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Pascal's Wager

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century mathematician. His many notes included a mathematical way of deciding whether to believe in god. His arguments are presented and analysed in Pascal's Wager but essentially he was suggesting that belief in god was the better bet since you had much to gain and nothing to lose.

Can we agree with that? I think not for various reasons, so let's look at the possibilities in turn

If God doesn't exist

The argument goes that in that case you will have lost nothing by a lifetimes futile belief.

In fact that isn't true. You will have lost your freedom to choose your destiny and decide your own actions. Something which most of us prize greatly will have been voluntarily given up. You will have subjugated yourself not to a divine being, but to the false priests who helped trick you into believing.

Your own opinions as to right and wrong will have become irrelevant since all morality is decided by the people who wrote the Bible or by the priests who interpret it to you.

This is the worst kind of slavery where the slave is not even permitted to try to escape and must be thankful to be ruled over.

In this case to disbelieve has many advantages. You will be free to learn and grow and make your own decisions about your life. You may limit your actions, but according to your own morality which you have decided on. You need not feel guilt for things over which you have no control, but only for breaking your own rules of behaviour. You may teach your children what you have learned in your lifetime instead of passing on the arbitrary rules of a mythical being.

If God does exist

Well in this case if you chose to believe then you win a great prize as opposed to an eternity of pain filled torment. Is it as simple as that? Well no it isn't.

The rules are clear enough. If God exists then you will face a judgement and then you will know for the first time which is the true church. You may have devoted your life to good works for the greater glory of God. You may have sacrificed everything to be as pious and obedient as is humanly possible. You may have prayed every day for guidance to be the best possible person. However if you chose wrongly and your church is not the right one then you are damned forever anyway.

Perhaps the true church was the United Reformed Seventh Day Adventist Congregation of the Church of God, perhaps it was the Roman Catholic Church after all. Maybe God wanted you to become a Jew or a Muslim, a Baptist or a Buddhist. How can you know? What kind of God would expect you to get it right by guessing in any case.

Even if by sheer chance you got it right then do you want to spend an eternity worshipping a God that would treat you so badly? Who would let your soul be damned for all time because you had no way to know the right choice?.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself "but God wouldn’t do that. He would guide me to the right choices so I could be with him'

Well consider this. If the right church is a Christian one then what about the millions of Muslims. Do they all deserve to go to hell? Is there not one among them who tried his best to be obedient to God. To be a good person, to be righteous?.

What about the other Christian religions. If you are a Baptist then you must accept that in addition to every non believer in history every Roman Catholic - men, women and children, deserve to burn in agony for eternity. If you are Roman Catholic you must accept that every Baptist, Protestant and Jew deserves the same fate. Is this justice? Is it love? Or is it a horror worse then anything Man has ever devised including the Holocaust.


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updated 08-Jul-2004 9:48 PM