O. Makridis, Pascal's Wager

Pascal seems to think that the chances for, and egainst, God's existence are exactly fifty-fifty [heads or tails, with the game played in the arcane extremities of an opaque universe.] Is he right about this?

What if you are a convinced atheist? In that case, would you grant to Pascal that the chances that God exists are 50 per cent - rather than ZERO per cent?

Also, is Pascal consistent in his claim that you have nothing to lose anyway? At times, he claims that you don;t lose anything if it turns out that God does not exist - you might even gain in terms of developing a nice moral character and by gleefully anticipating bliss after death. In other passages, however, Pascal appears to be more menacing: If God is unforgiving, for instance, you might lose a great deal in case you DON'T enter into the wager at all. This changes the odds, doesn't it? Moreover, if the loss from failing to wager is infinite [for instance, eternity in damnation], then Pascal should have formulated his wager in a different way. Can you see how this should be done? Of course, Pascal could still make the point he wishes to make. But, what if God is unforgiving also toward those who 'believe' because they wager and not out of SINCERE faith? Then, there is no place for a wager in such matter at all.

Do you lose anything if you bet that God exists and it turns out that God does not exist? Pascal claims that you don't lose anything - and you might even gain something. But what if you lose something - you give up on certain pursuits of pleasure, you incur sacrifices, and so on?

What about the utility Pascal assigns to gaining the bet - you wager that you ought to believe in God and God turns out to exist? Pascal takes this utility - eternal life of the blessed - to be infinite. What if it is not infinite? After all, is it possible for finite beings, even after death, to receive an infinite utility? Or, what if this utility is also available to non-believers - because, for instance, God is all-firgiving and admits even sinners into heavenly bliss?

What if there are more than one deities, who are at odds with one another?

Pascal, who was an avid gambler himself, is enthusiastic about what is happening here. He sees the whole enterprise as betting under uncertainty. But why is it true that the matter of God's existence ought to be a matter of uncertainty? Is it really a matter of uncertainty? For some it is less likely than 50-50 that God exists and for some it is more. What is more important, both types believe that they have reasons for their views. Shouldn't we examine those reasons rather than gamble? After all, isn't there something unsavory about preferring gambling to thinking?

Some philosophers have noticed another problem with Pascal's wager: You could EXACTLY what Pascal suggests by tossing a coin and saying to yourself, 'heads, God exists' and 'tails, God does not exist.' Pascal does NOT want you to do this, of course - this is not faith; and yet, the chances that you would be rewarded if God exists are the same - assuming that Gog exists, as Pascal probably does.


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Email: omakridis@aol.com