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Atheism Pascal's Wager And The Problem Of Having A False Guru

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Caspian, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. Caspian

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    Mar 8, 2008
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    Are you familiar with a philosophical argument known as Pascal's Wager. Pascal suggested that one should adopt the christian faith (and the christian god) based on a simple cost/benefit analysis.


    I would go on to say that he mistakenly comes to the conclusion that belief in God is more appropriate then disbelief because you stand more to loose in disbelief IF you happen to be wrong.

    So I assume that our mini-debate is contingent on the probability of whether said guru is fake. And how much doubt we can hold within us without changing our faith.

    For example, if you had 100 percent doubt in your Guru, surely you would not follow him. And if you had no doubt, then of course you will follow him. But as human beings, im sure all of us question, doubt and wonder from time to time so either extreme is unsuitable. Moreover, I know it is problematic associating number values to subjective experiences like doubt; however, I suspect that your threshold for "tolerating" doubt is much higher then mine for we both agree that any Guru could be a fake, but you choose to follow said Guru(s) and I remain doubtful despite similar understandings and expectations we have arrived at different positions. This "toleration of doubt" (also known as "faith") is something I find very interesting. (Sidenote: Part of me wonders if this "faith" is purely psychological or a biological product. I theorize that some people are biologically incapable of believing in god because they are born without this "faith organ" so to say. And some people are biologically incapable of accepting Atheism because perhaps the notion of God is, itself, an evolutionary by-product.)

    Secondly, I admit if your point of view is right—I may stand to lose. For arguments sake though, let us say my point of view is right. Is there any loss for you in following a false Guru? More importantly, if this person was still compassionate, kind, humble etc but not a Guru—is there any loss in following him?

    If not, then perhaps I don't lose anything in my disbelief either for I can choose to follow people who are not Guru's by any means but who are indeed compassionate, humble, kind etc.

    So to summarize. The two outstanding questions that remain are:

    "Is there a certain amount of faith below which religious belief is impossible? And is this faith dependant on the person. If so, are some people just suckers for God (ie. blind faith)?"

    "If there is nothing to loose in following a compassionate, kind, but false Guru—does the humanist really loose anything at all? If there is something to lose in following a false Guru (who is compassionate, kind, etc) what is it?" *See Amazon Tribe Argument Below

    With regards to the second outstanding question. I will put fourth this thought experiment.

    Amazon Tribes Thought Experiment:


    Suppose I visit an amazonian tribe that has never been visited by modern man (like the one above, which is actually an image of an uncontacted tribe). And I go there under the guise of Guru Nanak and I teach these people his philosophy word for word as if it was my own and I answer there questions in the same manner as Guru Nanak would. Is there any harm for them to follow me? Surely I am a false Guru. But if there is harm, where does it arise? Certainly not from my teachings for they are not mine but Guru Nanak's. So how do these people "Lose" in that case?

    Moreover, in accordance with the title of this thread. Is there anyway for them to spot me as a fake? I doubt it. Although, those of them that are more inclined to doubt would be right in their disbelief of my status as Guru.
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  2. Seeker9

    Seeker9 United Kingdom
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    Cleverness is not wisdom
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    May 3, 2010
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    My Dear Caspian Ji

    What a great resource of philosophical information you have at your disposal!

    Yes I have come across this before

    An interesting definition. It’s a bit like the glass is half full or half empty isn’t it? With your atheist leanings, you have presented this in terms of “toleration of doubt”, whereas my definition would lean towards “a strong belief without the requirement for empirical proof”

    Interesting argument…I commend you on your range of thinking. Personally though, I think it is from a number of non-biological factors including upbringing, culture, life experiences etc

    In order to measure loss you need to have an idea of what you mean by success? If success means achieving spiritual enlightenment and the end result is you don’t achieve this, then yes, in those terms, it would be a loss. The world is full of kind, compassionate humble people. Guruship goes beyond these qualities I think.

    Yes, you could follow them if that’s what you really want to do

    How do you quantify an intangible like faith? I cannot answer a question about amounts of faith! But I would agree it is very much dependent on the individual. And yes, blind faith does exist. At the risk of regurgitating old territory for you and I, it can be argued that an element of blind faith also exists in Science. But let’s not get drawn into that debate on this thread please!

    You are making an assumption here in your argument that there is nothing to lose whereas I said earlier there is potentially much to lose in terms of failing to achieve what you understand to be your intended goal

    Very interesting!

    My thoughts are that if they do their meditation and simran as prescribed, and follow all the teachings as prescribed, I would not regard that as a harmful activity for them at all! But hypothetically speaking, it is not a matter of simply regurgitating the spoken word. Gurus teach from their knowledge AND experience. Whilst you may hypothetically in your thought experiment duplicate knowledge, there is no duplication of experience you would draw upon to answer their questions.

    In the case of the Amazon tribe who have had zero prior contact, then the answer is clearly no. However, on the other thread, I think SPN Admin Ji quite clearly outlines the qualities of the fake gurus which make them easier to identify.

    Good post my friend!​
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    #2 Seeker9, Mar 4, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011
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