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My Own Mutterings About Pascal’s Wager

… were recently added to some others’ various mutterings at Argumentum ad Infinitum–a blog where a zealously long-winded atheist and his Christian buddy have at it. What I offered to the discussion follows. The original blog entry, which actually focuses more on the topic of transgenderedness than on Pascal’s Wager, may be found here.

Where I see a problem with the wager is in the notion that my belief or unbelief will necessarily result in salvation or damnation. We all fall along a spectrum of belief and unbelief and surely if there is a benevolent God who created us in this condition of uncertainty and confusion, mercy will be extended to those of us who have fallen prey to the lies and obfuscation and bad philosophy that lead to unbelief.

On the other hand, I think it makes sense, existentially, to embrace the humility that our condition in the universe so clearly calls for–to commit oneself to God or some notion of God, even if it’s just the undefined “higher power” of Alcoholics Anonymous. If, as it seems clear, there is one uncreated being who created everything and everyone else, then it makes sense to acknowledge that. If there are signs and hints in the history of the world suggesting the possibility that this being is personally interested in our lives, then, yeah, it makes sense to bet on that. In those terms, I think the wager is on the right track. Kierkegaard may come to the aid of Pascal here.

Cf. also Peter Kreeft’s excellent little essay on Pascal’s Wager.

Comments

  1. almostgotit says

    The only Bible vers I ever managed to memorize in Sunday School, despite (or maybe because of?) my teacher’s constant harangues, was John 3:16.

    Which does posit “belief” as a necessary element of salvation, dagnabbit. I agree this is terribly problematic, however, and certainly hope it is not actually too necessary either as I’ve already failed the “Number of Memorized Bible Verses” part of the competition.

  2. Rufus McCain says

    I’ll have to go look up that verse and get back to you.

  3. Rufus, ever the “good Catholic” has no idea what John 3:16 is without looking it up. Thanks for making me laugh out loud.

    I always think of the idea of God as being a God of mercy.

    Mercy means we will be treated better than we deserve.

    Thank God.

    Besides, God is so much more than anything we can imagine, more loving, more merciful, more forgiving,

    I think that is why it is so hard for people to imagine a God at all.

    Or as my daugter (20 years old now but about 6 then) explained about the native americans who have spirits of everything (i.e Spirit of the Wind, Spirit of the Fire, etc)

    “They just can’t imagine a God who is big enough to do everything so they break him up into little gods who can do one thing really well.”

    Out of the mouths of babes; maybe everything we need to know we do learn by kindergarten and then it gets all confused by our rational thought process.

  4. Paul Maurice Martin says

    “If, as it seems clear, there is one uncreated being who created everything and everyone else, then it makes sense to acknowledge that.”

    But this isn’t at all clear. If it were, then atheists and agnostics would, as a group, be noticably less intelligent than believers…

    Logically there is no more reason to assign aseity to an Other entity than to being or the world itself.

  5. Rufus McCain says

    Which brings us back to the Wager. That Pascal was a cagey fellow.

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