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Pascal's Wager And Why it Fails

Updated on June 30, 2014

What is 'Pascal's Wager'?

Pascal's Wager has been the christian Hail Mary play against atheism ever since, well, Blaise Pascal formed the argument. If you don't know what the argument is, it goes something like this:

It's better to believe in God than to not believe. When you die, if you believe in God but you're wrong, nothing happens. If you turn out to be right, then you have everything to gain. However, if you don't believe and He turns out to be real, then you lose everything and go to hell. But if you're right, then nothing happens.

It's essentially saying that people should believe in God "just in case".

When I was a christian this idea kept me from becoming an atheist for a long time. Even a short time after becoming an atheist I still had no way to respond when confronted with this 'wager'.

Many atheists are still struggling with a proper response to Pascal's Wager. Some may think that since some atheists are struggling to accept it and continue to not be swayed by it is because they don't want to believe in God, but that's not always the case.

To many people, namely christians, Pascal's Wager may seem like a convincing argument, but what those people fail to realize is that it doesn't produce sincere faith. Mix this with the idea that God is claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent, the argument fails.

Is God All-Knowing?

According to Judeo-christian dogma Yahweh is indeed all-knowing. He knows everything there is to know. Nothing is outside His understanding. After all, He created everything there is to know. How can He create something He doesn't know?

I know I'm speaking as if God exists, but we're going to assume, for the sake of argument, that He does.

Here are a few bible verses, some from the Old Testament and some from the New, that support the idea that God is all-knowing:

Job 37:16

Psalm 139:4

Psalm 147:5

Isaiah 55:9

Isaiah 46:9

Job 28:24

Matthew 10:30

1 Samuel 2:3

1 John 3:19-20

Hebrews 4:13

I think it's safe to conclude that God knows quite a bit.

Is God All-Powerful?

So we've established that God knows everything. So He knows what every possible solution to every possible problem is. But does He have the power to carry out those solutions? Let's take a peek at the Bible again:

Matthew 19:26

Luke 1:37

Job 42:2

Mark 10:27

I would put more examples here, but I want to get to the point soon. The Bible states that God is all-powerful; there is nothing He can't do.

Time for the Counter-Argument

By throwing Pascal's Wager at me, you cannot convince me to genuinely and sincerely believe in God.

Taking into account that God is all-knowing, He would know that I don't believe, He would know exactly why I don't believe and He would know exactly what it would take to convince me. Don't make the mistake of thinking that this would somehow take away my free will, because it doesn't. Learning and being convinced of the truth is what enables people to make informed, rational decisions.

Coupling His omniscience with His omnipotence, His ability to do anything, He has the ability to convince me that He exists. The fact that He hasn't done anything about it leads me to one of two conclusions:

He doesn't exist or He doesn't care.

There is a third, albeit less frequent, idea offered up by some apologists that God isn't all-powerful and/or all-knowing. I usually inquire as to why He's even called 'God' and why we're even having this conversation in the first place.

In Summation...

I really hope this helps people who are on the fence about whether to believe in a god or not. I'm not saying believing in god is inherently bad or that I look down upon it, I simply want people, especially the ones around me, to make decisions based on reality, not fantasy.

If anyone has any comments or questions, please post them below!


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    • TheOdinSeeker profile image

      Steven Banker 3 years ago from Fairfield, OH

      Thanks again, Paladin.

      Creationist arguments tend to fail because of the false dichotomy. Great assumptions will have to made to accept their arguments, but obviously that goes against any common sense.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Another good hub, Seeker!

      The biggest flaw in Pascal's wager is that it offers a false dichotomy -- including only two choices -- when, in fact, there are a MULTITUDE of choices, and it's impossible to know which one is correct. This is reflected in the great Homer Simpson quote you included. Sometimes even the biggest of idiots can have a brilliant insight! :-)

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Julie McFarland 3 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Good hub, voted up. I wrote something similar on Pascal's wager myself.