Posted by: keherenf | November 27, 2007

Betting on God with Pascal

Ever thought that you would base your belief in God on a bet the same way you would a hand of poker? I certainly never thought I would until the concept was introduced to me by my best friend a few weeks back. The story goes as follows:

French philosopher Blaise Pascal tried to figure out a way in the 1600s to convince atheists to believe in God. In doing so, he developed what is now known as Pascal’s Wager.

The Wager is fairly simple, and is based on the Western tradition God. One of two statements must be true: either God exists, or God does not exist. Likewise, one of the following must also be true: You believe in God or you do not believe in God. So, what should you choose?

pascals-wager-clean.jpg

Pascal puts his chips on believing in God.

Let’s assume that God does not exist. Whether or not you choose to believe in him, the worst that can happen is a finite, temporary loss. You would live life believing in a God which never existed, so when you die you neither gain nor lose anything.

But, let’s assume that God does in fact exist, and your belief in him dictates whether you go to heaven or hell. If he exists and you choose not to believe in him, you will suffer in hell forever. But, if you choose to believe in him and he does exist, you spend an eternity in heaven.

Thus, Pascal argued that just in terms of odds it makes the most sense to believe in God because the loss will never amount to the infinite damnation of choosing not to believe in him if he does exist.

Who would have ever thought that statistics would be linked to the existence of God?

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Responses

  1. haha i spent 2 years studying religious philosophy and theology and you crack down pascal to a blog! that is amazing. and very simplistic of what he was about…but still very accurate.
    the hard thing is that so many scientist and even christians see him as a cop-out gnostic which is really sad. he did quite a lot for the scientific/mathematical side of Christianity. good props

  2. i think itd be good to point out that he is considered one of the founding fathers of modern probability. he practically invented probability theory and then afterwards applied it to this case of a wager for god. haha i like the other comment above… yes things usually r very overstated and a concise version is usually all that is needed.

  3. I figured you would like the conciseness of this one…it was my break from writing my paper so I didn’t have the energy to let anything else flow out lol.

  4. Although it has been said that nobody could be really convinced by Pascal’s wager (you have no true belief if you’re doing it just for heaven) it’s worth noting that the wager fails on many levels.

    First, how does one know the probabilities of said possibilites? If the chance of their being a God is miniscule, then it might be worth the wager to ignore God and concentrate on living a good life, rather than a life he might deem worthy of heaven.

    Second, how does one know God would prefer someone who “believes” in him and chooses said lifestyle? He might prefer the evil people, he might prefer non-believers. In fact, he could be anything. This wager God could be an ancient Greek God, who would send you to hell for believing in him incorrectly. Considering how many Gods you’re denying in “accepting” the wager, it seems altogether useless.


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