The Slippery Slope of Pascal's Wager

Someone once argued that Pascal's Wager is a strong argument that cannot be overshouted. Which is of course, poppycock. It has a few big flaws in it, mostly when you take it at a reductio ad absurdum. Like most good proofs of the Christian God, it assumes you are Christian and already accept the proof.

Let me start by summing it up for you:

That is the argument in a nutshell. You stand to gain eternity, versus lose 70 years of your life (to worship). On the other hand, you stand to lose eternity, versus gain 70 years of your life (to heathenism). The math of infinity less 70 versus 70 less infinity comes out to be infinity versus naught and who would not buy infinity?

The argument is about as reasonable as you can get, when trying to make God a logical proof. It's not logical at all. I will avoid pointing out that it requires God and Heaven and Salvation to all be exactly as described or the whole bit falls apart. What if there is no Hell and you get an eternity of servitude versus nothingness? What if Salvation is not merely belief, but part of being elect? (Both of these are held by large groups of believes, mind you, so I am not just being a smartass).

And, surely, even a grade schooler can think to add to these next steps.

You end up with the notion that ALL GODS MUST EXIST. Except then you come to a sticky wicket because Belief in several gods is exclusionary to others. In other words, if you believe in any god but YHWH, you do not believe in YHWH. Ditto Allah..

Now we get a wager that really is a wager, as in a bet. You have to place your chips on a particular god. You have to say "this" instead of "that".

You end up with a different branch. A section of which would look like this:

You end up with a situation where it might be better to state NO GODS EXIST to avoid punishment due to jealousy. This means you might spend 70 years being good just to find yourself not even able to enjoy said 70 years due to devoutness. Well, assuming you are that devout. Most people have a good time while devout.

Some gods are going to be more forgiving. Some gods, and some versions of gods, allow for belief in others "as long as you lead a good life". You can bank on one of them, but that does not mean that one of them will be the truth. You could bank, if you are the sort that takes wagers, on one of the more hellfire gods, in the hope that a more forgiving god does exist if the angry one does not. But that's just a little too game theory, and chances are the hellfire god will send you on your way.

What I am getting at here is two things. First, it still comes down to faith. There is no real wager. That's a pointless bit of wordplay that means nothing. You might get sent to a hell you don't even believe in just as likely as go to heaven that you do. Which one seems most reasonable to you is the one where that you have the most faith in.

Secondly, seems like most of the gods that have a heaven versus hell afterlife are the sort to take "wagers" as an insult anyhow. You end up in hell for trying to game it. Pascal accounted for this, in saying that you would come to believe. Which might be true, but I wouldn't put any faith (pun intended) in it. It makes religion an empty shell of human value exchange. Gone is belief in love as the highest good of man. Gone is believing from the bottom of your heart that God is there. All that remains is a "reasonable decision that might lead to better beliefs later".

And this is why I hate Pascal's Wager.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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