What if you are wrong? What if the Hindu is right? What if the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right? What if the Muslims are right? What if the Native Americans are right?
This question comes from the root of Pascal’s Wager.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and inventor known for his religious argument called “Pascal’s Wager”. Pascal was looking for a way to convert friends to his sect of Roman Catholicism, called Jansenism. He devised an argument that he thought was foolproof and that would cause instant conversion to Jansenism. Amazingly, many theists today still think this argument is foolproof.
Simply put, Pascal’s Wager goes something like this:
- Either the believer or the non-believer will be correct – one of them has to be wrong.
- If you are a believer and you are correct – then you will be rewarded with eternal life.
- If you are a non-believer and you are correct – then you will die and nothing will happen.
- If you are a believer and you are wrong – then will you will die and nothing will happen.
- If you are a non-believer and you are wrong – then you will be punished with eternal damnation in the pits of hell.
- Therefore, if you are a believer you have a chance of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven – even if you are wrong. If you are a nonbeliever, you have zero chance. Why should we not be a believer? Just in case the believers are right?
Pascal’s Wager cannot work and is not foolproof, contrary to the persistent belief of some theists. Replace God with Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Zeus, Mithras, or Allah and re-read the wager. Does it still sound okay to you?
First, the non-believer must forsake the truth in order to be a believer. Should I stop searching for knowledge and forsake the truth for a “chance” that I might be wrong? The sky is blue: that is the truth. Should I forsake that truth because a religion says the sky is green and that if I am wrong I could spend an eternity in hell? No, I will stick to the truthful blue sky.
Second, the wager does not specify which god to believe in. Do I believe in Zeus, Osiris, Jupiter, Allah, Jesus Christ, Mother Earth, or extra-terrestrials? Which god do I sacrifice the truth to in order to have a chance, just in case?
Since Christians often use Pascal’s Wager the most, which sect of Christianity do I choose to follow? Do I choose Pascal’s Jansenism or go with the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do I choose the Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, or Lutherans? So may choices. There are over 3,500 sects of Christianity; each believing differently. Which one will be right? Should they all sacrifice their beliefs for others, just in case? While they all certainly have a root belief in Jesus as the Christ, they all choose different paths to gain access to heaven.
Third, the wager says we should believe something solely for the prospective reward. Should we sacrifice knowledge and truth for rewards? What happens if a religion offers a better version of Heaven and less vile version of Hell? Should I leave Christianity for that one? If people are so afraid of being wrong, should they not be looking for the best Heaven out there? An example will probably illustrate this better.
You are out with a real estate agent looking at houses. Along comes Mr. Pascal from another agency and he tells you, “If you give me all your money, I will get you the best house in the world. Is it worth not sending in your money? What if I am right? What if you really can get that house just on the money you have already?”
Mr. Pascal has no pictures of this awesome house, he has no address, and he has no detailed description of the house. All he can offer you is that if you are wrong, you will miss an opportunity of a lifetime.
Would you give Mr. Pascal your money just in case he was right?
I am definitely not afraid of being wrong. I am not the one going to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple regularly, just in case. I am not the one donating my hard-earned money to priests so they can purchase a new church or BMW, just in case. I am not the one wasting time with prayer, meditation, or other religious rituals, just in case.
I would rather take my chances on being wrong than sacrifice the truth, logic, rationality, critical thinking, and knowledge.