Does Pascal's Wager make sense?

Now the basic reasoning of Pascal’s Wager is mathmatical:

Believing in God costs nothing but gains a potential infinite reward.

Not believing in God gains nothing but risks a potential infinite cost.

If God does not exist, you have gained or lost nothing either way. If God exists, you have gained lots. So goes the logic.

But, here’s my problem, under several theologies, my belief in the incorrect God is the same, and sometimes worse, than a lack of belief in God. So I am still risking a potential infinite cost in believing in God.

Further, believing in God can and does incur cost in this lifetime. If there is not an infinite afterlife, then moments lost in this life after infinately more costly.

And finally, (and this is the kicker), can anyone really say that not believing in God would definately incur the infinite cost of hellfire? My personal belief, and the doctrine I’ve seen of several churches, is that there is no way of knowing.

Now that I think of it, Pascal’s Wager is something more of a threat - “Believe in God or go to Hell”.

I agree. My best buddy, who is Catholic, tries to throw pascal’s wager at me all the time and every time I think of another reason that it just doesn’t work, or at least its not as simple as people try to make it out to be. I would like to add to your last statement though…“Believe in MY god or go to hell”. Thats what most people who try to use pascals wager as an arguing point seem to mean.

The thing that is bothering me about Pascal’s wager, and the point I was trying to drive at, but did not make well… Is that to me, it seems a violation of several Catholic beliefs. (Which is why I posted this here.) Anyway, here are the problems, please correct me if I miss-speak a belief here -

1 - The Church has never noted a person as “going to hell” - but Pascal’s wager takes this as forgranted.

2 - Not many people have been sainted, my believing in God has nothing to do with my final destination. For that matter, being Catholic will not prevent Hellfire under Catholic belief.

3 - Saying that the cost of belief is nothing means the sacrifices made by so many martyrs, and suffering made by so many pious men and women cost nothing. You can only make this ‘cost nothing’ claim if you compare it to the reward that they received.

I have seen, and made for myself, far better cases than Pascal’s wager, and I am questioning here the validity of pressing it to non-believers.

By the time I say Pascal’s Wager on the net, I was already questioning my atheist “beliefs”. This wager is what got me to look within myself and really question WHY I was an atheist, or better put, why I didn’t believe in God.

I took the wager and it caused me to really think, and to be honest, it scarred the Hell out of me. I know there are those who try to make the wager complicated and try to use many difference reasoning points, but for me, it was very simple and straight forward.

There was many things that lead to my conversion, but Pascal’s Wager, for me, is what broke down my last wall of defense and denial.

I do not question your conversion, but do you think it would have been better if done out of love than fear? I guess in the end any conversion requires love of the divine as the final step. Perhaps more time consuming, but maybe the process is better?

Edited to add: In any case, anytime someone comes into a relationship with God, it is good, and am glad this helped you on your journey.

It does not make sense.

different things speak to different people thus why things have to be said in so many ways. (hope that makes sense)

example: a friend (catholic) struggles with seeing psychics. I, her mom, her priest, and others tried to explain why she shouldnt. While we made sense nothing broke that “wall” love4mary you mentioned. :slight_smile: (be it a different wall)

Then a meeting in a parking lot while loading up the car after mass, with the visiting priest of that day. She mentioned something about having to talk to the psychics about (whatever they were chatting about in the parking lot in passing). He was attuned and explained it in a different way and it clicked with her and then she understood.

CS Lewis spoke about this kind of thing (wager or whatever)

If it helps you then take it, if not then leave it alone.

You missed an important point in the wager: Generally people who choose to believe in God live lives that are happier and healthier.

Well, if the cost is the same with believing in the incorrect God, then you’re still mathematically better off than in not believing in God at all. There are two cases; let’s call them case A and case B.

Case A You believe in an incorrect God
If there is no God, then nothing has changed. If there is a God, then you suffer an infinite cost but you would have suffered the same infinite cost if you hand’t believed at all. So in both sub-cases, nothing has changed.

Case B You believe in a non-incorrect God
If there is a God, you’re better off. If there isn’t nothing has changed. So on the whole, you are better off (unless the probablity that there is a God is zero)

So in Case A, your belief in God doesn’t change anything whether God exists or not and in Case B your belief in God changes something for the better if God exists and doesn’t change anything if he doesn’t. So Pascal’s wager still works.

It potentially doesn’t work if you say that believing in the incorrect God could leave you worse off than not believing in God at all – but since few theologies seem to say that (I don’t know of any – which ones do?), a weighted analysis would probably still leave you better off.

Further, believing in God can and does incur cost in this lifetime. If there is not an infinite afterlife, then moments lost in this life after infinately more costly.

Whether there’s an infinite afterlife or not, our lives here remain finite and so the moments we experience or lose remain finite in value.

And finally, (and this is the kicker), can anyone really say that not believing in God would definately incur the infinite cost of hellfire?

Even if it didn’t incur the cost of hellfire and instead would lead you to some natural paradise in the afterlife, heaven would still be immeasurably better than that paradise because in heaven we participate in God’s very life, his unspeakable glory.

And the mathematics of the wager still work as long as not believing in God incurs the chance of the infinite cost of hellfire.

I don’t believe in the wager myself. But the above is how I would defend it in light of your comments.

Well, the math is very easy to throw off by throwing some monkies into the works.

Perhaps the cost for believing in the incorrect diety is infinite, where as the cost of believing in no diety at all is finite?

Perhaps believing in no God at all is the only way to enter the next level of after life and believing in God thus incurs infinite cost, and not believing in God gains infinite benefit.

The only way the math works is presupposing two binary realities, wheras the existant reality might not match at all - that is a matter of faith.

In any case, I keep running into the brick wall that Pascal’s wager is contrary to Catholic theology. This is even more true when when you consider the answer as to why a person is athiest rarely, in any way shape of form matches the reasons I have seen given on religious message boards. Believe me, some athiests have suffered levels of hurt that many will (and never should) feel. And of those I have met without any obvious hurt from religion in their lives, I haven’t met a single one that woke up one day and said something to the effect of, “I don’t need God in my life”.

If a person through circumstance and earnest searching does not enter a Church, I can not fathom a God that would throw them out.

  1. It’s better to get partial credit, than no credit at all.
  2. Not much of a cost. 1 or 2 hours a week to attend Mass is about average.
  3. I don’t know of any canonized atheists.
  4. I’d rather believe in God than go to Hell.

Take care and God bless.

Assumes the athiest gets no credit (contrary to Catholic Doctrine, AFAIK)

  1. Not much of a cost. 1 or 2 hours a week to attend Mass is about average.

Ignoring thousands upon thousands of martyrs. Or lifestyle changes made against an individuals will (see birthcontrol). If all the cost is 1 or 2 hours a week, are you really following the faith?

  1. I don’t know of any canonized atheists.

As atheism is contrary to canonization (as is following any other faith), this is not suprising. It also doesn’t mean that all (or even most) athiests go to Hell.

  1. I’d rather believe in God than go to Hell.

Again assumes that all athiests go to Hell regardless of circumstance.

Take care and God bless.

God bless you as well. :slight_smile: Yes, I believe in God, but I don’t agree with this methodology or argument.

  1. What credit is there in an outright rejection of God?
  2. We’re expected to live out our faith every moment of our lives. But if a person can’t even do 1 hour a week, they need to try harder.
  3. If you know of any way to prove that an atheist made it to Heaven, let me know.
  4. Ditto.

Glad to hear that you believe in God. You have one foot already in the door, so to speak.

To extend your logic.
Not believing in God is 100% wrong. Believing in a god reduces the risk for you’ve a chance you’ve got the right god

But more fleeting

God asks the question about if you ignore him

Why is that bad? Why would you want to go to hell? Sounds like a weird stubborness.

IF ignoring all gods leads to 100% chance of hell, then believing in a god is less risky.

Although it’s exceptionally hard for me to win the lottery, it would no doubt be harder without a ticket, wouldn’t it?

I can both love and fear my Father

Are they small monks? :stuck_out_tongue:

Merely believing in God will never be enough to get anyone into Paradise.

Always remember that Satan too believes in God.

Very ironic!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit