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What do you all think of Pascal's Wager?

I still consider myself an agnostic atheist. I can't accept the validity of Bible stories, but I still wrestle with the idea of end-time prophecies possibly coming true and living in terror of "what if I'm going to hell?" And I'd try to accept a god just to avoid hell, even he is evil.

Biblebeltskeptic 6 Sep 17

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A few people here have expressed some good views, I will just leave you with this video where Matt explains much better then I can. Hope this will give you some new/other insight into this dilemma.

This does cover most of the salient points but there are some loose ends.
Firstly he correctly includes a myriad of belief systems that Pascal does not but fails to point out the sweepstake ticket nature for most peoples reason for their particular belief. It would safe to say that 99% of believers stay with what they were born into. Pascal chooses Catholic for the same reason. So the odds lengthen that you just happen to be born into the correct belief system. You could have just as easily have been born a Muslim, Hindu or into a mafia family If you do go with any particular system then you would have better odds leaving the one you were born into and choosing another. Like the game show box choice. * An informed choice of another system increases the chances but also increases the price. As it means moving out of your social norms, family/tribal structure etc. Btw if I had to choose I would go with Odin. Jesus was sent to save us from sin but Odin's job was ice giants. I see plenty of sin but no ice giants.
Secondly, he does not address fully the modern option that was not popular in Pascals time. This is where you say "I believe in God but I don't follow any particular religion".Do you reject all formal knowledge of the subject? Like a chess player how hopes to play his best but will never read a book on it or do you cherry-pick parts of all different systems to suit yourself? If the latter, then what parts and of which systems? As most systems are exclusive then it would have to be one which was not like Buddhism or Unitarianism but they don't do God at all. This way says that you believe in an entity for which there is no proof because you were told it does by someone you no longer believe. Plus once again your choice is heavily weighted by your sweepstake birth belief.

  • You pick one of three boxes, one of which has the prize. The host then removes one box which does not have the prize. He then asks you if you want to swap boxes for the only other box. The maths say that you should always swap because the odds of your box being right is 1/3 but the odds of the other box is 1/2

@273kelvin Excellent arguments


An all knowing god would know that you really didn’t believe in him in your heart...but your head was telling you to hedge your bets. Would any real god be fooled by that? I think not.

In my opinion that's quite obvious also. 😉

@oldFloyd Yes...very obvious to anyone with even half a brain!


One of the problems with the Wager (there are a few) is that it doesn't answer WHICH god, given that there are many who claim all others are false gods and their followers will go to their own versions of hell.

Pascal makes that simple mistake of believing that the religion that he grew up in is the only religion there is in the world.

But my real beef with the Wager is that it assumes that there is no real downside in choosing to believe. That is also a very myopic self-centered view, and it is wrong. A belief that is inconsistent with reality has the real potential of "interfering with better reasons, better possibilities, better options." And in fact, historically this has been proven again and again. This belief is also not something personal (like Pascal thinks it is). It is like saying that there really is no downside to NOT wearing the mask during pandemic times because I am not one of the vulnerable population; it can affect other vulnerable people, sometimes terminally. Religious beliefs are like viruses; they propagate and mutate over time and among different populations. There is a REAL and SIGNIFICANT downside in choosing to believe, in the off chance you might end up in a "hell." By taking that "choice" you are giving up substantial portion of your agency to something else, and endangering those around you.


I prefer Homer's Wager: “[W]hat if we pick the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.”

Pascal's Wager has huge holes in it, e.g., assuming it's valid for the sake of argument, which god should we believe in? But it goes far beyond that, because most of us can't choose to believe something we don't believe, and an omniscient god would see through any such pretense. Pascal actually understood this problem, so he suggested that going through the motions would, by way of habit, lead to actual belief. I call bullshit, but whatever. The other major problem I have with it is simply this: Pascal says there's no harm that comes from believing even if there is no God, but there most definitely is. First, there's the waste of time; I have a finite amount of time in my life and I can do productive things or relaxing/enjoyable things with that limited resource, but I don't want to occupy my time with things that are entirely without value. Second, belief in fanciful things makes it easier to accept other nonsense or to be led astray in various ways, accepting immoral behavior as divinely commanded. I refuse to surrender my time or my will to the imaginary mascot of charlatans who use superstition and fear to wield power over those who are desperate for some certainty in life, who want to know that their hardships and heartbreak along the way serve a cosmic purpose and will be eternally rewarded. I won't bow in service to that.


Pascal’s wager is a weak, immoral argument that appeals to our own self interest.
The question is vile and the person using it doesn’t think highly of you, if they think they can get you on board that way.

Mvtt Level 7 Sep 17, 2020

End time prophecies are bible stories. When indoctrinated at a young age, the fear can be real even if the concept is not.
There is no god, so nothing to fear....


In a word? Bullshit.
Another lame attempt at arguing in favor of magical thinking.
I'll pass.

  • End-time prophecies are not coming true. Making things happen, or interpreting events in a certain way, because some so called prophesy says it would, is not fulfilled prophesy.

  • Those who lived in the time of Jesus thought it was the end times. And, history is full of people who have thought they were living in the end times.

  • There is no hell. I find it ironic that Christians point to the Old Testament, and say prophesies are being fulfilled, yet they deny the Jewish faith and they believe in a hell, even though Jews never taught that there is some horrible place of eternal punishment. The Christians perfected this disgusting idea.

  • BTW: the Jewish god did not start out as all-knowing. This came later and one can see the evolution of beliefs about this god in the writings contained in the bible. This god is too contradictory to exist. It cannot be all the things that it is claimed to be.

  • Beliefs about this god cannot all be right, but they can all be wrong. Just like religions; they cannot all be right, but they can all be wrong.

  • I recommend reading 'Who Wrote The Bible' by Richard Elliot Friedman, '101 Myths Of The Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History by Gary Greenberg and books by Bart D. Ehrman.

  • The first two focus on the Old Testament, showing how it is a human creation and not inspired by any god. Ehrman's books focus on the New Testament and show how those books are also created by humans and not the inerrant words of a god.

  • As for Pascal's wager. Don't you think an all-knowing god would know you are "faking" it? And, if this god is not all-knowing, it has no idea whether you believe in it or not.

Your last point (specifically) isn't very strong if as some people think, such a god is easy going. Maybe gods are fairly paradoxical?

@HenAgnDon I think it's pretty evident that the god the OP was referring to was the biblical god, not just any possible generic god. And, this god is not what one would call "easy going."

@Joanne I agree. Pascal and Edwards (following Tertullian) have definitively redefined Bible interpretation. They are cynical controllers, dumbers down, nihilists. This is why we must stand up for agnosticism - we refuse to be controlled on any grounds - and might only be interested (to whatever extent we might then please) if anyone could offer a glimmer of insight about any detail. Pope Paul VI said we should megaphone each other but McLuhan warned that would be disastrous. We should never package deal, only go cafeteria. The ball is in the "other" court, "wherever" and "whoever's" we don't know (I have at most my relativistic hypotheses). Is it not our duty to try to be at ease - amidst life's difficulties - if we are growing in responsibility, appreciation for what & who is around us, wit etc? MattHardy describes it well.


Pascal's wager is flawed in that it assumes that there is only one possible god, and that the choice is a matter of "yes or no".

The whole premise breaks down the second you allow yourself to ask "which god?"



If find it best not to discuss Pascal's wager. It's rumoured that the tooth fairy and the easter bunny had a child out of wedlock and this terrible spawn became when we know today as the sophistry sheep. An unholy ursine that seek out anybody who is actually convinced by Pascal's wager, kidnaps them and replaces them with an indistinguishable replica who only pretends to believe in Pascal's wager. Meantime the original is sentenced to a lifetime of cleaning the grease trap in a fast food restaurant staffed and only by people lacking in basic critical thinking skills. I mean it may just be a rumour but is it really worth the risk?


Which hell are you trying to avoid? Pascal's Wager is fine if Christianity is the only religion. Once you realize that is not the case it all falls apart. People still attack me for claiming I am an agnostic atheist. In defense of that two word term I tell you that I am not in church or bible study trying to figure everything out. My days of all that are done. As for an atheist claiming there is no god, watch out. When you claim there is no god you have shifted the burden of proof upon yourself. I have no proof of any gods and there most likely is not a god. This is why I am an agnostic atheist.


I reserve my comment because many people here think I'm too blunt and derogatory with such similar idiotic posts, oops!


Unfortunately, by posting this here you have shown God that you don't care about him, but are only interested in self-preservation (oh the surprise and shock!). So, even if you claim to have believed in God all the time, the Supreme almighty knows what's really up with you. You silly human can't defy the almighty by silly mental gymnastics. God gave you a questioning mind for a reason (don't ask me what reason). If he wants you to be an atheist, be an atheist.
I can go on bullshitting like this 😂


First: The wager only works if there is only one possibility of a supreme being. When you open to infinity possibilities and each of them demand exclusivity and different cults and rites (so the cost of believing is not zero). And you add that there is zero evidence for each of those infinite possibilities. You can conclude that choose any of the supreme beings to follow is a huge cost for virtually zero chances of success.

On the other sides there are a philosophical argument that IF a god exists it must be a good god otherwise the universe would not be viable. This argument have some problems and are the same any religion and the wager itself. It starts and builds up on premises that are unknown. Plus the "good god" is not exactly (and some argue that can't be at all) the biblical YHWH. But is still funny to read this argument, is very well described once you accept the premises (that I repeat, you cannot demonstrate true)

PS: The wager also admits that a god would accept this false belief as true, so one of its premises are that god can be or accept to be fooled.


i doubt if a real god would accept "trying". he would most likely zap such a weasel with a lightning bolt.


George Carlin summed this God thing perfectly

I enjoyed that. Thanks.


Silly, if there is a God do you think you can fool him by pretending to believe in him just to avoid hell? That is not faith, that is fear. And if you can fool God...he is not God.


Fails on many fronts. For the most part I agree with this video.


Maybe you do need to see someone.


What is an "agnostic atheist"? Since each word has a different definition, how can there be such a thing? If you still wrestle with end-time prophecies you sound like a questioning believer.

Q Is there a god?
A I don't know, I am an agnostic
Q Do you believe that god exists?
A I do not. I am an atheist.

One part pertains to knowledge, one part pertains to belief. The terms are not mutually exclusive.
It is however, kind of superfluous to say “agnostic atheist”, as all atheists and humans in general are in all probability, agnostic to the question of the supernatural. Claims otherwise are most likely mistakes in communication, or straight up lies.

@Mvtt There exist both agnostic theists and agnostic atheists.

@PBuck0145 correct

@PBuck0145 So? I was clearly referring to the term.

@PBuck0145 You make no sense, are you creating your own new definitions?

@Mvtt By simple definition they are mutually exclusive.

@Alienbeing no they aren’t mutually exclusive as they can both occur at the same time

@Mvtt Since they each have their own definition they ARE mutually exclusive by simple definition. One cannot be both at the same time.

@Alienbeing yes, one can. I am an agnostic atheist. All atheists are. To claim otherwise is a mistake.


An atheist and a devout christian die at the same time and find themselves at the gates of heaven. The christian pushes the atheist back and steps forward saying “I got this”.
Saint Peter greats him and reviews his case. He then tells him “You believed in god using faith alone. That man,” pointing to the atheist “used the brain god gave him. He concluded that none of his senses could detect god and therefore didn’t believe in him. He” still pointing to the atheist “is worthy of heaven. You did not use the brain our senses god gave you. They were gifts from god for you to better experience the real world around you. You turned your back on those gifts and rejected what your senses told you. You may not enter.

The moral of the story? Pascals wager doesn’t work. If any god is real, the rules for avoiding hell or getting into heaven aren’t known. My scenario is at least as likely as anything I have read in any theology.

Pascal and Edwards spun the same miserable line that is now being foisted through the media.


My god is a magical, undetectable, unicorn that lives in my butt. My god is way more powerful and my gods Heaven is way better than Yahweh's. Like wise disobeying the unicorn will cause you to go to a super worse hell. If one is rolling the dice would it ont be better to believe in the unicorn?

This is a faith based assumption. Is it good to make choices on faith or assumptions?


Matt Dillahunty covered it best.


Ignoring the absurd, Pascal's wager is ridiculous. I'd never accept a hell.


Professional gamblers call such propositions “sucker bets.”

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