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Marc's wager

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Pascal's wager on the existence of God is incoherent and dated, and in desperate need of a replacement. In this essay, I endeavour to do exactly that.

1. Pascal's wager

1.1. The wager

Wikipedia summarises Blaise Pascal's wager, which I have summarised again here:

  1. If there is a God, She is infinitely incomprehensible. She has no affinity to us. We are incapable of knowing what or whether She is.
  2. God is, or She is not, but reason cannot decide here.
  3. You must wager.
  4. You should wager that She exists. 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.

1.2. Flaws

As you can see, Pascal's reasoning is heavily flawed.

Firstly, in 1), Pascal ascertains that we cannot understand God. This is a contradiction in terms — how can Pascal know this if God is unknowable? This knowledge can definitely not come from Her, according to 1) — we cannot know this.

Similarly, we cannot know 2) because of 1). In addition, it should be easy for an omnipotent God to manifest Herself to us in a convincing way if she wanted to. The fact that millions of people have been unable to gather clear evidence of the existence of God in the last 10,000 years1 very strongly indicates that either She does not exist, or She chooses not to show herself and does not care what our opinion is on this matter.2

Thirdly, 3) is of course nonsense. My partner is currently at home, or she is not. If I am out without her, I may not know either way. But it would obviously be nonsense to conclude that therefore I must wager. I might be impartial, as I am in many instances. Or I might look around in the house if I needed her and follow my observations.3 But there is no logical, automatic, implied necessity whatsoever for me to wager.

Lastly, in 1), Pascal ascertains that we cannot understand God. However, in 4), he claims he knows that believing in God leads to an infinite and infinitely happy life. Again, there is no way of knowing this given 1). In fact, for all we know, this is exactly the opposite: God will grant an eternal, happy life to those who choose to follow the evidence and use the brains She has given them in good confidence and throw the wasters of these luxury organs into an infinitely deep pit where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Again, we cannot know this.

1.3. Conclusion

Pascal's wager is a logical fallacy, a contradiction in terms.

In addition, the steps 1) and 4) of the wager in Section 1.1 strongly suggest that Pascal did not have any unknowable God in mind at all, but the God of the Christian bible. Furthermore, Pascal's wager was to be published in his book titled Defence of the Christian religion. These facts suggest that Pascal was hardly neutral to start with, but that his conclusion was already fixed before he construed a "reasoning" of fallacies that should lead to it.

2. Marc's wager

Inspired by Pascal, I formulate my own wagers here. Opposing Pascal, I chose to follow the evidence and use logic instead of a chain of fallacies.

2.1. Neutral wager

My first wager is religiously neutral, whatever the (super)nature of this supernatural being, in contrast to Pascal's wager:

  1. If there is an omnipotent, omnipresent God, She is very capable of manifesting Herself to us in convincing ways.4
  2. It would be likely for Her to interfere in our lives on a daily basis. In fact, for an infinitely potent God, one might expect that no laws of nature exist, but that events happen randomly according to Her whim.
  3. If an omnipotent God does not manifest Herself, it is very likely that She
    1. either does not exist, or
    2. wishes us to be ignorant of Her existence, or
    3. doesn't care what we think of Her.
  4. There is no need to wager. We will use evidence and common sense instead of gambling.
  5. Despite a millennia-long search for it, there is no evidence for life after death. If you spend your whole life dedicated to a non-existing or non-caring God, you have wasted your only life on Earth. If you did it because others convinced you (to their advantage), you were also cheated.
  6. We should therefore live our lives as if God does not exist.

2.2. Christian wager

But let's assume, like Pascal, that we can know God, because God is the God of the bible, and the bible is at least inspired by God and gives us an example of how to behave. My wager would then be:

  1. We can know God — He wrote the bible, or inspired it, to make sure we do;
  2. In the bible, God tells us that:
    1. God fearers, Jews who adhere to the Torah, will go to heaven, where everything is as God wants it to be, and unbelievers (non-Jews) go to hell;
    2. Christianity is for Jews (the Children of Israel), not for non-Jews (who are dogs) (Mat 10:5-6, Mat 15:24-26). It is a fair guess that God doesn't want the dogs to go to heaven;
    3. God wants us to kill gay people (Lev 20:13);
    4. He wants us to kill people who do as much as pick up a stick on a Saturday (Num 15:32);
    5. He wants us to kill anyone living in the area where you are moving to, except young unmarried women (Num 31:17-18);
    6. It is OK to lie to people by telling them you want to be friends, and then kill them all (Gen 34:13);
    7. Women are worse than death, and married men are sinners (Ecc 7:26);
    8. Jesus came to bring war, not peace (Mat 10:34);
    9. You should not have any possessions, not even a pair of sandals (Mat 10:9-10);
    10. And many, many more such examples.
  3. If you want to please God, you will need to live according to the examples given in the bible. In particular, you will need to do a lot of killing, avoid women (as a man) and therefore sex, and have no possessions. When you die, you were likely murdered by someone from your own community. Then you will go to Heaven, where only things happen as God pleases, in particular a lot of killing. You will kill and be killed many times for eternity;
  4. If you do not please God, for example because you are not a Jew, have never killed anybody, have not started a major war, met — or, God forbid, were — a woman, or acquired a possession, you will instead go to Hell, which is the opposite of Heaven: no killing, war or other atrocities, but instead peace, happiness and lots of sex for eternity.
  5. It is therefore better to not to live your life following God's examples from the bible. Instead, use the moral and common sense that have been given to you by evolution — you will be better off for eternity after you die (and before that) if you do.



Or a billion people for the last 100 years.


Compare this to the evidence that points to the existence of the internet, which has been around for less than a century and is far less than omnipresent and omnipotent.


And conclude that she is either not there or hiding in the attic.


In fact, it would be hard for an omnipotent being not to show Herself.

Date: 2023-04-16

Author: Marc van der Sluys

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