You will frequently hear believers make the following rationalization:
Suppose you are right. Suppose there is no God. Then when I die as a believer, I have lost nothing. I just die, as a man that devoted his life to love and morals. But if you, as a non-believer, are wrong and I am right, you have to spend an eternity in hell. See, I have nothing to lose, but you have everything to lose.
First, I would not classify Pascal’s Wager as a “rationalization”. When one rationalizes they are formulating an excuse, hopefully one that is plausible for one to continue down an unwise path or to hide their true motivations for something. But let’s look at the substance of it,
God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. 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 shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
Now, strictly on an emotional level, I am not moved by Pascal’s argument because it seems to beg certain questions, for instance, how is he defining what is “true” and “good” apart from how it is defined in the being of God? But I digress because that is really not the issue. But let’s just allow Pascal the benefit of the doubt, because what he is attempting to do is make an argument by rationality, as opposed to making a rationalization, for his belief in God through mathematical probability. But let’s get back to Marshall…
The problem with this line of reasoning is that there are thousands of gods that humans have imagined. (link removed)
Absolutely, I agree with that statement. Men have imagined “thousands of gods”, gods that they have shaped into images that please them, something that Paul addressed in his Epistle to the Romans,
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:22)
As I’ve discussed here, we have to examine the claims made by a religion for logical consistency. I believe that we can eliminate any religions where the philosophical definition of God isn’t met. If the god isn’t eternal, omnipotent, or alone, then we can logically conclude that god id not God. Why those three? Well, as the cosmological argument for the existence of God argues, God would be necessary for the universe to exist, since, logically, the universe is a caused thing. If the god in question doesn’t possess all authority, is subject to failure or weakness, I believe that we can argue that such a being, if it exists, is not necessarily god, but only a super-being. But why alone? Well, think about it: logically, two beings of equal power and authority would necessarily cancel each other out, the creating a nullifying situation. In many polytheistic systems, the gods are constantly trying to subvert one another, such a state would not result in anything positive or possible since they would constantly be attempting to wrest control away from one another. So it necessarily follows that if there is a God, it is a singular, omnipotent, eternal being.
A person who believes in Allah can make this statement, and so can a person who believes in God, and so can a person who believes in Vishnu.
This is where Marshall displays his ignorance of world religions, because he confuses categories, namely the categories of polytheism and monotheism. Vishnu belongs in the polytheistic category, Allah in the monotheistic category, and since a Muslim will assert that Allah is God, I have to assume that he is backhandedly referring to Yahweh, the revealed God of the Bible. But as I’ve previously argued, we can exclude Vishnu from this list, which leaves us with two qualifying possibilities: Allah and Yahweh. And when it comes down to the finer arguments, all that I am left with is Yahweh.
He attempts to buttress his argument by resorting to name calling, calling believers “delusional”, something I’ve addressed here and here. Which is simply a sad, because it’s not an argument, it’s rationalizing, exactly what he accuses Pascal of doing in making his argument. Which is why this “proof” isn’t one.