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Pascal's Wager Essay

1535 words - 6 pages

Modern debates over religion, more specifically God, focus primarily on whether or not sufficient evidence exists to either prove or disprove the existence of a God. Disbelievers such as biologist Richard Hawkins tend to point to the indisputable facts of evolution and the abundance of scientific evidence which seem to contradict many aspects of religion. Conversely, believers such as Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith describe the controversial aspects of science, and how the only possible solution to everything is a supreme being. However, mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal refused to make either type of argument; he believed that it was impossible to determine God’s existence for certainty through reason. Instead, he suggested that rational individuals should wager as though God does indeed exist, because doing so offers these individuals everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Unfortunately, Pascal’s Wager contains numerous fallacies, and in-depth analysis of each one of his arguments proves that Pascal’s Wager is incorrect.
Pascal originally proposed his idea in the Pensées, a collection of fragments of his work, primarily written to defend the Christian religion. Although Pascal clearly supports the existence of a supreme being, he is relatively unimpressed by attempted justifications of a God at the time, and he concedes that “we are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is” (Pascal 233). Instead, he formulates different arguments, which can be framed as the following:
1. If God exists, belief in him results in eternal bliss and happiness (heaven)
2. If God exists, disbelief in him results in annihilation or eternal torment (hell)
3. If God does not exist, belief in him results in moral benefits
4. If God does not exist, disbelief in him results in immoral consequences
Assuming all these to be correct would make belief in Pascal’s Wager the right decision, since belief either results in eternal happiness or simply moral benefits, whereas disbelief results in eternal torment or immoral consequences. However each one of these is a faulty argument.
Arguments 1 and 2 only takes into consideration two choices for religion, Roman Catholicism or atheism. However, numerous other faiths exist today, and regardless of the amount of evidence which may support or refute one faith or another, let us assume each to be equally as likely as the other. Since Pascal’s Wager fails to tell us which God to believe in, we end up with “a great probability that we picked the wrong religion and go to some other religion’s version of Hell” (Bendz). With an increasing number of potential faiths or religions, the probability of believing in the right God (or even Gods) likewise becomes increasingly small. Therefore, we have an increased probability of choosing the wrong God, and as a result, we miss out on the eternal happiness from one religion and instead receive the eternal torment of another. Similarly, varying religions have different...

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