In my few months of experience in debating God’s existence, I have heard a lot of arguments in favor of theism. In most cases, I debate Christians and there are 2 arguments they use more often than others: The first one is, no surprise there, the Kalam Cosmoligcal argument. The second is one of the most, if not the most, ridiculous arguments I’ve ever heard: This argument is of course Pascal’s wager.
The strange thing about Pascal’s wager is, that it really isn’t an argument for God’s existence at all. The basic argument, as it is presented by most theists, is along the lines of the following:
“What if you’re wrong? I mean if I’m wrong I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ll just be dead in the ground. If I’m right on the other hand I’ll go to heaven. But if you’re wrong you’ll spend an eternity in hell.Therefore you should believe in God.”
Now, everybody who is familiar with the argument knows, why it doesn’t hold water. I won’t give a rebuttal to it in this article but I do wanna explore, why I think this argument is so wildly popular among Christians (if you’re interested in a sound rebuttal, you can watch Matt Dillahunty address it).
So why do Christians use it so frequently? I would say because in their mind, it is absolutely sound and rational.
They have the perspective, that they’re completely and unquestionably right. They themselves haven’t even considered the possibility, that perhaps Islam might be right after all or that a deistic God who favors atheists is the real deal. In their mind, the existence of their God specifically is already a settled issue, so why would anyone bet against him?
Furthermore they’re forbidden, by a threat of eternal torment, to reconsider their beliefs. I believe, that Christians very often force themselves into accepting the belief system. They have invested too much to admit, that they might be wrong. Deep down inside they may even realize that it’s nonsense but they can’t reconsider. It’s too embarassing to admit, that you’ve been duped into believing, it’s too risky not to believe in God and to risk eternal torment and some may even think, that believing in it despite the possibility, that it might all be fiction (as Pascal’s wager explicitly concedes) might itself be useful. It gives the Christian hope after all…
In their mindset if there is no God life is meaningless, despite the fact, that their purpose is getting a second life, with which they admit, that life itself is meaningful. They can’t consider, that death might be final, because it would be terrible if it was true.
Pascal’s wager is a direct admission of weakness. It’s a direct admission, that you believe out of fear. It’s a direct admission, that you make yourself believe in it, that you force yourself to believe it. It’s an admission, that you believe unquestionably NOT because it’s true (as anybody who holds an honest belief, is always ready to consider a revision of said belief) but because you want it to be.
In the end, I think anybody who uses this argument is engaging in wishful thinking and therefore I am deeply sorry for anybody who uses it.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation