Atheist’s Wager for Stick Figures

God is Immoral

A recently popular response to Pascal’s Wager argues that if God exists, he is not worthy of our devotion. This is not an argument against the existence of God, but one that encourages ‘just resistance’ to God.

Resist GodThe basic thrust of the argument is that if God is willing to reward and punish for the simple belief in him, independent of a person’s actions, then he is immoral. As the story goes, if such an immoral and cruel God exists we owe it to a sense of our own dignity to resist him.

Extreme reward and punishment for belief in God is the basis of Pascal’s Wager. Therefore the argument that God is immoral is well suited as a response to Pascal’s Wager.

This argument was recently posted on a blog called ‘Atheist’s Wager’. However, this is not the argument that is normally called the Atheist’s Wager.

The Atheist’s Wager

The Atheist’s Wager is an altered version of Pascal’s Wager. It takes the logic of Pascal’s Wager, and uses it to argue that belief in God is trivial regarding reward and punishment. The Atheist’s Wager is not actually an argument for atheism. In fact, it is indifferent about the existence of God.

  1. God is perfectly Moral.
  2. If there is a perfectly moral God, he will value moral actions (with or without belief in God) more than belief in him.
  3. God values moral actions (with or without belief in God) more than belief in him.

The big leap for this argument is right in the beginning. In order for this argument to work, God must value moral action more than simple belief in God.

If moral action is indeed more important to God than belief in God, we can lay out the following set of after-death possibilities:

  God Exists God Does Not Exist
Moral Action & Belief in God Go to Heaven Dead Stick Figure
Moral Action & No Belief in God Go to Heaven Dead Stick Figure
Immoral Action & Belief in God Stick Figure in Hell Dead Stick Figure
Immoral Action & No Belief in God Stick Figure in Hell Dead Stick Figure

In this set of possibilities, reward or punishment is only dependent on the morality of one’s actions. Therefore, one receives the most reward by acting morally.

These possibilities argue that if one acts morally, it never matters if one is an atheist or a theist. This does not refute Pascal’s Wager. It does not argue there is no God. Instead it tries to trump or circumvent Pascal’s Wager.

Action vs. Belief

The idea that actions are more important than belief in God is the basis of the Atheist’s Wager. However, it doesn’t seem all that absurd. To illustrate this, let us look at a few examples. First, we’ll look at the most extreme example I could think of.

GenocideImagine two stick figures. One performing some horribly immoral action (committing genocide) the other a clearly moral action (stopping genocide). It seems clear that a perfectly moral God should reward the stick figure acting morally and punish the stick figure acting immorally. Now what if we try to counter the morality of these actions with opposite beliefs in God? If the immoral stick figure believes in God isn’t he still worthy of punishment? How about the morally acting, yet atheist, stick figure? It seems reasonable to say that action trumps belief in God here.

Name CallingNow, let’s setup the same situation but instead of the horrendous act of genocide we put in something relatively trivial (like calling someone a name). Even in this mild case it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say the stick figure that acts morally is deserving of reward, and the one that acts immorally would get the punishment.


In my next post I will look at a very good response to both Pascal’s Wager and the Atheist’s Wager. This response may show all of these wagers to be fruitless and misguided. If that turns out to be the case, we will end up wherever we were at the beginning.


One Comment:

  1. thad Says:

    I thought this was both funny, and related.

    Comic “God does his best to accommodate atheists in heaven.”