Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"Visa God" silliness

A reader sent me this article from The Wall Street Journal.

Hoping to capitalize on all the activity, technical colleges sprouted up in the city's outskirts near Mr. Gopala Krishna's temple. Students started trickling by on their way home from school; many complained about their failed attempts to secure U.S. visas. That gave the priest an idea to sell the students on the deity by giving him a new persona, "Visa God." Mr. Gopala Krishna counseled the students in English, then told them to walk around the temple 11 times to get their wish. "I used to say, 'Go, this time you'll get it,'" he recalls.

In brief: It's really hard to get a U.S. visa, applications are chosen through a random number generator, and now there's a popular temple somewhere in India where people pray to a Visa God. This is prayer in its silliest form. It's comparable to praying for rain.

If you ever wondered why so many skeptics are atheists, this one of the reasons why. Superstition and religion blend seamlessly into each other. How is the belief that prayer will lead to visas any different from the belief that you can see remote objects if you try real hard? Both are scientifically verifiable. You might say that modern theology is actually much more sophisticated than all that, and that it's just hiding in ivory towers, and I'd concede that. But I could have been fooled--on the surface it all looks the same.
Mr. Babu of the Indus Entrepreneurs says the appeal of the Visa God boils down to the following: "Even if you're not religious, you say, 'Why not? I can just go and spend a few minutes and get a visa,'" he says.
This is a form of Pascal's wager (which basically says that you lose nothing by believing, and might lose everything if you don't believe). Mr. Babu offers an excellent reductio ad absurdum against Pascal's wager. If you accept Pascal's wager, why don't you start praying to win the lottery or something? He doesn't lose much, aside from time, energy, and dignity, and if he gets a visa as a result, it's all worth it, right?

1 comment:

Sundarraj Jayaraj said...

I had a girl friend i like to meet her i just waiting for Australian visa for about 2 months........