Blaise Paschal was a famous mathematician, physicist, and Christian philosopher. Writer of the defense of the scientific method, and strong contribution to the study of fluids, he was a brilliant mind. Probably the largest thing he is known for however, is Pascal’s desire to prove Christianity via rational and philosophy. Like many great Christian thinkers before him, he never quite reached an irrefutable conclusion, but instead came up with something we call “Pascal’s Wager”, and it goes like follows-
- God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
- A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
- You must wager (it is not optional).
- Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
- Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
- But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.
To simplify, he is stating that because we cannot know rationally if there is a God or not (with pure certainty) than the better choice is to believe in one just in case there is. Pascal makes his claim by stating that if we are wrong about God’s existence, we “lose the present” and if we are wrong that there is no God, we lose eternity. Therefore the best bet to take is to believe.
This argument has been argued against countless times, where people have plugged most anything in besides “God” and have arrived at some similar (and silly) conclusions. During my times of doubt, I studied this argument inside and out. While I don’t believe Pascal was wrong, he left four options, and the conclusions I tend to disagree with.
- You believe and there is a God so you gain eternity.
- You believe and there is no God so you have lost the present.
- You do not believe and there is a God so you lose eternity.
- You do not believe and there is no God so you gain the present.
The only issue that I find with the whole scenario is the assumption of a “lost present”. Pascal assumes that it would be if there were no God to disbelieve in one. I however, disagree entirely. Voltaire said that if there were no God, man would invent him. What he was really getting at was the human need for a God for reasons of meaning, hope, and unconditional love. These things are natural human desires and cannot be found in the world we live in (causing dilusioned disbelief or despair). Suppose I had the choice between the belief in God and disbelief (I’m not sure man gets as much of a choice as they pretend) but lets just take it for example. I prefer to live with hope, unconditional love, and meaning (that I didn’t create to cover up a lack of meaning) than to live without. I’d be happier to have died believing and be wrong than to have died disbelieving and be right. Are not those who have become saved healed and typically made more full of joy and freedom? Isn’t it those who concentrate on the rules of the Scripture rather than the relationship with Christ that find it miserable and wanting?
So I propose a revision to Pascal’s wager, because I disagree with his idea of losing the present.
- You believe and are right so you gain eternity (and the present)
- You believe and are wrong so you gain the present
- You disbelieve and are right so you lose everthing
- You disbelieve and are wrong so you still lose everything
With this line of reasoning, I find there to be no wager at all- no gamble. The verdict is clear. Should our faith be an illusion, it is better to die in madness than to live in clarity. In a meaningless universe, why not than pursue that which we find will bring about the greatest joy? It’s like fictional character “Puddlegum” said in “The Silver Chair”(By C.S. Lewis)
“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”