The Pascal Wager

09/07/2015

In the seventeenth century, Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher and mathematician, devised what has been referred to as The Pascal Wager. The Pascal Wager laid out the probability of the impact on one’s life if they accepted or rejected the idea of God. Christians like to point to the Pascal Wager as if to say, “What do you have to lose if you convert to Christianity?” The inference is that if Christianity is right you’ll be saved (if you converted) and, if they’re wrong, you’ve lost next to nothing.

Without getting into the ramifications of the logic of the Pascal Wager itself, I believe that Christianity has overlooked a very important point of a philosophy which they have embraced. You see, Pascal (a Christian himself) stated that, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” Let that soak in for a moment. Stated in other words, man has absolutely no idea what God is like (assuming, of course, that he even exists). The Gospel of John is somewhat in agreement with The Pascal Wager in this regard, as it says that no man has ever seen God. Yet, despite this, deists are absolutely certain that they know God.

The Old Testament is a particularly sticky wicket. The reason is that the Old Testament is actually the Jewish Bible, which Christianity adopted as part of their own Bible. It’s a twisted road as how we got from Judaism to Christianity, but it goes something like this. Jesus and the disciples were Jewish. They led their lives according to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Many years after the crucifixion of Jesus, their small, religious sect would morph into Christianity.

However, here’s where the road gets treacherous.  Although Christianity arose out of Judaism and adopted the Jewish Bible as part of their own Bible, there are surprisingly major differences between Christianity and Judaism, as follows:

  • Christianity believes in the Trinity, Judaism does not.
  • A core concept of Christianity is Original Sin, which they claim arose from Adam and Eve. Judaism does not have such a concept. Further, the Adam and Eve story was theirs. They wrote it. Yet, Christianity claims that they fully understand the story, but the people who wrote it don’t.  How bizarre is that?
  • The god of Judaism is a quasi-physical life form that made appearances to various people like Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Joshua. The God of the New Testament, according to Paul and John, is an invisible spirit.
  • Christianity has a divine messiah (Jesus) which they consider to be a universal messiah for the whole world. They believe that the coming of their messiah was foretold in the Old Testament. The problem is that the Old Testament prophecies were written by Hebrew (Jewish) prophets concerning the coming of a Jewish messiah. This Jewish messiah was to be simply a man rather than some divine entity, like say the Son of God, and he would be both king and messiah much like King David was.  Interestingly enough, one of the most important Old Testament prophecies was that the Jewish messiah would come to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel as opposed to the universal messiah that Christianity was expecting.

Christianity arose from Judaism, it’s true, although to be even more precise Christianity hijacked Judaism.  Yes, hijacked. That is, they adopted it but then radically changed it. For example, Christianity borrowed the god of the Old Testament (and changed him in the New Testament), they borrowed the messiah concept of the Old Testament (and then totally changed it) and for good measure they discarded the core concept of Judaism, the Torah. To add insult to injury, they took a story about a talking snake, which was meant to be allegorical in nature, and turned it into a literal interpretation complete with a concept (Original Sin) which is not even mentioned in the Torah.

Bottom line: Even though Christianity claims that their religion has its roots in the Old Testament – it really doesn’t.

Exactly how did we get in such a mess, anyway? Well, for starters, Christianity claims to have a more perfect understanding of the Old Testament than the people who wrote it (Jewish holy men). For example, assume that you had written a great work, like The Wizard of Oz, and that you were explaining to a group of people who the Wizard of Oz really was (since he was the man behind the screen that nobody ever saw). Imagine how you might feel if someone in the group jumped up, claiming that they knew all about the Wizard, although they had never met him, and that they disagreed with your explanation even though the Wizard was a character that you had personally made up.  That’s Old Testament reinterpretation in a nutshell.  It’s always convenient to prove one’s religious dogma by claiming that the Bible means what you say it does, as opposed to what the words actually say.

So, the next time you hear someone say that God is omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient, just remind them that The Pascal Wager states that God is infinitely incomprehensible. According to Pascal, there is no way for us to know what God is like; He transcends the power of human conception (i.e. the finite cannot conceive of the infinite). Yet, some have been so arrogant and presumptuous as to state otherwise. No doubt, Pascal is rolling over in his grave.

 

Epilogue

The concept of Original Sin is antithetical to the core beliefs of the Torah.  This is confirmed in Deuteronomy 24:16, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”  Even the god of Genesis denied the possibility of Original Sin. He stated that man is inclined towards evil but is not sinful by nature (see Genesis 8:21).

“Since no one really knows anything about God, those who think they do are just troublemakers.”

– Sufi mystic Rabia Basri

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7 Responses to “The Pascal Wager”

  1. Nan said

    I find it only slightly amazing that I agree with nearly everything you write. 🙂

    As usual … good job!

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