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Objections to Pascal’s Wager Argument

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Objections to Pascal’s Wager Argument

In Blaise Pascal’s The Wager, he takes a unique approach in answering the highly arguable question of God’s existence. Instead of supporting the traditional theistic arguments, Pascal tries to convince atheists by discussing the two aspects of humans betting with their lives that God either exists or does not. In the first half of The Wager, using infinity as an example, Pascal reminds readers that the existence and nature of God are beyond human comprehension, and we should not deny the existence of God simply because we don’t know him. (Introduction To Philosophy, p50) Then, Pascal argues that human beings live not by reason alone, and reason can’t decide anything here. He believes that belief is a matter of choice, and our eternal life is based on the choice we have made. In the end of The Wager, Pascal emphasizes the benefit of believing in god - it’s the safest bet of life, and we won’t lose anything if we are wrong; if we believe in god and are correct, then we potentially gain infinite amount. From my point of view, Pascal’s wager argument is valuable because he invented decision theory which is how humans should make decisions about the future when they are uncertain what will happen. Such theory is worthy to think about because it’s an unprecedented perspective. In The Wager, Pascal argues that we have two choices: either first we believe God exists or second we do not believe God exists. First of all, if we believe in God and are mistaken, we haven’t lost much. If we don’t believe and are mistaken, we lose an infinite amount. Also, in the final analysis, Pascal thinks that theism is a “smarter” choice. The reason why he thinks so is that life is a gamble, and believing in God is the safest bet. If we don’t believe in God and are correct, we haven’t gained much; whereas if we do believe and are correct, we have gained an infinite amount.

However, I disagree with the wager argument because, firstly, belief is more than a choice, and secondly, because belief does not guarantee the infinite rewards due to the possible existence of multiple gods, and thirdly, because belief requires sacrifice of the life we want. In this essay, I will discuss Pascal’s approach and my objections to it.

The reason why Pascal offers his reasons for believing in God rather than one of the traditional theistic arguments is because Pascal does not think that the atheist or the believer would be convinced by the traditional argument. So instead, Pascal introduces the Wager argument to the curious and unconvinced. Traditionally, theistic arguments directly hold that god exists, and examples include arguments from Plato, Aristotle, St. Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. In traditional modern theism, God is characterized as the absolutely metaphysically ultimate being in contrast with other polytheistic conceptions of deity. In contrast, many atheists deny the existence of God based on the pain and suffering in this world. Atheists think that if God really existed, then the evil wouldn’t be allowed to walk in this earth, thus there would be no pain and suffering. But since there is pain and suffering, God does not exist. Both theism and atheism have their own reasons and logic, but the traditional arguments clearly cannot answer the doubt concerning the problem of evil. Pascal argues that “according to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.” (Pascal, p51) Pascal intends that because human intellectual resources are incapable of any certain truths in this area, one should abandon reason and decide the truth of God’s existence on other grounds. Therefore, Pascal tries to convince atheists by telling them that humans live not only by reasons. Reasons cannot help people to decide which side to choose, and yet our eternal life potentially depends on the choices we make. Thus, suppose atheists bet their lives on the existence of God: “let us estimate two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” (Pascal, p51) The choice, this, is relatively easy, according to Pascal.

But I do not find Pascal’s approach convincing. First of all, if there is infinite reward, then there is absolute infinite punishment. According to Pascal, if we believe in God and are correct, then we can go to heaven after we die and gain infinite happiness. But since there have been many religions throughout human history, there can be many potential gods. Assuming that gods do exist, then which god should we worship? What’s the consequence if we believe in multiple gods? Will we go to hell if we only believe in one god while other gods still exist? For example, in the Qur’an, God (Allah) is often described as “One”. It says, “And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.” (Al Baqarah 2:163) Moreover, it also later indicates that there will be a painful punishment for these disbelievers. So if you believe in Jesus, then you will be punished by Allah. You would be defined as heathen. And if you are Muslim and worship Allah, then you will be punished by Jesus and go to hell after the death. As a result, having faith in God actually creates more conflicts. So the choice may not be as simple or easy as Pascal claims. Secondly, belief is more than a choice. It is impulsive and irrational to choose something that we don’t know. An ignorant believer will do no good for himself or the religion. Reasons are necessary because it is impossible to convert to a religion faithfully only because we choose to. Such blind choice will only confuse people more. For example, we all know that grass is green. One day a person offers $1000 to have someone choose to believe that grass is blue. Even if the one says that the grass is blue for the money, does that mean he really thinks so? Does that mean grass really becomes blue after the person chooses it to be? People will not become different people just because they choose to believe in god without knowing him. Even if a person chooses to convert to a religion, it doesn’t mean he will be a faithful believer if the decision is based on nothing. So solid reasons must be provided for people to believe in God. Otherwise, it’s meaningless to believe in something we don’t know. Third of all, we do lose something if we believe in God. We could lose the life we want. It takes efforts to practice belief, and we need to restrain our behaviors in order to follow God’s will. For example, in Buddhism, monks and nuns are not allowed to drink alcohol and eat meat. They are only allowed to eat vegetables. But whether a person is faithful or not should not depend on what food they eat. According to Buddhism, killing is sinful, and that’s why it is wrong to eat meat. But does it



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