Pascal’s Wager – Does it Succeed?

I visit many different forums that have many different discussions. Most of these forums has an “off-topic” section where people discuss things that are not related to what the forum is for. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert in philosophy, but I do know enough to identify good and bad arguments for both sides. Keep in mind I don’t mean that every argument that fails is a bad argument, I just mean ones that are not even thought-provoking to start with. That is how I categorize these things.

But where does Pascal’s Wager fit in? For those who are not familiar with it, allow me to briefly explain it. Wouldn’t it be safer to simply believe things that you believe to be false? Even if you are 99% sure that God does not exist, why take the risk? Either you burn in hell for all eternity, or you go to church every Sunday. What seems easier to you?

Now, I know many people who are Christians because of this argument. So it has to have some merit to it. But there are problems that I see to accepting this. One, how exactly would it make my life better? I disagree with many things that the bible says, such as homosexuality. So accepting the theistic God means accepting theistic ethics. If we all thought that way, then that would not be a wager I am willing to fold on. I also believe that if God does exist, he may reward honest attempted reasoning rather than blind faith. He did give us free will after all. Richard Carrier expands on this as such:

Suppose there is a god who is watching us and choosing which souls of the deceased to bring to heaven, and this god really does want only the morally good to populate heaven. He will probably select from only those who made a significant and responsible effort to discover the truth. For all others are untrustworthy, being cognitively or morally inferior, or both. They will also be less likely ever to discover and commit to true beliefs about right and wrong. That is, if they have a significant and trustworthy concern for doing right and avoiding wrong, it follows necessarily that they must have a significant and trustworthy concern for knowing right and wrong. Since this knowledge requires knowledge about many fundamental facts of the universe (such as whether there is a god), it follows necessarily that such people must have a significant and trustworthy concern for always seeking out, testing, and confirming that their beliefs about such things are probably correct. Therefore, only such people can be sufficiently moral and trustworthy to deserve a place in heaven — unless god wishes to fill heaven with the morally lazy, irresponsible, or untrustworthy.[1]

One could also turn it around on the theist and argue he is also placing a wager. Because how is he so certain that theism is true? Why not Islam, or Scientology? The obvious response is that he finds it to be more likely through reason. But that’s just it! I also find atheism to be more likely than theism so that just defeats the argument altogether.


[1] – The End of Pascal’s Wager: Only Nontheists Go to Heaven

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2 Responses to Pascal’s Wager – Does it Succeed?

  1. hello!This was a really magnificentsuper theme!
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  2. Jay Holland says:

    To me,Pascal’s wager is a useless canard. It is not that I simply CHOOSE not to believe, or I don’t want to believe, I CAN’T believe. I could proclaim to believe. I could go through the motions and even convince others that I do believe. But, if God truly can “see into my heart”, what good would any of that do? Why would I, or anyone else, be going to those lengths? There would be only two reasons. It would only be out of either a sense of self-serving FEAR, or self-serving GREED. That is what I see as the most insidious nature of religion. It preys on the basest elements of human nature and exploits the frightened and weak-willed among us. That is what Hitchens called the bribe and the blackmail, that religion offers. No one understands this more than the TV evangelist. This is why they target those who are old, ill, and desperate. For those are the fertile fields from which they harvest their “bounty”.

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