The Ultimate Response to Pascal’s Wager (note: Atheist’s Wager Goes Down With It)

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

Pascal’s Wager assumes that there are only two divine possibilities:

  1. An all knowing, all powerful, and perfectly moral God exists
  2. There is no God

This premise is false. The world’s actual possibilities are sadly much more varied and more numerous. If we grant that a perfectly moral God is possible, many other deities are also logically possible. Sadly, the only way for a conception of the divine to be logically impossible is if it has a contradiction built into it. [For example a deity can't both exist and not exist.]

To help illustrate how much Pascal’s Wager relies on this false assumption, let’s include a single additional possible deity. Let us call this god “The cruel deity”. This is a very powerful being that decides who goes to heaven and who to hell. However, this deity is not bound by morals or justice. In fact, it does the opposite of what morality would encourage. It sends those that do good deeds and believe in God to hell. Those who bring only suffering to their peers and refuse the idea of God are sent to heaven.

The New Possibilities:

Cruel Deity
Moral God
The Cruel Deity Exists
A Morally Perfect God Exists
There is no God

 

If we now consider that a cruel deity, a perfectly moral God, and no God are all possible, here are the after-death possibilities for one who believes in God:

Stick Figure in Hell -or-
Go to Heaven-or-
Dead Stick Figure
The Cruel Deity Exists
A Morally Perfect God Exists
There is no God

 

Here are are the after death possibilities for one who does not believe in God:

Go to Heaven-or-
Stick Figure in Hell-or-
Dead Stick Figure
The Cruel Deity Exists
A Morally Perfect God Exists
There is no God

 

It is also worth mentioning that challenging this assumption of Pascal’s Wager does just as much damage to the Atheist’s Wager.

They are the same, and there is no clear reward or punishment associated with either believing in or disbelieving of God. The logic of Pascal’s Wager comes to a different conclusion.

For those who really liked Pascal’s Wager, there is a way to salvage it. However, it is incredibly hard to support. Pascal’s Wager might still support the belief in God if the existence of a morally perfect God were more likely than the existence of other possibilities, like the cruel deity.

To be honest, I think this is something we all want to believe. Who really wants a cruel deity to exist? However, it is worth pointing out that horribly cruel events transpire in the world all the time. Given this, showing that a morally perfect God and is more likely to exist than any other option is a truly difficult line to hold.

 
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5 Comments:

  1. BlueKat Says:

    Hi Thad

    Thanks for visiting Demokat. Interesting post but I’m afraid that it does not disprove Pascal’s Gambit really.

    For it is based on certain assumptions, and one primary assumption is that God is good and rewards believers with heaven and punishes non-believers with hell.

    You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.

    You can think of it this way:

    If you believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are infinite.

    If you believe in God, and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are nil.

    If you do not believe in God, and he does exist, when you die, God still does whatever he wants to do with you, and the possibilities are still infinite.

    If you do not believe in God and he does not exist, then nothing happens, and the possibilities are still nil.

    Either way, the odds are always in favor of the House (or God), because our belief or non-belief in him has no bearing whatsoever on his existence or non-existence. If he exists, he holds all the cards.

  2. Thad Says:

    I am glad that you found this response interesting. Here is one quick remark about your comment.

    “You cannot change the assumptions in order to disprove the wager.”

    However, if one shows that a key premise of an argument is false, it does show the argument to be unsound.

    Pascal’s Wager assumes:

    • The world has only two ‘divine possibilities.’
      • A God who rewards belief in God
      • No God

     

    Independent of whatever actually exists, there are many other logically possible ‘divine possibilities.’ To show that this assumption of Pascal’s Wager is false I provided a counter example to it. The counter example is:

    • Here are three ‘divine possibilities’
      • A God who rewards belief in god
      • No God
      • A Cruel Deity

     

    Unless there is a contraction in the concept of a cruel deity (making it impossible), this shows the above assumption of Pascal’s Wager to be false and Pascal’s Wager unsound as a result.

  3. definitions Says:

    i have a question

    1. An all knowing, all powerful, and perfectly moral God exists

    morality is a human thing. why would you attribute this quality to god should be above morality?

    so are we really just arguing about a specific understanding of god, or the actual idea of a god? god, being an entity with holds all knowledge; the counterpoint of existance

  4. thad Says:

    Why do we define the God in Pascal’s wager as being a perfectly moral God?

    The main reason is that if we don’t, Pascal’s wager doesn’t work. If God does not act morally then no one could rationally expect to be rewarded for good deeds and punished for bad ones.

    Claiming that God is not moral is one way to defeat Pascal’s wager. However, trying to defend the notion that an all powerful being is necessarily immoral will probably result in even more unfortunate bickering than other arguments about religion.

  5. Rosito Says:

    There are many more possibilities than this “straw men” set.

    There might be multiple gods/spirits.

    The morality of the god or gods may be very different from the morality of the human making the assumptions.

    The god or gods may have no interest in punishing or rewarding humans.

    The god or spirit may not have the power to punish or reward.

    A “bad” god/devil/spirit may have more power than a “good” god/spirit.

    The balance of power in the spirit world may change (or have already changed).

    “God” and “Devil” may be different faces of the one entity. After-death consequences may be somewhat or entirely arbitrary.

    The god of the Christian Old Testament may be just as nasty as it is painted by the OT writers. The kinder NT God may be the one which does not exist.

    … and so on ad infinitum

    From a purely probabilistic perspective, the chances of their being an eternal entity which is entirely consistent with any human’s conception of god is astronomically small.

    Even within the single religion of Christianity there are myriads of beliefs about the details of the morality of the Jewish Tribal God/s (El and Jeweh) (god/s of hate) vis a vis the Jesus God (God of love).

    This changes the “Christian wager” to “If my particular definition of (the Christian) god exists (or does not exist) then ….. which utterly destroys the utility of the wager.

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