Argument # 9: The Pascal’s Wager Argument.
This is an old outdated argument but still sometimes used. It is based on a little circular argument by Blaise Pascal of the 17th Century to justify belief in God and Christianity. It is simple and basically goes like this:
"If you believe in God and turn out to be correct, you will be rewarded in eternal paradise. If you turn out to be incorrect, you have lost nothing. If you don’t believe and turn out to be correct, then you will have lost nothing either. But if you don't believe in God and turn out to be incorrect, then you will go to hell. Therefore it is safer and makes more sense to believe in him."
In other words, the worst case scenario for the theist is that there is no afterlife, but the worst case scenario for the atheist is an eternity in hell. On the surface, it appears to be a potentially convincing argument, because it is sensible to choose the lesser of the worst case scenarios.
Now, this is among the easiest arguments to debunk.
1) The problem with this argument is that it assumes that there is only one valid religion, God, or belief system to choose from, that of Christianity. Well that just isn’t so as there are plenty of religions, Gods, belief systems, and spiritual practices to choose from. In order to apply Pascal’s Wager, one would have to do the same for the other religions and Gods out there, just in case they are true as well, or else suffer the consequences. For instance, the Christian ought to be a follower of Islam too, just in case it is true, lest he/she be sent to hell by Allah, the Islamic God.
2) Also, the second problem is that it assumes that the possibility that the Christian doctrine that “everyone is going to hell unless they become a Christian and accept Jesus as their Savior” is a realistic and significant possibility. Perhaps they think it is even as probable as the possibility that there is no God. However, based on the arguments in this book and in others linked, it should be clear that that probability is pretty much zero by now.
3) Finally, few,
if any, disbelievers disbelieve
out of choice. It's not as if they know God is really
somehow willfully refuse to believe in it (for example, see if you can
to truly believe that