Easy n Dirty

Any Really Smart Christians Out There?

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David Sklansky, a very intelligent and reputable (not to mention arrogant) poker writer, has issued a challenge right here. The gist of it is as follows:

 

He will challenge anyone that they cannot beat his score at the math SAT or GRE tests. The tests would be administered in half the usual time, in order to lessen the likelihood of a perfect score. In order to qualify, the other person must first pass a polygraph test stating that he or she is

 

a) 95% certain that Jesus rose from the dead, and

b ) 95% certain that adults who die with the specific belief that Jesus probably wasn't ressurected will not go to heaven.

 

He's offered this bet to any takers for $50,000.

 

His point is that a person would have to be inherently stupid to believe these 2 propositions (he goes on to state that his real problem is with the second one), and anyone dumb enough to believe these premises could not possibly beat him at a standardized math test.

 

There are alot of problems with the structure of the bet that he set up, IMO (why a math test, for example), but I thought it might make for an interesting discussion.

 

The thread I linked to above is over 20 pages long and I didn't read even close to all of it, so I may be missing some details here.

 

AMong those who have commented on this proposition are Jeapordy whiz kid (and devout Mormon) Ken Jennings.

 

And I recognize that the thread title is not entirely accurate at all, as I think there are probably many many Christians, myself included, who do not buy into statement b ) above.

Edited by Easy n Dirty

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The wording of his second proposition is very careful... especially with the word "probably" in there. :D

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How is he going to test the person on whether they really believe a) and :D? What if some agnostic decides to take the challenge just for the money and claims to be a Christian? I didn't read any of the challenge so if it's already covered , duh, on me. But why Christians? The other religions have some pretty whack beliefs, too. What about challenging a Muslim? A Buddist? A Democrat? Sounds like a publicity stunt to make a profit for Sklansky. But I'd be interested in seeing someone do it.

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i think its clear the basis of christianity and being a christian requires you beleive in pt A ...on the same token to beleive in PT B contradicts much of what of being a christian and disciple of Christ is all about ..My pt is that Christianity teaches we should not judge or look down on anyone ...we should not condemn

 

we do not why some people have been called to be jews or why some Muslims nor should we judge them or think less of them ...

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How is he going to test the person on whether they really believe a) and :D? What if some agnostic decides to take the challenge just for the money and claims to be a Christian? I didn't read any of the challenge so if it's already covered , duh, on me. But why Christians? The other religions have some pretty whack beliefs, too. What about challenging a Muslim? A Buddist? A Democrat? Sounds like a publicity stunt to make a profit for Sklansky. But I'd be interested in seeing someone do it.

 

 

Slansky is a non-believer, and he's offended by the belief, held by some (admittedly a minority), that you cannot get into heaven if you do not believe in the resurrection. He freely admists that this is a publicity stunt, designed, in his mind anyway, to point out the foolishness in such a belief.

 

As far as testing the person's belief in a) and b ), the person has to pass a polygraph test on that in orderto be eligible for the bet.

 

Your point about other religions also holding some far-fetched beliefs is also raised by Jennings in his blog.

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At risk of hijacking this thread (interesting post, btw!) ... there is a HUGE difference between judging and condemning. And, this subtlety is lost on Christians and non-Christians alike.

 

You wouldn't hire a good doctor that had poor judgement, would you? Or a mechanic? Or choose a spouse? If your kid had lousy judgement, would you give her your car keys when she turned 16?

 

No, you wouldn't (or else you may have poor judgement).

 

You want to associate yourself with people who have good judgement ... the ability to discern truth and accruacy from errors and imperfection.

 

However, condemning is completely different. That's why judges are in such a tough spot ... they are (effectively) playing God here on earth (i.e., "you, sir, are off to prison for 8 years without a chance for parole"). Sounds like lots of stress to me.

 

Back to the point, it's ok for a Christian to look at some act or belief and say "that's right" or "that's wrong" ... but, it's not ok to tell them that they are definately "going to hell" ... because that's what God does at judgement day. As it regards the judgement of a soul, that's only up to God and is not the right of any man.

 

Christianity is not about believing "I'm ok, you're ok". It's about realizing we're all full of pride, errors and contractions (call it sin if you want) and that these sins cause separation from God. Christians believe they understand the only true way to overcome the sinful nature we all share.

 

At risk of parsing things closer than you may want, while "hell" may or may not be an actual place, it's definately a spiritual 'place'. "Hell," from a Christians perspective, is eternal separation from God, and the pain that ensues from that is the torture that feels like "burning in a lake of fire" ... whereas "Heaven" is eternity in the presence of God.

 

And, how does one get to spend eternity in the presence of God? By being perfect. How does one get to be perfect? They can't. There is no 12 step program to perfection. The only way to sweep away the sins is to cover them with the blood of an innocent sacrifice (hence all the Old Testament sacrifice rituals). And, Christians believe that Christ, the only perfect person ever to live, offered that blood sacrifice in everyones' stead, and that by accepting His gift of death in our places will we be able to spend eternity in God's presence. However, if we don't accept Christ's blood sacrifice covering our sins, God will require that we give our own blood sacrifice (i.e., death).

 

So, because of this belief structure, it's ok for a Christian to tell someone that God has said (per the scriptures) that doing/believing such-and-such is a path to hell, because it's a path towards eternal separation from God. BUT, it's not ok to tell them that they are definately going to Hell. It's sorta like saying "eating too much ice cream can make you fat" vs. telling someone "you eat too much ice cream and you'll be big as a barn in no time flat."

 

I don't know if that makes any sense or not ...

 

PS - Can I just submit my perfect score from the math section of the ACT test I took in HS to collect on this bet?

 

PPS - There is a big difference between being a "social" Jew or a "practicing" Jew ... just like there is a big difference between practicing Muslims, Catholics, etc. Protestants are no different.

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His proposition is contradictory. There is no need for certainty in belief and no need for belief in certainty.

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At risk of hijacking this thread (interesting post, btw!) ... there is a HUGE difference between judging and condemning. And, this subtlety is lost on Christians and non-Christians alike.

 

You wouldn't hire a good doctor that had poor judgement, would you? Or a mechanic? Or choose a spouse? If your kid had lousy judgement, would you give her your car keys when she turned 16?

 

No, you wouldn't (or else you may have poor judgement).

 

You want to associate yourself with people who have good judgement ... the ability to discern truth and accruacy from errors and imperfection.

 

However, condemning is completely different. That's why judges are in such a tough spot ... they are (effectively) playing God here on earth (i.e., "you, sir, are off to prison for 8 years without a chance for parole"). Sounds like lots of stress to me.

 

Back to the point, it's ok for a Christian to look at some act or belief and say "that's right" or "that's wrong" ... but, it's not ok to tell them that they are definately "going to hell" ... because that's what God does at judgement day. As it regards the judgement of a soul, that's only up to God and is not the right of any man.

 

Christianity is not about believing "I'm ok, you're ok". It's about realizing we're all full of pride, errors and contractions (call it sin if you want) and that these sins cause separation from God. Christians believe they understand the only true way to overcome the sinful nature we all share.

 

At risk of parsing things closer than you may want, while "hell" may or may not be an actual place, it's definately a spiritual 'place'. "Hell," from a Christians perspective, is eternal separation from God, and the pain that ensues from that is the torture that feels like "burning in a lake of fire" ... whereas "Heaven" is eternity in the presence of God.

 

And, how does one get to spend eternity in the presence of God? By being perfect. How does one get to be perfect? They can't. There is no 12 step program to perfection. The only way to sweep away the sins is to cover them with the blood of an innocent sacrifice (hence all the Old Testament sacrifice rituals). And, Christians believe that Christ, the only perfect person ever to live, offered that blood sacrifice in everyones' stead, and that by accepting His gift of death in our places will we be able to spend eternity in God's presence. However, if we don't accept Christ's blood sacrifice covering our sins, God will require that we give our own blood sacrifice (i.e., death).

 

So, because of this belief structure, it's ok for a Christian to tell someone that God has said (per the scriptures) that doing/believing such-and-such is a path to hell, because it's a path towards eternal separation from God. BUT, it's not ok to tell them that they are definately going to Hell. It's sorta like saying "eating too much ice cream can make you fat" vs. telling someone "you eat too much ice cream and you'll be big as a barn in no time flat."

 

I don't know if that makes any sense or not ...

 

PS - Can I just submit my perfect score from the math section of the ACT test I took in HS to collect on this bet?

 

PPS - There is a big difference between being a "social" Jew or a "practicing" Jew ... just like there is a big difference between practicing Muslims, Catholics, etc. Protestants are no different.

 

 

 

well said ...wish i spent more time writing when i posted mine ..i agree with you and my choice of words was off but my pt in a nut shell , we should not judge others ...while we can and as christians are called to profess our beliefs in Christ , we should not dislike / hate or others if they do not believe everything we do

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Slansky is a non-believer, and he's offended by the belief, held by some (admittedly a minority), that you cannot get into heaven if you do not believe in the resurrection.

 

He's offended he can't "play God" and set the rules?

 

He freely admists that this is a publicity stunt, designed, in his mind anyway, to point out the foolishness in such a belief.

 

To some extent, everyone has odd views on things. Including poker playing athiests... I mean, does he have an pre-match rituals (like Wade Boggs eating chicken before every game)? It's all a belief structure designed by our own brains to help make sense out of random behaviors in the world around us.

 

To the point, there has been research that shows if a bird hits a "feed me" button in the research lab and the pellet is produced randomly, over time they will develop a very odd set of mannerisms and behaviors they must go through each time before they hit the "feed me" button. These things can end up looking like a rain dance. Or, possibly the way one shuffles their chips on the board just before making a certain sized or type of bet.

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The SATs are a poor test.

 

Anyone can learn how math works and believe it... just like they can learn the rules of the bible and believe it.

 

The test should reflect their ability to tell fantasy from reality, not their ability to spit back what they've already memorized. I see no reason why a person who genuinely believes in the flying spaghetti monster can't be excellent at math.

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The test should reflect their ability to tell fantasy from reality...

 

 

And how, exactly, would you propose a to test something like that?

 

PS - It is possible that if you don't perceive something to be true when others around you do, you may have bad perception... :D:D

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And how, exactly, would you propose a to test something like that?

 

 

Show them CSI: Miami and ask them if David Caruso is a good actor. If they answer "yes", they fail.

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Sounds like as reasonable a test as anything else out there.

 

:D

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Uh, the bible does state that if you arent a christian then you are going to be swimming in that really really hot lake for eternity! "no one comes to the father but by me" and "for whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" and any number of other passages. How can you be a Christian and NOT belief that those who dont accept Christ are going to he11? The bible is pretty clear about how you get to heaven, and it doesnt mention Budda, Mohammad, or the Beatles.

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Uh, the bible does state that if you arent a christian then you are going to be swimming in that really really hot lake for eternity! "no one comes to the father but by me" and "for whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" and any number of other passages. How can you be a Christian and NOT belief that those who dont accept Christ are going to he11? The bible is pretty clear about how you get to heaven, and it doesnt mention Budda, Mohammad, or the Beatles.

 

 

I am far from an expert on these matters, but it is my understanding that many Christians, especially Cathlics, believe that good non-Christains have a chance at heaven (I recall learning about something called baptism of desire back in high school).

 

I kind of share Sklansky's problems with the notion that only Christians can go to heaven. It does seem contradictory that a good and just God would condemn the millions (if not billions) of people who have never even been exposed to Christiantiy, never even having had the chance to accept or reject it. But again, not an area of expertise for me, and admittedly not something I've spent alot of time thinking about.

 

As far as the passages you quote, like anything else those can be interpreted in several ways.

 

I agree that his choice of test is flawed, especially as alot of research has shown that the SAT as much as anything measures nothing more than how good you are at taking that particular test. Sklansky's reasoning in choosing a math test, per his thread, is that "people who hold these beliefs have poor critical reasoning and logic skills. Advanced math requires high performance in these areas. Ergo, people who have these beliefs are more likely to be bad at math." (these are not his words, someone else posted it but he concurred). Some in the thread suggested an IQ test or something called a Putnam test (not sure what that is), but he rejected thsoe ideas.

 

A couple people also raised the possibility of a tie (i.e., two perfect test scores), and Sklansky said in that case he'd give the other guy $2,000.

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I am far from an expert on these matters, but it is my understanding that many Christians, especially Cathlics, believe that good non-Christains have a chance at heaven (I recall learning about something called baptism of desire back in high school).

 

 

Yep. Karl Rahner is the 20th Century Theologian who taught this regarding Grace. Its pretty mainstream Catholic theology these days.

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At risk of hijacking this thread

 

 

Just wanted to say that your response was outstanding in summarizing the Christian position on using judgment vs. judging. :D

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Got 720 (of 800) on my math SAT, may not be enough to beat Slansky, but I'd take the chance for $50k.

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Got 720 (of 800) on my math SAT, may not be enough to beat Slansky, but I'd take the chance for $50k.

 

 

I hope you're independently wealthy then, because Sklansky would definitely lighten your wallet by $50k.

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i think its clear the basis of christianity and being a christian requires you beleive in pt A ...on the same token to beleive in PT B contradicts much of what of being a christian and disciple of Christ is all about ..My pt is that Christianity teaches we should not judge or look down on anyone ...we should not condemn

 

 

i'm sure on some level sklansky realizes this. i mean, i'm sure he knows perfectly well that there are christians who don't fall under the parameters he set up. but he also knows there are a lot of christians who DO meet those descriptions, and those are the folks he's offering up his "challenge" to.

 

i have as much of a problem with fundamentalist christianity as he does (though i suppose for different reasons), but still...i kinda hope some bible-thumping young-earth creationist takes him up and owns him :D

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I hope you're independently wealthy then, because Sklansky would definitely lighten your wallet by $50k.

 

Sorry I didn't read it right, I didn't realize it was a 2-way bet, thought it was more of a challenge.

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Uh, the bible does state that if you arent a christian then you are going to be swimming in that really really hot lake for eternity! "no one comes to the father but by me" and "for whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" and any number of other passages. How can you be a Christian and NOT belief that those who dont accept Christ are going to he11? The bible is pretty clear about how you get to heaven, and it doesnt mention Budda, Mohammad, or the Beatles.

 

 

how well do you actually know the bible, spain? i would say not very.

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Not Me! I give my money to bums! :D

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i'm sure on some level sklansky realizes this. i mean, i'm sure he knows perfectly well that there are christians who don't fall under the parameters he set up. but he also knows there are a lot of christians who DO meet those descriptions, and those are the folks he's offering up his "challenge" to.

 

i have as much of a problem with fundamentalist christianity as he does (though i suppose for different reasons), but still...i kinda hope some bible-thumping young-earth creationist takes him up and owns him :D

 

 

Sklansky definitely does realize this and says as much several times in his thread.

 

And I agree with you, I would love to see someone accept this challenge and take Sklansky down. I think Sklansky's fallback here is that he might be virtually assured of getting a perfect score on either of those 2 math tests, even in half the time, meaning he can do no worse than a tie.

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I think his post at one point is very telling -- how he should maybe extend his challenge "to any non-Asian females."

 

He's a very bright college dropout professional gambler. As something of a social reprobate, he's likely acutely aware of status, how status is more important than actual intelligence or achievement. In our culture, you are what you believe you are. All the empirical evidence in the world can point to women being inferior in science and math, but we choose to believe that women are just as capable as men, so you get in trouble if you espouse a different belief.

 

Fundamentalist Christianity exposes a flaw that Christians choose to ignore -- that the major reason for the spread of Christianity is that it's very, very easy. Believing that you will see your dead spouse in heaven is easy. Facing your own death with a certainty of an afterlife is easy. Having only one book to believe is easy. Believing you have life and the world figured out is easy. Heck, the majority of professing Christians reduce their religion to easy, simplistic platitudes like avoiding "bad" words or anything involving risk. It's nothing spiritual at all. It's a religion without sacrifice, because the sacrifice has already been made for you. (Remind you of a recent war somewhere in the mideast?)

 

I don't think he's slamming Christianity per se so much as any system that grants you a special "status" no matter how stupid and worthless you are as a human being. In this culture, fundamentalist Christians are the most aggregious example of people giving themselves completely undeserved status basically by being intellectually lazy and morally suspect.

 

It's a good bet -- he picks a test he'll ace, so he stands to lose no more than $2,000, with a chance at winning $50,000. It would take a pretty stupid and prideful person to take him up on that bet -- which is why Ken Jennings turned him down -- and so he's limiting it to the most stupid and prideful people he knows, the fundies.

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