Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. I'm still at p = .05, if only because I fear such a heavy reliance on the anthropic principle. This book didn't sway me one way or the other. And while I am not religious myself, I am suspicious of anti-religious tracts which do not recognize great profundity in the Bible.I'm not exactly sure what his comment about the anthropic principle is about. I think he has a problem arguments for God based on the incredible fine tuning of the universe (Anthony Flew, the once prominent atheist philosopher, renounced his atheism because of the fine tuning argument), and is suspicious that there are not other, better arguments, but I could be wrong. Anyway, he seems to really like the bible, it's reasonable to assume that hell should be considered a live possibility. 5% refers to what? Christian God? With or without hell? When declaring religious views I think it should be mandatory to be clear about your views of the afterlife. Many people are undecided about God, or Christianity (for example Jesus may not be the Son of God, but was like, the best person ever) but suppress the fact that they are absolutly certain about hell (they have reasons for this of course, but none that will win over your local evangelist). I think this involves a more committed theological stance than said people are willing to admit. Considering the importance of an afterlife, and the apparently concrete views of most agnostics, I don't really get why attention is so often focused on atheists confidence about the non-existence of God. It seems trivial.
So what is Cowen's 5%?
I know I've written about this before, but I really think its worth thinking seriously about hell. I find it weird that people worry about shark attacks. Sure they're horrible, but they are just so incredibly rare. There are plenty of other horrible things with better claims to our fear. But I have my own irrational fear, being tortured. I don't mean in the way you see on 24, electric shocks or burns, I mean much more exotic things (I'll leave it to you to ponder what I'm talking about). The odds of me being tortured are pretty low, billions to one against probably, but not trillions. I agree it's a weird concern, but not so weird considering how much worse it would be than being attacked by a shark, for example. Say, for example you are ten times more likely to be shark attacked than tortured, if torture is ten times worse it might be rational to fear shark attacks and torture equally.
If the odds were one in a thousand that I would be tortured in my lifetime I would be terrified, I suppose the terror would wear off, but I can?t believe all the anxiety would. How about one in twenty? What would your life be like? Remember some of the people you know will definitely experience it. I don?t think it would be possible to live life in anything like the way we live it now.
I'm no expert on the details of hell, but people spend eternity there, so I think it?s fair to say that hell is worse than any possible torture. So my question is: What makes the suffering in hell different enough from the suffering available in this life to justify the vastly different attitudes?