For those who do not know, in the seventeenth century the mathematician Blaise Pascal formulated his infamous pragmatic argument for belief in God in his ”Pensées”. The argument runs as follows:
If you erroneously believe in God, you lose nothing (assuming that death is the absolute end), whereas if you correctly believe in God, you gain everything (eternal bliss). But if you correctly disbelieve in God, you gain nothing (death ends all), whereas if you erroneously disbelieve in God, you lose everything (eternal damnation).
How should you bet? Regardless of any evidence for or against the existence of God, Pascal argued that failure to accept God’s existence risks losing everything with no payoff on any count. The best bet, then, is to accept the existence of God. There have been several objections to the wager: that a person cannot simply will himself to believe something that is evidently false to him; that the wager would apply as much to belief in the wrong God as it would to disbelief in all gods, leaving the the believer in any particular god in the same situation as the atheist or agnostic; that God would not reward belief in him based solely on hedging one’s bets; and so on…
I find Pascal’s wager stupid and supercillious, here is a better alternative, which btw I do not take much credit for, as I formulated the basics of it when I was about 8 years old.
If you are, due to nonexistent evidence, not convinced that there is an all loving, compassionate, all-powerful invisible skydaddy, then you should not waste your time with silly immoral religions, but you should spend your life spreading sweetness and light and trying to make the world a better place.
How should you bet? On the ”Spreading Sweetness and Light” bit. If there is an all-loving, compassionate, all-powerful, invisible sky daddy you lose nothing, but gain everything, the invisible sky daddy will not mind you never believed for he/she never put out any proof and you have been a good caring human being so you will always be in.
But if you have been doing bad things, even though they were endorsed in some holy book, a truly good and honest invisible sky daddy would take you to task for it, so you gained nothing, and lost everything, by following rules which you knew were immoral but you liked them anyway and you justified them because some bronze age barbarian brute wrote them in some book.
So whose the clever thinker here?
Me, not Blaise!
More about what is good and what is bad in the next post.