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Hookers for Heaven

Charles W. Webb, M.D.

It is said that everything has its price. When W. C. Fields (reputedly) asked a beautiful young woman if she would go to bed with him for a million dollars, and she answered yes, he then asked if she would render the same service for ten dollars. "Of course not!" she exclaimed. "What do you think I am, a prostitute?" "We've already established that," he replied. "Now we're just dickering about the price."

Which brings us to the main reason people cling to Christianity and to Islam. A good Christian friend of mine once tried to convert me to his faith by offering up Pascal's Wager, which goes something like this: If you "believe" in Christ and you're wrong, you lose nothing. But if you "believe" in Christ and you're right, you gain eternal life in heaven. Therefore the smart bet is to "believe."

Now can anyone tell me the difference between W. C. Fields' offer of a million dollars and the Christian offer of eternal life in heaven? Both are outlandish attempts at bribery, yet who among us would accept either proposition for the proverbial ten dollars? Would you?

Of course there are differences that make W. C. Fields' proposal more fair and more attractive than the attempted bribes of Christianity and of Islam. First, Fields probably could deliver his million dollar bribe, but who do we know who has ever cashed in on eternal life? No one. Secondly, both of the above religions couple their attempted bribery with extreme extortion, promising eternal Hell and damnation for those who do not accept the bribe. And since the bribes are mutually exclusive, how can you possibly win?

Fortunately there is a way out for honest people, which really includes everyone. People cannot honestly make themselves "believe" something that they know to be false. There are hundreds of mutually exclusive religions. Most of us accept (at most) only one religion and we are therefore freethinkers who reject the outlandish claims and superstitions of the other 99+ % of religions. With just a little less fear and a little more honesty we can free ourselves of all superstitions. At our best we are all freethinkers.

Besides, Pascal was wrong. We do not "lose nothing" by "believing" in another life. When we "believe" without evidence, we become followers, and those who blindly follow cannot be free. There is really nothing wrong with prostitution so long as it is an honest business deal. But is it wise to trade your freedom of thought for grandiose promises of heaven and barbaric threats of hell? In the words of the great humanitarian Robert Ingersoll, "When this world is sacrificed for another, a mistake has been made."


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