Is God Real? What if You’re Wrong? (Pascal’s Wager)

Pascal's Wager

In the 1600’s, mathematician Blaise Pascal declared that belief in god is a safe bet, because a lack of belief possibly results in hell. There are so many things wrong with Pascal’s Wager. And this video breaks some of them down.

In the mid 1600's mathematician Blaise Pascal posited the following paraphrased argument for belief in God. If God exists it’s far safer to believe in him. The rewards are eternal, and if you’re wrong you lose nothing, but if you don’t believe and are wrong, the cost is too great.

There are so many things wrong with Pascal’s Wager that I’m always surprised that people still use it today.

First off, he assumes that you can choose what you believe. If I don’t see evidence for god, I can’t choose to believe one exists any more than I can choose to believe that my friend Danny is an Xbox controller. I can lie and say I do, but even if I did, an all knowing god would see right through me, and would probably appreciate an honest lack of belief far more than insincere bet-hedging. And with over 4,000 known gods mankind has concocted, what makes you think you’re worshipping the right one and not just the one you like? Sure, a billion protestants and Catholics really dig their god, but Allah’s passing out virgins, and the Mormons came up with one that gives you a planet when you die. His popularity has really taken off.

What if you’re praying to the wrong god, and every time you go to church and tithe, you’re just pissing her off? If a god created the universe, I think he’d be confident enough to get by just fine without perpetual brown-nosing. He wouldn’t go hungry without prayers and he wouldn’t need an ego boost. It’s incredibly arrogant to think that a god capable of creating this universe would be entirely centered around our small planet, and more specifically me? And if it’s so crucial that you believe, wouldn’t an omniscient, loving god reveal himself to you in a targeted way that he knows will convince you? Doubt-free, naive belief without evidence is such a dumb way to determine salvation anyways, especially for the hide-and-seek champion of the universe.

“I have always considered “Pascal’s Wager” a questionable bet to place, since any God worth believing in would prefer an honest agnostic to a calculating hypocrite.”  - Alan M. Dershowitz, Letters to a Young Lawyer

I certainly don’t believe in the Christian god any more than I do the Egyptian, Norse, or Aztec gods. Yahweh and Allah are just the flavor the month. With all of their failed prophecies, internal scriptural contradictions, scientific and historical inaccuracies, and sanctioning of immoral acts of violence, choosing one of these deities would be one of the worst, most illogical choices anyone could make. And the stakes get even higher when you add science to the equation. We have no empirical proof of god. Every supernatural claim that has been thoroughly tested has been thoroughly debunked. Our understanding of the cosmos is light years ahead of what it used to be, even just ten years ago, and is growing exponentially every day as we gather more data, and unlock better ways to observe the universe.

Whether you’ve kept up with it or not, scientists, independently, across multiple disciplines have been piecing together the origins of life and the universe, from a hundred trillionths of a second after the big bang to the formation of stars, then planets, to abiogenesis and the evolution of life itself. Everything points to a universe from nothing, and the gaps for god are getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Adding an even more complex god to the mix, only complicates the equation with unnecessary and unproven assumptions. So tell me, with every god we know of being pitifully small and man-made, and as the possibility for any deity shrinks to a minuscule afterthought. Does it really make sense to take this bet?

And it’s not without cost. If following and serving one of these gods means wasting precious time in this short and singular; if it means diverting time and money away from scientific advancement and towards regressive religious institutions; if it means throwing our lives away in a holy grail-style quest for the non-existent, or allowing for suffering, division, and bigotry in hopes of an increasingly unlikely divine reward, then the cost of take this wager is far higher than anyone in their right mind should be willing to take. It would be like selling your family for an already scratched off lottery ticket from a guy in an unmarked van who swears it’s the winning ticket.

Sure, we can’t know with 100% certainty that no god exists, and for that reason we should all technically be agnostic, but due to the sheer improbability of it, I give no more credence to the Judeo-Christian god than to Odin or Osiris. In regards to how I live my life I’m an atheist towards all gods. They’re all highly improbable. As an agnostic atheist, I create my own purpose, and carve my own path.

Live a good life – there probably is no god. But if there is, and she’s just, then your humanism and sincere quest for truth, love, and the betterment of others will be enough. And if there’s not a god, it’s still enough. Do good for its own sake, because we’re good people. Let’s make this world better, because we want to live in a better world, not because we’re scared little worms hedging a bet.

"Perhaps God prefers the abstinent to those who whore around with some denomination he despises. Perhaps he reserves special rewards for those who deny themselves the comfort of belief. Perhaps the intellectual ascetic will win all while those who compromised their intellectual integrity lose everything.” - Walter Kaufmann, Critique of Religion and Philosophy

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