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Excerpt
The following is an excerpt from the book Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .
by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
Published by Abrams Image; March 2007;$18.95US/$22.95CAN; 978-0-8109-1493-3
Copyright © 2007 Thomas Catchart and Daniel Klein

Belief in God



An agnostic is a person who thinks that God's existence cannot be proven on the basis of current evidence, but who doesn't deny the possibility that God exists. The agnostic is one step short of an atheist, who considers the case against the existence of God closed. If both of them came across a burning bush saying, "I am that I am," the agnostic would start looking for the hidden tape recorder, but the atheist would just shrug and reach for his marshmallows.

So these two Irish drinking buddies are in the pub when they see a bald guy drinking alone at the end of the bar.

Pat: I say, ain't that Winnie Churchill down there?

Sean: Nah. Couldn't be. Winnie wouldn't be in a place like this.

Pat: I'm not kidding. Take a good look. I swear that's Winnie Churchill. I'll bet you ten quid I'm right.

Sean: You're on!

So Pat goes down to the end of the bar and says to the bald guy, "You're Winnie Churchill, ain't ya?"

And Bald Guy screams, "Get out of my face, you idiot!"

Pat comes back to Sean and says, "Guess we'll never know now, will we?"

Now that's thinking like an agnostic.

Atheists are another story. Philosophers agreed long ago that it is fruitless for believers and atheists to argue with each other. This is because they interpret everything differently. In order to argue, there must be some common ground, so that one of the participants can say, "Aha! If you concede x, then you must also concede y!" Atheists and believers never find an x they can agree upon. The argument can never begin, because each sees everything from his own point of view. That's a little abstract, but this story brings it down to earth -- in fact, right into the neighborhood.

A little old Christian lady comes out onto her front porch every morning and shouts, "Praise the Lord!"

And every morning the atheist next door yells back, "There is no God!"

This goes on for weeks. "Praise the Lord!" yells the lady.

"There is no God!" responds the neighbor.

As time goes by, the lady runs into financial difficulties and has trouble buying food. She goes out onto the porch and asks God for help with groceries, then says, "Praise the Lord!"

The next morning when she goes out onto the porch, there are the groceries she asked for. Of course, she shouts, "Praise the Lord!"

The atheist jumps out from behind a bush and says. "Ha! I bought those groceries. There is no God!"

The lady looks at him and smiles. She shouts, "Praise the Lord! Not only did you provide for me, Lord, you made Satan pay for the groceries!"

The seventeenth-century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal argued that deciding whether or nor to believe in God is essentially engaging in a wager. If we choose to behave as if there is a God and we get to the end and it turns out there isn't, it's not such a big deal. Well, maybe we've lost the ability to thoroughly enjoy the Seven Deadly Sins, but that's small potatoes compared to the alternative. If we bet there isn't a God, and get to the end only to find out there is a God, we've lost the Big Enchilada, eternal bliss. Therefore, according to Pascal, it is a better strategy to live as if there is a God. This is known to academics as "Pascal' wager." To the rest of us, it's known as hedging your bets.

Copyright © 2007 Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein