pascal’s wager

I’m still thinking about the memorial service I went to several weeks ago, but more about the role of religion in people’s lives and how it relates to my atheistic views.

I must admit that people who believe in religion get many positive benefits. They can have comfort and hope knowing that their god has a purpose for their lives, that he cares for them and guides them through trouble, that someone is listening to their problems during prayer, and that there is an afterlife of some kind where things will be better.

It must be nice to have that source of happiness and joy, even though it makes no sense to me anymore. I understand that giving one’s life to God means that they don’t have to worry as much about problems with the faith that God will solve them.

As an atheist, I have to work a little harder to find happiness, deriving it from the pleasure of living life while I still have it. As a perennially-depressed atheist, it is really difficult for me to achieve this happiness. It is hard for me to have a hopeful or optimistic life because of my brain chemistry, and I don’t derive as much pleasure from life as other atheists might. As a result, sometimes I wish I were one of the faithful.

There is a concept called Pascal’s wager, which supposes that the existence of God cannot be determined by reasoning and logic. If you believe in God, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose; if you don’t believe in God, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. So you need to place your bets: if you wager there is no God or Heaven or Hell or any of the other trappings of religion, you risk eternal damnation. If you wager that God is real, you get all the benefits of belief without risking anything. It seems like the logical choice would be to believe.

As a former Christian, I know the benefits of believing in religion, but I just can’t bring myself to drink the Kool-Aid again. I’m betting against God. If he does exist, I’ll see some of you in Hell.

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4 thoughts on “pascal’s wager

  1. Thanks for this post. I struggle in this arena. Growing up we did not have a religion in our family. It was discussed at all. I think i would very much like a relationship with god or a higher power, but I feel like I can never find it. I haven’t heard of Pascal’s wager I’m going to look into it.

  2. “If you believe in God, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose; if you don’t believe in God, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. So you need to place your bets: if you wager there is no God or Heaven or Hell or any of the other trappings of religion, you risk eternal damnation. If you wager that God is real, you get all the benefits of belief without risking anything. It seems like the logical choice would be to believe.”

    Pascal and his wager assume that Pascal had the right version of the right god. Pascal was a Roman Catholic, so he thought that the RC version of this god was the only right one.

    So with that level of presumption, he thought there was no loss possible if one agreed with him. However, we can’t be sure that Pascal’s version of this god is the right one or even exists at all.

    So, we risk pissing off some god and we risk wasting time and resources in any case.

    There is also the problem of a “loving” god that wouldn’t damn an honest atheist *if* it were loving and concerned with the truth.

    Lastly, a lot of Christians having told me that I should fake it until I make it. This makes a very stupid god that would accept such a thing. Faith based on “just in case” isn’t much faith at all.

    As an atheist, and having been a Christian who read the bible, my morals are far better than this god’s and I have no problem in not worshipping such a vicious little god, even if it “damns” me.

    1. Thank you for your comment – all very good points. I think atheists should make every effort to lead a moral and ethical life. You’re right, the biblical god was a nasty piece of work – vindictive, narcissistic, petty, promoting violence and ethnic cleansing … a little bit like a cult leader I know of.

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