Some Letters to the Editor

Here are three published letters to the editor relevant to this blogsite.

1. From the July 18, 2011, Los Angeles Times (link here):

Re “Imagine no religion,” Opinion, July 18

The fact that we have a hardwired moral sense can just as easily be viewed as evidence that God exists, as C.S. Lewis said. More broadly, there is plenty of evidence for believing, as well as evidence for not believing.

But, as Blaise Pascal noted, the costs for mistakenly not believing are much higher than the costs for mistakenly believing.

So the reasonable thing to do is to cultivate one’s faith. And doing so does not require one to ignore things like history and science: Lewis was a renowned man of letters and a classicist, and Pascal was, among other things, a pioneer in chemistry and mathematics.

Roger Clegg, Fairfax, Va.

2. From the July/August 2012 American Spectator (link here, with Mr. Derbyshire’s response):

MR. DERBYSHIRE DEMANDS “evidence” of God and Heaven (“Heavens to Betsy,” TAS, June 2012), but since there is plenty of evidence what he really seems to want is proof. Well, proof he will not get, but of course he can offer no proof either. And, as I say, there is plenty of evidence.

Consider, to give just the most obvious example, the Gospels, not to mention the rest of the New Testament and the Old. Now, you can attack their veracity, just as a lawyer in court can attack the veracity of some document, but you cannot say that it is not evidence. And their veracity actually holds up rather well, by the way.

Mr. Derbyshire also attacks C.S. Lewis, but offers little besides name-calling, and with that limited to Lewis’s mythic and poetic children’s stories, not his more forthright apologetics. Of these, Mr. Derbyshire apparently started to read, but never finished, only one.

And of the latter, Mr. Derbyshire says only—in response to Lewis’s famous liar-lunatic-lord trilemma—that perhaps Jesus was just “mistaken.” Now here again, Lewis did not purport to offer proof, but only a way of evaluating the evidence. And it is, pace Mr. Derbyshire, quite persuasive. To think (mistakenly) that one is God is not like thinking (mistakenly) that it is Tuesday instead of Wednesday–it is the kind of mistake that only lunatics make.

Mr. Derbyshire, poor soul, is trying very hard not to believe. So as Mr. Lewis said, he risks God concluding for him, “Very well—THY will be done,” and thus to Hell rather than to Heaven with him. Why run such a risk? Why not follow his fellow mathematician Blaise Pascal, and choose instead to cultivate one’s faith rather than try so hard not to? There is much more to win than to lose.

Roger Clegg, Fairfax, Virginia

3. And from the October 2012 American Spectator (link here):

Jonathan Aitken offers some excellent “Advice for Septuagenarians” (TAS, September 2012).  I would like to add the point that Pascal’s Wager offers an argument that ought to be particularly persuasive to them for taking Mr. Aitken’s advice to heart.

Briefly:  The wager is quite straightforward. If there is a God, then there is a huge advantage in believing in Him and living one’s life accordingly, versus not doing so. If it turns out there is no God, then the (much smaller) consequences in this life are all that matter, and indeed it is not at all clear that one has lost anything by believing. Therefore, a rational person should believe, live one’s life accordingly, and cultivate one’s faith.

Now, all of this is especially true as one gets older, for several reasons. First, we have less time to postpone grappling with these fundamental questions.  Second, as our time on earth grows shorter, considerations of what might happen in the next life become stronger. But third and most importantly, as we grow older the cost-benefit analysis of the consequences in this life more and more heavily favor believing. That’s because the worldly pleasures one might gain by not believing (sex, drugs, rock and roll, etc.) are less salient, and the comforts of faith—which are real and which are physical, mental, and emotional—are more salient.  That is, what you give up by believing becomes less and less valuable, and what you gain by believing becomes more and more valuable.

Roger Clegg, Fairfax, VA