Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pascal’s Wager. I’ll take that bet!

Blaise Pascal, 17th century religious philosopher and mathematician, is famous for what is known as “Pascal’s Wager”. In short it posits that since the existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven, it is a better “wager” to believe than to not believe, since with belief you have nothing to lose. With disbelief, if God does exist you’re screwed.

Naturally that logic only works if the possibility of a god existing happens to be the one god you pick to worship. Problem is, if a god existed it could well be one of the thousands and thousands of gods man has worshipped for time immemorial… or even another god that man’s mind has yet to conceive. Thus, if one picks a specific god to worship, the odds of THAT GOD being THE GOD, the CORRECT GOD, is from a mathematical perspective, rather small…infinitely tiny.

So as oppose to having nothing to lose, a Christian may well find themselves confronting a god who is pissed as hell that his creation has been worshipping the wrong god and giving the wrong god all the credit his whole life. Homer Simpson figured it out when he said: “But Marge, suppose we've chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we're just making him madder and madder."

In fact, there’s a good possibility (better than even odds I say) that said god being would be more sympathetic toward an atheist who worshipped no god because there was no supporting evidence for any. If nothing else, atheism demonstrates the admirable quality of reason and logic that, presumably, this being would have wanted man to demonstrate…seeing as how this god would have provided those attributes to man in the first place.

Believe in God because you’ve got “nothing to lose and everything to gain”?? Yeah…nothing to lose except your ability to reason and logic; your grasp on reality; a loss of self sufficiency; and conducting your life encumbered by inane dogma and superstitious fears.


Anonymous said...

Another issue that Pascal Wager fails to address is can you get yourself to 'truly' believe in a God(s) based on such a bet? (for those who truly believe, would such a bet be necessary anyways?).

I suspose, one can PRETEND to believe, but I've been told by believers (without exception) that PRETENDING doesn't cut it when you're faced with God(s) at judgement time...

To drive home this point in another way, as a Christian, would such a wager about Allah being the true God (and Jesus is just a prophet) enable you to BELIEVE that Islam is true? I doubt it, so why do you think such a wager is anymore convincing to an atheist?

- Fastthumbs

DromedaryHump said...

Good point, Fast.

Indeed, telling me that if I don't believe in alien abductors that they will treat me worse than if I do believe isn't about to make me start believing in alien abductions.

I would imagine that Pascal's argument would be only viable with those who are on the fence, or perhaps to cement believers to their faith.

Naturally, in both cases, the targets would have to be weak minded, suseptable to such a faulty premise.


OJ said...

Pascal's Wager is clearly so flawed, and yet people willingly cite it over and over as reason to believe. The liberal Christian fellowship on my campus struggles with the clear contrast between what the bible says and what we know based on reality, but in the end they always breathe a sigh of relief and grab hold of their religion again when they remember the Wager. It reminds me of Dennett's idea of "belief in belief." Any sensible person can see that religion is bunk, but they want to believe, and Pascal's Wager gives them a good reason to, as long as they don't think about it too hard.