Monday, July 16, 2012

Antitheism and Krauss' Wager

Lawrence Krauss- The Antitheist
Recently in a discussion with Justin Brierly (Unbelievable?) and Rodney Holder, Lawrence Krauss made an interesting statement (podcast: 58:01):

"You talk about this god of love and everything else. But somehow if you don't believe in him, you don't get any of the benefits, so you have to believe. And then if you do anything wrong, you're going to be judged for it. I don't want to be judged by god; that's the bottom line."

Earlier in the program, Krauss also described himself as an antitheist and made a distinction from being called an atheist. Taken in the context of the quote above this distinction and title makes a lot of sense. As apologists, it is not enough to address a worldview as a whole, we must look into the specific views of an individual to appeal to them on both an intellectual level and an emotional level. I have a few thoughts that I would like to draw out of this.

Belief, Judgment, and Krauss' Wager
Krauss begins his statement by pointing out that the Christian God is a God of love. He concludes that believing in God will allow us to experience God's love and not believing in God will not allow us to experience God's love. From this, Krauss concludes, also, that judgment may be experienced or escaped due to belief in God. Krauss states clearly his desires- to not be judged by God. He further concludes that if he doesn't believe in God, then he can escape judgement. Without belief in God judgement is escaped, but so is God's love. The only option is annihilation from that point of view.

This gets into what I would like to call "Krauss' Wager". Obviously, that title is a play off "Pascal's Wager"- but what I propose mirrors only the popular understanding of Pascal's Wager (see Redeeming Pascal's Wager). The popular understanding is that you should believe in God because if He exists, you're safe, and if He doesn't exist, you're still safe. Krauss, though, takes a slightly different position- you should not believe in God. If he does exist, you're safe. If you don't believe in God and he does not exist, you're still safe.

Antitheism vs. Atheism
Krauss puts forth an interesting position. Instead of claiming that God does not exist (atheism), Krauss claims that he is simply against believing in God (antitheism). With this view, God could certainly exist, but just because He does (and we recognize that He does), does not necessarily mean that we must believe in him. Of course, the phrase "believe in" must be defined properly.

In Christianity, "belief in" means that we understand that we are sinful and that we have trusted Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross to be the judgment for those sins. When Krauss makes the statement "I don't want to be judged by God", he is implicitly granting that there is something about him that could be judged. He wants to continue with what could be judged but escape that judgement, yet he does not want to do what Christianity says is required to escape judgement. Instead, Krauss has chosen simply to not believe in God.

Antitheism and Christianity
Romans 1:18-25 predicts that there will be many antitheists- those who know that God exists, but will still reject Him. By self-ascribing the title of "antitheist", Krauss at least leaves open the possibility of God's existence but makes clear that if God does exist, He has no intention of believing in God. (Krauss certainly argues against God's existence, so we can't really take his antitheism to be a form of agnosticism, but it may be put between agnosticism and atheism.) However, if Christianity is true, then what Krauss is betting on is not correct. The only way that Krauss' wager is even a decent wager is if annihilationism is true (see Is Heaven Eternal and Fear-Mongering Christians). The reason that I don't take it to be a good wager, is because even annihilationists believe that judgement will come- its just not eternal hell. Judgement is the key.

Christianity teaches that it does not matter whether one believes in God or not; they will be judged. If Krauss is betting on the idea that not believing will allow him to escape, then if Christianity is true, then Krauss' wager is not a wise one to take. Krauss' wager (what he is betting on) is based on a misunderstanding of Christian theism. Of course, that is not to say that Krauss having a proper understanding of Christian theism will change his antitheistic position, but in that case, he would have to find another foundational reason to reject God.

Lawrence Krauss is commonly labeled as one of the "New Atheists", but he has identified himself otherwise. By his own frank admission, he is against being judged by God, but not necessarily God's existence. This allows him to take the label of "antitheist". Unfortunately for him, ]Christianity is true; what he wishes to escape cannot be escaped by merely refusing to believe in God.

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