Blaise Pascal (via shrenique)
In 2020, there will be a massive earthquake for an hour and all living things walking on land and swimming in the oceans will die. Only avian species will survive. If you want to survive, you need to start bending to the ground and whisper “please teach me how to fly” from today onwards. If you do that everyday, then by 2020, you’ll have learnt to take flight. This is a special arrangement made for human beings by the god of earthquakes. Don’t doubt it, or else you will die. I suggest you do it—after all, what do you have to lose?
There are six problems with Pascal’s Wager:
1. If you believed every ridiculous, unproven theory you ever heard (like the one I outlined above) because it predicted dire consequences for you otherwise, how would you ever filter the nonsensical from the factually correct? Logic and evidence are the things that help us make all the other decisions in life—why should this god business be any different?
2. Pascal seems to think that believing or not believing in something is a matter of choice, even though it clearly is not. I do not believe in god because there is nothing to base such a belief on and because it raises far more questions than it solves. Even if you physically tortured me until I said that I believed in god, you wouldn’t actually have made me believe in it, would you? It’s not like you can flip a switch inside your brain and suddenly all your doubts vanish.
3. So, clearly Pascal wants you to just say that you believe in god and do all the things that believers do, and pray and stuff, right? In other words, just be religious to play it safe. But here’s the thing: wouldn’t this all-powerful god see through the farce? You could fool the world but you would never fool yourself and you’d definitely never fool this god character, so what’s the point?
4. On a related note, wouldn’t an almighty creator, a fair and just ruler of the world, value honesty and intellect over blind subservience fuelled by selfish motives? Wouldn’t it pat you on the back for not having believed in it because you never found any evidence that supported the theory of its existence? Wouldn’t it be proud that you lived your life without ever having asked for anything or relied for anything on a higher power whose existence you had no proof of? Would it really be so petty-minded about the little fact that you never spent hours praying to it and praising its lordliness? What, is it that low on self-esteem?
5. As for the argument that you don’t lose anything if a god does not exist and you believe in it, well, I’d say you lose quite a lot. You get just one life and you spend a significant chunk of your time and money on a wasted endeavour, you inevitably begin to see artificial differences among your fellow humans based on which deity they choose to worship, you can lose your health if your religion advises you not to follow your doctor’s advice when you are afflicted with serious diseases, you suppress your intellect and learn to be satisfied with not knowing; finally, you pass on this corrosive belief to the next generation, ensuring that the poison keeps spreading. That’s a heck of a price to pay for believing in a fictional tale.
6. Finally, even if you choose to disregard all my arguments against Pascal’s Wager and decide to believe in a god, you are still left with one very big problem: choice. Which god do you pick from the thousands that are doing the rounds? The one your parents believe in? But why, and what if they are wrong? What if you choose Islam and it turns out that Christianity was the right one? Or if you choose to worship Zeus but it’s Krishna who wins in the end? You cannot even be diplomatic and worship all gods, because Jesus says that Christians should worship only him; and while Hinduism says that cows are sacred and should never be harmed, Muslims believe that not ‘sacrificing’ a cow will earn you a permanent reservation in hell.
You see, when it comes to religion, there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ choice. Not believing is far simpler.