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Pascal's Wager

Updated: Nov 7, 2023


pascals wager table

Pascal's wager is a philosophical argument that attempts to show that even if there is no evidence to prove the existence of God, it is still better to believe in God than not to. The argument goes like this:

  • If God exists and you believe in him, you will go to heaven.

  • If God exists and you do not believe in him, you will go to hell.

  • If God does not exist, whether you believe in him or not does not matter.

Therefore, it is better to believe in God than not to, because if God does exist, you will be rewarded for your belief, and if God does not exist, you will not be punished for your belief.

Pascal's wager has been criticized on a number of grounds. One criticism is that it is based on a false dichotomy. The argument assumes that there are only two options: either God exists or he does not. Some people believe there are many other possibilities, such as the existence of multiple gods or the existence of a god who does not care whether or not people believe in him. However, Christianity's main point is there is only one way to heaven, which is through Jesus Christ. If you choose to believe in all the gods including Jesus, you would still go to hell.


Another criticism is that Pascal's wager is based on a selfish motivation. The argument suggests that people should believe in God only because they are afraid of going to hell. Some people think this is not a very noble or virtuous motivation, and it does not seem to be the kind of motivation that would lead to a genuine relationship with God. However, this is only a point to prove it's better to believe there is a God so you don't go to hell, which is just the start of your journey to faith. After this initial belief, you are supposed to do further research into the Bible and pray to develop a deeper relationship with God, rather than just fear of hell.


People believe it is selfish because it would decrease your quality of life after becoming a Christian. This is a false belief from people based on testimony's from non-Christians and ex-Christians. If you follow the Bible and practices of Jesus your quality of life improves. A study from Harvard University says that "People who attended religious services at least once a week were significantly less likely to die from “deaths of despair,” including deaths related to suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health" Another study done by the Pew Research Center says that "actively religious people tend to be happier" than those that are not.


Despite these criticisms, Pascal's wager remains a popular argument for belief in God. It is an argument that is easy to understand and that appeals to people's fear of death and the unknown. Whether or not you find Pascal's wager convincing, it is an argument that is worth considering.


History of Pascal's Wager

Pascal's wager was first proposed by Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher and mathematician, in the 17th century. Pascal was concerned with the problem of how to determine whether or not God exists. He argued that, even if there is no evidence to prove the existence of God, it is still better to believe in God than not to. This is because, if God does exist, then those who believe in him will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven, while those who do not believe in him will be punished with eternal damnation in hell.


Pascal's wager was written in a notebook in 1654, and it was first published in 1670, after Pascal's death. The wager has been the subject of much debate and controversy ever since.


Pascal's Wager Argument

Pascal's wager is based on the following three possible outcomes:

  • God exists and you believe in him. In this case, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven.

  • God exists and you do not believe in him. In this case, you will be punished with eternal damnation in hell.

  • God does not exist. In this case, whether or not you believe in him does not matter.

Pascal argues that, since the first two outcomes are both bad, and the third outcome is neutral, it is always better to believe in God than not to.


Strengths and Weaknesses of Pascal's Wager

There are a number of strengths and weaknesses to Pascal's wager. One strength of the argument is that it is simple and easy to understand. Another strength is that to believe in God is the least riskiest choice and the Pascals Wager table demonstrates this in a quick and effective way. However, some scholars have pointed out some perceived weaknesses to the argument.


One weakness people say is that it is based on a false dichotomy. The argument assumes that there are only two options: either God exists or he does not. However, they say there are many other possibilities, such as the existence of multiple gods or the existence of a god who does not care whether or not people believe in him. Another weakness is that the argument is based on a selfish motivation. The argument suggests that people should believe in God only because they are afraid of going to hell.


Implications of Pascal's Wager for Religious Belief

Pascal's wager has a number of implications for religious belief. One implication is that it suggests that religious belief is based on fear rather than faith, so it wouldn't results in a strong relationship with God. Another implication is that it suggests that religious belief is a form of Pascal's wager is a controversial argument, and there is no easy answer to the question of whether or not it is convincing. However, it is an argument that is worth considering, and it is one that has had a significant impact on the history of religious thought.


Pascal's Wager Holocaust Analogy


I know this might upset some people because it's a very sensitive topic, but so is hell and eternal separation from God (torture).


Let's look at this if you were a German or outside party and heard rumors that Hitler had plans of rounding up Jews to exterminate them and you had the choice to believe or not believe. If more people believe they can band together and stop him from gaining any more power and save more lives. If you don't believe, he will slowly gain more power and his plans will unfold the way it actually did in history.

Hitler Plans to Kill Jews

Hitler Doesn't Plan to Kill Jews

Believe Hitler wants to exterminate all Jews in concentration camps.

​Easier to stop him from gaining support, so you save many people.

Nothing Major Happens

Don't Believe Believe Hitler wants to exterminate all Jews in concentration camps.

Many more Jews were killed

Nothing Major Happens

The troubling thing about this is that many people didn't believe Hitler was killing Jews. Also many people believed Jews were bad, so they went along with killing them. In the end millions of innocent people were killed because the majority of people conformed to Hitler's thinking and the outside world didn't believe the concentration camps were real at first.


I believe that the general population does not take things serious enough. If we actually spent more time thinking, studying, and discussing important topics like Pascal's Wager, the amount of cancer causing compounds in our food, terrorism, genocide, starvation, etc., then we might be more likely to do something about them. Instead, the world focuses and talks about things that don't matter like the Kardashians, and what Justin Bieber is doing.


I believe that we should still have fun and enjoy ourselves, but when we just take the passive approach to the critical issues, then the issues will grow steadily, until it's too late, just like the holocaust.


These are only the things that happen on the earth today. What about your death? Will it be too late to decide to follow Jesus after you die? What about tomorrow? Are you willing to wager heaven or hell based on the fact that you might have 1 day or 20 years left to live? Is it worth it to reject the teaching of Jesus and live you life like the world and lose your soul?


Matthew 16:25-27 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds.

Pascal's Wager Summary

Pascal's wager is a philosophical argument that states that it is better to believe in God than not to, because the potential rewards of believing (going to heaven) outweigh the potential punishments of not believing (going to hell). However, the argument has been criticized for being based on a false dichotomy (that there are only two options: God exists or God does not exist), and for being based on a selfish motivation (believing in God only to avoid punishment). Ultimately, whether or not you find Pascal's wager convincing is a personal decision.


I believe it is a step towards finding the truth. Many have taken this path and many are happy with the truth they have found. I encourage you to take that step today. If you would like to take that step, please say the following prayer in faith:


God, I believe you exist. I believe You sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I believe He died for me and that He rose from the grave and still lives today.


I believe in You and choose to serve You. Please deliver me from the thoughts that haunt me and give me peace. Baptize me in Your Holy Spirit. Please forgive me of my sins and lead me to where You want me to go.

Amen.



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