Pascal’s Wager for Stick Figures

Pascal’s Wager is an argument for the belief in God, whether or not he exists. This argument looks at the pros and cons of believing in God. In essence Pascal’s Wager says “what’s in it for me.” As the argument goes, the main advantages of belief in God are after one dies. Going to heaven being the ultimate reward for belief and going to hell being the ultimate punishment for disbelief.

Let’s take a quick look at the after death possibilities.

  God Exists God Does not Exist
One believes in God Go to Heaven Dead Stick Figure
One doesn’t believe in God Stick Figure in Hell Dead Stick Figure

In this version of Pascal’s Wager it doesn’t much matter whether or not one believes in God if he doesn’t exist. Things end up the same. However, if he does exist, there are great rewards and punishments involved.

This means that if our stick figure believes in God, these are his after death possibilities:

Go to Heaven -or – Dead Stick Figure

On the other hand if this stick figure does not believe in God these are his after death possibilities:

Stick Figure in Hell -or- Dead Stick Figure

Given these options, one is better off just believing in God. One doesn’t have much to lose, and a lot to gain.

In my next post I will go over one response to this argument, The Atheist’s Wager. One recently popular version of this can be found here. However, my explanation will be illustrated with stick figures. :) In the third post in my Pascal’s Wager series, I will explain a response to both of these wagers.

 
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10 Comments:

  1. thad Says:

    In some versions of Pascal’s Wager there is a disadvantage to believing in a non-existent God. It is argued that belief in God requires time and effort. If he doesn’t exist, that time and effort is wasted.

    I have chosen to leave this out because it would seem to me that simple belief in God is not required to be a particularly effortfull process. It also doesn’t seem to follow that the plain belief God takes more focus, time, or effort than not believing in him.

    On a similar line one could argue that there is an advantage to being right. This would bestow a reward the those who don’t believe in God when he doesn’t exist. I have also chosen to leave this out. It seems to me that being right wouldn’t help one live their life or prepare for death. One could challenge me on this, but that is a separate argument all together.

  2. Kraeg Says:

    What is it about religious types that believe the letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law. It always comes down to Pascals wager. Do they really believe they can trick their supposedly all-knowing god by believing because it’s the safest course of action?

    just as silly as any other religious belief, I guess.

  3. Thad Guy » Atheist’s Wager for Stick Figures Says:

    [...] 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 [...]

  4. Thad Guy » The Ultimate Response to Pascal’s Wager (note: Atheist’s Wager Goes Down With It) Says:

    [...] Pascal’s Wager has a premise that is often taken for granted. This premise is almost unsupportable, yet the whole argument relies upon it. [...]

  5. Shadowhelm Says:

    I recently found your website during a completely random glance at my web logs. Thanks for the link.

    Also, I just wanted to say that I think your approach to explaining religious philosophy through the use of stick figures is genius. Nice work.

  6. Miro Says:

    Here is a logic paradox that might help:

    If god is supposed to be that omnipotent all powerful being then answer the following. Can god create a stone that is so heavy that he himself could not carry ?

    If your answer is yes then this means there is something that god can not do and that is carry the stone there for he is not all that powerful.

    If your answer is no then there is something that god can not create therefore he is also not powerful and great.

    P.S: Sorry for my lousy English but English is not the first language in my country

  7. thad Says:

    Yeah, that is an interesting attempt to show that an omnipotent God can’t exist.

    One possible response is to say that it is not a limit on God’s power to be unable to do something illogical. This approach simply defines God as a being that is not above logic.

    Unless one can also find a situation where it is incoherent for God not to be above logic, this response tends to be a rather strong one.

    [ Your English is quite good. :) ]

  8. James Says:

    One of the major problems with Pascal’s Wager is it comes from a Christocentric philosophy. What if the Christian God is false, but the Zoroastrian god is real? There are an infinite number of potential gods one could worship, making the “wager” of the thing rather more dangerous, like playing roulette on a wheel with infinite slots. Maybe it’s better to understand god(s) or the lack thereof through reason instead of possible consequences.

  9. Mark Says:

    James and Kraig hit the nail on the fallacy of Pascal’s wager. The Christian God is only one possibility among hundreds or even thousands of gods. How can one wager on them all?

    Plus, the Christian God not only requires belief but also worship. How can that “all knowing” God accept your belief and worship when it’s based upon a gamble? Not to mention, how fervent can that belief even be when it’s based upon the lessor evil?

    The God I studied for 12 years cannot be manipulated that easily.

  10. Bob Says:

    Is belief in some god an instrumental good? Pascal’s wager seems to suggest just that. Belief becomes a practical matter and not a matter of epistemology.

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