Alright, basically every week or so I'm going to examine a theist argument, or a theists response to an atheist argument, and refute it. I'm mainly doing this for myself, the best way to defeat your opponent is to know their best arguments and have the ability to take them apart. Also, I'm a Philosophy major at Syracuse University, and I’ll probably end up using some of these blogs as essays. Please, if you think I am wrong, or have another point to add to the argument, respond to this. On to Pascal's Wager.
Pascal's Wager is basically an attempt by Pascal to prove that believing in God is more rational than not believing in God. Please note, Pascal is not trying to prove God exists, in fact, he did not believe it was possible to do so. He is attempting to give a reason to believe in God, which would make atheism or agnosticism, irrational.
Here is Pascal's claim. It is impossible to know whether or not God exists in this lifetime. However, we are all required to make a wager during our lives. Basically, we have to decide whether or not to believe in God.
If we decide to believe in God, and we are correct, then we are rewarded by eternal bliss, happiness, heaven, all of that good stuff. If we believe in God and we are wrong, nothing happens. We die.
If we decide to not believe in God, and we are correct, then nothing happens. We are in the same position as the believer who was wrong. But, if we choose not to believe in God and are wrong, we go to hell. Damnation. Lots of fire. Lots of lawyers. Not very fun.
It is important to note here, that you have to wager. If you choose agnosticism, you are in the same shape as the atheist. If there is a God, you go to hell. If not, nothing.
From this Pascal creates this argument.
1) Either God exists, or God does not exist.
2) If you believe in God, you may be rewarded.
3) If you do not believe in God, you will not be rewarded, and may be punished.
4) Therefore, it is rational to believe in God.
5) You should believe in God.
This entire concept is best represented in the form of a chart. However, I can't really draw, and I don't have one handy, but there is nice one here http://faculty.msb.edu/homak/HomaHelpSite/WebHelp/image26.jpg .
At first glance, this does not look to be such a terrible argument. However, when you think about it... it really just doesn't make much sense.
Refuting Pascal’s Wager:
1) Not believing isn't a choice! Not believing in God is based on rational. If someone truly does not believe in God, it is usually because they have thought about it, considered all of the evidence, and have come to the conclusion that God does not exist. Asking a person like this to believe in God would be similar to asking them to believe in the Easter Bunny. It's just impossible.
2) What is God? Is his argument, Pascal is assuming that the only possible God is his God, the Christian God. However, if as he claims one truly can never know if god exists, then how could we really know what God is like. Maybe there is a God in the heavens, but he is a different kind of God. He favors the rational, and gives them eternal life because he likes talking to them about things, like sports, why we're all here, stuff like that. However, he has no use for the loons who believe in man-made Gods, and sends their souls into some black hole somewhere. In this case, Pascal's Wager would be reversed. It would be better to not believe than to believe. There is no reason to believe in either of these Gods over the other one, and thus,
the third premise of Pascal's argument is no longer valid. Thus, the conclusions are also no longer valid.
3) Would you want to spend eternity with a God like Pascal’s? Pascal's God sends people to eternal torment for thinking. Who would worship such a God?
4) Why does God want us to worship him in the first place? Is God insecure? Why does the all knowing, all powerful God require out belief. Does he get offended if we don't believe in him or something? In fact, a God that is perfect would not be insecure, or in fact probably care at all if we believed in him.
5) There is no hell, it's a contradiction. For a very well written explanation of this, check out Nick Poling's essay. http://www.freethinkingteens.com/node/2030
You can refute Pascal's wager with anyone of these arguments. Personally, I like the second one best, because it tends to piss theists off the most. But, they all work. Till next time.