“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument by french mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. By “God” he meant the God of Christianity. The argument goes something like this; paraphrasing… “If God exists then by following him and living as his scriptures dictate you stand to gain everything. If you don’t follow him you will ultimately lose everything. If God doesn’t exist, you may not gain anything by following him but you have nothing to lose by doing so. So the safe bet; the one in which you stand to gain the most and lose the least is to live as if God does exist.”
Well I like Pascal but I don’t agree with his reasoning in this case. While I’m not an atheist myself I can think of all sorts of atheistic counter arguments; not least being that it would be a complete waste of your life to follow a doctrine you don’t believe in or agree with and not do the things you really want to do, just out of fear that the Christians might be right after all. That would remove all authenticity from your life.
I have my own argument in response to Pascal. Now I am a Pagan, an eclectic Satanist in fact, and I don’t believe in Christian myth, theology or doctrine at all. However, for the sake of argument let’s assume that I am wrong and that Christianity is largely true. I die, judgement day comes and I am slightly surprised, confused and agitated to find myself in front of the Perlly Gates awaiting judgement. The Christian God asks what I have to say for myself before judgement is passed?
“Well,” I reply a little nervously, “I’m really sorry but I just wasn’t convinced by you or your Church during my life. As a result I disobeyed many of your rules, did all sorts of sinful things which I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed at the time. I practiced witchcraft, I honored and prayed to other Gods including your arch enemy Satan. I probably lead several other people astray too. All I can say is, it felt right at the time. On the other hand I can honestly say that I always tried to be a kind and helpful person. I did what I could to help the poor, the sick and the underprivileged. I supported a lot of good causes and did a little bit to protect animals, the planet and it’s environment.”
Now the Christian God might respond in two ways. He might say “To hell with you! Your good deeds don’t count at all. You are full of sin and you allied yourself with Satan. Off you go!”
In which case I would think “Well I am glad I followed Satan rather than such an arrogant, jealous and unforgiving entity like you. I lived my life honestly and what little good I may have done, I did for genuine reasons and not just to get into the exclusive heaven club. If there is really suffering in hell that is bad but it is also unjust. Moreover at least I am likely to have better company there with people I respect whose good works were not done just to guarantee entry into an exclusive heaven.”
Alternatively the Christian God might say, “Hey I am nowhere near as nasty as some of my followers make me out to be, and I know you have a good heart despite the mistakes you have made. You are welcome here anytime you want!”
In which case I will think, “Oh, that’s nice and perhaps I will have a peep inside and see what the membership benefits really are. But I am still pleased that I was true to myself in life and tried to do what I thought was right at the time without denying myself the many pleasures that being alive can involve.”
For me the safest wager is to be kind and helpful when appropriate and to live as fully and authentically as possible while in possession of this gift of life.