The Zero Sum Fallacy and Religious Faith

We need to think about zero sum and if we are unwittingly absorbing that kind of thinking as it makes us compete ruthlessly with each other and we fail to cooperate even when we should.

Secular versions argue that there are only enough goods to go around so to let anybody have any is to give away what you should hold on to.  Peter is always robbed to pay Paul.  Paul is eventually robbed to pay Peter.  What is Peter/Paul robbed of?  Food?  Air?  Money?  Health?  Love?  Piety?  Intelligence? Life?  On and on it goes.  One steals from the other.  Both are potential thieves ready to enjoy at the expense of another.  They are potentially everything good and everything bad.  They are potential murderers.

Religious versions may hold that God has limited the blessings he gives.

Or they may hold that we limit the blessings by our sins and this cannot change for the damage has gone too far and lasted too long.

Or we may have a psychology that needs both good and bad so God makes sure that what I get is taken from somebody else and vice versa.

The fact is that we have no way to show that zero sum as in goods is right or wrong at all. It may or may not be a fallacy when it comes to limits on goods and blessings. Notice how it is bad enough but bringing God into creates new questions, and builds new avenues and makes it worse.

In a form of religion based on the Hermetic Laws, you have the zero sum doctrine in full bloom. It preaches the law of polarity. “Everything is dual. Everything has poles. Everything has its pair of opposites…All truths are half-truths.” So if you do good, the law forces harm to be done somewhere in the universe. So harm and helping are both balanced.

Some say the law of karma is the law of balance. You do harm and that brings good to somebody else. And the harm that waits somebody comes to you instead for you have to pay. But what if you are doing good when you are doing bad? How can it come back on you? That makes no sense if you think of this as punishment. They might say karma means reaction and we are not talking punishment here. Something rebounding on you is not punishing you necessarily.  I would add here that doctrines that deny bad things happening to you after you do evil are to be seen as punishment are thin.  Too many people will feel that it is good enough for you or too good.  If it is not punishment it might as well be. 

The religious law of polarity clearly calls us chess-pieces. There is something mechanical if happiness and misery are balanced so precisely.

Even if it is not mechanical for good to be linked to an opposite taking place somewhere and somehow we will feel depersonalised.  We will feel there is no point.  We will find no joy in pulling a child from a pool where she is drowning.

God belief as in something like the Christian God is no vaccine against the zero sum doctrine.  As God permits evil to happen it is possible that he has set up the universe that in some mysterious way, to take from a is to give to b and vice versa.  Sufferers could be told by him that while they endure what they endure at least somebody else is spared.  Religion is clear that God is not bound to agree with us what the best possible world would be.  It may say that he arranged this to give people who suffer meaning.  "I offer this up to you O God and ask you to bless the person who is happy and healthy because I am suffering."

And what if there is a multiverse?  What if when I take my medicine I am the cause of my other self in another reality taking poison? 

Zero sum is based on games where one gains at the expense of another. You see it all the time these days with racists saying, “This is our country and there are so many jobs to go around and too many refugees are getting them”.

Life often is a game. Politics is a game. Business is often a game. And religion.

So if it is possible for people to meet in the middle so that they avoid taking from some to give to others, the zero sum is a fact of life in many situations. It seems obvious that if you grow your potatoes and eat them you are not starving somebody else. If you go into their field and snatch that is a different thing. But you will be told that you will not be sending them to some starving person so you are definitely intending to take.

So there is zero sum in goods being given and taken in equal or comparable measure.

There is zero sum in intention too. If the zero sum is an error then clearly it remains true that you would gave medicine brought to your sick baby if it meant there was none for a stranger’s baby. It shows us what we are like underneath the charm.

Your prayer for the other baby is insincere. You just want God to ensure that you will be able to have the medicine and use it for your infant.

And we see that if zero sum in goods can be overthrown, it cannot be overthrown as regards our intentions.

Rozycka-Tran et al. (2015 tells us what happens if people think they cannot gain except from taking from another and others cannot gain unless they take from them. “People who share this conviction believe that success, especially economic success, is possible only at the expense of other people's failures.”

If zero sum is true and not a fallacy or if it applies in most cases then life is going to be tough and ruthless. It leads to a bias where you fail to see that you don’t have to take to gain in say a particular situation. A bias grows legs. It will get worse. As we have seen from the law of polarity we cannot call this bad for all truths are half-truths meaning that moral causes immoral and vice versa so you cannot win.

Some versions of the zero sum are fallacies. Even if it is true we cannot gain materially except by taking, the same thing may not be true of our emotional relationship life areas. For example, the idea a has that you love her less if you love your family is definitely wrong. She thinks there is only so much love to go around and that you have to take love from her to spread it to your relatives.

If somebody is skilled in several things, people will assume that this person is not really much good at any of them. Yet it is possible for a person to be good at several jobs.

Jesus engaged in the fallacy for he argued that those who do not put him first are in fact against him. So if you are committed to another group and not just his you are bad and worthless.

How many zero sum issues do we want? If one is enough then ditch faith and ditch God. And as we have seen, if zero sum is an error when it comes to resources it is not an error but the truth when it describes how our whole lives are undergirded with, “I intend to have, even if it means depriving you. If I do not show this intention, it is no wonder for I will have no friends if I am honest.”


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