Pascal’s gambit

I presume that an education of the world has brought you (whoever -you- are, I apologize for not taking the time to personalize this message) to the conclusion of a truth in atheism. Surely, then, as an educated individual, you have come across in your studies what is referred to as “Pascal’s Gambit”.

If not, this idea, published by Blaise Pascal, explains that because there is no reason to prove or disprove the existence of God, then we must make a wager. If we gamble that God exists and we are right, then we win an eternity of happiness. If we suppose that God does not exist, and we are right, then we have lost or gained nothing, we will die and that will truly be the end. Once we are dead we will have no remorse for what we did while we lived. We will have no consciousness, no rationality, no reason, and no life. That is death without a God.

However, if there is a God, and we wagered to the contrary, then we have lost everything. We have lost eternity in Paradise, and earned infinite pain, everlasting suffering, and agony without end.

The question then is: what risks are we willing to take? Are we so certain, despite the lack of evidence for either argument, that God does not exist simply because he does not cooperate with the laws of the natural world? Or do we accept, even though it is illogical, that God is real for the sake of what we have to lose?

I have decided. This wager, this “Pascal’s Gambit,” uses logic where there is no logic. It reasonably justifies faith in a Creator. Christianity is quite arguably a flawed doctrine overall, and the Bible is certainly easy to misinterpret and is filled with obvious contradictions. But these fallacies are not evidence that God does not exist. There is no evidence of that. Nor is there evidence that He does exist.

Therefore, we must make a wager. God may not play dice, but we can.

I give an overview of my thoughts on Pascal’s Wager in my Why Risk Being an Atheist? tract.

In a nutshell, I think that Pascal is offering two choices where there are many, many choices available. Even if we decided to gamble that a deity exists, what do we do then? We have to then place another wager on which deity exists. And another on whether any religion truly represents the deity’s desires. And another on which religion is interpreting those desires correctly. And another on whether or not choosing our beliefs in this way will please the deity or make it scornful.

In my opinion, Pascal’s wager isn’t much help at all.

Posted on July 19, 2009 at 1:19 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Evidence

8 Responses

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  1. Written by Carly
    on July 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    As Douglas Adams said in an interview with American Atheists,

    “If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.”

  2. Written by Keli
    on August 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Even if Pascal’s Wager were valid and legitimate, if you were to “believe” only to be on the safe side, and god were really omnipotent and omniscient, he would know that you didn’t TRULY believe, but were only pretending in order to avoid eternal damnation. That is “bearing false witness” if I understand the definition correctly, and you will be damned anyhow.

  3. Written by Bob
    on August 19, 2009 at 8:26 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Pascal’s wager is a silly argument. It is equally valid for believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, or Gozer. As to the consequences of being wrong, since no one has been dead before, it is pure conjecture.

    • Written by Hat
      on September 18, 2011 at 4:49 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Do not dis the FSM!!! ;)
      ( sorry, a little tipsy )

  4. Written by Baal
    on January 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    A support group for likeminded mental midgets; we are amused. All of you are right, for you there is no God, no paradise and no reason to live.

    • Written by Anonymous
      on March 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Oh okay Baal, now I’ll convert to Christianity… what a Christ-like thing for you to do!

  5. Written by Garapan
    on May 12, 2011 at 8:23 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Amazing. Hi people. Yes, I’ve just taken the sight seeing tour through Pasquale’s Gambit. A friend referenced it as an ultimate argument he would have cited to an Atheist whom he saw debating with a Christian. Just the very thought of it felt really thin, so I thought I’d look it up. Sure enough, I find nothing in it that would cause an Atheist to believe any differently. Pasquale should have saved his breath on that one.

    And here, this friend believed he would have done a better job arguing the point, and Pasquale was his ace in the hole. I don’t say that to put this friend down, I say that to highlight the point of his own statement- Christians appear so unarmed and unprepared to explain the faith that they hold, to the very point that it appears laughable far too often, and helps no one.

    The reason this saddens to me is because, as a Christian believer who has had so many wondrous and unbelievable interactions with the Living God for myself (and so, simply cannot deny what I know even if it were to cost me my life), and having been rescued from a life of utter horror, pain and death by this same God, it kills me that so few know how to reasonably put forward the basis for that which they believe. It’s almost as if it’s an after thought and not the primary mission it’s meant to be.

    I mean, what is more important, if you see a fire and, perhaps, your neighbor is asleep in the burning house, than to go in and get him out before it kills him? I can’t think of anything more Godly or more Christ-like, nor more important than that. And that is not to stress any point at all about Atheists, but rather, to highlight how remiss is the so called “Fireman”. Aren’t Christians to go forth on the “Great Commission” and spread the good news to every corner of the world? How do you do this without a well considered testimony that others can relate to, and some very convincing arguments that others can refer to?

    I’m going to write something about all this business so that perhaps someone else can begin a new journey into the glory that was intended for all men to share. It’s an ugly tale, full of pain and grief, but it is my tale, and I own my own pain. No one, not even God Himself can take that from me, though He has healed me from its worst debilitations. But that I live, that I still breathe, and that I now thrive, He owns this truth, and not I.

    The only thing I would urge you worthy men, is not to make the mistake of adjudging the perfection of the Creator based on the flaws of the created. That, too, is about as logical as faulting an ant for building a mound instead of the Colosseum. SOME of the evidence for God can be found in SOME men, but the ultimate source is Himself. Who else here dares to look into that invisible place? I have looked. I have also paid dearly for that inquiry, on top of the already unbearable pain that was my life. But that truth takes courage as well as sanity and logic, and the faint of heart will not long remain in the light of life because they will bail when the price gets too high.

    But perhaps it was a benefit to me that I was reckless, fey and feral. I came at God expecting to find a way to kill Him, as if I actually could. I had respect for no man and no concern for any life, especially my own. Maybe there is an element of illogical behavior involved in discovering the truth. Maybe you have to be a little crazy to meet the truth head on. Maybe logic is a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone. I don’t know. I just hope no one ever has to find out the way I did.

    I am whole today in a strange sense, but my scars glare at me like a hospital patient who’s suffered 90% burns over his entire body. There is nothing pretty left about me. So, what have I got to lose by telling you Jesus loves you enough to cream me and allow my life to be destroyed, just so I can tell you so? This is ILLOGICAL to me, just like Christ’s pain on the Cross. I have to wonder- wasn’t there a kinder way to do this?

    But again, I OWN it. No one can ever destroy me again because I am dead. I am Garapan of the Chamurri’s. At the very least, this I’ve gained- I fear nothing, not death, not life, not man, and not any angel or demon in hell. That’s more than what I had, anyway. May you men find even more, than this. May you find the fullness of life, instead. This is what I hope for all men.

    There is too much loss already. Too much pain. I could almost apologize for this often ugly life but God doesn’t need my defense nor my opinion. And like how many men really truly feel, I often hate God. But in truth I don’t actually “hate Him” hate Him. I just hate how the suffering of men, especially mine, doesn’t ever really seem to cost Him anything. But somehow I know I’m wrong, so I just push past myself and go on with what is real. This is real, men. This is honest. This is actually all He asks.

    Peace

  6. Written by bogart
    on August 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    i don’t understand why people are questioning the bile because of “contradictions”?? of course there will be contradictions in the bible because there are different writers in the bible, and there are a lot of words in the bible that came from different people. but as for the WORD of GOD himself which was written in the bible, there are no contradictions because God cannot contradict himself. and dont be deceived, most of the so called Christians today are not really Christians, True Christians from the bible and today are those following laws of Christ which is written in the bible. Catholics, protestants, etc are not really Christians, they are merely called christians

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