Pascal's Wager: An Unsafe Bet

Essay by cmckinne1991University, Bachelor'sB+, November 2014

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Christopher McKinney


Introduction to Philosophy

Paper 1

Pascal's Wager: An Unsafe Bet

In this paper, I will argue that Blaise Pascal, in his work Yes, Faith is a Logical Bet, under-represents the possible number of outcomes after death based upon belief and non-belief. More specifically, I will argue that Pascal's wager is not a safe bet, and has holes in its theory - namely, 1) that there are multiple religious faiths who believe firmly in a different faith, 2) that God may not reward prudential belief, and 3) that God could actually love atheists. Then, I will present a rebuttal to my own arguments, and challenge my objections. Finally, I will offer a last rebuttal, which will challenge my counter-arguments and reaffirm my original thesis, which is that Pascal's Wager is not the surefire bet he wants us to believe it is. But first, I will explain the necessary background to understand Pascal's argument in the first place.

Pascal's wager goes as follows: theists believe in a potential heaven after death, and atheists believe that life ends immediately following death. Therefore, regardless of whether God exists or not, it is the most rational choice to believe in him. This is because, if you believe in God, and He is real, then you have made infinite gain, but if He is not real, then the loss is insignificant, because you will simply cease to exist, which is what nonbelievers think, anyway. Conversely, if you do not believe in God, and He is real, then you will suffer infinitely, and if He is not real, then you have made an insignificant gain, because you may be right, but you will still cease to exist upon death. This wager uses game theory and probability methods, rather than reason, to argue...