Pascal’s Foolish Wager

“Pascal’s Wager”

  1. “God is, or He is not”
  2. A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. It is not optional.
  5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  6. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.


I’ve heard this same argument from many Christians, most of whom probably don’t know that it is an old philosophical argument attributed to Pascal. It goes like this…¬† “Why not believe in God? You will go to heaven if we’re right, but lose nothing if we’re wrong.” Given that information – and only that information – it sounds like a great idea. Why wouldn’t I believe in God?

Of course, there are other things to consider. For instance, the Christians do not only want my belief, but a lifetime of serving God. That includes things like a tithe (10% of my earnings go to the church), regular church attendance, prayer, bible study, and attempts to convert others into the faith. Of course they say that these aren’t requirements, but that’s only what you’re told before you become a Christian. I’ve been on the other side of this question… trust me, these are requirements. If they weren’t, then no one would be attempting to convert me now. I already asked for salvation when I was young. That apparently wasn’t good enough.

Also, one might ask why this wager doesn’t extend to other religions, too. Do you realize how easy it is to become a Muslim? It’s a couple sentences, much like Christianity. Or how to become a Buddhist? It only takes a little learning (and nothing needs to be confessed or admitted out loud). How about the Church of Scientology? As the link says, it can be expensive… but what’s that compared to an eternity of peace and happiness?

But belief isn’t a choice. This is why the Christians who try to convert me won’t wager on Islam, Buddhism, CoS, or any of the other numerous possibilities that they’ve been offered. They can’t get themselves to blindly believe these faiths – even for a moment – any more than I can.

My morals are based on keeping others safe and happy, which they’ll appreciate here and now. I’m not offering an eternity of happiness because I don’t believe that a rational person can have such a thing. But I certainly won’t try to push on you the pain and suffering caused by trying to appease God. He’s perfect (you’re not!) and He expects you to live to His standards? You’ll always feel like a failure.



About starcrashx

I love statistics. They drive my poker playing, my reasoning, and my research. As Penn Gillete said "Luck is probability taken personally". There's no such thing as luck... but I wish you positive chance. View all posts by starcrashx

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