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Christianity &Islam &Judaism Thomas on 17 Feb 2011 12:03 am

Why It’s Not a ‘Safe Bet’ to Believe In God

For any rational person, the title of this article is obvious. The religious can’t see it at all:

Why It’s Not a ‘Safe Bet’ to Believe In God

“Why not believe in God? If you believe and you turn out to be wrong, you haven’t lost anything. But if you don’t believe and you turn out to be wrong, you lose everything. Isn’t believing the safer bet?”

In debates about religion, this argument keeps coming up. Over, and over, and over again. In almost any debate about religion, if the debate lasts long enough, someone is almost guaranteed to bring it up. The argument even has a name: Pascal’s Wager, after Blaise Pascal, the philosopher who most famously formulated it.

And it makes atheists want to tear our hair out.

Not because it’s a great argument… but because it’s such a manifestly lousy one. It doesn’t make logical sense. It doesn’t make practical sense. It trivializes the whole idea of both belief and non-belief. It trivializes reality. In fact, it concedes the argument before it’s even begun. Demolishing Pascal’s Wager is like shooting fish in a barrel. Unusually slow fish, in a tiny, tiny barrel. I almost feel guilty writing an entire piece about it. It’s such low-hanging fruit.

Why can’t religious people see how ridiculous Pascal’s wager is?

39 Responses to “Why It’s Not a ‘Safe Bet’ to Believe In God”

  1. on 17 Feb 2011 at 12:37 pm 1.Boz said …

    But alas! Once again the atheist suffering from dementia and myopia cannot see past the veil of their infinitesimal existence. As has always been the case today, in even in the days of the brilliant Blasie Pascal, the wager is made on the basis of the Christian worldview, not the myopic atheist worldview. Consequently, the wager is as solid today as it was in Pascal’s day.

    The Christian has eliminated one possible scenario. The atheist has eliminated zero. When the atheists successfully make a solid argument refuting Pascal, the wager will vanish. However like calculus, it is highly unlikely.

  2. on 17 Feb 2011 at 3:14 pm 2.BrianE said …

    Clearly you didn’t read the article Boz; thanks for making us all aware of your ignorance.

  3. on 17 Feb 2011 at 3:31 pm 3.Severin said …

    1 Boz
    Are you trying to tell us that you accept Pascal’s Wager?
    To pretend believing in god, just in case he exists?

    I can not imagine Christians take their own god for such an idiot, unable to see who is pretending and who is truly believing.

    If I was a believer, I would have better opinion about my god.

  4. on 17 Feb 2011 at 3:41 pm 4.Severin said …

    1 Boz
    “… the wager is made on the basis of the Christian worldview…”

    YES, you said it, but I missed it!
    You obviously DO think your god is an idiot whom you can cheat the way you want: if I pretend to believe, just for a case, I will profit something, if there is god, and I will lose nothing if there isn’t one.

    Right!
    CHEATING and PRETENDING are in the fundamentals of Christianity.

  5. on 17 Feb 2011 at 5:02 pm 5.Boz said …

    Brian

    I didn’t read the article? Uh, yeah I did. It’s short, simple and poorly espoused. And as I confirmed she makes her argument from complete ignorance just as I advocate.

    But Brian, I am a just chap. Prove me wrong. Provide a quote from the article that proves my analysis incorrect.

  6. on 17 Feb 2011 at 7:31 pm 6.A Romantic said …

    Let me simplify for the author (never heard of her) Pascals wager was in realization that some do not have the ability to believe. In this case, from construction from Pensées, he directs them to live as though they had faith, which may lead them to belief.

    To quote the author, what causes us who are informed to pull our hair out is those who construct articles of which they know zero about.

  7. on 17 Feb 2011 at 10:32 pm 7.Observer said …

    Ah, Boz- I have been away for some time and your stupidity is here to freshen things up a bit. In what way was the article “short, simple and poorly espoused”? Ignorant white-trash filth such as yourself should learn what the words of your betters mean before using them. You delight me.

  8. on 17 Feb 2011 at 10:38 pm 8.Observer said …

    Romantic it is good to see you are still trying, and failing, to construct coherent sentences, let alone thoughts. Keep at it. By the way, are you male or female? While you sound like a teenage-girl, it would be enormously gratifying, in a decidedly Schadenfreude vein, to hear you are in fact a straight male over 16.

  9. on 17 Feb 2011 at 10:44 pm 9.dan68131 said …

    I am a atheist and I beleieve in the universe just came into existence. It is science called spontaneus generasion. You idiot religus types should pick up a book and learn some facts.

  10. on 17 Feb 2011 at 10:50 pm 10.1of chosen once said …

    Jesus is life through god creator of u and me! All of u in this site should be ashamed of your self for having a site like this one. May god be with u and forgive u of all your sins its not to late to repent god forgives through acceptance of Jesuscrist or savor!

  11. on 18 Feb 2011 at 1:54 am 11.Tigerboy said …

    The logical answer to Pascal’s Wager is Russell’s Teapot.

    Just because one can imagine the possibilty of some thing, it has no bearing on it actually being true.

    Are people who see “no risk” in believing in garden fairies, and some wonderful possibilty that they MIGHT be right, are those people any more likely to BE right about the existence of garden fairies? No.

    Does it make sense to believe any outlandish thing, just because it MIGHT be true? No.

    You can postulate many outlandish things, but then those things need to stand up to some scientific inquiry. Some objective peer review.

    Both God and garden fairies fail the objectivity test.

  12. on 18 Feb 2011 at 2:16 am 12.Thomas said …

    Atheist Friends,

    Pascal’s wager has nothing to do with proof of God’s existence. The assumption is that God’s existence cannot be proven or disproven. It is amazing how many of you are so way off.

    It is a philosophical argument. The conclusion that Pascal’s Wager draws from this is that belief in the Christian God is the rational course of action, even if there is no evidence that he exists. If the Christian God does not exist then it is of little importance whether we believe or disbelieve in him. If the Christian God does exist then it is of great importance that we do believe in him. In order to cover ourselves in all circumstances, therefore, we ought to believe that the Christian God exists. That is the logic that leads to the philosophical conclusion.

  13. on 18 Feb 2011 at 5:47 am 13.EbonyBooty69 said …

    Boz, my good chum, you suck monkey balls

  14. on 18 Feb 2011 at 6:30 am 14.Tigerboy said …

    Pascal’s Wager says that the actual TRUTH of the situation doesn’t matter.

    Believe what you are told, say whatever incantation is expected of you, cover all your bets, and hope for the best!!!!

    Total intellectual dishonesty.

  15. on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:41 am 15.Severin said …

    9 dan 68131
    “… I beleieve in the universe just came into existence.”

    Or, maybe it didn’t. Maybe it never “started to exist”, but just existed, in deifferent form, from ever.
    It is not important for this debate, but if theists claim god “just exists”, what is wrong if we say “matter/energy just exist”?

    Why would one thing (god) have properties that could not be applied to another thing (matter/energy)?
    Because ladies and gentlemen theists say so?

    Poor argument!

  16. on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:48 am 16.Riteous1 said …

    Because God is divine…duh

  17. on 18 Feb 2011 at 8:04 am 17.Severin said …

    12 Thomas
    “The assumption is that God’s existence cannot be proven or disproven.“
    Whose assumption? Yours?
    If someone claims something exists (god, some law of physics, an animal, a man having two heads with three eyes on each…), HOW can we trust it without proofs? Or, at least, without some logical indications that direct us to possibility such a thing exists?
    WHY should anyone just believe things?
    In case you expect us to just believe things, without proofs, you must direct us (and give us good reasons!) to WHOME to believe!
    Budhists? Muslims? Christians (and WHICH ONES?)?

    „The conclusion that Pascal’s Wager draws from this is that belief in the Christian God is the rational course of action,…“
    WHO said Psacal’s Wager draws from „this“ (phylosophical argument – WHAT argument can we see in it?)? You, again?
    So, you say: P.W. draws form „this“, which automatically lead us to conclusion that believing in Christian god is „the rational course of action“!!!
    SOME „logical“ gymnastic!

    Can P.W. be applied to Islam?
    Can’t Muslims draw the same conclusion for „their“ god?
    Of course, about Christian god“ and „Muslim god“, you have to consult Ben, as an expert for „a god“.

    Mr, Pascal, unlike his fellow priests, and unlike theists „debating“ here, had excellent sense of humor! He mocked with his own faith in a manner of a gentleman.

  18. on 18 Feb 2011 at 8:15 am 18.Severin said …

    12 Thomas
    “In order to cover ourselves in all circumstances, therefore, we ought to believe that the Christian God exists.”

    There was no need to say anything but that!

    In order to cover all possibilities we OUGHT to believe, to somehow convince god, IF HE EXISTS, that we DO believe, to make him do what we please.
    It has noting to do with philosophy!
    It is primitive CHEATING of both, god and yourself.

    Of course, if you take it seriously, as Mr. Pascal never did! He made jokes!

    Do you expect god (if he exists) is such an idiot?

  19. on 18 Feb 2011 at 11:50 am 19.Thomas said …

    “The assumption is that God’s existence cannot be proven or disproven.“ Whose assumption? Yours?”

    No Pascal. Maybe you can prove the existence or nonexistence?

    But then I of course will ask:

    “Whose proof, yours?”

    The rest of your concerns were already dealt with by Pascal in Pensées. You have obviously never read it.

    The second post is gibberish. I have no idea what you attempt to communicate.

  20. on 18 Feb 2011 at 1:37 pm 20.Xenon said …

    @Dan #9

    I thought spontaneus generasion had been abandoned. You still believe?

    @ Thomas #19

    You can then ask Severin if he no longer believes Pascal has he now quit using cell phones and quit going to physicians? That is typically one of his well crafted arguments when a scientist conclusions are ever questioned. lol

  21. on 18 Feb 2011 at 5:57 pm 21.Tigerboy said …

    You can’t answer Severin’s questions. Why doesn’t Pascal’s Wager apply to the divinity of the Prophet Mohammed? Or Vishnu? Or Shiva the Destroyer? Or Isis? Or garden fairies? Why doesn’t everyone recognize that they are Atheist regarding the very long list of deities they find absurd?

    Yahweh is no different.

  22. on 18 Feb 2011 at 6:05 pm 22.Burebista said …

    “Yahweh is no different.”

    How do you know?

  23. on 18 Feb 2011 at 6:28 pm 23.GOD said …

    For the record; I do exist, and everyone hear will be burning eternally in hell.

  24. on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:11 pm 24.BJE said …

    Its pretty obvious that your are a troll “God”

  25. on 18 Feb 2011 at 7:34 pm 25.Observer said …

    Hear! Hear!

  26. on 18 Feb 2011 at 9:17 pm 26.Severin said …

    20 xenon
    “You can then ask Severin if he no longer believes Pascal has he now quit using cell phones and quit going to physicians?”

    Of course I believe Pascal’s scientific achievments.
    I don’t believe in god!

  27. on 18 Feb 2011 at 9:24 pm 27.Severin said …

    22 Burebista
    ““Yahweh is no different.”
    “How do you know?”

    Is it a way to avoid Tigerboy’s question?
    Of course it is: pull debate to direction you like, try to confuse, try to confuse,…only NOT to answer the simple question:
    Can Pascal’s Wager apply to Islam?

    Simple yes or no would do!

  28. on 18 Feb 2011 at 9:43 pm 28.GOD said …

    To deny or tempt your lord is a sin and you shall burn in hell.

  29. on 19 Feb 2011 at 10:10 am 29.TGHO said …

    It’s interesting to see the complete and utter blindness of the theists here. Simple logic seems to escape them. Maybe faith destroys the ability to actually think?

  30. on 19 Feb 2011 at 8:02 pm 30.Tigerboy said …

    Yes. Faith “destroys the ability to actually think.”

    Faith is the ANTITHESIS of thinking.

    And none of these theists seems willing to answer basic questions.

    One of the greatest civilizations of all time (the Greeks) believed the Sun to be the god Apollo, driving his fiery chariot across the sky, drawn by horses made of flames.

    Why doesn’t Pascal’s Wager apply to Apollo? Why is it not a “safer bet” to believe the Sun to be a god driving a burning chariot across the sky?

    Why doesn’t Pascal’s Wager apply to the appeasement of any number of “volcano gods?” Belief might keep the volcano from erupting! You have everything to gain! What do you have to lose? (except the possibility of actually understanding the way volcanoes work)

    Why doesn’t Pascal’s Wager apply to Ganesha, Elephant-Headed Remover of Obstacles? Or, his father, Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds?

    Why doesn’t Pascal’s Wager apply to Islam?

    The answer is: Because Pascal’s Wager is intellectually bankrupt. It contributes nothing to the cause of understanding Truth. Our own personal interest in ANY conjectured idea, has no bearing on the likelihood of it being true, or false.

    Pascal’s Wager demonstrates how religion can totally mislead a smart, rational mind. Blaise Pascal was a smart guy. He was a very smart guy who famously came up with a very BIASED idea. Despite being a brilliant mathematician, he couldn’t see how he had stacked the deck in favor of his own desired outcome.

    Too tempted by Paradise to properly understand a pair of dice.

  31. on 19 Feb 2011 at 8:45 pm 31.Horatio said …

    Pascal wager will work for practically any religion.

    When you put atheism up against Christianity, Islam or Mormonism just to name a few, they all defeat atheism in Pascal’s wager. Atheism is the lazy man’s answer.

    “There are too many possibilities so I give up”

  32. on 20 Feb 2011 at 6:01 am 32.TGHO said …

    @31

    Horatio, you’re not thinking it through. As noted in Greta’s article, Pascal’s wager means that the theist has conceded the discussion.

  33. on 20 Feb 2011 at 9:15 am 33.Severin said …

    31 Horatio
    “When you put atheism up against Christianity, Islam or Mormonism just to name a few, they all defeat atheism in Pascal’s wager.”

    What happens when you put Christianity against Islam, or v.v.?
    Aren’t Muslims “a-Christian theists”?
    Aren’t Christians “a-Allahists”.
    If P.W. “works” with all religions, which one is riht one?

  34. on 20 Feb 2011 at 9:22 am 34.Severin said …

    31 Horatio
    You never answered the simple question:
    Is your god an idiot, whom you can cheat by pretending to believe?

  35. on 20 Feb 2011 at 1:16 pm 35.Tom said …

    #32 TGHO: “As noted in Greta’s article, Pascal’s wager means that the theist has conceded the discussion.”

    And Greta is an authority on this because…….?????

    Atheism as the lazy mans answer fits very well. I like the analogy.

  36. on 22 Feb 2011 at 9:31 am 36.TGHO said …

    @35

    Tom, Greta is no more an authority than you. Or even Pascal. Anyone can philosophise (i.e. think), regardless of the actual outcomes they postulate. Trying to claim that Pascal must be believed simply because he’s Pascal is the logical fallacy known as the “appeal to authority”.

    Your purile claim that “atheism is the lazy man’s answer” is you simply avoiding the question. You’re trying to avoid the cognitive dissonance being set up by the simple fact that there is absolutely no reason to follow your god over any other god. When are you converting to Wicca, may I ask?

    Note that you are also being sexist – not all atheists are men.

  37. on 23 Feb 2011 at 2:50 pm 37.al said …

    Great site, while I sympathize with Pascals sincerity for making such a statement, it is ultimately flawed. Pascal statement makes it seem as though its like buying a lottery ticket, maybe you win and maybe you wont, but wont you be glad if you do. Belief and faith in God is about a relationship, much like that between husband and wife, I choose to believe because I choose to love God, not because I want an insurance policy. That’s just my view, I love open discussion and debate on religion, and think this is a great site for people to just talk against or for what they believe. I just hope I’m not shunned for my beliefs. Take care!

  38. on 24 Feb 2011 at 8:18 am 38.TGHO said …

    @37 al,

    Don’t see why you’d be shunned, mate. You’re very welcome to post. Just make sure to wear the flame-proof undies. :)

  39. on 08 Mar 2011 at 7:31 pm 39.EmoHeart said …

    28 GOD um funny thing if God loves everyone why are you telling everyone here to go to Hell? Sorry I mean everyone “hear”. You clearly can’t spell so if you’re God you suck.

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