To believe or not to believe in an indivisible form of power that will forever be beyond our understanding is a critical decision that ultimately dictates the way you live. The question of God’s existence will perhaps never be answered, but everyone participates in the wager of his existence. Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher who presented the argument in favour of belief in God, which has become known as “Pascal’s Wager”.[1]

Pascal’s wager: Pascal thought the arguments for both the existence of god were not compelling and also that the arguments against the existence of god were not compelling. He thought we were caught in inescapable ignorance about whether God exists or not.

So he lowered the bar: he proposed that if we can’t settle the truth of the matter about the existence of god we should ask a different question. Given that the evidence does not compel us one way or the other, is it reasonable to believe in god.  He related faith to a card game, and decided the best decision would be the most rational. So is it more rational to believe in god and behave accordingly, or not to believe and behave accordingly.

Now let’s think about the outcomes in each of these eight possibilities.

The big win and the big loss are immeasurably different. Pascal reasoned it is rational to believe God.

This doesn’t prove that god exists, but proves that it is more rational to do so.

Problems with this argument:

  • It seems the wrong motivation for religious belief.
  • It requires that various strands of the Christian package can all be held together.
  • It would prove no stronger motivation to believe in Christianity than in any other religion with a similar eschatology.

If you are able to read this you are committed to the wager.  The way you live your life is based on this question. If you believe in God then you will adhere to his rules and live your life accordingly to the Bible in hopes that heaven awaits; the ultimate reward. If God doesn’t exist, you lost your only chance of life and certain moments of happiness that religion has restricted.  If you don’t believe in God and he is in fact true, then you will spend eternity in fiery misery as punishment. If you don’t believe and he doesn’t exist, then you life on earth was lived without the hassle and constricting rules of religion.[2]

Considering the punishments and rewards of this wager, you seem inclined to just believe in God so that you get your shot of eternal happiness. But now consider this; what if you believe in the wrong God? All religions have different rules and even if you believe in one form of power, it may not necessarily be the correct one and you have therefore lived your life according to the improper rules of the true God. You are only given one chance at life, so you might as well make the most of it. Infinite happiness is arguably the most appealing reward one can imagine, but it is not a certainty. You have to embrace what is real and proven. Also, no one is sure what heaven is really like. What if you still had to follow God’s rules in the kingdom of heaven, instead of being free and being able to do whatever you want? Would that be an eternity of happiness? A rebel would not want to spend the rest of eternity lounging in paradise with a bunch of goody-goodies, when his real form of happiness comes from crime and the adrenaline rush that accompanies misconduct.

Pascal’s wager carries infinite weight where the stakes are finite for an infinite prize.[3] Since we do not know life beyond death we are unable to predict exactly what our future holds. Imagine having lived your life according to rules that you may not completely agree with, sacrificing excitement and happiness in whatever forms, whether it be a life of luxury, lust, sub ordinance and/or gluttony, only to find that your beliefs are false. You have missed all those opportunities and therefore having lived a life of regret. So take your bet, red or black-for all the marbles, in what seems to be the gamble of a lifetime.

[1] The Elements of Philosophy, pgs 48-49

[2] The Elements of Philosophy, pgs 48-49

[3] The Elements of Philosophy, pgs 48-49

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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