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.