Monday, May 4, 2009

Pascal's Wager

Last update on 2009-09-09.

Blaise Pascal attempts to prove that belief in God is a "better deal" than disbelief since, given the possibility of his existence, the end result is either irrelevant in the case that he doesn't exist, or eternal happiness in the case that he exists. If you disbelieve, the result is either irrelevant in the case that he does not exist and eternal suffering in the case that he exists.
  • My first objection to this is that it doesn't make any attempt to prove that God exists. It's not because of the pleasantness of a belief, or how much I can gain or lose if it's true, that it IS true. What this attempts to show is completely unrelated with truth.

  • This argument presupposes that you can simply choose to believe but belief is the word we use when we're convinced that something is true and is not choice; we call wishful thinking when we want something to be true. Even if we accept the potential overall benefits of Pascal's wager, we would still be unable to truly believe that God exists solely on that basis. The best we could do would be to pretend to believe in God which I'm sure wouldn't be good enough anyway.

  • In defense of Pascal, even though he never ended his apologetics, it can be said that his original intentions go further than this. He thought that if you'd go through the motions of being a Christian as a consequence of the wager, you would actually come to know that God exists. He tries to remove the obstacle of having to know that God exists prior to any attempt at a spiritual relationship with Him. Of course that claiming that God's existence can only be proved by a personal experience of Him will put the theist in an epistemological standoff with any atheist that was once a Christian and doesn't share the same personal experience so it can't be used as an argument for God's existence. This would be analogous to an atheist arguing that God does not exist because he feels this powerful, personal, inner experience of the absence of God.

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