« Hain and golf club morality | Main | Moronic metal-detector scheme »

January 17, 2008

Comments

jameshigham

Heaven in terms of optimism bias?

OneEyedMan

They don't make the causal argument that you do, just a predictive one. The causal claim is more complicated, because at a minimum, it could be that liking church is more likely to somehow causes you to like believe in heaven than hell.

That mechanism could be that since most of church these days is about love and heaven than fear and hell, that it reinforces among the church going a belief in heaven instead of hell.

reason

Maybe those who believe in Hell are worried about being a hypocrite and those who believe in Heaven are hedging their bets. You seem to be assuming that "believing" in something is a binary state.

Philip

Alternatively, people might be so outraged by the idea of a deity who consigns people to eternal torment for not worshipping him that they refuse to go to church.

john b

I'm not sure this works - remember that the sum to infinity of a diminishing quantity is not infinite.

Let's say Hell has an annual disutility of 1000 utils (arbitrary measure), and your annual discount rate is 5%. The present value of an eternity in Hell, on this basis, is minus 20,000 utils.

Of course, it's unlikely that the present benefit of the activities which send you to Hell is greater even than the equivalent of 20 years in Hell - but once you lose the 'infinite negative payoff' point, then the low perceived probability that Hell exists could easily make it a rational choice for someone to take the risk of going there.

Steve

Or perhaps the people in the survey are lying. Maybe it is really a fear of Hell that is getting them into church and they just don't want to say so.

Nick Hare

Actually, if you interpret "infinite torment" as "some kind of finite torment endured for an eternity" (i.e. infinitely long, rather than infinitely nasty) then it will have a finite present value with any discount rate. This is because your utility function with respect to time will enclose a finite area even if it's infinitely long. So you might rationally accept it for some benefit in the present.

But if you think infinite torment is infinitely nasty, then by definition there really is nothing you should accept for it.

I suppose this proves that sinning hell-believers must be of the former sort.

dearieme

A rational analysis of the limited rationality of confessed irrationalists: isn't that slightly up-your-bottom?

Maynard Handley

Of course they don't ACTUALLY believe in hell. Get real. If they did they would behave differently.

What they believe in is belief; they think the idea of god, heaven and hell and all that is just great for society and the children.


reason

Of course the Scientific American had an article recently about how some infinities are bigger than others.

Matt Munro

Using a behaviourist interpretation of punishment, an act which does not reduce the frequency/intensity of behaviour is not a punishment. Put another way, whether something is a stick or a carrot is determined by it's measurable effect on the subject, not by any inherent quality of the act itself. Given that divine punishments are socially constructed, metaphorical and hightly subjective, they cannot therefore be compared to "real world" punishments. Most people, for example, under inquisatorial interrogation would admit to belief in whatever was required to avoid pain/death.

Steve

The problem with looking at heaven and hell as carrot and stick is that this doesn’t reflect actual Christian belief. Christianity holds that the believer attains heaven/ avoids hell by faith in Christ and in spite of misbehaviour (hence Jesus’ being called a saviour): it is not the case that the believer has to earn his/her way to heaven by being good (even by the religious good behaviour of church-attendance and praying). This revised behaviour is a response to their salvation, not an attempt to escape hell, which is no longer a threat to them as believers.

The output is seemingly anomalous data, but this is simply because the researchers are trying to analyse the phenomenon of religious behaviour in an inappropriate manner, not because the believers themselves are acting irrationally according to their beliefs.

ortega

Hell refutes the argument that religion is about consolation from this world by hoping in another.
It is much more terrifing eternal hell than death as an end, without afterlife.
Rewards and punishements are consequences of a belive system, nor its causes.

pedant2007

John B: a worrying comment. What about the harmonic series?

Maynard Handley

"Christianity holds that the believer attains heaven/ avoids hell by faith in Christ and in spite of misbehaviour (hence Jesus’ being called a saviour): it is not the case that the believer has to earn his/her way to heaven by being good (even by the religious good behaviour of church-attendance and praying). "

You are aware, Steve, that there are a heck of a lot of "Christianities" and, much as you might wish to believe your version to be standard, it simply ain't so. On the one side, there are the predestination christians, who believe something very different from what you claim, on another side Catholic doctrine has it that if you die without the last rites, you ain't gonna get into heaven. There are plenty of christian variants that say all the faith in the world doesn't count if you were never baptised or confirmed.

reason

John B's comment is very good. And shows why constant discount rates are such a trap. Global warming anyone? No closed system can grow exponentially indefinitely, so CONSTANT TO INFINITY discount rates make no sense.

Bruce

So we're not already in Heaven then? Oh, Hell.

Winchester whisperer

I disagree with your comment on corporal punishment. The sight of people being hanged was horrific and a deterrent. Quite different from the prospect of 10 years in prison with the likelihood of being let out after 4.

john b

"The sight of people being hanged was horrific and a deterrent. Quite different from the prospect of 10 years in prison with the likelihood of being let out after 4."

hmm, don't know about you, but I'd much rather see someone being hanged than get myself sent to jail for 4 years...

Steve

Maynard,

But the similarity between all the variants you mention is that you don't get in to heaven by consistent 'good behaviour' (ie the regular praying and church attendance discussed in the article). Which means that treating heaven and hell as an incentive scheme for these behaviours doesn't work. Which was my point.

reason

Winchester whisperer...
So crime levels during the time of public executions were consistently much lower than they are now?

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Why S&M?

Blog powered by Typepad