Examining Pascal's Argument for God Essay

Examining Pascal's Argument for God Essay

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There have been many responses to Pascal’s proposition. British humorist Terry Pratchett cleverly summed it up in one of his books with a story of a philosopher who said, “Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it's all true you'll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn't then you've lost nothing, right? (Pratchett 51)” To the average person, it seems as though there are two choices of religion; to believe in God or not to believe in God. Pascal’s theory is that it is better to believe in God, even without reason, because in so believing, you lose nothing, whereas if you do not believe, you stand to lose significantly. On the surface, this wager seems to make an adequate amount of sense, but upon further examination, the argument begins to break down.

Pascal states, “According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions. (Pascal 444)” He does not think that reason is sufficient to prove God’s existence, nor is there solid evidence one way or the other. “There is an infinite chaos which separates us, (Pascal 444)” Pascal says, meaning that if there is a God, humans cannot comprehend Him or His actions. This is to say, even if God exists, humans could not possibly know enough about Him to prove His existence by proof or reason. This, Pascal says, is why the wager is necessary; we cannot know if He exists, we must decide to either believe or disbelieve based on logic.

Pascal says that the choice is between several sets of human qualities or characteristics: the true vs. the good, reason vs. will, knowledge vs. happiness, and error vs. misery. He theorizes that the believer who turns out to be correct in his belief will have true good, agreement with rea...


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... of belief that have been created around the deity by humans. Even if there is a God and belief in Him is founded, there is no way to know if He will or will not bestow rewards upon His followers.

Pascal’s theory would make sense if it were based on anything other than religion. Theology depends more on personal motivations than a desire for some unknown reward that may or may not exist. Pascal seems to be merely covering his own ass with this wager, telling himself that he is believing in anticipation of his eventual reward. This is not a satisfactory justification for believing in a God for which one has no evidence.

Works Cited



Pascal, Blaise. “The Wager.” Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. William L. Rowe and William J. Wainwright, ed. Harcourt Brace, Orlando, FL. 1973.



Pratchett, Terry. Hogfather. Harper Prism, London, England. 1996.

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