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Pascal’s Wager


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ch871223 The mathematician, Blaise Pascal, had a theory on belief in god—he supposed that one was far better to wager on god’s existence than not. His theory is not a wager as to if god exists or not but rather he had a cost benefit analysis whereby he said that if you believe in god you will get more benefit than if you don’t if god actually exists as opposed to if he doesn’t exist than you are in the same place as someone who has spent their whole life as an atheist. So in basic terms if god exists and you believe in him then you get more than you would get than if you were in any other position.

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As you can see Pascal had worked it all out in terms of the best bet to gain the most. Most of you will of course have seen the problems with this kind of argument already. First, one cannot force oneself to believe in god—if you don’t believe in god and pretend to worship by attending services and adapting your morals to suit your religion’s and you end up at the pearly gates where you are greeted by an al-knowing god that knew that you had just been paying lip services to him all your life. You see this just won’t do—if you are unable to believe then you cannot just fain it—to borrow a phrase from a famous theist Martin Luther—‘Here I stand, I can do no other’.

Or suppose that you die and you are confronted by Zeus and he demands to know why you didn’t believe in him? Surely if he is anything like the old testament god that hates false idols you would be better not believing in any gods rather than the wrong one! Then there’s the anti-Pascal wager[1] idea that is if you could bet on god not existing and live a better life now like by not wasting time by worshiping you could bet on him not being there and get more out of the here-and-now.


[1] Dawkins, R., “The God Delusion” (Transworld Publishers, 2006) at p105

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