Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Colbert, Maher, and Pascal’s Wager

Bill Maher Stephen Colbert
Bill Maher with Stephen Colbert

by Catherine Giordano

Bill Maher was a guest on Late Night with Stephen Colbert discussing Pascal's wager. It was a lively discussion with a lot of beeeps. Maher is used to HBO where he hosts Real Time with Bill Maher Fridays at 10 pm. It seems like he forgets that you have to watch your language when you are on a network show. Or maybe, he just doesn’t give a beeep!

Maher talks a lot about sex, religion, and politics—it’s his comedic bailiwick. Colbert gently chided him for that saying that he must not get invited to any dinner parties since everyone knows you should never talk about sex, religion, and politics.

Oh really, I think it is the only thing worth talking about, although lately, I have the discussions via blogging and not at dinner parties. At dinner parties, I make small talk. But when I really want to know someone, a discussion about religion and politics will usually give me a very good sense of who they are. (I’ll leave the discussion of sex out of it until such time as I know someone well.)

Colbert is Catholic. Maher was raised Catholic, but is now an atheist. Atheism is part of his brand. I always wondered just how Catholic Colbert really is. Tonight Colbert cleared that up. He said, “I’m not very good at it. I suck at being a Catholic.” It seemed to me he was saying that he was Catholic because being Catholic is a family thing--"a connection with his ancestors" is how he put it. .

Colbert then teasingly invited Maher to come back to Catholicism. “The door is always open.” He brought up Pascal’s Wager to goad Maher. Maher took the bait and launched into a discussion about religion not being the answer to anything. It was lively and not without a few beeeps.

Nonetheless, there was not much of a discussion about the pros and cons of belief. There are many reasons not to take this bet. The most frequent criticism is “What if you choose the wrong god?” (Pascal’s wager assumes that the Christian God is the only God.) This argument was featured on an episode of the Simpsons.

There are many other fallacies in Pascal’s Wager. And to be fair, there are a few reasons to accept the wager, although eternal damnation in Hell is not one of them. I wrote a whole essay on it. Please click the link o see a complete discussion of the pros and cons of each side of the wager.

Here is a link to the video of the Maher-Colbert discussion of Pascal’s Wager.

Why do so many people insist there must be a god because they feel his presence? Blaise Pascal was a brilliant scientist and inventor, but he knew nothing about neuro-science. Biologist John Wathey does and in his new book (published in 2016) he will take you on a scientific journey to find the sources of religious feeling and the illusion of God's presence. Well-researched, yet elegantly written in a jargon-free and accessible style, he presents a compelling interpretation of the evolutionary origins of spirituality and religion.

CLICK HERE for a free preview
of The Illusion of God's Presence

Both Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert have written books. Check them out. 

Bill MaherNew New Rules

Stephen Colbert America Again