or who was there to blame? I do not believe I was intolerant. As a university dean in Jordan and Bahrain, I enforced the Muslim holy days even when the Muslims themselves were ready to work those days. I attended services of the Orthodox, Christian, and Jewish communities in support of various celebrations of my friends and colleagues, and the guardian that my husband and I had appointed to take care of our children in the event of our death was a Jewish mother and Catholic father, who were raising their children Jewish. I was an atheist for one reason: I could not see any evidence of God. I did not feel it, and any logic arguments did not make sense to me. Which, I suppose, is why God had to hit me over the head pretty hard to get my attention — and He did get my attention!

    I realize that there are and can be some pretty obnoxious atheists, just as there can be some obnoxious in-your-face believers. I just wanted to point out that on balance there are multiple facets to the bigger picture of (a)theism.

  7. 8 Cara September 24, 2009 at 10:38

    Thank you for sharing your story, Elizabeth. While I was reading your comment, it struck me, again, how God calls us all and how we all come to him from different backgrounds.
    I was one of the obnoxious atheists until I too was hit hard on the head by Our Creator 🙂 – strangely, I used to hate christians, especially catholics and couldn’t care less for hindus, muslims or others.
    Thanks be to God and to His great mercy, here I am now – a militant Catholic 🙂

    If I’m not mistaken, Llewelyn is talking about those atheists that we see on debates on TV or who write books, such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Dennett, etc. and here he certainly has a point – they certainly are very intolerant and dispotic.

  8. 9 Cinzia September 24, 2009 at 11:26

    Victor – people should not hesitate to come to God because churches and priests are not doing enough! That is not a good reason. On the contrary, all the more reason to come closer to God, stand up for one’s faith and be a militant Catholic!

    That is why I too, like Katherine Jane and you, and others, admire the zeal and courage of lay christians who are not afraid to speak! Bloggers like Gabriella and yourself, and many others are all fantastic and admirable!

    I say shame on those bishops like the ones recently at Ted Kennedy’s funeral who were ashamed to say things as they were exactly … instead of wishy washy half-truths and cover-ups. Shame on the bishops involved with the Notre Dame University episode and the 88 pro-lifers who were arrested … and so on! Too many awful examples.

    Where is their courage to speak out? How can they say they represent Christ on this earth? What sort of examples are they setting for the faithful?

    So I say: GOOD FOR YOU … all you bloggers and all you true soldiers of Christ. Keep up the great work. You CAN and you DO make a difference.

  9. 10 Victor S E Moubarak September 24, 2009 at 12:37

    Thanx Katherine Jane and Cinzia.

    It saddens me when priests and bishops fail to speak out for fear of being criticised and for fear of losing their congregations and the income they provide.

    Jesus spoke out the Truth regardless of consequences. And look what they did to Him.

  10. 11 A-William September 24, 2009 at 12:40

    You know, I just can’t understand why you people accept to be so intimidated. I honestly can’t fathom why you people are so strongly influenced by human inventions and mystifications in this day and age!
    If you don’t open your eyes, human kind will never progress. People seem to pride themselves in having faith over having knowledge and refuse to listen to any information coming from the other side, even if it is fact.
    This lack of critical evaluation and consideration comes from religion. When you are encouraged to take things on faith rather than evidence it is only a matter of time before that same approach seeps into the rest of your life. When your brain becomes habituated to shutting down, not questioning and ignoring evidence which does not support your world view, it starts to atrophy.
    This effect is crystalized by a society that celebrates this “fiction over fact” mentality and it perpetuates itself into homes, schools and the media. My mother-in-law, who is Mormon, has a sign on her fridge that reads “Character is higher than intellect.” Each time we visit, my husband and I are tempted to write “And intellect is higher than God.” but so far we haven’t touched the damn thing. What does character mean exactly anyway? Grrr…

    • 12 churchmouse September 24, 2009 at 19:08

      Sorry, A-William,but intellect is not higher than God. Intellect is God’s gift to humanity for us to use in our work for His greater glory here on Earth.

      ::Stay away from the magnet … Stay away from the magnet.:: 😉

      All the best! 🙂

  11. 13 anne bender September 24, 2009 at 13:05

    “The Catholic Church is God’s marriage proposal to the soul.” I love that Gabriella! What a great comparison to use Romeo and Juliet to God’s love for us. The love that God has for us is so wonderful, so romantic, so perfect, I would be a fool turn Him down!

    A-William, intellect is knowing what to believe in, but character is standing up for what you believe is right, even when others criticize, insult and hate you for it. I’m glad that you haven’t responded to your mother-in-law as you suggest because you would be wrong, and most likely cause pain to your mother-in-law. You have my prayers.

  12. 14 Cinzia September 24, 2009 at 13:15

    Dear A-William, sorry to correct you but you say some things that are completely wrong.

    1. It is not true that we don’t question, evaluate and consider. Try reading any Catholic book, and more importantly the writings of those doctors and intellectuals of the Catholic Church like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, for example, and you’ll see lots of evaluating, considering and questioning.

    2. Faith is not a human invention! Faith comes from God, and Jesus tells us “Blessed are you that have not seen, but believe. Great will your reward be in heaven.”

    3. Our Heavenly Father, the Creator, his Son our Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit who imparts knowledge and wisdom, are not “fiction over fact.” According to you, what is the “fact?”

    4. You cannot generalise and liken all christianity to the Mormons. Mormons are a sect, and not a religion anyway, and tend to be radical and narrow-minded in their views. They have also warped the true meanings of the scriptures a fair bit!

    5. Why would or should faith “in this day and age” be any different from any other age? Truth, as taught by the Catholic Church, is truth always and unchangeable. Christ’s teachings are not meant to “change with the times.” God forbid!! Look at what is happening in the world just because godless people in general WANT to be god themselves and do as they please!

    6. Intellect is higher than God? What does that mean exactly? Sounds very very arrogant to me. May I remind you that God is the one who has given us intellect.

    7. If us who have faith don’t open our eyes, humankind will never progess. Well! I will make sure I keep my eyes tight shut.

    Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts just like this blog has allowed you to express yours.

  13. 15 Mihailov September 24, 2009 at 14:41

    I like both Anne and Cinzia’s replies to William.

    The air we breathe cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched, yet it most certainly exists. The force of gravity cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched, yet we know that it exists. Emotions, values, beliefs, and thoughts cannot be found by using any of our senses, yet they are as real as rocks or trees. Emotions can be “felt”, but this feeling is not physical. Thus, simply because something cannot be found through the use of the five senses does not mean that it does not exist.

    The inconceivability of God or a “supreme being” to the atheist is quite simply an act of selfishness and bitterness. Why else would a human being, the most advanced of the seemingly countless entities in the world that cannot be reproduced by machine or technology, doubt the existence of a power more greater than our own capable of “creating” the earth and all its inhabitants.

    Atheists have closed their minds to all possibilities other than their own, and I do not understand that type of thought process. An Agnostic, if there is an interest in God, will hear God calling and would believe in his existence. An Atheist would come up with a theory to disprove that God spoke to him. This does not work for me.

    “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” Hebrews 11-1. This is not blind belief in some mythical power, but an acknowledgment of a powerful, omni-present entity that purposed all creation, including mankind. However, this concept is foreign to those “learned” individuals who need facts and data to prove points and substantiate thought.

  14. 16 Ward Torres September 25, 2009 at 09:22

    Like Gabriella, I’m also very much into Chesterton – I just love his sense of humor and his irony! So so very Catholic!
    Please allow me to quote a few lines from one of his books:

    “I should think that the worst moment for the atheist comes when
    he is really thankful—and yet has nobody to thank”.

    “Some new scientists are only interested in the beastly side of men. Instead of making the ape and tiger mere accessories to the man, they make man a mere accessory, a mere afterthought to the ape and tiger. Instead of employing the hippopotamus to illustrate their philosophy, they employ the hippopotamus to make their philosophy, and the great fat books they write you and I, please God, will never read”.

    “The essence of medical cure is that a man is a patient. But the
    essence of moral cure is that the patient must be impatient.
    Nothing can be done unless he hates his own sin more than he loves his own pleasure”.

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