Pascal’s Wager and picking the correct God

Pascal’s Wager isn’t an argument for God’s existence, even though it’s often misunderstood to be one.  It’s a cost benefit analysis between believing in or rejecting God.  Skeptics, I believe, are far too dismissive because I don’t think its weight is realized.  The wager holds no power for skeptics because “it doesn’t tell you which god, you need to pick the right God/religion”.  This is because of an over generalization of religions due either to lack of understanding, or refusal to distinguish between them, or both.pascal

Not every religious system bestows salvation to someone who merely believes.  Islam, for example, requires belief and enough good deeds to outweigh your bad — and even then Allah can still decide to exclude you from paradise.  Hinduism is karma driven, and thus based on how you’ve lived and reincarnation is virtually certain, not to mention polytheistic.  Mormonism (LDS) requires absolute moral perfection.  And Buddhism is generally atheistic.  In fact, all religions require the individual to, in essence, earn their way to the heavenly afterlife; you must believe and do good.  That is, except for Christianity.

This is what’s unique about the Christian faith.  There is no way to earn your way to heaven (Romans 4, Ephesians 2).  Salvation is not based upon what you do, but on whom you believe.  It is precisely this detail of Christianity and of no other religious system that makes Pascal’s Wager more effective than is perceived, it’s the only God or religion for which Pascal’s Wager can even apply.  The Wager itself doesn’t allot for belief and behavior.  In this respect Pascal’s belief proposition ends up being a cost benefit analysis for Christianity.  Any old god doesn’t fit his Wager.  No God but the Christian God is capable of satisfying the costs and benefits Pascal’s Wager argues for.

So while Pascal’s Wager is not an argument for the existence of God, it does point one in the direction of Christianity, not any of an array of gods or religious systems.  As far as the Wager is concerned, and Christianity being the only legitimate fit, the Wager is a good and accurate one.  If Christianity is true and you believe, heaven awaits.  If false, other than missing out on a life of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, nothing has been lost.  However, rejecting Christianity can only be a losing bet.

Comments

  1. Even for Islam, as you say “Islam, for example, requires belief and enough good deeds to outweigh your bad — and even then Allah can still decide to exclude you from paradise.”, you still have to believe in the right God. It is irrelevant that it also requires other things. Pascal’s Wager still has the problem of the wrong God.

    What about Stephen Law’s Evil God hypothesis? The exact reverse dynamics are involved. Also, under atheism, this is the only life so there is a cost to “believing” in God .

    Finally, the entire thing breaks down, because belief is not a choice. You cannot will yourself to believe in something that is unconvincing to you, and God would see through any such attempts to do so.

    • Brian, two things: a better word than belief is trust. You could trust, which is an expression and not just a mental state, instead of believe. You’re right that you can’t believe something you don’t believe.

      Second, I understand what you mean when you say it needs to be the right God. My point is that there is only one that even works with the wager. Islam it’s not enough that you believe in/ trust that Allah is God, you must also do other things. The wager only factors the belief in/trust, which is only possible with Christianity.

  2. So from your post, we can conclude a few things:

    1. Christianity is fear-based. Wager incorrectly and an eternity of hell awaits – choose wisely.

    2. Salvation is not based upon actions, only beliefs – so do whatever you want with no fear of accountability since all it takes to go to heaven is having the proper belief.

    The wager itself doesn’t allot for belief and behavior.

    Good to know.

    • Admonitions against chain smoking 3 packs a day and perpetually gorging on deep fried food is also fear based. It doesn’t matter if it’s fear based (it isnt, that’s your caricature), what matters is if it’s true.

      • Yes, truth matters. Unfortunately, you have no evidence to support what you assert to be true. You’re asserting that heaven and hell exist in the first place.

        We have evidence to support the claim that smoking 3 packs a day is harmful. (How did we make this determination again? Wait for it…. – oh yea, science.)

  3. paynehollow says:

    Pasqual’s Wager, fleshed out a bit…

    Pascal's Redux

    ~Dan

  4. paynehollow says:

    Pascal.

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