Thursday, June 01, 2006

Betting On Pascal

Pascal's Wager

A simple translation: "Either God exists or He doesn't. If you believe in God and He doesn't exist you lose nothing. If you don't believe in God and He does exist you lose everything. Therefore the smart wager would be to believe."

I notice a considerable amount of effort and time has gone into refuting the wager. I've read some of them. I always thought it was relatively simple. I am surprised that so few are willing to support it. Intimidation by logic? Why are all these people so dedicated to arguing against this wager? They could simply dismiss it. But they want a support network. They don't want to go to hell alone perhaps? Just kidding, I know you intellectuals and science types don't accept the existence of hell or heaven. So what do you want to believe? That your existence just ends abruptly? That your consciousness is absorbed by a cosmic collective? Seems like you could fit that into the wager. You don't believe in Pascal's Christian God? Replace it with your own then.

I have never looked at this as more than a statement of belief and why it's a good thing. Nothing more or less. I have no interest in the fact that it doesn't account for other religions or other gods. I do not care that it "assumes" a probability of >0 for the existence of God or that we need to make a presupposition based on a "finite" chance of God's existance. Why not mold it to your personal belief system? Why work so hard on disproving something unless you have an uncertainty. If you have uncertainty than you don't truly believe. You say hedging your bets would be perceived as such by God and denied? But there would have to be a god for that to happen. I don't get it... it seems you have already made your bet.

Is it really so harmful, so wrong for someone to accept this wager? You say there is a downside, that indeed there is something to lose. You might waste your time. You might mislead others. So what do you choose to live for instead? For attainment and/or recognition? Science can prove no doubt that a human dies and no longer uses his earthly acquisitions. You bring up all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion? I would like to suggest that there are committed theologies of pacifism and kindness. I would offer that atrocities have been committed that trangress all belief and non-belief systems.

It doesn't account for the 'type' of penalty or reward? Plug in your desired objectives or definitions of what it means to gain or lose everything. What would you hope to gain? What would you fear the most in the choice of undesired consequences? If you did believe in God what would He be? If you don't believe you are simply taking the 'other' wager are you not? Oh, you're not betting? Then why are you wasting your time arguing against it?

The key word is 'believe'. Maybe he shouldn't have called it a wager. Maybe it should just be a statement of belief: "I believe it is smart to believe in God" or "My belief is an act of faith". Nothing scientific there--completely subjective. Is that better for you? Or are you saying that no man is capable of belief? I'm pretty sure you're not going to take that track. Mankinds' beliefs are deep-seated and they are in evidence every day.

If you care to read further:

Wikipedia on Pascal's Wager
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Alternate Articles at