Day 255 — Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623–62) was a mathematician and a philosopher, who is mostly known for an argument for the existence of God that is sometimes known as Pascal’s Wager or the Gambler’s argument.

It sounds like pretty much what it is; by gambling that God exists, it’s better to believe in God. If you are in any way unsure that there is or isn’t a God, the odds are that if you believe, you have a chance of benefiting in the afterlife, avoiding God’s wrath, all sorts of claims that come with faith. If you disbelieve, then you run the risk of all the bad things.

But what if there is no God and you believe in God? Then, nothing happens. But the very possibility of the existence of God means that there’s more benefit in believing in God.

By maximising a win and reducing a loss, belief in God appears to be a good strategy. However, what if this method of self-preservation is not seen as a true expression of faith by God? What if you are following a religion that involves unjust and unfair or even time-wasting during your life, for a non-existent deity? Philosopher William James even suggested that a non-benevolent God could even be angered by such pretend-belief. While the benefits seem obvious at a surface level, the gamble that is being undertaken depends entirely on knowing if the game is being played at all.

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