Pascal's Wager

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Philosophical Argument

God either exists, or He does not.

If God exists, then when I die, I will go either to Hell or to Heaven.

If God does not exist, then when I die, my consciousness will simply vanish, and I will know nothing more.

If God exists, and I do not believe in Him, then I will go to Hell.

If God exists, and I do believe in Him, then I will go to Heaven.

If God does not exist, then whether or not I believe in Him, I will vanish into oblivion.

Therefore, if I do not believe in God, I will either vanish or go to Hell.

If I do believe in God, I will either vanish or go to Heaven.

Whichever way round it is, I stand to lose more by not believing in God than I do by believing in Him.

Therefore, I will believe in God.


$(1): \quad$ There are many gods. How do I know I picked the right one to worship? If I picked the wrong one, then the god who is really in charge is going to be angry with me, and I will be punished by him as a result.
$(2): \quad$ By all accounts, if God exists, then he is omniscient, so he knows my mind. He is not going to be impressed with a conscious rational decision based upon hope for a favourable personal outcome.
$(3): \quad$ I cannot make myself believe in a philosophical system which my rational faculties discount as being at best extremely improbable, and at worst ludicrously childish. Belief is an internal process based upon the consideration of evidence, and not an emotional reaction to a story which may or may not be aesthetically appealing.
$(4): \quad$ I intend to lead a good and moral life, based upon whatever humanistic codes of conduct are appropriate for the time and the place in which I live. If God exists, then he is either just (in which case he will judge me by my conduct and either bless me or curse me accordingly), or he is unjust (in which case he will condemn me solely for my intellectual reaction to the evidence presented for the truth that I have rejected). In the latter case, I would not want to be a party to such unjustness and would rather suffer for eternity than to compromise my intellectual integrity.

Source of Name

This entry was named for Blaise Pascal.

Historical Note

Blaise Pascal made his famous wager in his Pensées.