Charlie’s wager

mailMarch 1, 2013 – The number of people claiming to be atheist seems to increase every day. I’m not sure if they are multiplying as swiftly as it appears, or if atheists are simply more outspoken about their beliefs, which makes me more aware of it.

Whatever the reason, atheism is the trend, and I can’t help but wonder if people have climbed aboard the bandwagon because the God vs. science argument is the main weapon used to make people of faith look stupid. I believe in God and scientific theories, and there are prominent scientists out there who embrace both, as well. It can be done.

My son is one of the “scientific” thinkers. For several years, he’s claimed to be an atheist, but I’m still not sure if I believe him. Maybe I don’t want to because I was raised to believe in God, and I never questioned it. He was raised in the same manner, yet he questions everything about it. And he’s always been that way. Since he could talk, he’s challenged things and questioned everything. That’s why it wouldn’t surprise me if he said he was agnostic, but claiming to be an atheist seems extreme.

Like the French mathematician Pascal, who argued that if you erroneously believe in God, you lose nothing, whereas if you correctly believe in God, you gain everything and vice versa, I thought he could accept this philosophy, but he does not. Yet he is a good person who leads a moral life.

We discuss this topic often, although he’s a much better debater than me, so I usually give up the argument first. I’ve come to understand that he’s the type of person that needs to see proof, or at least have a clear understanding that something is real or possible before he commits. That is where faith comes into play, I explain, and he just shakes his head. I once explained that since he couldn’t prove there wasn’t a God, his theory is based on faith, too. That kept him quiet for a little while.

A few nights ago, we got into a discussion about heaven and hell. We both agreed we don’t believe in hell, him because of his atheistic beliefs, and me because I tend to lean toward the theory of reincarnation. It is the only way that life seems balanced. How else can you explain why someone is born into a tragic situation, while another is leads a completely happy life? Not to dwell on the “karma is a bitch” rule, but the more we live, the more we experience, and the more we learn. It makes sense that God would use this practice as a learning tool for us.

When it comes to heaven, it is a little fuzzier. My son doesn’t believe in the afterlife for obvious reasons, but I do. I’m just not sure what it is. I simply accept it as one of the mysteries of faith. Do I see my friends and family members who have passed on up in the clouds having one big party? Not really. I believe it is peaceful, tranquil and beautiful. But I don’t how to visualize it.

My son proceeded to tell me he’d rather go to hell anyway. Even though I don’t believe in the fire and brimstone theory, this completely shocked me. Why, I asked. He explained that some of the fun things in life that might get you sent to hell obviously wouldn’t be permitted in heaven anyway, so why wouldn’t he want to experience them on earth. Forget Pascal. That’s Charlie’s wager.

Of course, he’s not talking about committing a horrible crime, murdering anyone, hurting them in any way or coveting thy neighbor’s goods. He’s simply referring to other things that may be considered fun that certain religions frown upon. A few of the seven deadly sins come to mind, although that title always seemed overly dramatic.

I understand where he’s coming from, but I still have faith. I respect his opinion, even though I don’t agree with it, and I admire his passion and his sense of humor. I wonder if he would say the same about me. I’ll have to ask him sometime.

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