Pascal's Wager

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by JamieinNH, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. JamieinNH

    JamieinNH
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    A co-worker and I from time to time discuss religion. He knows about Christianity, and has been to Christian camps as a kid, and has gone to church from time to time.

    I haven't pinned down exactly what he believes, or why he isn't involved in a church, but in our discussions, he mentioned Pascal's Wager.

    Has anyone ever heard of this? Now, I don't agree with Pascal's Wager, nor do I think it's a good way to live/believe, but it does seem like a nice way for someone who isn't looking for God to find God.

    Would this be the making of someone on milk? Or is this just a nice way of "believing" without believing?

    In our next discussion, I would like to present him with my views, and I have Googled it, and have studied a bit about what people that believe Pascal's Wager believe, but I would like your input into this.

    Thanks!
    Jamie
     
  2. Johnv

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    Pascal's Wager is an argument for for taking steps to believe in God. This particular argument was first reasoned by Blaise Pascal.

    The argument goes something like this:

    1 - It is possible that the Christian God exists, and it is possible that the Christian God does not exist. Therefore:

    2 - If one believes in the Christian God, and He does exist, then one receives an infinitely great reward. If one believes, but He does not exist, then one loses little or nothing. Therefore:

    3 - If one does not believe in the Christian God, and He exists, then one receives an infinitely great punishment. If one does not believe, and He does not exist, then one gains little or nothing. Therefore:

    4 - It is better to either receive an infinitely great reward or lose little/nothing, than it is to either receive an infinitely great punishment or gain little/nothing. Therefore:

    5 - It is better to believe in the Christian God than it is not to believe in the Christian God. Therefore:

    6 - If one course of action is better than another, then it is rational to follow that course of action and irrational to follow the other. Therefore:

    7 - It is rational to believe in the Christian God and irrational not to believe in the Christian God.

    Not exactly biblically sound, but reasonable common sense. The caveat is that you can replace the phrase "Christian God" with a multitude of other belief systems, and the rationale would still usually be consistent. So I would not suggest using this as anything other than a common sense tool of pursuation, and not as epirical or infallible reasoning.
     
  3. Gayla

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    Never heard of Pascal's Wager before. Thanks for the explaination, Johnv.
     
  4. Jim1999

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    Blaise Pascal was not a theologian or biblical expositor. He was a French mathematician who happened to philosophize and apologize for the Christian faith. Famous for his Pensees and The Provincial letters.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  5. Ransom

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    Pascal's Wager is an application of game theory to apologetics.

    It doesn't prove the existence of God, because it's an apologetic for belief in God. It's an "as if" approach - given the options, it's best to behave as if God exists.
     
  6. LadyEagle

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    Pascal's Wager is a popular topic on atheist boards. :(

    When the atheists were allowed to post here, I recall some debate about it, but those old threads are probably all cyberdust by now.
     
  7. Ben W

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    Blaise Pascal's arguement called The Great Wager

    "If my faith commitment to what I believe to b e true is erroneous, and there is no God and the Bible is false, I will not ever know it. When I die, all conciousness will cease to exist. On the other hand, if your athiesm proves false, you will know it!"
     
  8. Petrel

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    A person either believes in God or does not believe in God. Belief cannot be manufactured by an act of will (well, not unless you start out just a little bit insane). An atheist with any sense of integrity would be offended at the suggestion that he use Pascal's Wager as a basis for believing in God. An atheist without any integrity might outwardly accept the wager, but I don't think this manufactured belief has any value. It's just a facade.

    I find Pascal's Wager irritating.
     
  9. Artimaeus

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    I like his triangle better. [​IMG]
     
  10. Humblesmith

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    I'm not 100% sure, but I think Ransom's response was actually closer to what Pascal was trying to say... the wager was not so much on the belief side but more on the behaviour side....the idea was that it's better to live as if there's a God, rather than live as if there's not one. Atheism provides no basis for living....no moral compass.

    BTW, a friend was recently trying to find a primary source reference for Pascal's Wager, and couldn't find one. He searched everywhere, and found nothing as clear or elaborate as all of the secondary references to it. Does anyone have a source reference directly from Pascal?
     
  11. rsr

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    Pensees, §233

    LINK TO PASCAL'S WAGER
     
  12. Petrel

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    Some agree, some do not. Some say that our morality is innate and flows from our sociability, and that morality pre-dates religion.

    I used to argue that without God there is no basis for morality, but since I've done some research into what atheists believe regarding morality I no longer do.
     
  13. mcdirector

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    It's been quite a while since I did any reading on Pascal, but I vaguely remember that he didn't share his theory with anyone -- that it was found sewn up in his coat when he died. I could, of course, remember this incorrectly, but this impression has stuck with me a long time and has always bothered me. . . A faith not shared . . . A faith so secret that no one knows you hold it . . . doesn't seem faith at all. IMHO.
     
  14. Ransom

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    mcdirector said:

    It's been quite a while since I did any reading on Pascal, but I vaguely remember that he didn't share his theory with anyone -- that it was found sewn up in his coat when he died.

    Not quite.

    Pascal's Wager is part of his Pensées, a loose assortment of notes that he was going to work into a major apologetic for the Christian faith.

    One night in 1654, Pascal had a mystical experience, and he wrote it down on a piece of parchment and sewed it into his jacket as a reminder. Basically, this is it:

    As you can see, the "Memorial" is very personal, subjective, and impressionistic. I don't know what value it would have had to anyone other than him.
     
  15. William Wallace

    William Wallace
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    An atheist at his funeral will be all dressed up with nowhere to go!
     
  16. William Wallace

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    An atheist at his funeral will be all dressed up with nowhere to go!
     
  17. EdSutton

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    An atheist at his funeral will be all dressed up with nowhere to go! </font>[/QUOTE]And, guaranteed, he or she WON'T enjoy the trip or destination! :eek: :eek:

    Ed
     
  18. James Flagg

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    Pascal made no mention of Christianity is his famous "Wager". The wager itself says little more than pick the religion with the easiest docrtines to follow and that offers the greatest rewards after death. I think it is little more than a curiosity anymore along the same lines as Aristotle's Prime Mover agrument.

    FWIW, Wasn't Pascal also the father of hydraulics?
     
  19. Humblesmith

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    What do they claim as the basis for their morality? I'm not sure how a strict materialist can claim there is any morality.....if we're all just a pile of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, then what would an atheist say is the basis of morality?

    Remember, the moral argument does not say that everyone has the same morals....it says that there's no basis for judging any difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa.....no basis for making any moral judgement outside of "It seems to me that...."
     
  20. James Flagg

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    What do they claim as the basis for their morality? I'm not sure how a strict materialist can claim there is any morality.....if we're all just a pile of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, then what would an atheist say is the basis of morality?

    Remember, the moral argument does not say that everyone has the same morals....it says that there's no basis for judging any difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa.....no basis for making any moral judgement outside of "It seems to me that...."
    </font>[/QUOTE]A person does not need to adhere to the same religious tenets that you do in order for them to embrace a code of morality. At the very least, everyone is accountable to their peers for their own actions, and therein lies a certain moral code. A strict atheist might argue that societal mores or even their own conscience is a better moral guide that The Bible. (Trust me, I've heard it all before.)

    And if anyone is interested, this whole "If there is no God, then how can there be morality?" question is ancient and is actually the premise of Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov .
     

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