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Pascal's Wager

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Pascal's Wager: The Wager postulates that it is a better "bet" to believe that God exists than not to believe, because the expected value of believing (which Pascal assessed as infinite) is always greater than the expected value of not believing. Pascal's Wager in practice: "What if you're wrong?"

Pascals wager.png

Contents

Why is Pascal's Wager invalid?

If Pascal's Wager is to have any weight, Christianity should not be the religion of choice. If ones own beliefs should be controlled (if by nothing else) by the risk one takes in sharing in an eternity of punishment in the after life, the user of the argument should take upon themselves the religion with the most brutal and unimaginable punishment for non-belief.

The wager assumes that there is a benevolent god, but the god of the Bible is rarely so. It also assumes that the god is a dependable counterparty, something not borne out by the stories in the Bible.

Richard Dawkins vs. Pascal's Wager Girl (Lynchburg, Virginia - The God Delusion Book Tour)

Pascal's Wager Girl: "This is probably gonna be the most simplest one for you to answer but... what if you're wrong?"

Richard Dawkins: "Well, what if I'm wrong, I mean... anybody could be wrong. We could all be wrong about the flying spaghetti monster and the pink unicorn and the flying tea pot. Uhm, you happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in the Christian faith. You know what it's like to not believe in a particular faith because you're not a Muslim. You're not a Hindu. Why aren't you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India. If you had been brought up in Indu- in India, you'd be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in... in uh.. Denmark in the time of the Vikings you'd be believing in Wotan and Thor. If you were brought up in classical Greece you'd be believing in, in Zeus. If you were brought up in central Africa you'd be believing in the great Ju-Ju up the mountain. There's no particular reason to pick on the Judeo-Christian god, in which by the sheerest accident you happen to have been brought up and, and ask me the question, "What if I'm wrong?" What if you're wrong about the great Ju-Ju at the bottom of the sea?"

Religious organizations have used fear as a tactic to keep its members from using their brains to analyze why they believe what they believe since the establishment of religion. It is seen is the overwhelming majority of faith based belief systems before Christianity and will be seen for many religions to come.

Why Pascal's Wager is not a valid argument: Because it doesn't prove the existence of a creator. It is not even really an argument. It's a question that can be answered very easily.

The Question: "What if you're wrong about the Bible?"

The Answer: "Then I spend eternity in Hell."


What if you're right? Then you've spent the only life you have on this earth to its maximum potential without being swayed by fear factor.

Symmetry

Pascal's Wager depends on a (usually unstated) assumption that the reward for believing in God is eternity in Heaven. But this assumption is external to the Wager, while the whole point of the Wager is that it is supposed to be able to bootstrap one from unbelief to belief without any other axioms coming into play.

Truly starting from zero knowledge would mean starting with no assumptions about what sorts of beliefs God is likely to reward. Thus there is just as much reason to believe in a God who punishes people for believing in him as there is to believe in a God who rewards people for believing in him, so the Wager's argument that belief is preferable because its rewards are infinite is bogus: it is equally likely that the punishments would be infinite. In that case, one might wish to maximize the sincerity of one's unbelief rather than the sincerity of one's belief. This is the opposite of the conclusion Pascal was trying to reach, but no less convincing.

(Indeed, there would be a certain dreadful appropriateness to a universe in which there is a God who rewards reason and punishes unquestioning faith, such that only the freethinkers get to Heaven. Unfortunately, the aesthetic appeal of a scenario is unrelated to its probability of being true, so we must count this hypothesis as no more likely than any of those proposed by theists.)

Omniscience

Almost all Christian beliefs state God to be a being who has omniscience, or is infinitely knowledgeable.

This means that, assuming God exists, God has exact knowledge of all beliefs, thought patterns, and prejudices that you have ever had.

We can conclude from this that God knows whether or not you actually believe in God.

If you accept Pascal's wager based on the prospect of not wanting to go to hell, the omniscient God can surely tell that you're deceiving yourself and don't truly believe.


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