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Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2021

Introduction

According to Blaise Pascal, faith in God can be described as a human wager (Bartha, 2019). This means that human beings bet their lives on whether there is an existing entity that is larger, more powerful, and better than man. Those that believe in God are on the positive side of the wager, while those that do not are on the negative side. A coin with heads and tails has been used to explain the theory further. Notably, the theory suggests that it is better for man to believe that God exists than not. This essay summarizes the main concepts of the Pascal wager, highlighting some of the objections or criticisms that have been raised on the same. The essay proves that Pascal’s Wager is a valid way of dissecting why human beings treasure religion.

Summary of Pascal’s Wager

Bartha (2019) argues that there are six logical explanations and five categories of the uncertainty of the Pascal wager. The first logical explanation of the wager is that God either exists or doesn’t. According to the Wager, there is no in-between. A person either believes there is God or there is not. This is due to the consequences anticipated to happen if God exists and one did not believe in him when he or she was alive. An example can be given to explain further. If there is a God and one believes in him and lives according to his wishes, then this person will likely go to heaven, which is a place of joy and happiness. On the other hand, if there is a God and one does not believe in him, thus, does not live according to his commandments, then this person will likely go to hell, which is a place of pain and sorrow.

Additionally, this brings out the argument that people can believe in different forms of god, but their faith is based on the existence of an entity that is more powerful than man. The second logic is that religion can be thought of as a game and human beings are players. This denotes that there will be winners and losers in the game of faith. Winners are those who believed in God, whether he truly exists or not. On the other hand, losers are those who did not believe in God, and he exists.

The third logic is that it is mandatory for everyone to wager (Rota, 2018). All human beings either believe there is a form of God or there is not. It is a mandatory part of being human. Additionally, it is logical to state that winners gain everything while failures lose everything. One cannot get half profits, and half loses in the game of religion. The fifth logic is that the results of the wager are infinite, and the participants cannot change the water once the results are announced. The last logic is that human beings have the ability to believe in God even if all the evidence supports the opposite view. Through this forced belief, human beings are able to convince themselves that a supernatural being exists for the benefit of man. This is all so that they can get the positive rewards at the end of their lives.

As stated, there are several categories of the uncertainty of the wager. These categories are important when trying to analyze man’s position in religion (Rota, 2018). The first is uncertainty in everything, which refers to an overall feeling of doubt about everything. Secondly, the uncertainty of purpose refers to man’s inability to see himself/herself as infinite (Rota, 2018). Even in religious studies, man has to die in order to go to heaven. The third category is uncertainty in reason (Rota, 2018). This category refers to the fact that religion cannot be based on reason alone, as things such as miracles cannot be explained scientifically.

Additionally, the fourth category, uncertainty in science, denotes that science does not also offer all the answers one seeks (Rota, 2018). Uncertainty three and four tie closely to uncertainty five, which is based on the fact that religion is neither scientific nor reasonable. The last category is the uncertainty of skepticism, which indicates that it is also not clear that everything is uncertain as the categories suggest (Rota, 2018). Notably, all the categories of uncertainty suggest that a believer takes up religion fully regardless of these uncertainties. However, it is important to note that there are times when believers doubt their faith. Bartha (2019) explains that this normally happens when something tragic or unexpected happens. However, using Pascal’s wager, one can argue that these moments of doubt are part of the categories of uncertainty discussed.

Criticism of Pascal’s Wager

There are three main contentious issues that have been used to criticize the theory. The first is that the theory does not prove the existence of God in any way. As stated, the theory only explains how human beings perceive or take up religion.

The fact that many scholars in this school of thought have argued that it shows proof of God has been rejected by others due to this issue. Matheson (2017) argues that the theory can be used to show how human beings believe they only have two choices when it comes to religion but not to prove that God exists. The argument also brings into question the importance of the quality of faith. The question asked in this critique is whether a certain level of quality of faith is required for one to be described as religious.

The second contentious issue is the assertion of different forms of God in theory. Matheson (2017) explains that the theory has not included the different forms of God, including traditional ones, in the wager. However, it is important to note that the wager does not specifically mention the Christian God, although Blaise was openly associated with Christianity. Additionally, the third contentious issue is the fact that the wager agrees that sincere belief will precede religious actions, thus, allowing these people to enter heaven.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Blaise Pascal, through his theory, the Pascal wager, argues that there are only two ways mankind perceives religion. The first is that God exists, while the second is that there is no God. The wager suggests that it is better to believe that God exists as opposed to the opposite due to the rewards that are expected to come once one dies. One can argue that the theory is proactive in nature as it encourages people to take up religion, whether they actually believe it or not, in an attempt to get better rewards at the end of their lives. There has been criticism of this approach to religious studies as it can be described as immoral in nature.

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IvyPanda. (2021, July 7). Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/pascals-wager-why-humans-treasure-religion/

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"Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion." IvyPanda, 7 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/pascals-wager-why-humans-treasure-religion/.

1. IvyPanda. "Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion." July 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pascals-wager-why-humans-treasure-religion/.


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IvyPanda. "Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion." July 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pascals-wager-why-humans-treasure-religion/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion." July 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pascals-wager-why-humans-treasure-religion/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Pascal’s Wager: Why Humans Treasure Religion'. 7 July.

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