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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rapture Ready is Irony-Rich

When we last left off, we had discussed "magical thinking" from master logician, Todd, a Rapture Ready Regular. It seems he just can't give up writing articles that are so blindly ironic and illogical. Todd's latest missive, "Sucker's Bet" is a real beauty. He rails against those of us who reject the Christian end times vision, calling it -- you guessed it -- a sucker's bet. Specifically, he does not address even one actual reason why we reject biblical prophecy, or even attempts to explain away the logical inconsistencies (or outright errors) found in those prophesies. He calls it all a sucker's bet, but fails to breach the glaring problem, that there are many religions each with their own prophesies, and even within Christianity, many contradictory interpretations of those Christian prophesies. Therefore, even before we get into what Todd actually did say, we have broadened his bet into mere guesswork of which version of prophesies to choose, if we do choose to take religion's side -- that there is a god, and s/he/it has deterministic plans for the end of (their) creation.

He opens with this:

At the heart of many emails is content I identify as the "Sucker's Bet." The people who send us these messages view us "Doomsday Christians" as wasting our lives by endlessly waiting for a Lord who is never coming. They base their opinion on the idea that Jesus hasn't come in 2000 years, so this complete lack of activity should prove that He is not coming at all.
Notice, first of all, that this belief Todd relates here is that of someone who believes that Jesus was real, a Christian. In other words, there is already a whole new level to Todd's "bet" which he completely ignores, that Christians disagree on what the end-times biblical writings mean, and what "wisdom" they impart to Christians. So we already have a logical break in Todd's argument. But let us move on to the very next paragraph:

Some of these people bet they will have the satisfaction of watching me squander my life on a meaningless quest. But I'm not sure where they see the payoff. If I outlive them, there is no payoff. If they outlive me, some other Christian will carry on the bet. The only wager I see is their hope that Jesus doesn't come back and bring their carefree existence to a premature end.
In a word, no. Neither I, nor anyone else who disagrees with Todd's faith could care less what he uses his life for. (With the caveat that he does not turn his beliefs into activism -- forcing those who disagree with him into accepting his peculiar views.) Otherwise, this entire paragraph suffers from an obvious logical fallacy, it is a non sequitur. In reality, there is no payoff for either side. One who denies Jesus and the Rapture, gains nothing. All they lose is the time, effort, and hard-earned money contributed to a useless endeavor -- religion. And, that, dear Todd, can be considered a win-win proposition. Whereas, the opposite position, that proposed by Todd, is lose-lose. If you're correct in your views, then you gain the uncertainty of which religious views to accept and devote your entire life to -- guess wrong and you're eternally damned. If you're wrong in your views, then you've spent your entire life chasing something that does not exist -- eternal salvation. (of course, there is the third option, correctly guessing which salvation and end times plan is correct. But that reduces your belief system down to a lottery. Is guesswork and luck really any way to determine salvation??)

But let us see where Todd takes this "sucker's bet" essay:

Games of Chance
The genesis of deception begins with the failure to understand that the world is filled with people who are constantly scheming ways to deceive us. A wise person uses critical thinking to assess all questionable situations. I can think of three popular games of chance that perfectly illustrate that things are not always what they appear to be.
Yes, and what he fails to recognize is that the only true way to avoid the "sucker's bet" is to not play at all.

Todd gives three examples of what he calls sucker's bets. I will only focus on one, as it seems to best fit to real situation. His second example is:

"Let's Make a Deal" -- Back in the late 1970s, several TV game shows offered people the chance of winning big prizes through a random selection. In one of these setups, a contestant was told to chose from five boxes, with one containing the top prize and the others containing prizes of lesser value. After the person made his or her selection, the host would often open three of the remaining boxes, giving the impression that the contestant now had a 50/50 chance of being a big winner. Because the host knew which box contained the keys to the shiny new Buick, the contestant's chances were still only 20 percent. If the host offered him $5,000 to pass on the opportunity to win the car, the wise choice would be to take the money and run.
Here there are exactly three options for the contestant;
1. Stick with their original choice
2. Choose the other box
3. Take the money and run

This is the classic "monty hall problem" with an added twist. Obvious to anyone, the safe bet is to take the money. For there, and there only are you guaranteed a positive outcome. The other two options involve a risk of being wrong (one more than the other, read the wiki text for more on this.) The clear problem for Todd, is that this does not help his case at all, if anything, it destroys it. The reason is clear. Let us rewrite the options on salvation, from the perspective of Todd:
1. Stick with his current views on salvation
2. Change religions to one that has a worse "hell" and better salvation
3. Choose neither, and live life as best as possible

Choices one and two here, both have their advantages and pitfalls, but neither guarantees a difinitive outcome (guess wrong and you wind up in hell). The third option is the only one with concrete outcomes. Albeit, with considerably less reward than those promised by the first two. But that gets into the area of "Pascal's Wager." A more in-depth discussion of this type of fallacy is beyond the scope of this post (there are a number of weaknesses in the wiki entry for this). Simply put, let us examine the differences between Islam and Christianity. What it all boils down to is the argument of "My personal beliefs are more valid than your personal beliefs, because I believe so."

But what Todd is really trying to show is that is you're willing to play the odds, then the odds are in the favor of end-times Christians:

Know the End-Time Odds
I believe people who scoff at prophecy are making a "Sucker's Bet" because they fail to realize that prophecy is in an advanced state of fulfillment. Most of these people make assumptions about end-time prophecy without even studying the evidence.

I think we can safely say that our buddy Todd, is making an erroneous assumption here. Merely stating what he thinks "most of these people" have studied does not make it so. This on top of the logical fallacy that if people who have not studied prophecy in the bible come to the same conclusion as those who have studied it and still reject it, does not invalidate the common conclusion. As for the whole "advanced state of fulfillment" opinion, I like to say what generation ever has been war free, had obedient children, or free of natural disasters? (We will reconsider this later in this post.)

For centuries we've had general signs that pointed to man's prophetic destiny. While atheists promise a utopian society, the reality is that we are moving closer to the type of self-destruction the Bible warned about.

This is just flat out false. There are no athiests who promise utopia. What we do promise is reality. What we promise are honest ways to reduce crime, suffering, inequality and suffering. But as realists, we never promise those things will be eliminated.

Actually this is extreme irony on the part of Todd. For it is Christians who promise utopia. They are all talk about about getting into heaven and living with God in His house. Now just what do you think heaven is, if its not a utopia? Furthermore, what about the other side of this issue -- destruction of life on this planet? Who is it that pushes for nuclear annhilation of Iran, Cuba, China, Venezuela and all those other nations whom the conservative Christian neo-cons don't like? If you push for those things then it cannot be fulfillment of prophecy, it is sheer insanity. Yes, Christopher Hitchens is an atheist and he is a doomsday neo-con, but he is not the norm for other atheists. His views are quite common among conservative Christians though. Reality does not match the beliefs of Todd.

He then goes on to talk some nonsense about Israel and how its rebirth is one fulfillment of prophesy. The problem being one that is painfully clear, the prophesies of Israel found in the bible have not been fulfilled at all. Simply saying that Israel was reconstituted as a nation is not enough; for it is nowhere near the same state that once existed. Further, it only became a nation again as a form of restitution for the holocaust. It certainly did not become a nation again in the manner the bible said it would.

Todd concludes this section with this:

Jesus said something that makes it all the more risky to bet against prophecy. In Matthew 24:34, He told us, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." There is no consensus on how long "this generation" would last, but because many key prophetic events are in the late stages of development, it would be logical to place us close to the end of that generation.
Unfortunately, Todd is wrong here in two senses. First, Jesus was referring to a generation of people (who all died 2000 years ago) and not an era as Todd would have you believe. Context here is crucial. Second, read this passage from the Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 1:4 "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever."
It is hard to reconcile this passage with the words of Christ:
Matthew 24:35 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

How can the earth pass away and exist forever? Prophecy? No. Confusion? Most certainly.

Another problem we come up against is just what generation have there not been wars and famine and earthquakes? What generation has not suffered misery? Every era of human history has dealt with exactly the same problems. Today is no different than any other period in human history.

Todd concludes with:
Betting Against Yourself
Ironically, the Bible prophesies that one of the signs of the end-times is people making "Sucker's Bets." The more these people mock, the more they are pushing the prophetic clock closer to doomsday.
Talk about sucker's bets. Then what Todd really wants is for more people to mock his beliefs even harder, to accelerate that good ol' doomsday clock. Once again, just when were people not making sucker's bets. In the time of Jesus, believing in his new religion was just such a sucker's bet, when viewed in comparison to all the other mystery religions in existence at that time. The same goes for today. The real true sucker's bet when it comes to religion is choosing which one to believe in, since all require the same ephereal "faith" with no baisis in fact and reality.

You know it is not people like Todd who concern me. What truly concerns me are those people who agree with Todd, but have the actual and very real power to destroy the world via nuclear weapons. That is what makes this supposed fullfilling of end-times prophesies so very dangerous.

It is also the very reason why others, like myself, feel so compelled to punch holes in the illogic and irrational thinking that goes into believing in biblical prophesy.

When I respond to people, I reply to the real issue they are secretly addressing. People usually write me because they are bothered by events that confirm Bible prophecy. I point out to them that prophetic fulfillment is the real reason they're mad at me, and I warn them by saying, "If my luck with the end-time signs doesn’t run out soon, yours will."
Nope. The problem is in doomsday believers believing that they are fulfilling some prophesied destiny and in the process causing the "luck" of all of us (all of humanity and all living things on earth) to run out via utter nuclear destruction. I don't know about you Todd, but I value my life, and that of future generations, and I do not want to see it destroyed just because some idiot thought they were doing God's will.

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