Most atheists start out as agnostics

Richard Dawkins praying

What, you do not yet know the "scale of belief in God"? Then it is high time for a lesson on this matter. I first read about it in the book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins (2006) (German: "Der Gotteswahn"). He may have invented it. But ultimately the basic idea comes from the great mathematician Blaise Pascal. She probably has Not contributed to his fame.

If someone like Richard Dawkins is still peddling it today, he'll have to put up with some ridicule. The idea is a prime example of trying to solve questions of faith using mathematical-scientific methods. It's about emphasizing your own convictions. History shows that the apologist almost inevitably gets tangled in fluffy threads of thought and falls on his nose.

This applies equally to believers like Pascal and to atheists like Dawkins. Let's start with

Pascal's bet on the existence of God

The French religious philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) made this bet: If you believe in God - bet on him, so to speak - and God does not exist, you lose nothing. But if you don't believe in God and God exists, then you will go to hell. That is why it is reasonable to believe in God. This is how you take your chance to go to heaven.

Let’s ignore hell for the time being and just concern ourselves with the utility side of the matter. According to Pascal, this results in to anticipated benefits as a product of probability and utility.

Since we do not know exactly whether God exists, we set the variable for the probability of his existence p a. Like all probabilities, this is a value in the range from zero to one. The benefit for the believer, if God actually exists, is enormous - for us earth citizens at least infinite, in signs: ∞. This results in the expected benefit of faith too p· ∞. Pascal thinks that the probability of the existence of God may be small, maybe even very small, but never zero. Consequently, according to the rules of mathematics, the expected benefit is equal to ∞.

For the unbeliever, the calculation looks exactly the same, only that here the threatening damage - namely the stewing in hell - is infinite.

Worship and prayer as an expression of faith and a godly way of life are therefore the only sensible action. We want to take it that way.

Dawkins ’Faith in God Scale

Richard Dawkins is the eloquent leader of the so-called New atheists. He took up Pascal's idea in his 2006 book. His mind games land - predictably - in the absurd.

Dawkins does not want to justify belief, but disbelief. His mathematical instruments, however, are the same as Pascal's; and it is equally unsuitable in this case. Why Dawkins emphatically approaches this thought trap and promptly drowns in it will remain his secret.

Dawkins suggests the intensity of belief with probability p evaluate, just like Pascal does. Its scale of belief in God ranges from p = 100%, these are the strong theists, over the de facto theists with p just under 100%, the agnostics with p = 50%, the de facto atheists with very little, but still positive p up to the strong atheists with p = 0%. Dawkins is one of the De facto atheists ("I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable"). And so he ends up in the trap of Pascal's bet. He has no choice but to rely on God.

Anyone who engages in such probability calculations must know what it is about. And there we have - this applies to Dawkins as well as to Pascal - the image of God, heaven and hell conveyed by the church. One should not tinker with the definitions if one does not like the result of the calculation.

The mistake is already in the beginning: In essay 1654: A new way of thinking begins, I show that Pascal's risk formulas are not applicable here. Richard Dawkins doesn't seem to care. He gets lost in fantasies about the image of God.

Belief pluralism

Dawkins is a believer in atheism. Apparently it does not make it clear to him that agnosticism is a logically sound and decisive position of abstention from decision: The agnostic refuses to be expected to make a statement for or against the existence of God. And the same stance of denial applies to statements about probability. A measurement of the probability of the existence of God is meaningless for the agnostic, since there is no background of experience. With no prospect of statistics, the uncertainty remains total for him.

Frank Stößel speaks of one in his comment on the Oops article The strategy of infiltration of the new atheism Agnosticism Scale - based on Dawkins. He means a variety of viewpoints and beliefs.

I think the word scale is wrong in this context. A scale assumes that the points of view can be measured. The question of a suitable measure remains. Anyway, this is the probability mentioned here p as a measure of the intensity of belief Not Suitable: Even with the agnostic, the attempt to measure and classify fails. So I would prefer from Belief pluralism speak rather than a scale of agnosticism.

Belief pluralism and tolerance keep ours open Society running. The different dogma systems occur in free and peaceful play on the field of practical reason against each other. The de facto atheist also finds himself in this game. We need not worry that he is hopelessly tangled up in justifying his point of view. Other believers are no better off with their apologetics either.