Hedging Your Bets

I missed the memo about hedging your bets.

There’s a tiny but very vocal group of people who are going around saying that the world is going to end this Saturday.   Since the beginning of the world, people have been predicting the end, and since none of them have been right, I was pretty content to ignore this latest proclamation.  But then I heard this story, in which the true believers said that it’s somehow an affront to God to have any doubt about when Judgment Day will occur.   According to Harold Camping and his ilk, the end of the world is apparently all spelled out in a mathematical code in the Bible, thus questioning the validity or meaning of this calculation is tantamount to questioning the word of God.  This kind of thinking makes my head hurt really, really bad. 

Thinking that you somehow know the unknowable is one thing, but further pronouncing that doubts are not allowed is quite another.  As a high school kid, I got quite a few memos from reading Paradise Lost and one of the biggies is that God so loved human beings that he did not want to enslave them, but rather gave them free will.  Free to eat the apple.  Free to mess things up.  Free to have doubts and questions.  I think God gets really annoyed when people tell other people not to think. 

I am not what you would call a deeply religious person, but I do believe in God.  On my own trippy path toward my current state of spiritual (mis)understanding, I had to find a way to make room for questions.   In college I got the memo about Pascal’s Wager and I remember feeling a lot of comfort when I thought about it.  For the uninitiated, here’s a visual over-simplification: 

Some might find the idea of betting for or against the existence of God a flippant sort of attitude to take about the fate of one’s immortal soul.  But for me, the comfort came in the idea that I didn’t have to have it all figured out, I didn’t need to know for sure.   I wanted to believe, and Pascal’s reasoning helped to buttress my belief with a bit of rationality.  I dug that.  So I’ll go about my life trying to be the kind of person who’s in God’s good graces, at least most of the time.  And if that gets me into heaven, all the better.  If not, then maybe I did some good on Earth and that’s OK, too.  Either way, I like my odds.

There’s stuff we can know, and there’s stuff we can’t possibly know.  Being certain and having faith are not the same thing.  These Rapture folks seem awfully certain, and that’s what I just don’t get.   The idea that they’re quitting jobs, divesting themselves of all possessions, basically doing a total life flush….this just doesn’t compute.  I don’t know if one can ever truly be ready to be sublimated into the sky, so I don’t understand how trashing your career and giving away all your stuff could make you better prepared for such an extraordinary occurrence.  If you believe, fine, you believe.  But keep some money in the bank and if you run out of milk and bread today, what the heck, go ahead and buy some more.  Hedge your bets, folks, hedge your bets.   Memo received.

5 thoughts on “Hedging Your Bets

  1. sheila clapkin May 20, 2011 / 1:06 pm

    I would not be able to add one thing to your wonderful memo, nor do you expect additions, but I just want to say meeting you 40,000 feet in the air is the closet on this earth we will get to God physically. Mentally each is on their own. We are still on our journey away from California (in Nashville today) and will return on Sunday. I truly appreciate your memo additions to my life and I appreciate YOU!

  2. C.M.Hardin May 21, 2011 / 10:19 am

    “God gets really annoyed when people tell other people not to think…” Amen.

    I recently watched the Quantum Activist. Not that it’s entirely related, but it did set my mind wandering… about the whole Body of Christ notion… the interconnectedness of humanity…relationship with God. What God is (i.e. something far more complex and interesting than some beardy-weirdy sitting on a chair in the sky).

    I feel sorry for the billboard people. Even if the world ended tomorrow, why go nuts? The world ends for some people every day. Might as well make the most of it– hedge the bets as you say 😉

  3. Jamie Walker Ball May 21, 2011 / 2:08 pm

    I’ll have to check out the Quantum Activitist; that sounds really interesting. Thanks for reading, C.H. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments!

    • C.M.Hardin May 22, 2011 / 9:12 pm

      Thanks! Glad you don’t mind me dropping by… 🙂 Quantum Activist isn’t really Christian per-se, more quantum mysticism, but I think it’s interesting food for thought. There are a lot of Christian priests (Anglican and Roman Catholic) who held jobs as physicists prior to their religious vocation. They say a lot of similar things wrt the role of physics in understanding God, and consciousness.

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