Pascal's Wager

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Pascal’s Wager uses game theory to demonstrate that people should believe in God, because it offers the best cost-to-benefit ratio. The argument is summarized in the table below:

God Exists God Doesn’t Exist
You Believe Eternal heavenly bliss. You wasted all the time you spent worshiping.
You Disbelieve Eternal damnation. You saved all the time you would have spent worshiping.

However, there are three crippling problems with this argument:

  1. Pascal’s Wager was never intended to prove God’s existence; it is just an argument for going to church. Even then, it never actually solves or answers anything -- it just changes the question from “why?” to “why not?”
    • Admittedly, this is a problem with the use of this argument, and not a flaw in the argument, per se. However, this problem appears frequently enough to merit mentioning.
  2. Argument from Inconsistent Revelations. Pascal’s Wager is only valid under the a priori assumption that you’ve selected the correct god. If the Old Testament prophets really screwed up, and it turns out that Ba’al is the Lord, then even the saints are damned. Many of the world’s religions independently developed their own equally-valid versions of Pascal’s Wager, which replaces the word “God” with “Ra,” “Odin,” or “Zeus”.
    • Pascal’s Wager can even be used to disprove the need for religion. If there is no God, or if God does not reward belief (e.g., deism, dystheism), then religion becomes a huge waste of time and resources.
  3. Argument from Inauthentic Belief. If you only believe because of Pascal’s Wager, then your religious devotion is just a fire insurance payment. An all-knowing God would realize that you’re only paying him lip service to win a big payout later. Pascal’s Wager is insufficient to “save” anyone, because it requires you to live a lie, and in turn, lie to God himself.