Pascal's Wager

argument that posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not

Pascal's wager is the name for an idea by Blaise Pascal. He said that it is not possible to prove or disprove that God exists and that when it comes to God’s existence, we are taking a big risk. Pascal thought it is better to bet that God exists, and therefore to live accordingly. If God exists, we could gain a lot, like eternal happiness in Heaven, but if God did not exist it would make no difference. For this reason, it would be better to believe in God, Pascal said.[1] Critics say it's impossible to prove God's existence and that true belief should not be based on what we might gain.

Pascal's argument is that reason and intellect cannot decide the question of whether God exists or not; therefore, it makes sense to choose the option that would benefit us most should we be right, and harm us the least should we be wrong. Accordingly, the options would be :

1. You may live a religious and moral life and be rewarded by eternal happiness.

2. You may live a pleasure-seeking life and be denied eternal happiness.

3. You may live a religious and moral life, but it makes no difference because there is no God (or eternal life).

4. You may live a pleasure-seeking life, but it makes no difference because there is no God (or eternal life).

For Pascal, the first option is the most important one, because it represents the maximum gain and [avoids the maximum] loss. Even if it should turn out that there is no God, the risk of deciding against such a possibility means that we should choose that option.

The case against Pascal's wager change

The argument from inconsistent revelations shows we have no idea which hell to avoid since many different religions exist with different beliefs about hell. Within religions there are different denominations and sects with different ideas about heaven and hell. If we try to avoid the hell that Christians believe in we are at risk from the hell Muslims believe. So it goes on. Perhaps God does not like people who accept Pascal's Wager but god may not mind that atheists doubt. Atheists and believers could both be in trouble or neither could be in trouble.

  1. A moral and loving god that deserves respect will not mind when people doubt and do not believe in it for rational reason. Such a god will not punish us for critical thinking or for doubting statements from other imperfect human beings.
  2. A moral and loving god that deserves respect will disapprove when believers accept immoral acts that are in religious texts. One example is Abraham being ready to sacrifice Isaac in the Old Testament. A good god would want Abraham to value compassion more than fear and loyalty and to spare Isaac. A good god would reward Abraham for sparing Isaac. A moral and loving god that deserves respect will condemn very many cases of genocide also in the Old Testament and will disapprove when believers imagine genocide can be moral. [2]

Importance in history change

Pierre de Fermat and Pascal created probability theory. Pascal's Wager was very important for the time, because it did new things with probability theory. It is also one of the first tries to use the concept of infinity, and the first use of decision theory. It was important for other philosophers who developed the ideas of pragmatism and voluntarism.[3]

References change

  1. "Pascal's Wager".
  2. The End of Pascal's Wager
  3. Alan Hájek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy