I’ve been a skeptic in many ways throughout my life, and one way of particular importance is in religion. Any individual, inquisitive or not, should thoroughly explore the claims of religion and earnestly examine whether or not the claims hold true — isn’t it insane to think that after biological death, one might spend an eternity (yes, more than trillions of years, if the human mind can even grasp that — I know I truly can’t) in a place of unimaginable wonder and bliss? To this day, I can recall myself wondering all of this as a child in elementary school, although without all the fancy apologetic jargon…
These thoughts eventually culminated into a version of what is famously known as “Pascal’s Wager/Gamble”, a creation of the well-known French philosopher and apologist (along with some other cool and respectable titles) Blaise Pascal. At a fundamental level, it boils down to this: if the claims of religion are true and one adheres to the life commanded by God, then there are infinite rewards, perhaps a life in “Heaven” or some other paradise. If one deems the claims of such a religion false and denies the existence of God then there is infinite punishment, usually thought of as “Hell” or some other land of torture.
Of course, there are complexities, but that’s the big idea.
“Well , hey – this doesn’t prove anything! Why should I believe?” Well, it is important to note that although the wager doesn’t prove much, it provides a basis for adhering to a religion. Going to the heart of so many philosophies throughout history, humans are constantly concerned with self-preservation — we like staying alive, or so I like to think. Pascal’s wager is partly an extension of this human concern and provides us with fuel to keep our engines going and have a partial basis for faith.
“But what? If you’re just believing out of fear of burning in some fiery pit, doesn’t that make your beliefs superficial? And wouldn’t that big and all-powerful sky man know about this?” Well, the matter of fact is, the wager shouldn’t be the whole basis for your religion. There’s more that a religion, such as Christianity, provides — and that’s in the hearts of man. There are countless remarks of how much someone’s present life and sense of fulfillment increased after becoming a believer, and the “leap” isn’t a complete hop. There is evidence for Christian claims, but that is another issue. For now we are dealing with why one should take the wager.
Also, God being aware of the fact that we are believing out of fear would not disturb him, as long as we adhered to the life Christ set out for us. We don’t run into problems unless this faith actually becomes “fake”, where we don’t have a true sense of belief coming from the heart. Of course, each individual knows when they are pretending to believe something and when they are not. Pascal’s wager should not be an entire basis for faith, but rather a partial one.
When it comes down to it, I chose to take the wager and can gladly say I do not base my faith completely off of it and I would urge everyone not to just examine the wager’s logic, but to examine Christianity’s claims and make a well-thought out decision regarding faith.
As Jesus said to Thomas, ever so full of doubts, “Because you have [now] seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”