family and crossDo you believe in God? Should you believe in God?

In the seventeenth century, the mathematician Blaise Pascal presented an argument for the belief in God, which is as follows:

  1. If you erroneously believe in God, then when you die, you lose nothing (assuming that death is the absolute end and there is eternal “nothingness”);
  2. If you correctly believe in God, then when you die, you gain everything (a heavenly, infinite existence);
  3. If you correctly disbelieve in God, then when you die, you gain nothing (death is absolute and ends all)
  4. If you erroneously disbelieve in God, then when you die, you lose everything (eternal damnation).
PASCAL’S WAGER
IF GOD EXISTS…
IF GOD DOESN’T EXIST…
IF I BELIEVE IN GOD…
(A) Go to Heaven
(B) Nothing happens
IF I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD…
(D) Go to Hell
(C) Nothing happens

Now place your wager: how will you bet?

Regardless of any evidence for or against the existence of God, Pascal argued that failure to accept God’s existence risks losing everything with no potential reward, and that your best bet is to accept the existence of God, because you at least have a chance of some positive gain.

There are several clear objections to Pascal’s wager, which, once analyzed, render it invalid:

  1. Assuming God is omniscient (all-knowing), He would not reward belief in Him based solely on your bet that He exists (that is, He’d know that you’re just gambling you way into Heaven and eternal bliss, and that you don’t really believe)
  2. A person cannot simply will himself to believe something that is evidently false to him;
  3. The wager must apply as much to belief in the wrong God as it would to disbelief in all gods, leaving the gambler no further ahead;

In response to a girl asking, “What if you’re wrong?” about Pascal’s Wager to Richard Dawkin’s, he replied:

“Well, what if I’m wrong, I mean… anybody could be wrong. We could all be wrong about the flying spaghetti monster and the pink unicorn and the flying tea pot. Uhm, you happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in the Christian faith. You know what it’s like to not believe in a particular faith because you’re not a Muslim. You’re not a Hindu. Why aren’t you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India. If you had been brought up in Indu- in India, you’d be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in… in uh.. Denmark in the time of the Vikings you’d be believing in Wotan and Thor. If you were brought up in classical Greece you’d be believing in, in Zeus. If you were brought up in central Africa you’d be believing in the great Ju-Ju up the mountain. There’s no particular reason to pick on the Judeo-Christian god, in which by the sheerest accident you happen to have been brought up and, and ask me the question, “What if I’m wrong?” What if you’re wrong about the great Ju-Ju at the bottom of the sea?”

How will you bet on Pascal’s Wager? Will you even play?