What is Pascal’s Wager?

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Pascal’s Wager is an argument posed by the mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal to deal with God’s existence.

To help explain here is an illustration: Suppose someone you loved lay dying, and the doctor offered to try a new “miracle drug” that he could not guarantee but that would have a 50-50 chance of saving your beloved’s life. Would it be reasonable to try that drug? Certainly you would!

Now, suppose that God might or might not exist. It is a gamble whether you believe in Him or not. As with any gamble, we should consider the odds.

Pascal described the pay-off of this gamble as follows: If God does not exist, then you neither gain nor lose anything from belief or disbelief. In either case, you just die and that is the end.

However, if you choose to believe in God, and you are right, then the reward is infinite: eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, if you choose not to believe in God, and you are wrong, then your pay-off is going to hell.

To summarize:

Table of Payoffs

Believe in God

Don’t believe in God

God doesn’t exist

0

0

God exists

heaven

 hell

In Pascal’s Wager, believing in God produces the larger gain whereas not believing produces the greater loses. Therefore, Pascal concluded that it was a much better choice to believe in God rather than not.

Pascal says, “Either God is, or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance [death] a coin is being spun that will come down heads [God] or tails [no God]. How will you wager?”

According to Pascal’s Wager, it is therefore the height of folly not to “bet” on God, even if you have no certainty, no proof, no guarantee that your bet will win. Thus, atheism is a terrible bet. It gives you no chance of winning the prize. After finishing the argument in his Pensées, Pascal wrote, “This is conclusive, and if men are capable of any truth, this is it.”

For the atheist, the agnostic, and the indifferent, the Wager presents a logical “seed” for faith.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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