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Religion and Spirituality, Science and Philosophy Use this forum to discuss what you believe in. This is a place where everyone may share their views freely.

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Heathen Offline
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Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 01:57 AM

The following was actually a topic of discussion in one of my classes the other day.

Blaise Pacal was a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist that had an interesting approach to the question of whether or not God exists.

According to him, it was better to believe in God's existence than to not believe in it based on the simple fact that since there is not really anything to gain by not believing in God and a lot to be gained by believing in God, the reasonable thing to do is to believe in God.

*This is specifically talking about the Christian God.*

Basically, there is one of the following possibilities:

-You don't believe in God. It turns out there is no God and, consequently, no afterlife. Nothing happens after death. There are no consequences.

- You don't believe in God and it turns out there IS an afterlife. You're screwed.

Ergo, the reasonable thing to do in Pascal's mind is believe in God and live accordingly based on the consequences.


I thought it would be interesting to know what people think about this. I don't really mean from "sides" (god does/doesn't exist), but from a philosophical standpoint.

I have my own opinions, but I would like to hear others' first.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 02:18 AM

It makes too many assumptions, because even though Pascal was talking about the Christian god, you can't assume that just because a god and an afterlife exist that they must be the Christian god and the Christian afterlife. In fact, there are a range of other possibilities. What if there is a god and there is an afterlife, but the god doesn't care whether you believed or not? What if there's an afterlife but no god? What if the god that exists doesn't mind atheists, but really hates Christians? What if Norse mythology is true and the only way to reach Valhalla is to die gloriously in battle? Should we start throwing ourselves in front of gunfire? In order to accept Pascal's wager, you must assume a Christian theology from the beginning, and there simply isn't enough evidence to do that.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 04:01 AM

My main contention is that it suggests God cares more about you acting like a god-fearing, non-sinning person, than it does you actually consciously wanting to be one. Which, if I understand correctly, is the crux of the whole thing.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 04:13 AM

I think the wager makes two assumptions:
1. There is a punishment for not believing in God,
2. God cares. (these assumptions could be consolidated into just one point)

For example, as Acheron pointed out, there are many different ways a God could decide to deal with a non-believer. The Goddess of the Wiccan religion would most likely not care if one believed or not. Believers of the Greek Mythos were all sent to different levels of an afterlife, albeit one that was kept underground.

Yes, yes, it's framed for the Christian God. In which case, He is all-knowing and could tell the difference between my belief in him because I loved him and accepted the "sacrifice" of himself to himself, or my belief in him because I wished to avoid hell.
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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 07:15 AM

The problem with this philosophy is that it assumes G-D to be Christian. What if it is Allah? Or Zeus? Etc. So, if you believe in the wrong god, you're still punished.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 04:10 PM

The first problem, like others have mentioned is that you would have to pick the right god. I also think that a god would be able to tell the difference between true belief and belief because you think it's a better option.

Then there's the idea that you don't lose anything from believing in a god, I personally don't see belonging to most religions as being very healthy and a lot of them ask you to sacrifice a lot of time and money, but I guess that depends on the religion/sect your a part of.
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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 27th 2012, 08:56 PM

*random stranger knocks on someone's door. After introductory dialogue they get to this point*

"My friend could beat you up but he won't if you sell your house and send the money to my house so I can pass it onto him"

"Why can't I send it straight to him?"

"Because he likes to be discrete"

"How do I know you won't just take the money and run away?"

"you need to have faith! Just trust me."

*closes door*

Believing in the 'right' god is an impossible task. You only have one life to life and you can't dedicate your whole life to each one can you? As that's what is usually required to gain a full 'understanding' of the religion. It's pointless to me trying out all of them.

In short, Pascal's wager might look impressive at the start but in the end it sucks.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 28th 2012, 04:45 AM

Wow, lots of good answers.

In my opinion Pascal's Wager is pretty fallible, too. I believe Pascal used the Christian God for his framework primarily because in France (and most of Europe) at that time it was believed only faith in the Christian God was acceptable. Everything else was blasphemous and those who expressed such views were heretics. France itself remained steadfastly loyal to the Catholic Church, which had much power and influence at the time. Allegiance to the Church at the time could make or break kingdoms. So there was a pretty strong sentiment that the only God was the Christian God, based both on history and power dynamics.

So yes, Pascal fails to take into account the existence of other Gods since there is the variable of the "right" God and that God cares in the first place.

In addition, Pascal's wager is formed exclusively on the concept of reward and punishment which, in reality, is actually a completely over-simplified and quite possibly incorrect approach to religion. At the time the Bible was literally interpreted whereas contemporary theologians almost all agree that it is more symbolic in nature, especially in regards to the afterlife.

On top of all this, the concept of a Christian God that does care would dictate that God would realize the difference between "true" belief and false belief (i.e. just in it for the goods). So it would be a moot point in the first place.

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Re: Pascal's Wager - February 29th 2012, 05:03 AM

as has been mentioned, pascal's wager has more holes in it than swiss cheese.
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Re: Pascal's Wager - March 2nd 2012, 07:14 PM

Along with all of the holes in his argument I personally would rather take a risk and go to hell if need be, by not worshiping a bloody thirsty, vengeful, hateful, childish god, than lose my self respect.
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