Day 151 – I Would Like Advice, Please

I have been struggling with this question for quite some time, and it came up tonight, which rekindled my thinking on it:
How do you ask a man behind the counter for a soda when you don’t think there is a man there?

You could use Pascal’s wager on this and say that you can only gain by acting as though the man behind the counter exists. For example, if you act as though he exists, you have four possible outcomes: 1) he exists and you get a soda, 2) he does not exist and you get no soda. In either case, you either win (get a soda) or stay neutral. If you act as though he does not exist, however, you also have two outcomes: 1) he does exist, and you get no soda because you acted as though he does not, or 2) he does not exist, and therefor no soda, but you expected this. In this second situation, you either lose (not getting a soda when all you had to do was believe the man was there and ask) and stay neutral. Pascal would argue that I should act as though there is a man behind the counter and ask for the soda, because that situation is the only one where there is a positive outcome. He is exactly correct. (Plot it out on a matrix if you are having trouble understanding.)

There is a problem, however, if the man behind the counter can tell whether you actually believed he was there or not, and used that knowledge to determine when to give you a soda or not. In this case, he only gives soda to people who actually believe he is there and ask for the soda. So people who come up to the counter using Pascal’s wager (acting as though they believe and thus asking for a soda, but not truly believing) can never win. Either way they act, they lose–if the man behind the counter is there, that is (if he is not, people who do not believe he is there are no better or worse off).

You are probably wondering where I am going with this. I am going to be honest–I have been struggling to figure out what I believe, especially about God. I am unsure whether I believe in God or not, and I have been thinking about it A LOT lately. I have talked to many people about this, and a few have told me that I should ask God to help me, for faith is a gift that God gives you. One even cited Pascal’s wager (kind of as a joke, but he turned out to be serious) as to why I should ask God for help.

Well, apply what I wrote above to me asking God for guidance in sorting out my beliefs. In this case, from what I understand from listening to other people’s beliefs, motivation matters to God. So, if I were using Pascal’s wager, God would be like the man behind the counter who only gives you soda if you truly believe he is there, not if you are just using Pascal’s wager and do not believe. Therein lies my problem; I am still trying to figure it out, so I cannot definitively say that I believe. In fact, since I am trying to figure it out, one would have to say that I do not believe. Since I do not believe, I would only be using some sort of Pascal’s wager if I asked for guidance. Let’s say that God does exist. As far as I can gather from what people believe, my motivation for asking for guidance from him would be off. Since I have the wrong motivation in that situation, where would that get me? Most likely nowhere. If God does exist, would He want me to lie to myself and falsely address him when I do not believe? Would it not be better to be honest with myself?

I have another issue here: I cannot bring myself to earnestly talk to someone or something that I am unsure is there or not. It does not make sense to me. Let’s say there is a curtain that is in front of me, and I am unsure whether someone is behind it or not. I cannot move this curtain–all I can do is ask whether there is someone there or not. I would prefer to be able to ask and either 1) get a response, in which case I would know there is someone there, or 2) get no response and be able to know there is no one there. I tried this with God and got no response. One of my friends told me, however, that God does not work that way. He might not give an answer. My friend said that no answer did not mean that God was not there, and I had to have faith.

You could say I am pretty lacking in the faith-area. I guess I do not have it. If in fact it is a gift, it looks like I have not received it. (By the way, I think there is a difference in faith in God and faith that someone else will pay you back when you lend to them. In the second case, you most likely base that “faith” in how that person has acted in the past. If it is someone you have never met before, I would say that you probably don’t care whether that person pays you back or not. You probably take a quick guess on whether that person will pay you back or not if it is a large sum of money given their appearances and how sincere they seem. That was probably a bad example, but anyway, I think there is a difference between faith in God and other types of “faith”.)

What do I do? Does anyone have advice for me? Has anyone gone through something similar? I am struggling with this, and it is bothering me. If you do not want to leave your advice in the comments, email me. I will keep it confidential.

16 responses to “Day 151 – I Would Like Advice, Please”

  1. Matt Stone Avatar
    Matt Stone

    I’d like to talk about this on the phone. I will try and give you a call sometime this evening.

  2. Nonarchist Avatar

    I have decided I don’t believe in God because it makes no sense to me based on the rest of human existence. But, I haven’t really thought much about it.

    I decided the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being was impractical based on everything else I have experienced. And, if he does exist and sends me to hell because I was unable to fool myself into believing him, then by definition he is not a benevolent God (in fact, quite the opposite), and thus I wouldn’t want anything to do with him anyway.

    Not sure if this makes sense, it’s been a long day…

  3. a friend Avatar
    a friend

    To the nonarchist:

    It is amazing that God even saves us. We damned ourselves to hell, and so it is out of God’s mercy and benevolence that he does save us. The only reason you’ll go to hell is if you cannot acknowledge that there is a Christ who died for all of your sins, when he had no sins of his own. God created man, man fell, and we continue to sin, Christ saves all who believe. It is not a “fooling” yourself into believing in God, it is an actual trusting and believing in Him because you know that God saves you out of mercy and love for us, nothing more. I find this to make a lot of sense on human existence, it makes me feel better that there is a God that actually cares for me out there, not one that is eager to send me to hell. Think more about it, pray about it, and ask Christ into your life.

  4. Sean Nelson Avatar
    Sean Nelson

    This is a very difficult subject to discuss, and the best advice I can give you is to find out what you believe on your own. I say this because logically you can’t talk to anyone about something to that subjective. Those who are religious can’t talk rationally about religion, and it’s the same for those who aren’t religious. You can get ideas, but it really comes down to whatever you decide on. That being said, this is where I stand on it…

    You know I was raised Christian, but now I will tell you that I’m atheist. I too went through a lot of thought on the topic, and the deal breaker for me was when I can to the realization that God was a human creation, and if that is the case, then what is the point?

    I would like to discuss more on this if you’d like in person. The internet is hardly the place for this.

    Bring “a friend” with you as well. We can have a round table discussion on this 😉

  5. a friend Avatar
    a friend

    To Sean Nelson:
    As a Christian, how did you come to the realization that God was created? God has always been, He was before the beginning. I thought you might have read Genesis 1, where God was, and then God created everything. So, He is not a human creation, but instead is God and worthy of all our praise. I would advise not blasting Christianity, when you do not understand it…

  6. Nonarchist Avatar

    To a friend:
    I don’t really like talking about religion, but I thought you could clarify something for me. In your response to Sean Nelson, it sounds like you’re saying “God exists because he is God.” If I am misinterpreting this, please clarify.

  7. Lydia Avatar

    To a friend:
    People wrote the bible. Therefore, God is a human creation because humans wrote about it. God did not write about himself, and genesis was definitely written by people making it questionable even if you do believe that God inspired the people to write it because they had to interpret God’s meaning to write it, and they could have misconstrued what God originally meant.

    To Chuck:
    I went to catholic school for 8 years of my life and I was extremely religious. (I wanted to be a nun at one point) Then I realized that every question I asked there were many conflicting answers to. (such as how do you get into heaven) I didn’t like this and it led me to start questioning my faith. I realized that I only believed in God because I was told that he was real. (much like santa clause) After a lot of thinking, I eventually decided that God was used to explain things before science could. God provided a way for people to control others and he provided an explanation for why people had to suffer. God is a comfort and it makes people feel better to think that they will have everlasting life with the people that they love. I think that God is an entirely human creation to explain the unexplainable. Your beliefs are something you have to decide but I went through what you are going through and the above is what I decided.

  8. Alex Dudek Avatar
    Alex Dudek

    Chuck, remember there is a gigantic difference between faith and religion. I have grown to have faith in a higher being, yet I believe in next to nothing that the church explains. To me, the church/the bible/organized religions are not more believable than the fairy tales we were told when we were kids. Not to say that believers of biblical stories are irrational, because they put their faith in those things, but the acceptance of these stories has nothing to do with having faith in a higher power. My advice to you is to try and not get caught in all the stories or the the public acceptance to what religion is, and try to find your own meaning of it. If nothing else, faith is a relationship between only you and the higher power, and therefore should come down to what you personally believe and feel, opposed to conforming to the church. The answer to your dilemma doesn’t lie behind the corner, yet it will come when you least expect it. There is no right or wrong answer, as this is the only thing in life that what you truly believe, is always right.

  9. Sean Nelson Avatar
    Sean Nelson

    a friend,
    I apologize if you think I was blasting Christianity. That was certainly not my intent, and I don’t see how I implied that in my comment. Honestly, I am not a fan of organized religion at all. Religion does a lot of good for a lot of people, but it also does a lot of damage to society by promoting intolerance to other races, ways of life, and religions. Every religion is guilty of this, though not all of those who are religious are.

    To answer your question, I simply took a look at a lot of visual evidence around us, and reasoned it out. I imagine that humans made a God to explain the natural occurrences they didn’t understand. Then somehow, it caught on. To me, it is irrational to believe that a man can survive in a large fish, people can be brought back from the dead using supernatural means, etc., and the only explanation I get is “it’s true because it was written in the Bible,” or to use your words: “God has always been.” The idea that “God exists because he is God” that Nonarchist speaks of is a silly reason to buy into an idea.

    I hope this makes sense. Again, I’m sorry if I came off as “blasting” anyone. I don’t consider myself above anyone else because of my beliefs, and I expect others to do the same.

    – Sean

  10. Brooksie Avatar

    Hey Chuck,

    I have a lot of stuff i would like to say but ill start with what i believe to be important. If you have a few hours i would suggest a book called Not the Religious Type by Dave Schmezler <not sure on spelling. Any way he gives a really neat and different perspective on a relationship with God. Im not suggesting it necessarily to change your mind one way or the other on weather God is real but it may open your eyes to a different way of looking at a relationship with God. I’ve read about half of it so far and its really changed my out look on my relationship with God. I have a copy if you’d like to borrow it and remember always look at things openly never go into something with preconceived idea believe me I’ve made that mistake

    To Lydia,

    I’m am curious as to how you get contradictory responses or answers to the questions of “How do you get into heaven” please let me know i would love to know and help out in anyway that i can. As far as i know from reading the bible it says that jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the father (God) except through him (para-phrase John14:6) and that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” Romans 10:10 if you have any questions pls feel free to contact me

  11. Lydia Avatar

    To Brooksie,
    At Saint Joes, I was told upwards of five different ways to get into heaven including: praying the rosary every night, wanting to go to heaven, and passing the test (life). I think it’s kind of ridiculous to say that someone who murders and rapes can get into heaven because he prays the rosary every night. Also, just because you want to go to heaven doesn’t mean you should in my opinion. I don’t know anyone that would not want to go there if it is real, so just wanting to go there doesn’t seem like a justification to get in. Referring to life as an exam is kind of frightening and makes God seem punitive rather than loving and forgiving. These conflicting views were presented to me in third through fifth grade and I just think that its ridiculous that one school has so many different opinions. How is a young child supposed to decide which one is right? This confusion is part of what led me to dislike organized religion which made me question God’s existence.

  12. Brooksie Avatar

    To Lydia,

    I 100 percent agree with you. There is no reason that religion should get in the way of a relationship with God and it does. The frustrating part for me is that ppl associate religion with God which is not true at all. Jesus came to destroy religion (see gospels for part of Jesus’ death that refers to the tearing of the curtain). It saddens me to here that religion has made you question and end your relationship with God I will hope and pray that some day you can see the awesome power and love that a relationship with God has to offer until then. thank you for your clarification.

  13. Bethany Avatar

    Wow, I’m sorry that I missed this post, Chuck… I read your blog about once a week, usually, but have obviously missed it for two weeks now!

    I have been thinking very much along these same lines and would appreciate discussing this more somehow. I have been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and very much enjoying it. These next few weeks are very busy for me, but I’ll try to write you an email here sometime.

  14. Jacob Avatar

    I doubt many people are still looking at these comments, but I would like to give some of my thoughts on this topic.

    To Lydia,
    You said when you were in school, you received many conflicting answers to the questions you asked. I don’t want to offend anyone who is Catholic, but I beleive the Catholic Church is screwed up. On that note, I’m not surprised you were given conflicting answers. The church has adopted many wrong traditions, and continues to practice things they shouldn’t.

    Example 1: The members of the Catholic Church call priests Father. In the Bible, it says you shouldn’t call anyone “father” except your father in Heaven. (Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.) But what about your father on Earth? I don’t believe the Bible should deny anyone the right to call there father, Father, but I still don’t think you should do it. I have no idea about the origin on calling your dad, Father, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was adopted from the Catholic Church.

    Example 2: The Catholic Church believes Mary is the Queen of Heaven. The members of the church are taught that Mary is Queen of Heaven, and they worship her. Worshiping Mary is worshiping another God or a false idol, and is a sin. Mary was just like any other human being, she had committed sin, and needed to be forgiven. She was just the woman God chose to give birth to his Son (Jesus).

    Example 3: The Catholic Church prays to/worships images, statues, and sculptures. By doing this, you are worshiping a false idol and that is a sin.

    Other problems include, being saved (getting into Heaven) by doing good things, and confessing our sins to a priest.

    So, in short, the Catholic Church is full of lies, and they do things that are sin in the Bible!

    To anyone,

    The Catholic Church is a great example of all the problems there are with religion. That’s why I don’t believe in going to church (Although, I usually go on Christmas, Easter, and other occasions.) Just because I don’t go to a Catholic Church, that doesn’t mean there can’t be problems in the church I attend. Many different people attend, and many people have been taught different things, and that can lead to confusion.

    Religion can get in the way of faith. It can be good at times, but can also create problems. So, faith is the most important.

    I just wanted to write my opinion on that. If anyone is still reading these comments, and has any problem with anything I wrote, please respond with your thoughts.

    Sorry that I’m not giving any real advice. I just want to help anyone get off the wrong path, and onto the right one.

  15. Lydia Avatar

    To Jacob:
    Mary was free of all sin which is why she ascended into heaven. She was not like everyone else because God supposedly wanted Jesus to be born to a perfect human. I agree with what you are saying and there are many problems with the Catholic church, but at the church i went to, we did not idolize images or statues or anything and Mary was someone to look up to and a Saint, but not a deity of any kind. Just some clarification.

  16. Brooksie Avatar

    Lydia, though its is not specifically noted if mary had sinned or not Mary was human therefor she would fall under the “all” have sinned (Romans 3:23) and there is no record of mary ascending into haven and just because someone ascendes into heaven dosent mean that they never sinned Elijah ascended into heaven 2 kings 2:1 and again no mention of his not sinning and again if anyone has anyquestion pls feel free to contact me im on face book 😀

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