Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pascal's Wager

If you discuss faith with non-believers you will sooner or later hear about Pascal's Wager. Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and physicist. After a religious experience he devoted himself to the study of Theology. Sometime later, after the miraculous healing of his 10 year old niece he wrote the Pensées which he never completed. In it he set forth the logic of what today is called Pascal's Wager.

What is Pascal's Wager?

By this 'wager,' Pascal provides an analytical process for a person to evaluate options in regarding belief in God. As Pascal sets it out, the options are two: 1) believe or, 2) not believe. There is no third possibility. Therefore, we are faced with the following possibilities: 1)You believe in God. If God exists, you go to heaven; your gain is infinite. If God does not exist, your loss (the investment in your mistaken belief) is finite and therefore negligible. 2) You do not believe in God. If God exists, you go to hell; your loss is infinite and your gain is zero. If God does not exist, your gain is finite and therefore negligible.

While scholars debate Pascal's wager and apply all kinds of mathematical formulas to it, disputing its validity since there are many religions, to the Christian it's quite simple logic.
1. As a Christian I believe: If God exists I am going to heaven when I die. If not, then I'm no worse off than the atheist.
2. As an atheist I don't believe: If God exists I'm eternally doomed. If God doesn't exist, I'm no better or worse off than the Christian as our fates are the same.

Of those two options which seems the logical winner to you?

portrait of Pascal was imported from Wikipedia

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