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About God and Atheism

Three weaknesses in Pascal's Wager: It
may not be safer to believe in God after all

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Pascal's Wager is described in detail in a separate essay

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Pascal's Wager:

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a 17th century French mathematician and scientist. In brief, he suggested that:

  • The probability of the existence of the Christian God is greater than zero.

  • Christian teaching implied at the time that if a person does not believe in God, they will certainly end up being tortured in Hell for all eternity.

  • If a person believes in God, then they have a chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

  • Thus, it is safer to believe in God.

This essay describes some errors and weaknesses in Pascal's Wager.

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Weaknesses #1  -- According to God, simply believing in him is not sufficient for salvation:

Pascal seems to assume that those who believe in God will be automatically rewarded be attaining Heaven, whereas those who disbelieve in God will automatically spend eternity in Hell. i.e., simply believing in the existence of God guarantees one's "salvation." But different religions, (and different traditions within certain religions) have very different criteria for salvation. Many require that a person do things other than simply believing in the existence of God.

Passages in the Bible, interpreted literally, seem to imply that salvation is dependent on different behaviors and beliefs:


Solely on good deeds, as in the words attributed to Jesus in the "Sheep and Goats" section of Matthew 25, verses 31 to 46 in the Bible. This passage discusses what is called the "Final Judgment." It states that:

  • Jesus will judge every person who ever lived, from all locations worldwide, all religions, eras, beliefs, ages, genders, skin colors, sexual orientations, etc.

  • He will divide them into two groups -- the Sheep, who will be sent to Heaven for all eternity, and the Goats who will spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell.

  • The division will be made using only a single criterion: When the individual was alive on earth, were they kind to people in need? Did they give hungry people food, give thirsty people water, welcome strangers, visit prisoners in jail, care for people who were ill, and/or give needy people clothes?

Of the many biblical passages that discuss salvation, this passage is of great importance because it it says that the criterion for salvation was in Jesus' words. The other Bible passages that discuss the criterion/criteria for salvation were written by followers of Jesus -- many of whom never met him and are relying on second and third hand information.

Note that since this passage implies that one's belief in God does not count at the Final Judgment. Atheists, Agnostics, Monotheists, Trinitarians, Polytheists, etc will be judged solely on the person's behavor during their lifetime on Earth towards needy people! If this Bible passage is true then Pascal's Wager is based on an invalid belief. The reasoning behind the wager totally collapses!

bullet Solely on faith, as in the Gospel of John 3:16.

bullet On faith plus the act of baptism.

bullet On repentance.

bullet On faith, coupled with good deeds,

bullet etc.

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T.M. Drange wrote: "According to the Bible, more is required for salvation than mere belief in God. One also needs to:

bullet Believe in God's son (Mark 16:16; John 3:18,36, 8:21-25, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; I John 5:12),

bullet Repent (Luke 13:3,5),

bullet Be born again (John 3:3),

bullet Be born of the water and of the Spirit (John 3:5),

bullet Believe everything in the gospel (Mark 16:16),

bullet Eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood (John 6:53),

bullet Be like a child (Mark 10:15), and

bullet Do good deeds, esp. for needy people (Matt. 25:41-46; Rom. 2:5-10; John 5:28-29; James 2:14-26)." 1

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Weaknesses #2  -- Which God must we believe in?

Pascal apparently assumed that one either believes in God or one didn't. But the situation is more complex that than. Consider both Christianity and Islam:


The Christian Scriptures, in John 3:16 to 18 states: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

This implies that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will be condemned. Since the Christian Scriptures only talk about two eventual resting places after death -- Heaven and Hell, one might conclude that anyone who does not believe in Jesus, God, and the relationsip between them will spend eternity in Hell.

bullet The Qur'an is the Holy Book of Islam.

bullet Sura 69:15-18: "On that Day shall the (Great) Event come to pass. And the sky will be rent asunder, for it will that Day be flimsy. And the angels will be on its sides, and eight will, that Day, bear the Throne of thy Lord above them. That Day shall ye be brought to Judgment: not an act of yours that ye hide will be hidden.

bullet Sura 69:30 -33: "(The stern command will say) "Seize ye him, and bind ye him. And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High."

Now, if one interprets these passages literally, then:

bullet Christians generally believe in the Trinity of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. But if Christianity is wrong, and Islam is correct, then Allah will punish the Christian believer with horrendous tortures.

bullet Meanwhile, Muslims believe in the single, indivisible deity Allah, who is very different from the Christian Trinity. If Islam is wrong, and Christianity is correct, then the Christian God will torture all Muslims for eternity without any hope of mercy or a cessation of their pain.

"This is often described as the 'avoiding the wrong hell' problem." 2

Actually, the problem is even more complex than is indicated above. There have been countless deities among the tens of thousands of religions in which people believe or have believed. The Farrars have written a pair of books that list 1,000 Gods and 1,000 Goddesses. 3 Many of these Gods and Goddess are jealous deities who demand worship from their followers and who punish those who do not believe in them. The probability of choosing the right God or Goddess is chancy at best.

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Weaknesses #3  -- Does any human belief matter?

Many Christians believe in Predestination - a concept promoted by John Calvin and other theologians. The theory is that God has divided humanity into two groups:

bullet A small percentage of people who God will save and who will attain heaven. They are not chosen by God on the basis of any merit on their part -- because they have led good lives, for example. They have done absolutely nothing to deserve this fate.

bullet A much larger group, that God has decided to not save. They will spend eternity being tortured without mercy in Hell. They also have done nothing to warrant being chosen differently from those who are saved.

Predistination teaches that only if God has chosen an individual will they be able to understand the Christian Scriptures and accept salvation. To the unchosen, the Gospel is meaningless. Pascal himself wrote: "We shall never believe with an effective belief and faith unless God inclines our hearts. Then we shall believe as soon as he inclines them." 4 The implication of predestination is that nothing that the individual does will determine their fate after death: heaven or hell. It is all up to God. One's fate is sealed before birth. We are powerless to change it.

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Arguments 4 to 9 are covered in the next essay

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. T.M. Drange, "Pascal's Wager Refuted," at:
  2. "Pascal's Wager (God is a safe bet)," The Internet Infidels, at:
  3. Janet & Stewart Farrar, "The Witches' God," and "The Witches' Goddess.
  4. Passages cited by Rick Wade, "Blaise Pascal: An Apologist for Our Times," Probe Ministries, at:

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Copyright 2001 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-OCT-26
Latest update: 2018-SEP-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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