The Kensho Agnostic (pure_agnostic) wrote in agnosticism,
The Kensho Agnostic

Pascal's Wager

I came across this description of Pascal's Wager recently and thought I would share with you.

Pascal's Wager is the ultimate con game to gain belief. For instance, I have a lotion. I want to sell it to you. I tell you it is a magic lotion that prevents sharks from attacking you. Since you have no proof that what I am saying is false then it might be better to believe in the lotion than allow yourself the risk of being attacked by a shark. Well, if you're an easy mark, I just made money and got you to believe in something out of fear. That is Pascals Wager. Better to believe in the 'lotion' than to face the possibility that I may be right about the danger that I claim you face.

I've never liked Pascal's Wager, but until now, could not give a simple explanation why other than it seemed wrong.  Now this simple paragraph really puts the wager in perspective.
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Except that the lotion costs money. The strenth of Pascal's Wager has generally been that it costs you nothing to believe in God.

Still, nice analogy nonetheless...
The hidden cost to Pascal's Wager is that people who believe in a deity just to get into heaven have to modify their behavior according to religious dogma in order to demonstrate the sincerity of their faith. Pascal assumed there was no cost to the wager.

I like the shark lotion story because it emphasizes the cost of Pascal's Wager, and also emphasizes the fact that the wager is made on blind faith rather than evidence. Although I can state those two problems with the wager directly, the shark lotion story does a pithy job of bringing out those issues.

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I'd bet many believers use Pascal's Wager to justify their belief. You know, to use the rational mind to prepare reasons to justify a decision already made on a nonrational basis.

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Uh, I think you are conflating nonrational with irrational. These are related, but distinctly different, concepts.

Now to answer your question, I do think it is irrational to make a decision based on the existence of God without considering whether God exists. If somebody fraudulently told you he manages a mutual fund, and asked you to invest in it, would you give him money without checking first whether the mutual fund exists? If you did, you would be making a decision about your money without considering the basis for the decision.
Actually the biggest problem with Pascal's Wager is that it's a false dichotomy
I would guess that cynicism about religion is mostly due to our experiences with people who claim to believe in a religion yet fail to follow through on the basic tenets of that religion.
I agree. The tenants of most religious dogma are portraits of the various cultures' idea's of perfection. What is perfection? Everyone has a different answer and it seems that the answer is always out of reach for the person who is imagining it. No one can live up to the perfection we proclaim is the "true" ideal. We will always fall short and feel the guilt from the dogma we can't seem to stop persecuting ourselves each other for.

As long as we keep coming up with these impossible standards and telling ourselves that they are the "only way" to achieve a secure place in some afterlife that we can't possibly know anything about, we will always find ourselves lost and searching for some peace that we can only really find in accepting that we don't know, we won't know and no one else will live up to the standards that they set for themselves either. Not a preacher or nun or any other most pious person. To be angry at them may be our own frustration because we want so much for it to be possible. We want to see that perfection, and then maybe experience it.

Sorry for the ramble. I suppose I just see so many people angry and feeling betrayed by some dogma that was created by human beings who were and are imperfect and also searching for some truth and creating impossible standards that no one can possibly live up to.

I obviously don't have any answers. I'm just another person trying to do my best, probably like you and all the others that read this site.