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A Philosophical Look at Betting on God

Updated on March 16, 2017

My Own Personal Views

I would like to begin this article with addressing the fact that I am a Roman Catholic who practices my faith; however, I do not bash other religions, I do not believe one religion is more right over another, and I do not demonstrate any hate towards somebody’s own personal beliefs. This is a free space to write freely and I invite anyone else to do so in the comments because I love to hear others insights. This article also is not all about the Roman Catholic religion. In fact, I will be talking about various beliefs, and I am interested, in particular, people’s views towards belief in a God/gods.

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Religion is Extremely Diverse

Religion is everywhere. There are countless beliefs and practices worldwide that are diverse in their own ways. Religion is historical, futuristic, and cultural. The question is, which religion is right? Which religion is deemed as most accurate and suitable for every person to follow? There is no right answer to this question because there is no proof, or hardly any proof, to allow people to have complete trust in one faith.

There are three branches of belief in gods:

Atheism: no god

Monotheism: only one god

Polytheism: multiple gods

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The Philosophical Question

I was once asked this question in a lecture and it really caused me to think about the answer. The question was:

Are there good reasons for thinking a God/gods exists?

Some people would look at that question and automatically think “yes” or “no.” But does anyone truly look into the question enough to really think about it in great detail? Perhaps not. Some atheists will defend their argument with a strong “no,” which is fine. Believers will still hold their beliefs. But agnostics, who are people who are uncertain about whether or not a God/gods exist, will be on the fence. The philosopher Blaise Pascal looks at this question in a very interesting way.

Blaise Pascal was a religious pragmatist. Religious pragmatists think that there is not enough evidence to believe or disbelieve in God/gods. Blaise Pascal looks at belief in God as a wager, as if he is betting on the belief in God. His argument goes as stated:

  • If God is true, and one believes in him, then they will be secure in heaven when they die
  • If God exists, and one does not believe, then they will suffer in Hell
  • If God doesn’t exist, and one believes, then they will not have that great of a loss when they die. Perhaps just wasted hours praying and devoting themselves
  • If God isn’t true and one doesn’t believe then they will have a small gain of not having to waste hours
  • Thus
  • There are more plus’s to believing than to not believe
  • So in conclusion
  • People should believe in God

I felt truly enlightened after reading Pascal’s argument that I felt inspired enough to write this article. I believe Pascal is just in what he claims. Maybe we believe and it ends greatly for us, maybe we don’t and it ends horribly. Maybe we believe and it does not benefit us, maybe we don’t believe and we spared hours of our time on earth. The gain with believing is much greater than the gain for not believing. Although there is truth behind his argument, many people could object.

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Objections to Pascal's Thoughts

One objection could be the fact that you cannot just force someone to believe something. Although I have my beliefs, I would never try to push those on others. In fact, I get extremely annoyed at people who attempt to push their beliefs on others. But back to the point. People cannot just automatically start to believe in something. For most, it requires some sort of evidence (something that religion lacks). It would be like trying to force yourself to be in love with someone who you cannot stand being with. Therefore, it is hard for people to just attempt to believe because the bet is better.

Another objection is that some religions have various gods. How could people decide which God deserves the most attention? Which one they should give their all? They couldn’t, because they have no proof. How could any religion justify that their God is the God that everyone should begin to follow and believe in.

Another issue is the unknown. Many people grew up in households that do not practise any type of faith and never decided to start to practise. There is nothing wrong with this, but these people do not know how to be a part of a religious community. For example, it is unlikely that someone who has never ice skated in their life will be able to put on skates and skate perfectly on the ice’s surface.

Another problem is the fact that many people just do not have time to devote themselves fully to any type of religion. Some religions are very serious and have strict rules such as no drinking, no celebrating any type of holiday, etc. Some people may not have the time, or just may not want to, devote themselves to one of these religions in which they begin to feel as if their freedom has been taken away.

Many people who choose not to believe in God give the following statement, “if a God exists, then why do bad things happen to good people?” It is a valid point. I have no answer to this question, as I am sure many feel the same. I know various philosophers out there have tackled this statement, something that I will not get into. This question only forms another objection for people to stay true to their disbelief in God/gods.

Source

After studying Pascal’s argument, I took the liberty to ask a question to the Hubpages community. I was once an agnostic, and I am a believer, but I have not been an atheist. Therefore I was curious as to why people cherish their views of believing in no God/gods. My question was, “Atheists- why do you not believe in God? Or various gods?” I got a range of responses from the community which I would like to share.

Answer One:

“Why don't you believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and unicorns?

The better question would be, why do people believe in God/gods?

Blind faith, fear, ignorance, or delusions. There is no other reason. But it also depends on your definition of God.

I don't believe in God/gods because of the lack of proof. Magic isn't a valid argument. Prove to me God is real, give me solid proof and I'll start believing. May be I am coming off as a rude, condescending guy, but it's a valid argument.”

Answer Two:

“I don't believe in any gods, because it is clear that all of these gods were invented by mere humans, from our ancient past. Ancient holy books, in no way, portray the mind and assertions of an all knowing creator, but rather the ignorance of unlearned, dishonest, and savage humans.

I think Occam's Razor is the best way to conclude the existence of a god, as opposed to man made fraudulent assertions. There is irrefutable evidence, everywhere, of dishonest humans, but there is NO evidence of a god whatsoever.”

Answer Three:

“Our only point of reference for deities is us. Divine accounts, texts, and rituals are all relayed by humans. And, aside from our knowledge of the universe being extremely limited, we are unreliable narrators. There is a saying that 'history is written by the winners' and religion is no different. That which survives was on the "right" side of history, and everything else gets designated as 'mythology'. If some early civilizations hadn't fallen, atheists of today would be debating believers in Zeus.

The over-abundance of gods, and the way they steal narrative concepts from each other, stinks of human creation. Without the ability to verify any of the "miracles" from the past 10,000 years, prophets and storytellers have no more weight than modern day writers.”

Answer Four:

“Long time ago, when communism was progressing well, one of my friends honestly admitted " I just believe that there is no God..."

A Philosophical Novel with Great Works

Pascal's Pensees
Pascal's Pensees

This collection chronicles the fiction and non fiction classics by the greatest writers the world has ever known. The inclusion of both popular as well as overlooked pieces is pivotal to providing a broad and representative collection of classic works.

 

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, Blaise Pascal gives a very interesting insight on whether or not people should place their bets on God, but there certainly are objections to his argument. I still am a strong believer in my beliefs, and I support anyone who chooses to believe in what they believe, I just found this philosophy very interesting. There are reasons for people to have their beliefs and that is fine, everyone is always entitled to their own opinions. Overall, it is just extremely interesting to see what people believe in, and why they believe in it. There are so many people in every society with such diverse beliefs. The world simply could not just pick one out of the many and decide it is the best. Humans are very complex beings; however, we are so intelligent in our own unique ways. The range of science and religious beliefs only proves this statement.

What Do You Consider Yourself?

Are you an Atheist, Monotheist, or Polytheist?

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    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Very informative writ. 'Should we believe in God' invokes a curiosity of every person spiritual eternity matter. Knowing that man is created in the image of the Creator of the universe, according to the Bible, the curiosity goes beyond any religion and focuses on historical evidence personal relationship with God as the heavenly Father to those who believe.

      Your quote of Pascal's argument gives pretty interesting lead to study the issue more seriously. Soon would be discovered that as humans we are spirit and soul living in the body, and being created in likeness of the eternal Creator intensifies earnestness to the question ''should we believe..."

      Voted interesting.