Arguments for the Existence of God: Pascal’s Wager
This post won’t be interesting at all to atheists. It’s mostly for the believers that happen upon this site. I’d like to address a common bit of reasoning put forth by theists for why I should believe in God.
The argument in question goes like this:
What if you’re wrong? If you believe and there is no God, when you die, you have lost nothing. But if you die and there is a God, there is everything to lose. Eternal punishment! Is it worth the risk?
There are a number of problems with this. Firstly, which God should I believe in? If I believe in the Christian God and it turns out the Jews were right, I’m still going to hell. If I prayed every day for 50 years to the Christian God and it turned out the Muslim god was the correct God, I could still end up going to hell!
This was most famously stated by Richard Dawkins in a youtube clip where he spoke at Liberty University (almost 3 million views on that clip, wow!)
People believe in many different kinds of gods, and this argument doesn’t specify which one it’s referring to. In fact, you could replace “God” with anything and the argument would be just as valid. I know that a Christian would balk at me trying to replace “God” in the argument with “Invisible Pink Unicorn” and calling it just as valid. But really, I don’t believe in God, and this argument is supposed to persuade me. It doesn’t help if the argument already assumes the existence of the thing it’s supposed to convince me of.
Another problem: I can’t just decide to believe in a God out of fear. I either buy the story or I don’t. So, what, am I supposed to pretend to believe out of fear of hell? Don’t you think a God would see past my ruse? Is that what God wants? Fake belief? I hardly think that would work. “Ummm… yeah… sure, Jesus. I believed in you the whole time! Now, let me in! Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
Lastly, I find the assertion that belief in God costs us nothing to be untrue. Many believers spend a lot of time in church (and a lot of money as well). Some believers even spend time trying to legislate beliefs which have no rational basis into law. This ends up causing real human harm. Your beliefs end up causing actions in the real world. So it’s not a “worth nothing” choice at all. Furthermore, is it “nothing” to go through the one life you have believing a lie? I don’t think so. My time is valuable. I do not give it up so easily.