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Should we believe in God just in case God is real? - Pascals wager.
Although it could be argued that Pascal’s wager is an insurance policy it could also be said that it is logical through and possible advice for those unsure whether to believe in God or not. Pascal believes that lack of evidence is no reason not to commit ourselves to believing in God. To support this claim Pascal attempts to provide proof, not in God but in the benefits of believing in God. His argument is presented:
- Believe in God and God exists then you will be rewarded in the afterlife
- Do not believe in God and God exists then you will be punished in the afterlife
- If God does not exist then nothing will happen in the afterlife no matter what you believe.
- Therefore, there is more to gain from believing and a much greater risk of punishment from not believing
Thus, Pascal’s claim is that it makes sense to believe in God, if only due to the possible risks and rewards if God does exist.
There are three main objections to Pascal’s wager. The first is that Pascal is asking people to believe in God for reasons entirely unrelated to the normal reasons we believe in things for. It would be much better to form a belief based on evidence so Pascal’s wager only proves the utility of believing rather than the truth of the belief. Another objection is that religious practices tend to involve abstinence, restraint, devotion, and so on. These traits, although regarded as positive, may interfere with a persons life which may in fact have benefited from a spell of reckless behaviour. It is unfair for Pascal to make it appear as though nothing will be lost if we choose to believe in God and God does not exist as these restrictions way have prohibited some pleasures in a persons life. Finally, Pascal’s wager also fails to take into account the many religions and so many Gods which exist as choices. If a person chose the wrong God to believe in then they may still be punished in the afterlife and so their devotion to a particular God would have rendered some aspects of their life worthless, and making it obvious that despite their belief and faith their life might as well have been spent recklessly.
Generally, Pascal attempts to make claims regarding God which have unsure foundations and attempt to make assumptions and simplifications of a possible being which, if in existence, is entirely unknown and impossible to understand. In order for Pascal’s wager to be a reliable means of deciding whether to believe, we would have to be certain that there was only the possibility of one particular God with certain characteristics and the particular idea of a heaven and hell type afterlife. This not being possible, it would be best to make such decisions based on your personal choice. Perhaps using the logical argument of Pascal’s wager itself would override any devotion after it, perhaps any God would discount such logic as faith and would cause your afterlife to result in punishment anyway. So, although a clear argument, Pascal’s wager should not be your motivation for belief in God(s).