I was reminded today of Pascal’s Wager. It’s a centuries-old question which Christians like to pose to non-Christians. In its modern form, it’s often abbreviated to “What if you’re wrong?”, but it always means “What if my version of Christianity is right?”

The answer the Christian has in mind is, if the unbeliever is wrong, death will be hell, an eternity of unremitting torture. If the Christian is wrong, death will simply be oblivion, after having lived a good life anyway. It’s the second part of that supposition which came to mind when I read a news story today.

It’s unlikely that the link will be up for more than a few days or weeks, but as I write this it’s at http://wkrn.com/2015/07/02/entire-tenn-county-clerks-office-resigns-over-same-sex-marriage-licenses/. The story tells of the resignation of everyone in the County Clerk’s office in Decatur County, Tennessee. They’re resigning because the recent Supreme Court ruling which would require them to issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The entire County Clerk’s office is apparently comprised of three people: Clerk Gwen Pope and employees Sharon Bell and Mickey Butler. Their last day will be July 14.

What if they’re wrong? What if the god they believe is looking on with approval is imaginary? What if they’re leaving their jobs for no reason at all, with no reward except the satisfaction of being judgmental in public?

Religious beliefs are not the neutral default that most proponents of Pascal’s Wager propose. “If I’m wrong, I’ll just cease to exist, after living the same life I would have lived anyway.” While resigning a clerk’s job is not as portentous as depending on a faith healer instead of a medical professional, it’s still another reminder that beliefs shape actions, and actions have consequences. If there is no afterlife, and the consequences in this life are everything, three clerks in Tennessee have just made their lives (the only lives they’ll ever have) more difficult in service of an empty ancient myth.

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