Catholic Priest Tries to Use Pascal’s Wager in an Online Debate; An Atheist Politely Destroys Him April 25, 2012

Catholic Priest Tries to Use Pascal’s Wager in an Online Debate; An Atheist Politely Destroys Him

Edward Tarte has been having an online debate with a Catholic priest, Father TJ. (Incidentally, Father TJ attended the same seminary Edward went to before he became an atheist.)

The latest point from Father TJ is essentially Pascal’s Wager: “What if I’m right and you atheists are wrong?”

I love Edward’s response because it gets more powerful the longer you listen to it (begin at the 0:39 mark):

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  • Edward Tarte

    Hemant, thank you for posting this.  Please change the word ‘attends’ to ‘attended’.

  • Whoops. Fixed!

  • Cutencrunchy

    If the unicorn in the other room only controlled his fingers I doubt these conversations would take place. The issue of imposition is that his magical unicorn purports to control everyone’s fingers with an all knowing plan and human imposed system of judgment – while simultaneously contradicting itself with free will. 

  • Totally unrelated to the message which is great, watch it with subtitles turned on. There are some rather interesting phrases the auto transcribe gets wrong.

  • You know, I was listening to the part where he was talking about the evil in the Bible, and a thought popped into my head: no wonder the Catholic church didn’t come down on priests who raped children.  You can justify a lot of crap if that kind of violent bullshit is in your Bible.

  • Caleb M Fennell


    Clearly Mr. Edward Tarte hasn’t  heard of the
    Therefore, God (and clearly the Catholic God). /joke

  • george.w

    He makes a lot of assumptions about what a god would be like if he existed, and seems to leave open the possibility that he’d believe in god if god weren’t a jerk. But he doesn’t answer TJ’s question, so I will:

    “I am surprised to learn that you exist! To the best of my reckoning I couldn’t believe it, so I just lived the best life I could. It appears I am at your mercy.” 

  • WOW! The last assertion “… your view of reality and your life’s work, collapses.”
    That was … harsh. I don’t know what to say to that. That is quite powerful. 
    This man is awesome.

  • Sordatos Cáceres

    Mmm I think it would be more  easy to shallow god thing if the Abrahamanic religion would just said that he is indifferent or capricious and all goodness, it would make more sense (in a certain way)

  • Yes thanks Hemant!

  • Sometimes, I think we spend too much time playing by the rules of polite discourse, or whatever you want to call them. Saying, “What if?” isn’t an argument, much less a valid discussion – it subverts reasonable debate by asking us to imagine a set of circumstances. The only way that this has any validity is if the imagined circumstances would lead to observable/measurable traits; we could then look for those traits.

    Pascal’s Wager is, when it gets right down to it, the abdication of thought in favor of an easy response – at least, if you make a few grand assumptions, like ignoring all of the other deities from any other culture, or that scripture is so wildly contradictory and vague that it’s impossible to follow accurately. The wager is a lazy, coward’s way out. Anyone who was trying to be honest would ask instead, “What makes you think you’re not wrong?” I’ll talk your damn ear off for two hours if I’m asked that question.

    Always be aware of questions that are phrased to lead you down a preferred path, so you can enjoy tearing them apart mercilessly 😉

  • Thisismyclone

    My answer would be different; “I am surprised that you exist, because I didn’t think that what I perceived as apathy was actually a supreme being pulling the strings. If you’re the one responsible, then I have a few billion bones to pick with you because you are one uncaring evil motherfucker. If I treated my children the way you treat yours, I would have been executed. You created us just to torture us? What kind of sick shit is that? How fucking inhumane are you?”

  • Guest

    He quotes T.J. as saying “give faith a chance”, which is something we keep hearing from Xians.  I have news for them – if they paid any attention to their own theologists, they would have learned that “faith” is an either/or, either you have it or you don’t.  Like its near-synonym “belief”, you cannot choose to believe in something, you either believe it or you do not.
    I have faith in science, and I believe that the theory of evolution is substantially correct.  But I did not “choose” that faith or belief; I acquired them through experience and reason.

  • andi

    Edward Tarte – You seem to be such a rational and kind person – if only there were more like you in this world. I would feel so much safer. Thank you. 

  • Theshoves

    Nah, mine would be much simpler.

    “Bugger. Guess I’m in trouble now”.

  • It does say in the Bible that God is jealous (Exodus 20:4-5), so how can he also be all good and all loving?

  • compl3x

    I like the phrasing of “when you meet your creator, you won’t be able to sit behind your computer and type whatever you want”. I can verbally defend my atheism to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. I don’t need to sit behind a keyboard and carefully think up responses to silly argument that comes my way. I imagine most other atheists are the same.

    The faithful are the ones who have to play mental acrobatics to get their square god to fit into a round hole.

  • Arthur

     What happened to you Edward?

    If in those 5 years you spend as a Catholic Priest you didn’t see
    God at work then you obviously were looking elsewhere.

     Yes the Old Testament has its dark side but to deny the existence
    of Jesus after so much has been written about him shows ignorance.

    The Romans scriptures, Jewish scriptures, Islamic texts and so on
    have written more about this mortal man/son of God/prophet than any other
    person on earth.


    The 60’s were bad times for homosexual priests and for that you
    have my sympathy but

    please don’t confuse your sexuality with faith in God.

    You will meet you maker Edward, and I’m sure God will judge you
    justly and with love.

    I will pray for you and you gathering to search deeper into your
    souls and find God…

    A non Catholic believer…

  • Edward Tarte

    Arthur, I document “what happened to me” in a series of YouTube videos.   If you really want to know, you can access my YT profile page and browse the Religion–Catholic Church playlist.  Basically, what happened is that I started using my brain properly.  

    Nowhere do I deny the existence of Jesus.  Therefore for you to accuse me of ignorance based on my allegedly denying the existence of Jesus is entirely out of line, being based on no evidence whatsoever.

    You apparently assume, without a shred of evidence, that I am gay.  I am not.   But that is irrelevant in this context.  I do not confuse my sexuality with faith in God.  You put yourself in an unfavorable light when you say such things to me about my sexuality.

    We need evidence from you that a god exists, and that it is just one god; namely, your god.  Unless you supply us with such evidence, you have no business informing me that I will “meet my maker”.

    Of course you can pray for me and for the horde of other atheists who comprise “my gathering” and the “gathering” of the Friendly Atheist, and all other atheists, if you want to; but there is no credible evidence that any supernatural being exists to hear your prayers.  Therefore we atheists reasonably live our lives with the presumption that praying is a complete waste of time.

  •  My personal answer to this question begins a lot like yours, George:
    I do not think there is a god. I try to be a good person for the sake of goodness, not for the reward of an afterlife.
    So, if after my death there turns out to be a god after all, there are two options:
    1. God lets me into heaven because I was a good person.
    2. God knows I was good, but does not let me in because I did not believe. A god that is this spiteful does not deserve my worship anyway. (And yes, that would mean I either get no afterlife at all, which is what I expect anyway, or I go to hell. Hell would suck, but I don’t want to go to this god’s elitist heaven anyway. I’m principled like that)
    (of course this all assumes I’ll be able to live my life as a good person. I like to think that I’m doing okay so far.)

  • Dbaker13

    Beautiful response. Thank you for your videos, Edward. I have used more than one of your criticisms of religion when discussing the existence of god, and by extension the validity of religion.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Donaving

    I’m sorry–praying is “a complete waste of time”?

    Whether or not you believe in a god or gods, the act of taking a moment to reflect on things and asking–either of yourself or whatever–what to do next (and maybe give a thought to those that you care about) may seem silly to you, but it’s a good thing.

    It’s an easy enough thing to mock, but why?

  • Donaving

    Here’s my conception of Hell:
    It has nothing to do with God, except that God has given you a world to do with what you will.

    When you die, you are faced with everything you have ever done, and you have to deal with that.

    Not just the people you have dealt with (which is the common conception  of Hell or Heaven that I have come across on these threads) but EVERYTHING–every animal that you have treated kindly or mistreated, or eaten.

    Every bit of waste, every squandered resource.  

    Hell is facing that, and Heaven is realizing that, and trying to do better.

  • Donaving

    We should get rid of the Bible. It’s bad and complicated and scary.

  • Donaving

    With all due respect, that’s kind of like saying, “Moby Dick? It’s all about a guy telling us his name is Ishmael. We get it! Your name is Ishmael!”

  • Donaving

    I hope that poor man is able to carry on after being savaged so. 

    Atheism is all about winning arguments, right?

  • Kevin S.

    No, it would be like somebody trying to claim afterward that the narrator’s name was Jimmy, after the entire book identified him as Ishmael.

  • I have met my creator. She’s called Rosina and enjoys watching horse racing. I call her “Mum”.

  • Wintermute

     If what you’re talking about is quiet reflection or meditation, then  call it that and acknowledge that there is no good reason to believe that kneeling down and folding your hands somehow gives you a direct line to the creator of the universe.

    Moreover, if you do believe there is a benevolent and all-knowing god, and that he hears (and sometimes answers) prayers, please explain why it is necessary to pause and address him directly when he should plainly know what I am thinking at all times. Does the magic only work when you say the ‘Our Father’ just right? If a divine power wants to give you advice, why do you need to sit quietly to receive it? Couldn’t he just speak to you directly?

    None of this is mockery–these are legitimate questions that you should be prepared to answer when you make the claim that prayer is a “good thing,” and presumably then something we all should be doing. Taking some time for reflection and consideration may well be a good thing to do from time to time, but there’s no reason I need to bring supernatural elements into it.

  •  That would be meditation or introspection.
    As Mr Tarte said, there is no credible evidence that any kind of supernatural being exists.
    Requesting anything from a non-existent being would be a complete waste of time.

  • At least now I know why I can’t play the piano.  I don’t have an invisible unicorn! 

  • cipher

    And you don’t think a seminary should have done a better job preparing a priest for such arguments?

  • SrGrvsaLot

     Mine would be:

    “You’d better have a damned good explanation for all of that.”

  • Wintermute

     Who was the person who said that his response in that situation would be, (paraphrasing) “Sorry, god. Not enough evidence”?

  • Kraken

    What a sad poor man, clearly he has issues, but not with God or anyone else for that matter save is own poor misguided delusional and frankly pathetic whining.

    It was a poorly constructed argument, no doubt to as equally a misguided priest.

    Wake up Dude if as you say there is no God then stop blaming him for your own 
    ineffectual handling of crisis within your own life.

    If you don’t believe in God, fine I hear you, but don’t go on blaming him for your own 
    misfortune and harden up.

    Better yet if you need something to love before you die. Get a dog.       
    Then at least at the very least you will hold some modicum of responsibility for the privilege 
    of a life you waisted. 

  • kraken17

    He wasn’t blaming god for anything. He said if there were a god, it would have a hell of a lot to answer for.
    If you were all-powerful, would you sit idly by and watch as children are raped and abused and murdered?

  • kraken17

    You know who else has a lot written about him? Harry Potter. According to your argument, he exists too. Which means maybe I can get into Hogwarts! Thanks man, I needed that.

  • Edward Tarte

    Kraken, I am not a sad poor man. At YouTube you can watch my video “You Atheists Have No Hope. What Keeps You Alive?”  You can also watch one or more of my piano videos, before passing judgement like that.

    As I say in many of my videos, although I do not believe in any god, in order to communicate with believers I use phrases like “your God” and “the God of the Bible”.   I say that  “the God of the Bible” supports and perpetrates a lot of evil; there is overwhelming Biblical evidence to support me.  (I have no idea what you mean by “harden up”.)

    “A life I waisted”?  The word is spelled “wasted”.  What do you know about my life?  For the past 44 years I have been a math teacher, same as the profession of Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist”, who runs this website.   I am responsible for what I have done during those years, and most emphatically, I have not wasted those years. 

  • Mattman

     I believe it was Bertrand Russell

  • If Christianity were honest and smart, they’d drop the Old Testament, at the very least.  According to their own church’s figurehead as well as Saul of Tarsus, its founder, it doesn’t apply anyway.

  • Michael

    I completely agree… my only critique deals with the use of a magic unicorn in establishing who has the burden of proof.  I wonder if it would be a stronger argument to use real world examples… either scientific, medical, or judiciary.  For example… 

    “Dear patient, I have a new drug that will cure your illness.”  
    “Oh doctor, that is great!  Can you tell me how it has faired in clinical trials?”  
    “Silly patient, I haven’t conducted clinical trials, but I have faith that this will work.”

  • And he would reply, “I am exactly as the Christian followers described me.  Irreversibly evil, petty, mean spirited and delighting in human suffering.  You want a better explanation than that?”

  • Hell is being suspended head-down in a barrel filled with all the alcohol you have ever spilled.  I think LOTS of us are in trouble for using the Holy Spirits in vain.

  • AntonioPeYangIII

     //Atheism is all about winning arguments, right?//

    The difference is that apologists don’t hesitate to resort to logical fallacies and leaps of logic to “win” their arguments.

  • Xeon2000

    It’s frankly silly that we have to even acknowledge Pascal’s Wager as some sort of formal theological argument.

  • Pascal’s wager is old news and fails on every argument. Apologists still try to use it, but they never think about what if they are wrong. Oh, they might try to say they have nothing to lose, but that’s not true.

    They have their individuality, their free will, their reason, their critical thinking, and much more to lose. If they are wrong, they have wasted time and money at church that they could have used to address pressing humans needs. They have wasted time praying and being apathetic, complacent, and passive towards human needs. They might feed the hungry, but the main position of Christianity is having contempt for humanity and hoping Jesus fixes everything.

    They have their dignity and life to lose, because they are being controlled and deceived by fallible men. They have their free will to lose, because passive obedience and subordinating their desires and will for God’s will makes them slaves. Since God is usually not around, it is the church whom they obey and are slaves to.

    They have their own conscience and sense of morality to lose. Christian morality is immoral and corrupt and denies human responsibility. It bears false witness on humanity for God’s responsibility of the consequences of His creation. It bears false witness on children by claiming they are sinners at birth by some genetic spiritual disease that we have inherited by Adam and Eve, which was a curse from God, by the way. According to the Bible and Christian doctrine, we have been forced by God to be sick and are commanded by Him to be well or face eternal torture.

    They have their reason and free thinking to lose, because the only way they can accept Christian assertions is through unquestioning faith. Critical thinking is defined as “the search for truth.” Faith – which is not based on knowledge, experience, or rational thinking arising from doubt, replaces the search for truth. Faith is a strong belief in illogical things that cannot be verified as the truth from evidence. If faith is the only way you can accept an assertion, than you are conceding that it cannot be accepted by its own merits. If some spiritual faith and outside revelation is needed to interpret the Bible, and only “special” people have this special logic, then Christians are conceding that the Bible cannot be accepted by its own merits.

    The Bible tells us that those who are to be saved have been chosen since the foundations of the world, and God hardens the hearts, confounds the wisdom, blinds or confuses those who are not supposed to get the message. It tells us that anything that is not faith is sin. Throughout the Bible, the putdown of intelligence and the use of the intellect is so apparent that we must conclude that to be a candidate for Christian faith, we must strive to be dumb, gullible, unquestioning, and imprudent. After all, it was knowledge and the gaining of a conscience that caused Adam and Eve to become like God and this threat to His omnipotence led to hellfire, according to Genesis 3.

    All religions, even when they are harmless, rely on faith. Indocrination is a form of child abuse, because faith teaches children to accept delusions. To accept and respect ideas that have no evidence and to respect absurdities. People act as if faith is a virtue and often act persecuted when you question their faith and illogical ideas.

    They have their love and humanism to lose, because they often have delusions of guilt, worthlessness, and grandeur. Their contempt for themselves and humanity is not a secret. Children are told they are born sinners and have helped put the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet by being guilty of this inherited sin that has been forced upon them. They are told they are incapable of being moral and happy without Jesus. Christian parents better hope that their children don’t wake up one day and realize the contempt that god and their parents have for them. To see your own children as being so faulty that they deserve nothing less than hell is child abuse.

    Relying on faith is dangerous because it can be used as a gateway drug to more violent and dangerous ideas, but even when it doesn’t lead to that, it is a diversion to facing and coping with reality. Faith is also the quickest way to being deceived.

    Christians also have a couple major logical problems. 

    * One, their entire theology is based on poor thinking and poor logic.
    * Two, the Bible undermines Christian theology because every denomination, every church, has cherry-picked its contents and misrepresented its context.
    * Three, we can easily conclude from Scripture and Christian theology that the biblical/Christian God is Satan in disguise.


    The attributes given to Satan by Christians and the Bible, are the same attributes they also give to God. If Satan’s greatest desire is that we believe he is God, and his greatest concern is that we are afraid of the truth because it “creates doubt”, then it is implausible to belief in a jealous, angry, wrathful, murderous, vain God who coerces humanity with eternal torture for not believing in him. His ego is so fragile that he requires constant worship and he is more concerned about whether people believe he is God, rather than how we treat others.

    Threats are the hallmark of the wicked. A God who creates a Hell and sends people there infinitely for finite crimes and mere disbelief is a wicked god, and anyone who follows such a god is just as wicked. Christians better hope they are wrong, because if they are not, I can see no better way for people to be deceived than through unquestioning faith.

  • Your argument is very strange, Kraken. Let me try something similar on you.

    “Kraken, you shouldn’t be so judgmental of others just because you beat your partner if dinner isn’t on the table right 5pm sharp. And stop complaining about getting bruised knuckles. It’s pathetic.

    Also, you suck at grammar.”

    Ridiculous, isn’t it.

  • wui

    ” C’mon mate! We were born in another part of the world where you don’t even get a mention, let alone exist. You really should not be that insecure, you know?” – people from places where the idea of an Abrahamic god was not introduced.

  • Bill

     I also think that was a great response, Edward.  Thank you. Your writing is marvelous in its precision.

  • Joy H Wong

    I don’t know what the word ” GOD ”  is supposed to mean. I am a very simple person , please explain to me….and if you say  ” GOD ” is everywhere then his ” FALLEN ANGEL ”
    is nowhere. Somebody told me that GOD and the DEVIL is the same person and another told me that his “GOD” is a very jealous one and accept no other other than him. This is likened to Taliban-style dictatorship.

  • Joy H Wong

     This type of wager is too simplistic… traps the ignorant ones. I give you another wager…..Someone has a small bird in his hand and asked ” Is the bird dead or alive ? ” Either answer can be wrong or right cos’ the life of the bird is in
    that person’s hand. It can be manipulated. If you toss a coin….then we can wager. If there is no such thing……any wager is useless and of no value even you wager it right. Go live your life with compassion, kindness, charity, truth, sincerity and wisdom…..even Hell will become Heaven…….where you go it doesn’t matter any more. It is how you travel ….not the destination.

  • Joy H Wong

     Right on. They cleverly disguised themselves as holy men. How can they give blessings to married couples while suppressing sexuality…sex is dirty.  The Catholic Church is an evil organization….while they enjoyed opulence and poor folks in Africa, Latin Americas, The Phillipines are in dire poverty. Their suppressed sex being celibate and this has transform them into pedophiles, illicit and secret love affairs. How can they listen to your confessions while they themselves are sinners. Repentence and forgiveness can easily replaced them. They are modern day Mafias accumulating wealth without work and hoard erotic arts in the Vatican City. Their unrevealed Archives are records of many of their evil acts….witchhuntings, merciless executions of wiccans, unbelievers and apostates. Be wary of demons dressed up as angels. Seek alternative spirituality if needed be.

  • Joy H Wong

    If only GOD is LOVE…..than that GOD has to drop both Heaven and Hell.
    No need for the son to die for the ” Fallen Angel ” and if the ArchAngel can fall
    ….so can also his Popes, Fathers, Cardinals, Priests and all the angels and all his creations. GOD cannot condemn his creations. No GOD …No Damnation. Simple as that.
    Keep spreading the Truth to remove their ignorance.

  • HelpShedtheFaith

  • Not to mention that Edward was a Catholic priest for several years. I’d say it’s quite clear that he did give faith a chance.

  • Yes the Old Testament has its dark side but to deny the existence of Jesus after so much has been written about him shows ignorance.

    Someone does not understand the concept of mythologizing…

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