Pascal's Wager

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Pascal's Wager
« on: March 06, 2007, 08:56:23 PM »
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  •     * You believe in God.
              o If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
              o If God does not exist, your loss (the investment in your mistaken belief) is finite and therefore negligible.
        * You do not believe in God.
              o If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
              o If God does not exist, your gain is finite and therefore negligible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

From a purely logical standpoint, shouldn't everyone believe in God?



Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2007, 08:59:54 PM »
Quote
  •     * You believe in God.
              o If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
              o If God does not exist, your loss (the investment in your mistaken belief) is finite and therefore negligible.
        * You do not believe in God.
              o If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
              o If God does not exist, your gain is finite and therefore negligible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

From a purely logical standpoint, shouldn't everyone believe in God?




"Just in case"? But then, is it a true belief? Or would we all be like that dumbass in The Mummy who was preying with every religious icon and in every religious language?
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2007, 09:05:11 PM »
This is probably the weakest justification for religious belief. It might be more applicable if there were only one religion, only two choices: theism, or atheism. Then one might be a theist simply as a sort of insurance policy. But there are thousands of religions. If you choose to believe in the Christian God "just in case", what happens if Allah turns out to be the true god, or any of the pagan or Hindu or Zoroastrian gods? And even provided you chose the correct deity, an unlikely circumstance in any case, mightn't that deity be angered by the fact that you only chose his/her/its religion out of convenience?
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2007, 09:23:28 PM »
This is probably the weakest justification for religious belief. It might be more applicable if there were only one religion, only two choices: theism, or atheism. Then one might be a theist simply as a sort of insurance policy. But there are thousands of religions. If you choose to believe in the Christian God "just in case", what happens if Allah turns out to be the true god, or any of the pagan or Hindu or Zoroastrian gods? And even provided you chose the correct deity, an unlikely circumstance in any case, mightn't that deity be angered by the fact that you only chose his/her/its religion out of convenience?

I agree that believing something due to logic or believing something due to faith are two completely different experiences.  What if a person was unsure what to believe, though?  Could a person use reason to justify his or her accepting a belief on blind faith, and would THIS be the same experience as believing something solely on faith?

You're right, though, this wager only truly works for the traditional monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity).  Any religion that claims the existence of positive and negative consequences to your actions fits this rationale though.

The point of the wager is that it doesn't matter in the end if you're wrong, because the loss here on earth would be finite. Also, you would have had the same probability of being wrong from choosing to believe in any other deity or force (provided there's no logical evidence to indicate that one religion is more likely to be true than another), with the promise of similar punishments and rewards.

This doesn't reflect any of my personal beliefs, by the way.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2007, 10:07:25 PM »
Another significant problem with the wager is the fact that bible clearly states that you have to believe in Jesus/God in your heart.  Simply following the teachings of the bible is not enough, according to the bible, to get into heaven.  So if you follow Christianity based on Pascal's wager, you're still going to hell.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2007, 10:24:29 PM »
Another significant problem with the wager is the fact that bible clearly states that you have to believe in Jesus/God in your heart.  Simply following the teachings of the bible is not enough, according to the bible, to get into heaven.  So if you follow Christianity based on Pascal's wager, you're still going to hell.

Quote from: The Philosopher link=topic=11262.msg142708#msg142708
I agree that believing something due to logic or believing something due to faith are two completely different experiences.  What if a person was unsure what to believe, though?  Could a person use reason to justify his or her accepting a belief on blind faith, and would THIS be the same experience as believing something solely on faith?
« Last Edit: March 06, 2007, 10:43:50 PM by The Philosopher »

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2007, 10:31:32 PM »
Pascal's Wager is useless, since god is supposedly an omnipotent and omniscient being. Being omniscient, he knows if your reasons for praising and believing him are pure and true (purer faith), and could act accordingly (to hell with you, muhuhuhahahah!).
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The people who feast on exclamation marks will never go hungry agaaaain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2007, 10:55:54 PM »
Pascal's Wager is useless, since god is supposedly an omnipotent and omniscient being. Being omniscient, he knows if your reasons for praising and believing him are pure and true (purer faith), and could act accordingly (to hell with you, muhuhuhahahah!).

Ok I guess I'll rephrase what I previously said, and quoted.  If a person is unsure about whether or not to believe in God and rationalizes their decision to believe in God with the logic of Pascal's wager, is this a lesser form of faith?  I think they would be the same.  Even if a person justifies his decision to believe in God with Pascal's wager, he still believes in God out of faith.

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unclegravy

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2007, 11:01:57 PM »
I'd say yes, it is a lesser form of faith.
Just thinking "I'd be shot to hell if he was true and I didn't believe him, so I better go to mass now" is wrong.
Unfortunately, knowing about Pascal's Wager makes you think like that, so if you have read about Pascal's Wager and believe in god, your reasons will always be tainted by Pascal's Wager.

Therefore, you have doomed all god-fearing people who have read this thread.:P
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The people who feast on exclamation marks will never go hungry agaaaain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2007, 11:11:43 PM »
I'd say yes, it is a lesser form of faith.
Just thinking "I'd be shot to hell if he was true and I didn't believe him, so I better go to mass now" is wrong.
Unfortunately, knowing about Pascal's Wager makes you think like that, so if you have read about Pascal's Wager and believe in god, your reasons will always be tainted by Pascal's Wager.

Therefore, you have doomed all god-fearing people who have read this thread.:P
Only if those people have no mental strength

Anyway, I'm not talking about a person obeying all the church laws because of Pascal's Wager.  I'm describing a hypothetical situation in which a person, who was previously unsure, decided to believe in God (in ADDITION to following church laws) because of Pascal's Wager.  His belief is sincere, he just decided to believe in it (possibly instead of being agnostic) due to logic.

If this were a lesser form of faith, then all faiths that arose after birth would be lesser faiths.  Most people that have faith gained it for one reason or another during their lives.  I don't see why logic should be a less valid way of deciding to believe something.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2007, 11:19:34 PM »
But if they're believing because of Pascal's wager, are they actually believing, or are they just pretending to believe in case it turns out that the form of Christianity they're following is correct?  If they actually believe, I don't see how it could be because of Pascal's wager.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2007, 01:41:05 AM »
One of the problems I have with Pascal's Wager is that it's based in the pre-supposition of the Christian god. There are how many deities (or representations of deities or however you want to word it) out there? 100s? 1000s?

What if Pascal's Wager applies more to Zeus?

IMO, it's a pathetic attempt on the part of Christianity to convert through subterfuge.
Click dis:

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2007, 04:27:39 AM »
But if they're believing because of Pascal's wager, are they actually believing, or are they just pretending to believe in case it turns out that the form of Christianity they're following is correct?  If they actually believe, I don't see how it could be because of Pascal's wager.
Like I said in the hypothetical situation described above, the person decided to believe for a different reason, but he still sincerely believes.  He was previously unsure about whether or not to believe in God, and after seeing Pascal's wager he decided to believe.  His belief in God is just as sincere, he just came to believe it in a different way.

One of the problems I have with Pascal's Wager is that it's based in the pre-supposition of the Christian god. There are how many deities (or representations of deities or however you want to word it) out there? 100s? 1000s?

What if Pascal's Wager applies more to Zeus?

As stated above:
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You're right, though, this wager only truly works for the traditional monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity).  Any religion that claims the existence of positive and negative consequences to your actions fits this rationale though.

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IMO, it's a pathetic attempt on the part of Christianity to convert through subterfuge.
If it was created with this purpose in mind, I might agree with you.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2007, 04:50:59 AM »
The problem is that religion was introduced to humanity, it was not something innate in the human being, so not everyone will accept it as the truth.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2007, 04:52:38 AM »
The problem is that religion was introduced to humanity, it was not something innate in the human being, so not everyone will accept it as the truth.

I don't know what you mean.  I personally think religion was the most primitive form of government.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2007, 04:54:51 AM »
The problem is that religion was introduced to humanity, it was not something innate in the human being, so not everyone will accept it as the truth.

I don't know what you mean.  I personally think religion was the most primitive form of government.

I get that, but I thought what you were trying to get across was that, why doesn't everyone accept that there is a God? I was displaying my opinion on the subject. I wasn't debating the reason for religion here.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2007, 05:07:48 AM »
I get that, but I thought what you were trying to get across was that, why doesn't everyone accept that there is a God? I was displaying my opinion on the subject. I wasn't debating the reason for religion here.
I must have misinterpreted what you said.  The question I'm asking now, though, is regarding this hypothetical situation:
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A person, who was previously unsure, decided to believe in God (in ADDITION to following church laws) because of Pascal's Wager.  His belief is sincere, he just decided to believe in it (possibly instead of being agnostic) due to logic.
Is his belief any less valid, just because he agreed with the logic of Pascal's Wager?  He still believes in God out of faith.  His decision to believe (since he was previously unsure), however, was rooted in both faith and reason.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2007, 01:32:47 PM »
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A person, who was previously unsure, decided to believe in God (in ADDITION to following church laws) because of Pascal's Wager.  His belief is sincere, he just decided to believe in it (possibly instead of being agnostic) due to logic.
Is his belief any less valid, just because he agreed with the logic of Pascal's Wager?  He still believes in God out of faith.  His decision to believe (since he was previously unsure), however, was rooted in both faith and reason.

In my opinion, his faith is valid. His faith in that there is a God is real because he accepts his existence, just as any other member of a religion does.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2007, 02:38:47 PM »
Even if you do accept that Pascal's wager is a valid reason why people would be better off if they believed in god, simply believing that you would be better off if you believed X isn't enough for you to actually believe X. I might doubt my wife's faithfulness, and believe that I would be happier if I were doubt-free, but I can't just wish away my doubts based on my analysis of my happiness. Similarly, I might think that god doesn't exist, and think that I would be better off if I thought he did exist, but I can't make the leap to actually believing the unbelievable based on the idea that I would be better off if I did.
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E pur si muove!

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2007, 02:46:35 PM »
Similarly, I might think that god doesn't exist, and think that I would be better off if I thought he did exist, but I can't make the leap to actually believing the unbelievable based on the idea that I would be better off if I did.

Exactly, everyone has doubts of a God's existence, even if they have been prominent figures in their chosen religions. How does this differ from people believing in God because of Pascal's Wager. They had their doubts, but now they believe.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2007, 05:41:17 PM »
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A person, who was previously unsure, decided to believe in God (in ADDITION to following church laws) because of Pascal's Wager.  His belief is sincere, he just decided to believe in it (possibly instead of being agnostic) due to logic.
Is his belief any less valid, just because he agreed with the logic of Pascal's Wager?  He still believes in God out of faith.  His decision to believe (since he was previously unsure), however, was rooted in both faith and reason.

In this case, I think what is important is his belief, not how he came about it.  It is no less or more valid than anyone else's similar belief because it essentially is the same belief. 

At some point this person would have to drop this shallow 'wager' in order to have belief in God (within my understanding of true belief in the Christian God, of course).  This person would have to have a sincere relationship with God in order to be a believer, not just say "I believe because it is logical to do so".  To me it seems this latter belief of logic is one of fear, which to me does not constitute belief (and how much of logic has to do with belief, and vice versa?).   The former belief through a relationship with God is one of love (I would hope). 

Well, if you're not confused with my parenthetical notation overkill . . . then I have failed.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2007, 03:27:06 AM by EvilToothpaste »

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2007, 05:55:34 PM »
Similarly, I might think that god doesn't exist, and think that I would be better off if I thought he did exist, but I can't make the leap to actually believing the unbelievable based on the idea that I would be better off if I did.

Exactly, everyone has doubts of a God's existence, even if they have been prominent figures in their chosen religions.
I don't think this is true. Perhaps you have such doubts, but I find it extremely unlikely that suicide bombers do. When people blow themselves up in the name of religion, I think that constitutes extremely persuasive evidence that they don't actually doubt its truth.
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How does this differ from people believing in God because of Pascal's Wager. They had their doubts, but now they believe.
I don't understand what you mean by "believing in God because of Pascal's Wager" as I don't see how this is even possible. One can want to believe because of Pascal's wager, but belief in a proposition means that you actually think the proposition is true. Pascal's wager does not in any way help decide the question of whether the proposition "god exists" is true, it only suggests that we have a motive to try to believe it. That does not, in any way, make us think the proposition is any more likely than it was before we considered the wager.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2007, 06:06:52 PM »
I don't understand what you mean by "believing in God because of Pascal's Wager" as I don't see how this is even possible. One can want to believe because of Pascal's wager, but belief in a proposition means that you actually think the proposition is true. Pascal's wager does not in any way help decide the question of whether the proposition "god exists" is true, it only suggests that we have a motive to try to believe it. That does not, in any way, make us think the proposition is any more likely than it was before we considered the wager.

Say someone was raised to believe in God, but began to question that belief.  If he was caught directly between the two possibilities, thinking both were equally likely, saw Pascal's Wager, and decided to believe in god, would his belief still be less valid?  It just helped him answer his original questioning of his faith.

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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2007, 07:04:59 PM »
No, because it doesn't answer any of the doubts with regard to belief. Anyone who thinks that Pascal's wager is reason to believe something has a very different understanding of belief than I do. To me, "belief" requires that you honestly think something is true, and not just that you think you would be better off believing. If you begin to doubt your belief in a god, you must answer those doubts with something that takes away your reasons for doubting, or else you must continue to doubt. You can't stop doubting something just because you think you'd be happier if you did.

Again, I think the example of doubting your spouse's faithfulness is a good one. If you begin to doubt that your spouse is being faithful, you might easily conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful, but this only allows you to conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful; it doesn't let you conclude that your spouse actually is faithful.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2007, 07:34:49 PM »
No, because it doesn't answer any of the doubts with regard to belief. Anyone who thinks that Pascal's wager is reason to believe something has a very different understanding of belief than I do. To me, "belief" requires that you honestly think something is true, and not just that you think you would be better off believing. If you begin to doubt your belief in a god, you must answer those doubts with something that takes away your reasons for doubting, or else you must continue to doubt. You can't stop doubting something just because you think you'd be happier if you did.

Again, I think the example of doubting your spouse's faithfulness is a good one. If you begin to doubt that your spouse is being faithful, you might easily conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful, but this only allows you to conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful; it doesn't let you conclude that your spouse actually is faithful.

Well let us explore the wife analogy. Now you could use logic to come to the conclusion that your wife is faithful and that would only reinforce that faith wouldn't it?

The logic of Pascal's Wager is simply that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It simply reinforces the idea that God must exist for those with the right line of thought.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2007, 07:43:36 PM »
No, because it doesn't answer any of the doubts with regard to belief. Anyone who thinks that Pascal's wager is reason to believe something has a very different understanding of belief than I do. To me, "belief" requires that you honestly think something is true, and not just that you think you would be better off believing. If you begin to doubt your belief in a god, you must answer those doubts with something that takes away your reasons for doubting, or else you must continue to doubt. You can't stop doubting something just because you think you'd be happier if you did.

Again, I think the example of doubting your spouse's faithfulness is a good one. If you begin to doubt that your spouse is being faithful, you might easily conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful, but this only allows you to conclude that you would be happier if you believed your spouse was faithful; it doesn't let you conclude that your spouse actually is faithful.

Well let us explore the wife analogy. Now you could use logic to come to the conclusion that your wife is faithful and that would only reinforce that faith wouldn't it?

The logic of Pascal's Wager is simply that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It simply reinforces the idea that God must exist for those with the right line of thought.
It doesn't. It has absolutely no bearing on the question of god's existence; it makes the proposition of god's existence no more or less likely. At best, all it does is provide a positive incentive for having belief. But belief is simply not something you can have through sheer force of will. To believe a proposition is true, you must have some reason to think it likely, and pascal's wager doesn't make the existence of god more likely any more than recognizing that I would be happier if I believed my spouse was faithful makes my spouse's faithfulness any more likely.

We seem to be arguing past each other, and the only conclusion I can draw is that you somehow see a benefit you draw from believing a proposition as evidence making that proposition more likely to be true, while I simply don't. I don't see how any potential benefit I might draw from believing X increases the probability of X being true one iota, and believing X actually means that I think X is likely to be true, not just that I want X to be true, or I want to think that X is true.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #26 on: March 07, 2007, 07:52:41 PM »
Well when you talk about faith, you are talking about something you sincerely hope to be true. It's not even belief, it is literally a hope that something is true.

You can only HOPE that your wife remains faithful, just like you can only HOPE that there is a God.

You can use logic to reinforce that hope (Well she has never given me any reason to doubt her). True Pascal's Wager isn't the type of logic to reinforce a belief. But like I said it could be used that way if you have that line of thought.

"If God is good then it is only logical that the best course of action would be to believe him, since Pascal's Wager points out that it is only beneficial to believe in him while it is disastrous to not do so."

That line of thought doesn't work for me, but obviously it works for quite a few people.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #27 on: March 10, 2007, 08:30:22 PM »
Belief is not voluntary. No matter how much you want to believe something, you will never be able to force yourself to actually believe it.

Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2007, 10:12:08 PM »
Pascal's Wager was 'formulated' to get people into the church.  It was a 'reason' to justify an introduction to the faith.

You hear the wager and choose to go to church based on 'logic.'  The preacher (and God, through the preacher) is supposed to provide you with an impetus to stay.  While you are in the church, you study, and you pray, and God is supposed to open your heart and speak to you.

Pascal's wager was not intended to prove or disprove the existence of God, but merely to point out:

The gain from believing in Christianity is greater than the gain from not believing in Christianity.

You must note however, that a Christian wrote this, and Christians have a habit of discounting life experiences that would be considered 'sins' in the face of 'everlasting life in heaven.'


Also, belief IS voluntary by controlling external events.

For example:
You know that there is no possibility of you coming to believe in a particular God if you never attend a church, read a holy book, or speak with someone of that particular faith.  By controlling your interactions with these events, you can control your beliefs. 
Likewise, your parents can exert partial control over your beliefs by controlling your circumstances.

Granted, you cannot force yourself to believe something, but you can restrict yourself from believing something.
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Re: Pascal's Wager
« Reply #29 on: March 11, 2007, 07:53:25 AM »
Belief is not voluntary. No matter how much you want to believe something, you will never be able to force yourself to actually believe it.

Actually that statement is wrong. You can feel emotion through force of will, and you can believe through force of will. Though belief through convincing yourself of something is a lot easier then force of will.

Pascal's Wager was an attempt at providing people with a means to convince themselves. If they found faith by it then to call that faith false is to call any belief born of logical thought false.
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