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But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain.
But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. Pascal begins by painting a situation where both the existence and non-existence of God are impossible to prove by human reason. So, supposing that reason cannot determine the truth between the two options, one must "wager" by weighing the possible consequences.
Pascal's assumption is that, when it comes to making the decision, no one can refuse to participate; withholding assent is impossible because we are already "embarked", effectively living out the choice. We only have two things to stake, our "reason" and our "happiness". Pascal considers that if there is " equal risk of loss and gain" i. That being the case, then human reason can only decide the question according to possible resulting happiness of the decision, weighing the gain and loss in believing that God exists and likewise in believing that God does not exist.
He points out that if a wager was between the equal chance of gaining two lifetimes of happiness and gaining nothing, then a person would be a fool to bet on the latter. The same would go if it was three lifetimes of happiness versus nothing. He then argues that it is simply unconscionable by comparison to bet against an eternal life of happiness for the possibility of gaining nothing.
The wise decision is to wager that God exists, since "If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing", meaning one can gain eternal life if God exists, but if not, one will be no worse off in death than if one had not believed.
On the other hand, if you bet against God, win or lose, you either gain nothing or lose everything. You are either unavoidably annihilated in which case, nothing matters one way or the other or lose the opportunity of eternal happiness. In note , speaking about those who live apathetically betting against God, he sums up by remarking, "It is to the glory of religion to have for enemies men so unreasonable Pascal addressed the difficulty that ' reason ' and ' rationality ' pose to genuine belief by proposing that "acting as if [one] believed" could "cure [one] of unbelief":.
But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions.
You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc.
Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness. The possibilities defined by Pascal's Wager can be thought of as a decision under uncertainty with the values of the following decision matrix.
Any matrix of the following type where f 1 , f 2 , and f 3 are all negative or finite positive numbers results in B as being the only rational decision. Many criticisms have explained that the wager has been used as a supposed theory of the necessity to believe, although that was never Pascal's intention. As Laurent Thirouin writes:. The celebrity of fragment has been established at the price of a mutilation. By titling this text "the wager", readers have been fixated only on one part of Pascal's reasoning.
It doesn't conclude with a QED at the end of the mathematical part. The unbeliever who had provoked this long analysis to counter his previous objection "Maybe I bet too much" is still not ready to join the apologist on the side of faith. He put forward two new objections, undermining the foundations of the wager: To be put at the beginning of Pascal's planned book, the wager was meant to show that logical reasoning cannot support faith or lack thereof,.
We have to accept reality and accept the reaction of the libertine when he rejects arguments he is unable to counter. The conclusion is evident: Belief in God doesn't depend upon rational evidence, no matter which position. Pascal's intended book was precisely to find other ways to establish the value of faith, an apology for the Christian faith. Criticism of Pascal's Wager began in his own day, and came from both atheists, who questioned the 'benefits' of a deity whose 'realm' is beyond reason, and the religiously orthodox, who primarily took issue with the wager's deistic and agnostic language.
It is criticized for not proving God's existence, the encouragement of false belief, and the problem of which religion and which God should be worshipped. Voltaire another prominent French writer of the Enlightenment , a generation after Pascal, rejected the idea that the wager was "proof of God" as "indecent and childish", adding, "the interest I have to believe a thing is no proof that such a thing exists".
Voltaire's critique concerns not the nature of the Pascalian wager as proof of God's existence, but the contention that the very belief Pascal tried to promote is not convincing. Voltaire hints at the fact that Pascal, as a Jansenist , believed that only a small, and already predestined, portion of humanity would eventually be saved by God. Voltaire explained that no matter how far someone is tempted with rewards to believe in Christian salvation, the result will be at best a faint belief.
Since there have been many religions throughout history, and therefore many conceptions of God or gods , some assert that all of them need to be factored into the Wager, in an argument known as the argument from inconsistent revelations.
This, its proponents argue, would lead to a high probability of believing in "the wrong god", which, they claim, eliminates the mathematical advantage Pascal claimed with his Wager. Mackie notes that "the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome , but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshipers of Kali or of Odin.
Another version of this objection argues that for every religion that promulgates rules, there exists another religion that has rules of the opposite kind. If a certain action leads one closer to salvation in the former religion, it leads one further away from it in the latter. Therefore, the expected value of following a certain religion could be negative. Or, one could also argue that there are an infinite number of mutually exclusive religions which is a subset of the set of all possible religions , and that the probability of any one of them being true is zero; therefore, the expected value of following a certain religion is zero.
Pascal says that unbelievers who rest content with the many-religions objection are people whose scepticism has seduced them into a fatal "repose". If they were really bent on knowing the truth, they would be persuaded to examine "in detail" whether Christianity is like any other religion, but they just cannot be bothered.
As Pascal scholars observe, Pascal regarded the many-religions objection as a rhetorical ploy, a "trap"  that he had no intention of falling into. If, however, any who raised it were sincere, they would want to examine the matter "in detail". In that case, they could get some pointers by turning to his chapter on "other religions". As David Wetsel notes, Pascal's treatment of the pagan religions is brisk: Those pagan religions which still exist in the New World, in India, and in Africa are not even worth a second glance.
They are obviously the work of superstition and ignorance and have nothing in them which might interest 'les gens habiles' 'clever men'  ". Nevertheless, Pascal concludes that the religion founded by Mohammed can on several counts be shown to be devoid of divine authority, and that therefore, as a path to the knowledge of God, it is as much a dead end as paganism. The many-religions objection is taken more seriously by some later apologists of the Wager, who argue that, of the rival options, only those awarding infinite happiness affect the Wager's dominance.
In the opinion of these apologists "finite, semi-blissful promises such as Kali's or Odin's" therefore drop out of consideration. Furthermore, ecumenical interpretations of the Wager  argue that it could even be suggested that believing in a generic God, or a god by the wrong name, is acceptable so long as that conception of God has similar essential characteristics of the conception of God considered in Pascal's Wager perhaps the God of Aristotle.
Proponents of this line of reasoning suggest that either all of the conceptions of God or gods throughout history truly boil down to just a small set of "genuine options", or that if Pascal's Wager can simply bring a person to believe in "generic theism" it has done its job. Pascal argues implicitly for the uniqueness of Christianity in the Wager itself, writing: Who then can blame the Christians for not being able to give reasons for their beliefs, professing as they do a religion which they cannot explain by reason?
Some critics argue that Pascal's Wager, for those who cannot believe, suggests feigning belief to gain eternal reward. This would be dishonest and immoral. In addition, it is absurd to think that God, being just and omniscient, would not see through this deceptive strategy on the part of the "believer", thus nullifying the benefits of the Wager. Since these criticisms are concerned not with the validity of the Wager itself, but with its possible aftermath—namely that a person who has been convinced of the overwhelming odds in favor of belief might still find himself unable to sincerely believe—they are tangential to the thrust of the Wager.
What such critics are objecting to is Pascal's subsequent advice to an unbeliever who, having concluded that the only rational way to wager is in favor of God's existence, points out, reasonably enough, that this by no means makes him a believer. This hypothetical unbeliever complains, "I am so made that I cannot believe. What would you have me do? Explicitly addressing the question of inability to believe, Pascal argues that if the Wager is valid, the inability to believe is irrational, and therefore must be caused by feelings: What have you to lose?
Some other critics have objected to Pascal's Wager on the grounds that he wrongly assumes what type of epistemic character God would likely value in his rational creatures if he existed.
More specifically, Richard Carrier has objected by positing an alternative conception of God that prefers his creatures to be honest inquirers and disapproves of thoughtless or feigned belief:. Only Nontheists Go to Heaven . From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Ethical egoism Euthyphro dilemma Logical positivism Religious language Verificationism eschatological Problem of evil Theodicy Augustinian Irenaean Best of all possible worlds Inconsistent triad Natural evil.
Criticism of religion Ethics in religion Exegesis Faith and rationality History of religions Political science of religion Religion and science Religious philosophy Theology. This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. April Learn how and when to remove this template message. Argument from inconsistent revelations.
What say [the unbelievers] then? They have their ceremonies, their prophets, their doctors, their saints, their monks, like us," etc.
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