Pascal’s Wager

This argument for belief in god, formulated by Blaise Pascal runs something like this: If god exists and you don’t believe then you will potentially be doomed, but if god does not exist and you do believe you have lost nothing. Thus the cost of being wrong on the first instance is infinitely greater than the second and the benefit of being right maybe limitless. Now those who are likely to bring this up have a tendency to make the assumption that they are on the winning team but if we take a step back then the footing becomes treacherous. From the outside looking into this bet there is the obvious first question, which god should be chosen? Many are mutually exclusive and surely to chose the wrong one may be as bad or even worse than not choosing at all.

Secondly it also has as implicit within it the premise that people can choose what to believe. This may not be as foolish as it first sounds, the idea is that going through the motions will eventually make you believe, kind of like smiling will make you happy. It might work but I must say I’m skeptical, I mean, it didn’t work for Mother Theresa. Finally it seems to me that though the wager in it’s original form claims that we can not know anything about god, it then goes on to make decisions based on information we cannot know, namely that god requires that we believe.

In the end most people will believe that which it is their nature to believe and will create rationalisations for these beliefs post hoc. Would that this were otherwise but it seems to be the way we are wired. That said, it is my opinion that those who are able to critically look at their own beliefs and continually update them based on current information will almost always come out ahead.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager#Rebuttals

http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/nogod/pascal.htm

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