Pascal’s Wager

*****Updated 10/25/2011*****

I wrote this back in 2007.  Since that time I think I have grown as a person and have a little be more patience when it comes to theist arguments including Pascal’s Wager.  I present this older post again as a way to both remind myself of a time when I was a little bit more angry and to hopefully show some level of maturity as the years have progressed.  I still argue that Pascal’s Wager is rubbish but I suspect I could make the argument in a more eloquent (and less sarcastic) way.

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I seem to be getting to a point in my life where I can no longer stand by and allow the religious right to espouse their philosophy while not living by their own rules. I am regularly told how I am going to “burn in hell” by people who are morally corrupt. Usually I just laugh and shrug it off, but the urge in my heart to stand up and at least point out the hypocrisy of those around me is growing. I recently had a discussion, and by discussion I mean I was subject to stream of “hell awaits you” type arguments, that centered around one flawed argument for believing in God. Instead of excusing myself from the fight, I offered what I believe to have been counterpoint. Somethings, however, just don’t get through to some people.

I am constantly presented with Pascal’s Wager as a reason to believe in God. The shortest way to explain the argument is that it is safer to go ahead and believe in God because you don’t want to die and only THEN find out there really is a magical old man with a sadistic streak looking for a reason set you on fire for eternity.” Simply put, being a Christian is like having afterlife insurance.

I usually counter this argument with a very simple explanation that this is not a good reason to be a Christian because it lacks the basis of true faith. The faithful person does not need the threat of hell to believe in God and his shorty, J.C. In fact, I argue that anyone using Pascal’s Wager as part of their belief system will be sitting right next to me when it comes time to ride the elevator to the basement after taking our eternal dirt nap. If God is as powerful as the Christians make him out to be, he will see right through that bullshit argument and send those casual followers straight to the lake of fire along with the murderers and rapists. True faith is not the same thing as being afraid of hell.

The thought that comforts me here is that if I am wrong then I will have a lot of company. Sadly, that would be my definition of hell. Maybe there is something to the whole idea after all. You would not have to burn me alive to punish me for eternity, just put me in a room with a bunch of casual Christians. I’d be begging for forgiveness within an hour.

What brings this topic up is a blog post I think I found through digg.com today. The post is a decent rebuttal of Pascal’s Wager. I especially like this sentence near the end of the argument:

“By dividing humanity amongst different sects with conflicting ideology and allowing war in His name, God is evil.”

The simple fact that the Christian religion comes in more flavors than Kool-Aid should be enough to prove the invalidity of the faith. Does it really make sense that man’s one hope for salvation comes in the form of a Mad-Lib? Take one principle from column A, one from Column B, and one from Column C, put them together and BLAM, there ya go. Convenient sure, but certainly not something a rational person should fall for. At least the Catholics stick to their guns when it comes to the principles of their faith. Protestants, on the other hand, shape the religion to fit their lifestyle. Not only that, but if you don’t like what your church is saying, screw them and go form your own church. Just don’t forget to give your 10%. God gotta eat I guess. If not that, God gotta buy a bunch of land to put up a mega-church right?

I’m getting off topic here and it is time to reign it back in. I was presented yet again with Pascal’s Wager just last week. I challenged the person to take the argument to his priest, minister, or reverend to find out what they had to say. I promised him $20.00 bucks if that religious figure told him that believing in God out of fear of hell was part of the road to paradise. He has yet to claim the cash. I would like to think that he is re-evaluating his faith. I doubt it. However, if I am wrong about Christianity and my friend doesn’t come to a better understanding of his God, at least I’ll know someone when I get to the pit of doom.

Don’t forget, bring your sunscreen.


Comments

Pascal’s Wager — 3 Comments

  1. I recently came across a good quote to remember…….
    When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow——-Anais Nin

  2. I think a true Christian DOES constantly question why s/he believes what s/he does, because for faith to be real, it certainly needs to grow.
    And I don’t think your argument that there are many sects proves there is no God (or that God is evil) is valid. Many denominations or sects don’t necessarily believe that people who belong to the “wrong” sect will necessarily go to hell. Most Christians I know believe that if you live a good life, and accept God and JC, then you will go to heaven regardless of your sect.
    Sects fighting “in God’s name” does not prove anything about God — evil is done in the name of good more often that any of us would like to believe.
    I agree with you that the religious right is often hypocritical, and it irks me to no end that they call themselves Christian. I’m just sorry that that seems to be your ONLY experience with people of faith.

  3. You’re absolutely right. Proving God doesn’t exist or that God is evil is impossible. I think some evidence points to those conclusions, but a final resolution of the issue is unattainable. It comes down to faith. I can’t argue with faith because proof is unnecessary to be faithful.
    I can’t prove fairies don’t exist either. I can say I have never seen one, no one has every captured one, and that I don’t see any good reason to believe in them, but I can’t prove they don’t exist. For some reason, however, millions of people find it very easy to believe in God but not so much in fairies. God has a much more effective PR team in the church than what the fairies have at their disposal.
    Don’t get the wrong impression, I get along well with Christians. We share much of the same morality even if it derives from different sources. It is the small subset of Christians who feel like it is their duty to lecture me about my eternal soul when they themselves do not understand their own beliefs. A good proponent of Christianity would never use Pascal’s Wager as it is a very weak argument which ultimately was the meat of my post.

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