Pascal’s Wager is an extremely popular topic among atheists and theists alike. It’s an old argument that’s been refuted time and time again, by many people including three of my favorite atheist YouTubers, JaclynGlenn, CosmicSkeptic, and Rachel Oates. I’ve even briefly touched upon it before, here. On the off chance that you haven’t heard of it, Pascal’s Wager is a bargain of the existence of heaven and hell vs whether or not you ought to believe in God.
The old “wager” by Blaise Pascal can be summed up by this table:
Although it can be expressed as a table, or complicated sets of “ifs”, such as “well if God exists, but you don’t believe in him…” or “if hell exists, and you’re a Christian…” Pascal’s Wager actually is much more common than it may sound. It’s anytime someone says to you, “What if you’re wrong?” “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to hell?” or “You can’t live wrong and die right.”
Being such a popular topic, many flaws have already been found with the wager, such as:
- Wouldn’t an omniscient God know that my belief in him was just a facade to get into heaven?
- Wouldn’t an omniscient and omnipotent God know exactly what it takes to get me to believe in him? If so, he’s not doing it, and because of this, it’s his fault that I’m going to hell, not mine.
- If I were to be able to believe in a god purely to cover my bases and end up in heaven, how will I know I’m believing in the right god?
- How can I be sure that belief is the ultimate trait that I need to get into heaven? How do I know it’s not honesty or selflessness or pursuit of the truth (which often leads atheists to where they are)?
- I can’t really control what I believe. If the existence of God truly and honestly doesn’t add up for me, then I can’t just believe in it. If I said I did, I’d be lying.
- If God is all loving, then he would forgive me for not believing and send me to heaven. Since he doesn’t, he must either not be all-loving or not be all-powerful.
- Couldn’t I just be an atheist my whole life and have a deathbed conversion and make it into heaven?
To sum that up, Pascal’s Wager has more holes than swiss cheese. There are a lot of arguments for God, but to me, Pascal’s Wager is one of the weakest. It’s really more of a threat than an argument anyways. Even if I believed in God, it wouldn’t be one of the reasons why. All it might do is make me feel undeservedly good about myself and my “correct beliefs” that are so much better than yours when in reality, the chosen ones that God decides to hand a ticket to heaven to aren’t any better than the rest of us.
I’m not writing this to debunk or refute Pascal’s Wager, though. It’s been done enough. Instead, I’d like to reverse it.
Usually, the way that it’s presented is that if you’re an atheist and you’re wrong, you have everything to lose, but if you’re a believer and you’re wrong, you have nothing to lose. I absolutely disagree. If you live a Christian life, following strict and vague rules and believing that you’re a depraved sinner, even spending years of your life studying the bible for guidance or writing weekly sermons, all for a god that hasn’t even been proven to exist, you’re gambling the entirety of what’s likely your only life.
I’ll give an example that in my opinion is extreme, but it is unfortunately common. At my Christian school, there is a surprisingly large amount of LGBT students (more LGB than T, as it is somewhat less taboo in the Christian community). It’s not too surprising, as it’s becoming more and more common for Christians to try and accept homosexuality and Christianity together. One of the biggest ways that people do this though, is through celibacy. I feel as though celibacy for LGBT individuals is one of the most cruel things that religion causes people to do to themselves. You can’t tell me that someone feeling disgusting about their attraction or orientation and choosing to spend their life without a significant other, or without sex at all for that matter, and putting their religion and their fear of sin above one of the greatest parts of life, romantic love, all for a god that doesn’t exist, doesn’t count as losing something.
So I’d say that whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever, there always may be something to lose if you’re wrong. It could even be expressed this way: both my brother-in-law (the pastor) and I write every Sunday. He writes his sermons (then spends hours reciting and memorizing them, then presenting them) and I write my blog posts. As he preaches about God and I write about God’s nonexistence, one of us must be wrong, and one of us must be wasting our time. We both have something to lose, but I’m confident enough in my nonbelief that I don’t worry that this blog is a waste.
I’ll sum up my response to Pascal’s Wager this way: be present. Don’t live for an afterlife. Even if there is one, we have no way of knowing, but what we do know for sure is that we have the life we’re living now. And if you happen to be Christian, believing in heaven, and you’re wrong, then you haven’t wasted your earthly (and only) life gambling on the next.
If you want to see a better Pascal’s Wager table than the one above, Rachel Oates made one and included it in her video that is really in-depth, and I like it a lot.
Finally, I made a graphic that corrects the saying “You can’t live wrong and die right” to what I believe to be correct, “You live and die.” It’s the size of an iPhone 6/7/8 wallpaper, and I have versions that work best as a lock screen and a home screen. Feel free to download and use them!