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ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD - ARGUMENT FROM REWARD

The Argument | The Refutation

The Argument Back to Top

The Argument from Reward contends that people who believe in a god are happier than those who do not believe in any gods. It is asserted that this extra happiness is a reward from their god for their virtue and faith, and therefore the god they believe in must exist.

The Refutation Back to Top
The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.
- George Bernard Shaw (1916)

The main flaw in the Argument from Reward is the initial contention that theists are happier than atheists, a gross generalization which is at best dubious. Many non-believers live happy, well-adjusted and successful lives, while believers sometime live lives of misery and unhappiness.

The argument does not explain why tragedy strikes believers just as regularly as it strikes non-believers, and why bad things happen to “good” people, and good things happen to “bad” people (as the Argument from Justice freely uses to its advantage). The misfortunes which beset the good and the faithful would seem to contradict the Argument from Reward, and raise questions about the goodness, the kindness and even the existence of a God.

Setting that aside, though, it is still far from clear that any potential increased happiness should be ascribed to a God. It is quite conceivable that belief itself makes believers happier, whether the belief is justified or not, in the same way as a person who believes himself loved by another may gain happiness from his belief, regardless of whether or not the other person really loves him.

 
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