Pascal’s Wager

Over on Facebook, a Christian, named Shawn, attempted to challenge my atheism.  He said: “The way I look at it you have a 50/50 chance of being right. So what happens if you are wrong? I will even ask you this: what happens if you are right?”

The following is my reply . . .

You’re paraphrasing Pascal’s wager, Shawn.  According to Wikipedia . . .

Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal that, even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

First of all, the odds are NOT 50/50.  After all these millennia, if there’s still no concrete evidence of God (or anything else supernatural), the odds are vanishingly small that any exists.

As for Pascal’s wager, it was been debunked a long time ago.  Pascal’s wager assumes that one can choose to believe.  That is not the case.  As Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out, “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.“  If there is a God, does anybody really think we can hoodwink him into thinking we believe in him when we don’t?  Making any concession to God AND thinking you can fool him is just plain nuts.

Then there’s the matter of subordinating your life to fear.  If you act as if you believe in God because you’re afraid of the consequences of not believing, then the core of your identity is wrapped around fear.  It is far better to get off your knees, stand upright and seek answers.

And finally, I’ll turn Pascal’s wager around.  What if there’s NO God and this is the only life you’ll ever have?  Will you surrender your quest for truth and understanding to the authority of a single religion?  After all, there’s thousands of them.  NOW what kind of odds are we talking about, Shawn?

If I’m wrong and there really is a personal God who will condemn me to eternal torture in hell, then I’ll be proud to have lived my life without paying homage to such a monster.  I’ll have all eternity to mock him.  Besides, I’ll have much better company in hell than in heaven (yawn).

If I’m right and there really is no God, then my purpose in life won’t have been wasted on an imaginary sky daddy.  I will have lived without surrendering my quest for truth.  And trust me, Shawn, believing in impossible things (God, heaven, miracles, angels, etc.) IS surrendering your quest.

© Copyright 2011

2 thoughts on “Pascal’s Wager”

  1. I believe that the quality of life increases significantly when standing on your feet rather than on your knees and that piece of logic alone debunks the entire philosophy. Yet, the more that I engage Christians the more I begin to realize that piece of logic eludes them as is completely wasted. Because there are people in this world that are actually hardwired for servitude. They want to be enslaved and actually derive some sort of purpose out of it because the thought of being in control of their own destiny frightens them because they will have nothing to blame. Something good=”God has a plan”, Something bad=”The devil made me do it”. Unwilling to accept the notion that maybe things don’t happen because of supernatural forces. Maybe sometimes things just.. happen.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1338487410 which is not a hashcash value.


    1. Hmmmm, Nowhere Man, your reply was marked as spam (cited invalid hashcash value).

      Anyway, I hate to admit it but I do believe you are right about (far too many) people being afraid to take ownership of their own minds and lives. It might be that religion inculcates a dependent mindset. Or maybe religion attracts dependent mindsets. There are many people in my life, right now, who seem mentally hobbled by lives spent without critical thinking. It’s not just religion that goes unchallenged. It’s all manner of superstitions and beliefs. They give me the heebie jeebies sometimes.


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