I’m getting old. My last birthday a few days ago rendered me instantly middle-aged. It’s time to start taking Pascal’s Wager seriously. But one of the problems with Pascal’s Wager has always been Which God? I’m a pragmatist. To which god should I convert on my deathbed? What are my options?
I was brought up in an Anglican household. If I converted to this wishy-washy religion, I’d need to repent my sins. That would take some time, so it would have to be a fairly slow death. That’s the wager, I suppose. If I did that, I’d avoid hell, which seems good, but the heaven I’d go to doesn’t sound that great. The reward seems to be proximity to god. God’s authorised biography reveals him to be kind of a dick, so eternity listening to him saying how great he is while being a racist, sexist, murderous tyrant, interested only in enforcing arbitrary rules, would get old after the first few gagillion years or so.
So what are my options?
Should I go Catholic? This seems like an even worse deal. As I understand it, Anglican sin-forgiveness happens just by saying sorry to god in your head. You don’t even need to kneel down or fold your hands although it’s generally reckoned to somehow work better if you do. But if you’re a Catholic, you have to get your confessions signed off by a priest. It’s basically a soul backup, whereas the Anglican version is more cloud-based: the backup happens on the fly. But anyway, if I go Catholic, I have to do purgatory, don’t I? Assuming my soul is backed up and I’m not going to hell, I still have to purify my soul before going to heaven. Which is the same sort of heaven to the Anglican one, but with more saints. And I can’t use condoms in the meantime. Catholicism seems a fairly shitty deal for deathbed conversion.
So what about Buddhism? I know almost nothing about it, but reincarnation doesn’t seem like a great deal. I don’t think we get to remember any past lives, so I’m not sure what sort of continuation it represents. If I could remember being, say, an isopod in a previous life, Buddhism would be totally awesome. If I could look forward to being, say, a Great Diving Beetle. I’d sign up immediately. But that doesn’t seem to be the deal. Apparently you’re supposed to work your way back to being human (and how does a beetle generate Karma anyway?) as if being human is the best way to be. Isn’t there a catalogue? I want to be a swift. Then a swan. I want to know the differences between them. Then I want to be a seahorse and probably an isopod again. Hanging out on a fish’s tongue seems like a great lifestyle. THAT would be a heaven to me, but apparently it doesn’t work like that.
Then there’s Islam. I don’t really know the rules but as I understand it you get to have 72 virgins and some sherbet providing you’re male and willing to commit an atrocity. I don’t qualify for two reasons. I’m male, but not willing to commit the required atrocity. But also, I don’t want 72 virgins. This doesn’t seem like heaven to me. I suppose the performance pressure is minimised because they are virgins, but there’s NO WAY they aren’t going to talk about me behind my back. I don’t need 72 reviews of my performance. And I’d rather learn something, anyway. I’d prefer one experienced, independent, loving, interesting (and hopefully non-judgemental) partner to an additional 71 bimbos. It’s almost as if I’m already in heaven, without having to blow anyone up.
So I’m left with the atheist alternative: oblivion. At age 41 the foxhole is looming. I don’t think I’ll convert, though. Oblivion seems like a better deal than the alternatives.