A Critique Of Pascal's Wager
I'm sick and tired of Pascal's Wager. I find it to be stupid and misguided-- it just so happened that it was brought up in my "Philosphy of Religion" class today. This is probably the billionth time it has wormed its way into the whole "Does God Exist?" discussion.
All right. I'll give you a short exposition of the whole thing. Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematical genius of "Lousy Programming Language" and pressure measurement fame, turns his high-strung and finely tuned mathematical mind to the problem of religious belief and comes up with the following argument:
If we combine the factors of living a Christian life or not, with God's existence or non-existence, we have four different possibilities, suitably demonstrated by this chart:
Pascal, being the sensible, rational man that he was, argued that we should always choose to lead a Christian life. If we lead a Christian life, we will either go to Heaven or nothing will happen. If we don't, we'll either burn in Hell or nothing will happen. If we are forced to choose between the two, it is obviously, in light of this, more sensible to choose to live the Christian life.
This argument is superficially convincing, until we start looking a little deeper into things. Is that chart truly an accurate depiction of our options? My answer to that question is a firm NO (I just love making that word bold -- lends it such an outrageous tone of finality). I believe that the chart below is a much more accurate depiction of our options.
There we have a more realistic chart of the whole scheme. We can choose to live a dreary, boring goody-goody-two-shoes Christian life, devoid of even the rudimentary sinful pleasures, on the off-chance that that an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent creator of the world truly does exist (sounds implausible doesn't it?) and wants us to be miserable, or we can just say "What the hell!" and go have a good time, risking aforementioned creator's eternal wrath and potential unimaginable suffering in the afterlife.
So what will it be? Well, I think that we can write off the existence of the omnibenevolent creator right away -- an omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity wouldn't have created Christians in the first place. If I were omnipotent and omnibenevolent, I could most certainly come up with something better than Jehova's Witnesses, Mormons, teetotallers, Gideons, the Inquisition, Pope Innocent II, witch-burnings, persecutions, the Crusades, misogynist oppression, pro-life doctor-murdering assassins, queer-bashers with tire jacks, the Bubonic Plague, Benito Mussolini, Ignatius Loyola, George Walker Bush and Britney Spears. Yes, I could do a MUCH better job.
Having provided a plethora of empirical evidence which seems to strongly suggest the non-existence (or at least mistaken attributes) of such a deity, we have a choice between the Christian life of dreary conformity, obedience and dogmatism, as opposed to the vivacious, audacious and, above all, roaringly entertaining rock'n roll lifestyle of the Sinner. Which are we to choose? For my part, I don't think I will be converting any time soon...