Pascal’s Wager

Pascal proposes that there are two decisions to make; to believe in God, or to not believe in God. If you don’t believe then you are risking damnation, but if you do believe, you have a chance of going to heaven. On the surface the best conclusion is quite obvious. Choose to believe, because if God does not exist there will be no repercussions, but if you choose not to believe and God does exist, then there will be major repercussions.

In reality, there aren’t only two options, though. 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 anything. 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 for yourself 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, or debating. Arguments of faith shouldn’t be based on arguments of probability, especially when the probability of being right is extremely low.

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  10 comments for “Pascal’s Wager

  1. March 29, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    I think an additional problem with pascal’s Wager lies in the assumption that belief is essentially a function of choice.

    • March 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      That’s a great point.

      • March 29, 2015 at 10:01 pm

        Thank you.

      • March 29, 2015 at 10:04 pm

        If belief was a matter of choice, then things would be much different. Those who struggle with their faith wouldn’t struggle, they would just choose to believe and that would be that. It’s not that simple, though.

      • March 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

        Absolutely. I can see how choice may enter the margins of belief, but those choices are also made in the context of great restraint. I could not simply choose to believe that my black chair is really red. I could choose to say that it was, and perhaps with a lifetime of work I could somehow twist my mind into something resembling a belief of that kind, but I certainly could not just choose to think it red right now and move on from there.

      • March 29, 2015 at 10:16 pm

        And our time would be better spent choosing to find out what things are actually true, as opposed to convincing ourselves what we want to believe is true.

      • March 29, 2015 at 10:18 pm

        I agree whole-heartedly.

  2. March 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Pascal’s Wager also assumes that there is no loss in believing in a god other than some afterlife possiblities. Time and resources can be wasted if one doesn’t get the right god.

    • March 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      This is very true. A life spent dedicated to science and elevating the quality of life for humankind is better than a life spent worshipping the wrong god. If a benevolent deity exists, by the definition of benevolent, he must prefer the former.

  3. Matthew Chiglinsky
    April 14, 2015 at 11:26 am

    The fallacy is that you cannot choose what you believe, and worship will not buy your way into Heaven either, because “God” knows the truth of your innermost nature.

    Many “Christians” will burn in Hell, while many “atheists” will ascend to Heaven.

    [Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.”

    “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'”

    “But they paid no attention and went off — one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”

    “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

    “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.”

    “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

    “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”]

    (Matthew 22:1-14)

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