Pascal's Wager

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Pascal's Wager (or Pascal's Gambit) the name for an idea that Blaise Pascal had. He said that it is not possible to prove or disprove that God exists. Therefore, it is better to bet that God exists. If God existed, and the person believed in god, he would be rewarded (with happiness forever); if the person did not believe, he would be punished (with what is called eternal damnation). If God did not exist it would make no difference. For this reason, it would be better to believe in God, Pascal said. Indeed, Pascal strongly believed in this ideal.

The case against Pascal's Wager[change | change source]

What sort of god gives no clear proof that it exists but punishes us eternally if we do not believe in it? Such a god looks nasty and spending eternity with it does not look pleasant. A god like that would be less moral than most humans and we cannot trust such a god to keep promises.

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 their 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. [1] [2]

Further three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim worshiping other gods is sinful. We have no proof that any particular deity is real and can easily choose the wrong god. Therefore we are safer worshiping a god or gods that are less exclusive and will not punish us for making the wrong choice.

Importance in history[change | change source]

Pierre de Fermat along with 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 | change source]