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Pascal's Wager - How and Why it's Flawed

Pascal's Wager -- How and Why it's Flawed v.1.2.0
Posting Frequency: Not Posted
Upkeeper: Steven Schrader
Send any comments to: Steven Schrader, steve@arc-t.org
Last update: Friday, April 13, 2001

Changes in this Version:

  • Made some minor revisions based on a discussion I had with T
  • And one major revision - fallacy four, five, and six have been combined since they all address the same point, just different aspects of it.
  • Added a new fallacy (fallacy six).

Pascal's Wager has commonly come up in arc-t as a reason to believe, for both Christians and non-Christians. There are many variations of Pascal's original wager floating around. This FAQ addresses the following version (though it could likely be applied to other versions as well):

  • If you don't believe in [the Christian] God, and you're right, you gain nothing
  • If you don't believe in [the Christian] God, and you're wrong, you lose everything
  • If you do believe in [the Christian] God, and you're right, you gain everything
  • If you do believe in [the Christian] God, and you're wrong, you lose nothing

Therefore, you should wager on [the Christian] God, so you get the best of all outcomes.

There are several fallacies to this argument, and it is considered one of the weakest reasons to believe, both by non-Christians as well as some Christians. Please note that not all of these fallacies will necessarily apply in every case.

Fallacy One: It assumes that there is only one god which can be believed in, the Christian one. This is not true, since there are a plethora of gods that have been believed throughout the millennia. This would have to be applied to each and every one of those gods to be true, and this would clearly be impossible, due to the clashing natures of many of the said gods.

Fallacy Two: It assumes that simply wagering on [the Christian] God will buy one entrance into Heaven. While this may be so, the Wager does not instill a belief, it instills an appearance of a belief. Since the god in question is presumed to be all-knowing, he would be able to tell a false from a true belief. Therefore, the belief from the Wager would not qualify should belief be the requirement for entrance into Heaven.

Fallacy Three: It creates a moral dilemma. You, by using this, are sending the most dedicated humanitarians, who just happen to not be Christian, to Hell, while you set a place in Heaven for those mass-murders who happen to be Christian. Since [the Christian] God is supposed to be a loving god, how then could he entertain the embodiment of hatred, yet turn away the embodiment of love?

Fallacy Four: It ignores too many alternate possibilities - some of which are addressed by existing religions, and some which are not. Some examples: A God could reward on criteria which seem meaningless to us - hair colour, taste in clothes, music etc. or A God might not be concerned with humans at all - the universe could be here for hydrogen for all we know. Or God may even reward those who don't believe.

Fallacy Five: It assumes any person is overly fearful of death to be worried about it being a conclusion to their life.

Fallacy Six: It assumes that a belief in God is all that is needed, when many Christians would disagree and would suggest that there are "guidelines" that you should live by (and that God requires you to live by if your belief is sincere). If these guidelines require a change on your part (for example: No sex before marriage, no smoking, denying you are a homosexual, not marrying a non-Christian, etc.), then it could be argued that you have lost something if the Christian God turns out to not exist.

For further research and verification of what you read here, try these links:

If anyone has something they wish to add, send it to Steve at the adress above. If anyone wishes something removed, it should be brought up in the newsgroup, with 'PascalFAQ' in the Header and a statement as to why it should be removed. If I miss anything proofreading, and you catch it, send it to me at the above adress. Thank you.

This file was written by the following:
Christopher Nelson
Steven Schrader
Timothy Meyers
Okamura
wersh
Allan