About God and Atheism
Three weaknesses in Pascal's Wager: It
not be safer to believe in God after all
Pascal's Wager is described in detail in a separate essay
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.
Weaknesses #1 -- Is believing in God 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 ones "salvation." But different
religions, (and different traditions within certain religions) have very
different criteria for salvation. Many require that a person do more than simply
believe in the existence of God. Passages in the Bible, interpreted literally,
seem to imply that salvation is dependent:
||Solely on good deeds, as in the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.
||Solely on faith.
||On faith plus the act of baptism.
||On faith, coupled with good deeds,
T.M. Drange describes this in greater detail. He wrote: "According to the Bible, more is required for salvation
than mere belief in God. One also needs to:
||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),
||Repent (Luke 13:3,5),
||Be born again (John 3:3),
||Be born of the water and of the Spirit (John 3:5),
||Believe everything in the gospel (Mark 16:16),
||Eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood (John 6:53),
||Be like a child (Mark 10:15), and
Do good deeds, esp. for needy people (Matt. 25:41-46; Rom. 2:5-10;
John 5:28-29; James 2:14-26)." 1
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
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 --
and Hell, one might conclude that anyone who does not believe in Jesus, God, and the relationsip between them will spend eternity in Hell.|
||The Qur'an is the Holy Book of Islam.|
"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
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:
||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.
||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.
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
||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.
||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.
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.
Arguments 4 to 9 are covered in the next essay
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
T.M. Drange, "Pascal's Wager Refuted," at: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/
"Pascal's Wager (God is a safe bet)," The Internet Infidels, at: http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/
Janet & Stewart Farrar, "The Witches' God," and "The Witches'
Passages cited by Rick Wade, "Blaise Pascal: An Apologist for Our Times,"
Probe Ministries, at: http://www.probe.org/docs/pascal.html
Copyright © 2001 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-OCT-26
Latest update: 2012-SEP-27
Author: B.A. Robinson