Was Pascal Wrong?

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In some form or another we have all come across Pascal’s Wager. The first time I heard the assertion I was walking out of class with a friend who was a firm believer. We were discussing atheists and how silly it was to not believe in God. I remember my friend saying, “Why would you not want to take a chance on believing?” He said this as if it was the win all argument on the subject, as if his gamble was the most rudimentary of steps in relation to his religion.

I’ve heard many from the nonreligious side accuse those who use Pascal’s Wager as feigning their belief. I don’t think this is the case with most believers, my friend wasn’t feigning his belief, he was sincere and in his mind his reasoning was solid. Here is the problem. An insincere believer practicing religion just for the reward of heaven would not fool an omniscient god. Pascal’s Wager is presented falsely all too often as an altruistic approach to faith.

The argument is still casuistry and the logic Pascal uses must result in an outcome different than the one proposed. The argument portrays a hypothetical scenario that isn’t compatible with reality.

Pascal proposes that there are two decisions; to believe in God, or to not believe in God. If you don’t believe then you are risking damnation, but if you do, you have a chance of going to heaven. On the surface the best conclusion is quite obvious. Choose to believe, because if you’re wrong there are no repercussions as opposed to not believing (in which if you’re wrong there are major repercussions).

In reality there aren’t just two options, there are several gods and denominations to pick from. What masqueraded as a fifty-fifty chance now shows to be a one in a million chance. Nearly all gods have been described as jealous. If you pick the wrong god and worship him, this will greatly anger the real God. Probability dictates that your best chance would be to not worship any god. Reason being, you will be acquitted of idolatry when your judgment comes (God really doesn’t like idolatry, see Ezekiel 8:3).

If you choose to worship a god, you have a one in a [insert number of gods here] chance of going to heaven, with the other percentage being your risk of perdition. Rather if you worship no god you might make a compelling case by stating you chose not to risk putting yourself at the top of his smite list.

Using the parameters of Pascal’s logic one comes to a conclusion that doesn’t make the argument useful when proselytizing. Try again Pascal.

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  2 comments for “Was Pascal Wrong?

  1. February 26, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Yeah, there are lots of problems with Pascal’s wager.

    • February 26, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Very true haha. By the way, I just read “Not Evil, Still Free.” Interesting take on what I see as a supporting argument for my “Exploring Free Will” post. Check it out!

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