Many arguments for and against the existence of God have a very long philosophical tradition. Pascal’s Wager is perhaps one of the most well known of these arguments. Pascal was a mathematician and statistician who wanted to find a more “scientific” way both to analyze the existence of God and to advocate for a belief in God. Here’s a brief overview both of Pascal’s argument for the existence of God and some common criticisms of the argument:
What Is Pascal’s Wager?
Blaise Pascal was a mathematician and philosopher who wanted to approach belief in God from a statistical standpoint. He argued that belief in God was essentially a better bet than nonbelief. Someone who chose to believe in God had everything to gain if they were right, but would lose nothing if they were wrong. Someone who does not believe in God has everything to lose if they are wrong and nothing to gain if they are right. Thus, it simply makes better sense to choose to believe in God.
Criticisms of Pascal’s Wager
Opponents of Pascal’s wager have argued that it involves false or unstated premises. First, the simple existence of a God does not mean one will lose anything if one does not believe. Instead, God must offer something additional to those who believe in him or her as opposed to those who don’t.
Richard Dawkins has proposed an anti-Pascal’s Wager. Dawkins believes that belief in God is more likely to limit one’s life and may result in unethical behavior. Thus, one who believes in God is more likely to have an unhappy immoral life, and will have had this unhappy life for nothing if they are wrong. However, someone who does not believe in God will live a better life, and a truly loving God would admire the nonbeliever’s commitment to logic. Dawkin’s Wager, however, suffers from many of the same unstated premises as Pascal’s Wager, including the claim that belief in God makes one’s life worse and the claim that God will respect one who does not believe.
If you’re interested in learning about other arguments for the existence of God, you can read about several other popular philosophical, religious, and atheist arguments about god by clicking this link.
Richard Dawkins- The God Delusion
Bertrand Russell- The History of Western Philosophy