On Religion and Pascal’s Wager

Posted on July 22, 2009

Pascal’s Wager or Pascal’s Gambit

Pascal’s Wager was a suggestion posed by 17th Century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason or logic a person should “wager ” as though God exists, because by so living, one has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Pascal was a devout Catholic, though an intensely curious one regarding the validity of ecclesiastic dogma; he made a lot of waves and ended up being somewhat ostracized by the Church hierarchy.

I am pretty much in agreement with Pascal, whatever one’s own individual concept of God or a universal force may be. But, I see no reason to contrive some sort of personal image of a God as some sort of all seeing entity that has a singular interest in the destiny of each and every being, the so called “jealous” God of Judo- Christianity and Islam ” that requires a personal relationship with every individual and demands constant worship.
If indeed God created man in his image (or is it the other way around?) it would seem he/she/it would want to see the fruits of their creation develop to their maximum potential rather than waste time and energy in selfish praise.

Again, like Pascal, I believe to arrogantly claim knowledge of God is a futile attempt to define the unfathomable. Unlike the true atheist or the philosophy of Shaw, “when we die we rot “, I believe living a good life by the “Golden Rule ” is sufficient to acquire the “Grace of God “, whatever that may be. To bog ones self down with ritual and dogma is a massive waste of time and energy and an exercise in futility; it is counter productive in realizing the potential that mankind has to offer for the benefit of the human species. Witness the explosion of creativity of the Renaissance and conversely the stifling of creativity and productivity in the world of Islam by the shackles of fundamentalist Islamic dogma. Admittedly, a brief flurry of serious work in science and mathematics by early Islamic scholars did indeed occur while Europe languished in the Dark Age, albeit in large part carped from early Greek and Roman scholars. Those folks are badly in need of a Reformation.

However, for the masses, religion offers solace and comfort; fear of God keeps many from going astray by making them at least partially civilized. As Alyosha, the ascetic brother in Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov ” maintained, the concept of fear of divine retribution for sinning helps prevent man from killing one another. For the majority not inclined to deeper thought religion does serve that purpose.

Incidentally, the early basic computer language PASCAL was named to honor Pascal’s immense contribution to theoretical mathematics and logic.

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4 responses to “On Religion and Pascal’s Wager”

  1. Quote: Again, like Pascal, I believe to arrogantly claim knowledge of God is a futile attempt to define the unfathomable.

    I agree. You can’t stuff God in a little box, carry him around with you, and show him off occasionally, to impress everybody.

    Good, stimulating, thought provoking write.

  2. First, welcome to the group. Francis needs another man in the group – that’s for sure. If you write about nature and fishing, oh, his dreams are come true! Just don’t let him lure you into that group he calls "Meyricks Chicks" – or weren’t you gonna share that with him, Moggy?

    I liked your offering. I cannot much say that since my youth I have been a ‘devout’ any kind of organized religion. Perhaps, instead I am a devout seeker. The more I learn, the less I can agree with religions that tell me to be subservient and ignorant and quiet. I cannot believe any supreme being made me to be that. Why would God want me thata way? Or out of fear of retribution? That’s like winning by default, IMHO. I’d never want someone that way, for sure. But I also am drawn by the pagan side of the spiritual. I think that the practices of too many around the world – Native Americans, Celts, Eastern practices – share something that incorporates the forces of nature into spirituality and feel that so strongly that I could no more deny it than show up at some organized church on Sunday. Well, I never said I had the answers, anyway.

    You are fortunate (except for hurricane season) to live in one of the most lovely places in the US, in my opinion.

  3.     Derlogi;
        I find myself to be very upset with you.
        You stole my thunder.
        Your article expesses exactly what I was intending to write, and almost in the exact same verbage. We must be connected on some astral plane.
        I am reminded of a quote from Robert Heinlein; "Men rarely, (if ever), manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child"
       My take on this is if the god described in Christian, Muslim, and Jewish dogma does exist, and I do not presume to insist on either the existance or non-existance of god, I cannot but believe that such a superior being would have to be above such human frailties as vanity.
        In other words, such a being would certainly not be so petty as to require his creations to worship him. Such egocentricity would certainly be beneath an omnipotant god.
        I believe that if god does exist, and wants me to be aware of it, he certainly has the power to make himself known to me. Apparently he has chosen not to do so.
        I agree with your and Katie’s position. It is much more important to live one’s life in a manner which the individual deems to be moral and honorable. Such a position is of much more value than worshiping a god who may or may not exist.
        Well done.

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