The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
Get the Book!

The Argument from Wishful Thinking

Christians throughout history have tried to use one form or another of the moral argument to prove the existence of God. We have seen that the attempt by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) to use God as the explanation for the source of his moral sentiments fail. [In the next section below we will give what is the correct explanation for Kant's moral sentiments.]

There is another form of argument using morality that is more normally used by ordinary Christians and fundamentalist/evangelical writers. In this form of the argument it is normally asserted that without God there will be moral anarchy in this world and there would be no justice as well since the wicked are sometimes not punished in this world. While the first half of the assertion is false, the second half is true.

We know there are people who have lived lives that are less than exemplary yet "got away with it". Pol Pot, for instance, who masterminded of the genocide of an estimated three million of his own fellow Cambodians (1928-1998), died a relatively peaceful death and was never brought to justice. Now it would be nice if we could somehow make sure that he gets his "just desserts".

But simply desiring something to be true does not make it so. This is what the atheist philosopher Douglas E. Krueger calls the "Argument from Wishful Thinking" [we have already given this elsewhere in the posting on Atheism and Meaning but it is worthwhile to give it again here]:

  1. If god does not exist, condition A follows.
  2. Condition A is undesirable.
  3. One should not believe in undesirable conditions.
  • Therefore, one should not believe that god does not exist.
Now condition A can be "Pol Pot not getting his just desserts" or "those crummy atheists being able to post their websites with impunity" or whatever fits your fancy. Stripped of all rhetorical pretensions, it is quite obvious that such an argument is just plain silly. As Krueger himself wrote:

Of course a clever apologist will take two hundred pages or more to say this; otherwise he or she would appear to be saying something rather silly. Obviously, god does not exist because it would be inconvenient or undesirable if he did not, yet many a book purporting to refute atheism is little more than an elaborate restatement of the wishful thinking argument. As Saul Bellow noted: "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep." [1]

Back to the top

References

1.Krueger, What is Atheism?: p88

Back to the top


[Home] [The Central Thesis] [Christianity] [The Bible] [Jesus] [Paul] [God] [History] [Pascal's Wager] [Atheism FAQ] [Bibliography] [Links]
© Paul N. Tobin 2004

For comments and queries, e-mail Paul Tobin