|What is Pascal's Wager?
Blaise Pascal who lived from 1623-1662 was a French mathematician and philosopher.
Based upon mathematical probability, he formulated an arguement to show that it is rational to believe in God and irrational to deny Him.
The basic idea is that if we live our lives believing that God exists, at the end of our lives we gain everything*; but if He doesn't, then the believer loses nothing when they die.
However, if one lives their lives in rejection of God and He does exist, when they die, the non-believer loses everything. And even if they are correct and God doesn't exist- they still gain naught.
As to be expected, there were and are some today who sought to discredit Pascal's logic; one arguement being that one could apply the wager to any religion.
But that would be subtle intellectual dishonesty as this article shall clearly elicit.
*It should be pointed out though that a mere belief in God's existance will not save a person.
Read the 'Christianity vs. Religion' page for details.
Pascal's Wager ver. 1.2 by George Atkinson
Most atheists love to point out that Pascal's wager is flawed.
But, I think they are overlooking something, or worse, being intellectually dishonest in their approach to looking at the wager. Also, when I debunk the fact that it is flawed, then the normal cop-out is to move the goal posts by saying something to the effect of: "Gee, do you really think God would want people to believe in him out of fear of going to hell?" or "Do you think God wants us to gamble on the best religion?" Which is a whole other issue. The point with the wager is that sometimes you have to overcome intellectual barriers that keep people from looking farther into the idea that God exists.
Certainly no one should believe in God so as to obtain a form of fire insurance. But like I alluded to above, the wager opens the mind to accept the fact that belief in God is just as logical, if not more logical than non-belief, or even disbelief.
The reason most atheists point to, in order to dismiss the wager, is they claim there are more than just two choices. (a.k.a. False dilemma). But what they are doing is sort of sneaky and subtle, but it is there none-the-less. They are pretending to view the wager as if they are a theist. But they are not. They are borrowing our theistic paradigm, in order to dismiss the analogy.
because if you are an atheist, then it is silly to say "how do I know if God is the right one, what if zeus is right, or what if the pink fairy god is the right one.." because you lack belief in all of them, why would you suddenly pretend to believe in the plausability of many just because someone mentions one of them?
I guess if we were trying to get you to play the lottery. And you said "I don't believe any number combo will win, I think it's fixed." and we said, hey, pick these 6 numbers. And you were like, 'why these six numbers?' why not this other set of numbers or this other set?
But earlier you said you didn't think any set would win, so why are you lobbying for some other set? If you think the game is rigged, then simply say "nope, I don't believe your set of numbers will win, nor any other." My set of 6 numbers should rest on their own merit. They should not be compared to another set of numbers that you've already pre-determined cannot win.
If it still doesn't make sense, then follow this schematic:
1. YOU: "I don't think any set of 6 numbers will result in me winning this lottery."
2. ME: Here, try this set. I believe it will work for you. This is the winning set of numbers for you.
3. YOU: "But how do I know that this other set right here won't win for me? Or this one?"
4. ME: Because in #1, you said you don't believe any set of 6 numbers will win for you. Are you back pedaling so soon?
So if #3 is correct, and you think that some other set may win for you, then #1 was dishonest, or you have since changed your mind and are no longer a strong atheist concerning this lottery.
But if #1 is correct, then #3 is dishonest and misleading.
a.k.a. Red Herring
Some have said that the reason for the momentary 'false' paradigm shift is to make use of the reductio ad absurdum argument, where a hypothesis is assumed for the sake of argument only, and refuted afterwards by showing that it would have absurd consequences.
But even if that were true, the odds are still better to wager on the God of the Bible.
If you make no wager what-so-ever, then you automatically lose. However, if you at least wager on one god then you have a chance. And you can increase those odds by going with the God of the Bible since He is recognized by the big 3 religions in the world. Billions of people. This is one case where you can appeal to the masses. If you have ever participated in paramutual wagering, you will usually see which horse or which dog has the best chance of winning just based on the fact that 70% of the people are picking that horse/dog. Maybe they know something, maybe they are just being lemmings. But you certainly don't want to wager on the mutt with a gimp leg. That's what all these other 'gods' are. Mutts compared to God.
And still others say, well what if there were a conceivable god who would reward the unbeliever and punish the heretic?
Number one, this is borderline solipsism. Descartes said "How do we know we are not dreaming?" This has been viewed by most intellegent thinkers as an absurd way to think.
What if worms had machine guns. Analysis paralysis. Do nothingism.
If your wager is to not wager, in the hopes/belief that there is a god that will reward your unbelief in any gods, then are you still an atheist? You are allowing a deity to determine your beliefs, and you cannot do that unless you believe he actually exists. If you are abstaining because he MIGHT exist, then you are making a wager on a dog with a gimp leg. There are better choices to 'maybe' with. Jehovah is the best one.
The way I picture the scene is you and I standing in a coliseum, and we have heard rumors that the Emporer wants us to battle the lions, but we have not heard from him directly. There are several items laying on the ground in front of us, and the doors to the lions cages have not opened yet. On the ground there are two 3 foot long sticks, and two very small knives with 3" blades, and rumor has it that if you run over to the far side of the stadium and stand next to the bannister by the lion's cage, someone will slip you a weapon from the stands, but it is unknown if this is true, or even what kind of weapon you'd get. So now I survey the weapons and look at the crowd and determine that it is probably true that there is going to be a lion fight today, but I don't know for a fact. Regardless, I choose the best weapon that I think will give me the best shot, the small knife. If I start getting mauled I plan on using it to try to stab his eye or try to get at his brain somehow, or jab it's throat.
You on the other hand survey the scene and believe that there is no reason to believe the rumor. And, you add that even if there was, how do we know the stick will help us win? or the knife? and you go about pointing out the inadequacies of each item. You decide "Well, even if there is a lion match, I believe that the emporer will save me, even if I do not choose to fight, or select a weapon. Then I say, well why don't you grab this other knife just in case? And you say "how do we know the weapon I might get over at the bannister won't be better?" And I say "ok fine, go see." And you say "Why? I don't believe there is going to be a match." and then you add "Besides, how do we know that this isn't a test, and he will reward the one that doesn't fight? How do you know that some spring loaded walls won't shoot up all around us at the very last second, protecting us, and the fellow holding a weapon loses? Maybe he will reward my bravery?"
This is why I said it is solipsism, it's the same as asking how we know we are not part of someone else's dream. I mean I suppose anything's possible. But do you live the other aspects of your daily life thinking like a solipsist? Do you not slam on your brakes before a wreck, deciding that since you can't be sure your brakes won't fail, you have just as much chance of the car in front of you being a hologram, or a hallucination? NO! You jam on the brakes with both feet! Because it has the highest chance of success. Inaction does have a chance of succeeding, albeit very slim to none, but why bet on a limping horse?
Someone said to me once: (paraphrasing)
"Any religion that would allow another religion in that has
such conflicting viewpoints will probably allow those who
lack belief in god also. So really, our odds are the same. "
But they are not. They're betting on some 'opposite day' god, that has a twisted sense of humor. "I'll reward those that disbelieve in all gods, and punish those that have chosen incorrectly.. MU-HU-HA-HA!"
or else the god of apathy "who cares what they believed or didn't believe, I'm rescuing them all." (or worse: "I'm killing them all regardless." ) That would mean that if he/she/it existed, then they set up this time on earth for absolutely no reason. This type of god doesn't explain the problem of evil and is highly illogical. I suppose there is such a thing as a hypothetical 'mean god' who is evil and is somewhat like the opposite day god, but he will take everyone and punish or reward people with no rhyme or reason regardless of their beliefs or inaction, but there is no way to please this god and no way to better our odds, so we dismiss this one and determine that it doesn't matter what I do, at least if I believe in one that makes more sense, then I have a chance with that god AND this mean god.
they said it themselves:
"Any religion that would allow another religion in that has
such conflicting viewpoints will probably allow those who lack belief in god also"
This means that if there is a god of apathy, and he will take those that believed in other god(s) or none at all,(or worse, "I'll kill them no matter how they believed") which is what your inaction places it's hope in, then you can better your odds by at least choosing one other god to believe in.
with your inaction, if no god(s) exist(s), then you WIN!
Oh wait, what did you win? and the only other way you can win is if there is a god of apathy. So you have a chance of winning 0, and a chance at winning 1. So 0+1= 1.
If you choose Jehovah, since He not only has the most adherants, but we have eyewitness testimony and we have a historically authentic figure named Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God etc.. Then if there are no gods then you lose, but that is the same as saying you win 0. If He does exist, then you win 1. So it appears that the odds are the same 0+1=1. BUT let's evaluate the two 1's.
Is there any evidence for this god of apathy?
You could claim that the evidence for him is his apathetic stance toward revealing himself/herself/itself. Ok, I suppose that is at least something, but can we really determine that this god is showing apathy? or just that IF he existed, and IF he/she/it were apathetic, then his/her non appearance would be consistent with what we currently see? I say yes, that is all we can determine. We cannot say there is apathy, we can only say, IF he exists, and IF he is apathetic, then what we can see would be evidence of his existence.
Sort of like me claiming there is a god of nothingness. Anytime you see nothing, you see him. Now the other part of the equation is that since this god would hypothetically be apathetic, we can't realy be sure what his plan is, or whether he would follow through with it, so even if we win by inaction, then we don't necessarily win a full 1. So we will downgrade his 1, to .50. His alleged apathy makes him questionable as to whether he would just kill us all anyway, and we really have no evidence for this god what-so-ever. We have as much evidence for him as we do the god of nothingness.
Now the God Jehovah, has mountains of evidence. Whether you accept all this evidence is up to the individual. But what we can say for sure is that there is more evidence for this God than the god of apathy. Otherwise you would not see so many great debates between atheists and Christians, with both sides making valid points, and nothing being settled over the years. The Bible has withstood tremendous scrutiny and remains one of the most reliable texts preserved throughout our history. This God, like the god of apathy, may or may not exist, but if He does, He gets upgraded to a 2 due to the evidences, His promises, His intervention in mankind's situation, His substitution and atonement etc.. etc.. Let's face it, if both the god of apathy and Jehovah were alive and in a contest for best god then hands down Jehovah wins.
Just because people try to paint Him in a bad light does not mean it is true. Likewise, some people claim the god of apathy slaughtered billions of dinosaurs and forced cavemen to eat their putrified bowels. I'm not saying that's true, that's just what I heard.
So I say the odds of inaction are not as good as the odds of choosing the best God for the job.