Pascal’s Wager: Don’t Knock It Till You Try It

Faith is a personal journey. Possibly, the faith journey is the most private and self-forming experience an individual can undergo in their lifetime. We learn who we are, what our community is, what we believe in, and just how far we are willing to go in the name of God. Even if one identifies as an atheist or agnostic, the journey to that conclusion was probably one of deep contemplation, discernment, and care. 

I, for one, am a believer. I love my faith and its community. I can say, though, that my belief was not always sound and even to this day I sometimes have doubts. That’s all part of the journey. Something, though, I cannot understand is the Christian opposition to Pascal’s Wager. So often I come across a blog post or various comments that bash the Wager and all who consider it. Is this the norm? No, because sometimes the Wager really helps people along their journey. But when I do see the opposition, I do not understand why. 

So, what is the Wager? Essentially, if one believes in God and He exists, congratulations! You’re saved and win eternal happiness in the Kingdom. If one believes in God and He does not exist, you didn’t lose anything. You lived a good and moral life, striving to make yourself and other’s happy. If one does not believe and He does exist, you lose everything. So, according to Pascal, betting your life on the belief of God can never be worthless and might just save you.

If one only believes in the divine because of the Wager, are they truly a person of faith? Well, yes. Let’s talk in terms of Catholicism for a second. According to the Church, one is saved by 1.) faith and 2.) good works. If one believes, despite why, and they are participating in good works, being a loving person, and following Christ’s teachings, are they really at fault? Or, are they just believing in God for selfish reasons? 

Again, despite the cause of belief, the act of believing and participating in good works are the keys. They are living their lives in accordance with Christ’s teachings. Not only that, even the early Christians preached of eternal salvation with belief. It may seem like a cost-benefit-analysis, but it’s the greatest bet of one’s life — of one’s existence here and after. 

The point is, we should not judge one another on their belief or why they believe. Not everyone is going to have a stellar and inspirational conversion story. Not everyone is St. Bernadette Soubirous or St. Joan of Arc. Sometimes the greatest conversions come while sitting hungover in a metaphysical philosophy class after Thirsty Thursday and having an Eureka moment. Sometimes we are Italian-Americans who were raised in passionately believing households. It’s personal

Not to mention, Pascal’s Wager is a philosophically sound argument. In the same way Aristotle’s first mover principal, Aquinas’ On Being and Essence, and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason find faith in rationality, who is to say that the Wager is less rational? Is there a hierarchy of rationality? Also, if one even has a shred of doubt that God doesn’t exist, isn’t that a small amount of faith in itself? 

What have you got to lose? Nothing. In fact, once one dedicates themselves to belief they can begin to dig deeper into their faith. 

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