“The Buddha’s Wager”

April 30, 2014

Homer Simpson and GodIn the 17th century, the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal outlined his famous “wager,” attempting to make a case for why we should believe in God. Briefly, the wager rested on the assumption that their either is or is not a God, that no logical proof can be make for either proposition, and that believing or not believing is a coin toss that we can’t avoid making. Weighing up the consequences of the coin toss, Pascal pointed out that “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” Therefore, he argued, we should unhesitatingly believe in God, in order that we might win an “infinity of an infinitely happy life.”

Better minds … Read more »

Can you have faith, but disbelieve the Buddha?

January 23, 2012

Portrait of Lord BuddhaFacebook’s a funny place. You’ll post a link to a really brilliant, informative, insightful, and useful article on meditation and get very little response, and then post a picture of a dog meditating and get swamped with “likes” and comments. An example of the latter happened recently when I idly shared this cartoon on reincarnation. (It’s from speedbump.com — go visit the site, and consider buying a cartoon.)

Of course someone asked me what my own view on rebirth was, and I replied to the effect that on balance I’m not a believer. I made clear it’s not that I deny the possibility of rebirth — it just seems vanishingly unlikely that any kind of … Read more »

Making Wise Decisions

September 6, 2011

Decisions shape our lives, but psychologists say we are remarkably bad at making them. That’s true of strategic decisions, tactical decisions and decisions made in the heat of the moment. Typically, we are poor at assessing risk, understanding probabilities and anticipating consequences. We overestimate our capacity to make good decisions and underestimate the true influence of emotion, bias and assumptions in what we do.

We need to learn for ourselves how to make good decisions and that’s where the Buddha comes in. His teachings won’t help with the specifics, but they offer insights into the process of how to make a wise decision. And the starting point is clearing our minds of the approaches that … Read more »