Pascal’s Wager: Expanded Edition

I don’t know how I missed this before, but it’s awesome. Whenever we talk about Pascal’s Wager, it’s always a bet between Christians and atheists. But what about all those other religions? Where do the fit in?

Now we know (click image to enlarge):

(via Reddit)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jasper

    Pffft… none of those other gods are even real. They don’t count!

  • LesterBallard

    Yep, the arrogance of “it’s either my god or no god”.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      This topic is comedy gold for comic strips.

      • viaten

        I picture the person whose faith was based on Pascal’s Wager, having just gone along with their religion all their lives, standing before God, and now feeling free to say, “Wow, I was so sure you didn’t exist but didn’t want to take any chances. Boy am I glad I decided (or chose?) to believe in you anyway.” I wonder what God would say to that.

        • busterggi

          “F’thagan you!”

          • baal

            “go to sleep??”

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              “The people called Romanes, they go to the house?”

      • LesterBallard

        I miss that comic.

      • Paul Hemphill

        Isn’t that a mischaracterization of Egyptian religion? I thought souls that didn’t pass muster were just eaten by the Devourer of Souls rather than “rotting in hell.”

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Correct!

  • Matt Bowyer

    Just goes to demonstrate just how stupid Pascal’s Wager really is. It’s one of the worst arguments for belief ever.

    • viaten

      It’s an argument Christians make assuming someone will be cowardly enough to pretend to believe, thinking that’s good enough for other people. It’s the only time Christians come anywhere close to entertaining the idea there might not be a God (but they think it’s worth it because they think it’s a great “gotcha”). Some Christians just want to get other people to say they believe (and get them to give money). Whether people really do believe is not the Christian’s problem.

  • jgr4

    What I find interesting about this is that atheism doesn’t fare any worse than the individual religions. If you were really going to choose based on the wager, atheism appears to be as good a choice as any religion.

  • viaten

    What if that chart is wrong? You can’t prove with absolute certainty that it’s right.

  • Alan E.

    If you put it that way, the only religions to fall back on when playing Pascal’s Wager are those with any form of punishment. Sorry Confusionism. There also need to be many thousand religions added to this chart.

  • Rilian Sharp

    I don’t understand this. Is each column what that group claims? What’s “atheism rewarded”?

    • viaten

      It’s not a religion. It’s just a hypothetical way things could be. There’s a hidden God and he rewards non-religious people who properly take the position of not believing in him.

    • Paul Hemphill

      Columns are outcomes, rows are what you believe. “Atheism rewarded” is a hypothetical situation where only atheistic beliefs are rewarded in the afterlife – not any particular religion, but a hypothetical that can be addressed in the context of Pascal’s Wager, since there’s no actual guarantee that ANY world religion is the One True Religion that got it right. Similarly, “all go to hell” isn’t any specific religious belief, but a hypothetical “malevolent god” situation.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Homer is a very wise man.

    • LesterBallard

      “To alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”.

  • SeekerLancer

    That’s a lot of fire you’ve got there, Western religions.

    • busterggi

      It gets cold during those Western winters!

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    Pascal’s Wager is like playing the slots in Vegas. It doesn’t matter what casino you play at, the house always wins.

    Or to quote Joshua, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      One of my all time favorite movies.

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

    I love that some religions it doesn’t matter what you do but the result is the same e.g. Taoism. So what is the point? Guess religion requires zero thought after all.

    • Anat

      Just like with atheism – the point is to live a good life for its own sake.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        TBH, I just wanna do good, and leave the world a better place for future generations.

        • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

          Commendable.

      • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

        Except that Taoism believes in reincarnation. Something for which there is no proof. Also Atheism is just the disbelief in any god its not a way of life.

  • Wyrd Wiles

    Wow…
    I have massive issues with this. Chiefly, I don’t think the creator
    knew much of anything about most of the religions involved…

    For example,
    I’ve never met a Jew who believed in purgatory. (And I’m married to a Rabbi in training). Or a Wiccan who believed that practicing African Folk Religions would “lose your soul”… Somebody didn’t do their homework here

    • Drew M.

      I think you have the axes crossed. The column believes X about the row’s beliefs.

      For example. If you follow the Judaism column, you’ll see that they’re all either reward (heaven) or punishment (hell); there is no purgatory. If you follow the Wiccan column, the chart has “Reward” for African Folk Religions (or Neutral for American Folk Religions).

      EDIT: Damnit. I followed the wrong column for Judaism, yes, there is purgatory listed under Judaism. I see no “Lost Souls” for Wiccanism, though.

      EDIT 2: Wait a minute. According to Wiki (which may be incorrect), Judaism has Gehenna, which is the same concept as purgatory.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purgatory#Judaism

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      That Wiccan column makes no sense to me either.

      – Former official year-and-a-day Wiccan.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        I’m guessing someone Did Not Do The Research, or only talked to fluffy-bunny types.

    • Anat

      It is actually a Jewish belief, but using Christian-compatible terminology. There is a Jewish belief in gehenom, where the recently deceased spend up to one year to make up for their not-yet forgiven sins. After that time is over, some move on to gan-eden and some are annihilated. Where I disagree with the chart is that not only Jews are supposed to make it to gan-eden after their stay in gehenom – the righteous of other nations go there too – where righteous means those that obeyed Noachide law.

    • SabsDkPrncs

      Yeah, I’m not sure about the Baha’i column. My mom is very interested in that faith(?) as she’s come to terms with my being an atheist and is questioning her own Christian learnings. She still believes in Jesus, Heaven, Hell, but refuses to believe that I’m going to hell but the Mormons who spit on me at school are not because they believe in Jesus.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    It is an arms race among religions to make up the very best Heaven and the very Worst Hell. That is how you beat the PW point spread.

  • Jacqui H

    I’m sort of in love with the fact that the only question mark is what wiccanism thinks will happen to Atheists :)

    • The_L1985

      Technically, Wicca should have a question mark for everything. We believe that we probably reincarnate, but aren’t at all certain what happens to atheists OR members of other religions.

      Then again, Wicca is based on orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy, so trying to come up with a blanket agreement on what Wiccans believe about anything is rather like herding cats. :)

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        If I were t try to gel the most common belief I encountered it would be something like “we all join the great consciousness in the sky, and at some point we may decide to return to earth for another go” with dashes of karma and learning and soul mates tossed in. Certainly no punishment for “believing the wrong thing”.

        • The_L1985

          Indeed. The lack of anything resembling a “hell” is one reason why Wicca appealed to me.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Teeny nitpick. The chart says “Catholism” where it should say “Catholicism”.

    • islandbrewer

      Got something against the Cathols?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Nope, just pointing out a glaring error.

    • Spazticus

      “Catholism”? For some reason, I’m now picturing holistic healing, involving the use of cats.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Hey, animal therapy is a thing, and it’s awesome, so…

        • Spazticus

          That it is! :) I was also reminded of that one “Cat-holics Anonymous” comic.

      • busterggi

        The original cat-scan…

    • baal

      It should say “Cthulhuism”.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Cthulhu doesn’t actually care if you worship him or not, though. No need for him to be on the list. All are devoured.

        • baal

          But I want to be devoured first! Why else would I go out to the swamps with the people I actually like and engage in rituals where the standard refrain is, “eat me”.

    • The_L1985

      They got “Wicca” wrong, too. “Wiccanism” isn’t a word.

      • JuneAbend

        Or wiccagasm, in my experience.

  • JT Rager

    What if I’m Pastafarian?

    • Drew M.

      Beer volcano and stripper factories for all!

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    The very idea that we should be punished for getting the wrong answer is absurd. If we’re wrong, we need to be shown the right answer so we can change our view accordingly. To threaten instead of showing proof, is the mark of a liar. For that reason, all the believe-or-burn religions are even less likely to be true.

    • SJH

      I don’t think I would agree that one is punished for getting the answer wrong but in response to your comment that we need to be shown the right answer:
      Haven’t we been shown. There are many answers out there. If you look into them I bet you will find it. If you expect God to do your homework for you then you are out of luck.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        No matter what answer you find, you have to accept that you are in the minority. Most people on the planet have settled on a different answer. I think that’s prima facie evidence for the fact that we have, in fact, not been ‘shown’.

        And of course vast numbers of people in history have not been ‘shown’ your particular answer, which has led to some very creative embellishment of ‘the answer’.

        • SJH

          True. The majority of people in history have not been shown the answer or at least as thoroughly as we have been shown. Perhaps many centuries into the future when we are more mature we will be shown even more. Though, I am not going to turn away from what I know because someone 10,000 years ago did not know God just as I am not going to disavow modern science because they did not know that either.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Not only have they not been shown, but they have been shown something in direct contradiction to what you’ve been shown. Isn’t that kind of like ignoring your child, and letting someone else teach your child something incorrect? Or do you actually feel that everyone- Hindu, Muslim, Pagan- is equally redeemed?

      • baal

        So do I find the god that fits my personality? the one with the worst hell? The one with the best afterlife? The one that makes it’s followers the best (christianity doesn’t win under this one)? Why does the one true real god hide it’s nature so thoroughly that not even half the people on the planet can follow it?

        • SJH

          Perhaps we all follow the same God but have a different understanding of that God. I think if we are honest in our search then, in God’s mercy, we will find and meet God.

          If you are looking for God, look for the God of reason, love and beauty. If your god conflicts with any one of these then it is not God and I would keep looking.

          • baal

            “Same god many routes to follow” is a bad argument. The various followers have wars (have you seen the Shai vs Sunni violence in the middle east?) over which god to follow and how to follow it. If there were a god (and I don’t see evidence of one or many), it could do better that it has. At the very least, it could have been clear enough about it’s existence that the various believers wouldn’t kill each other over their particular interpretation.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        If you are a parent, I am willing to bet that you are competent enough at being one that your children very quickly become aware that you exist. “Do I exist?” as a question asked by a being that can’t be detected by any sense or instrument is not a reasonable philosophical or moral issue to put before a child. This is deceiving the child as to the very nature of the reality upon which all other moral and philosophical questions depend.

        Haven’t we been shown. There are many answers out there. If you look into them I bet you will find it.

        Given how many times you’ve visited just this one site, I guarantee that by now you have been made well aware that many, many atheists have been devout and knowledgeable believers and many others HAVE done that searching, and they’ve known their faith or searched for it better than you have. Why do you Christians keep pretending this isn’t true?

        • SJH

          I wasn’t speaking to all atheists. I know many have searched for God and found none and therefor don’t believe. I respect and admire that.

          However, just because you do not find something though does not mean it does not exist.

          Also, I do make my child aware of my existence however there have been times in his life that I have withheld my presence or aid because I want him to develop into a mature loving adult who acts independently. God has done the same. He has intervened in his time and withheld his presence as well. Am I to presume that God does not exist just because I don’t experience him in this particular time and space even though I have felt his presence at other times and even though others have also felt and experienced that presence?

      • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

        I do believe in looking for answers. I just don’t believe in presupposing answers before I look.

        • SJH

          Isn’t that what a hypothesis is? You kinda come up with what you might think the answer is and then prove it?

          • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

            Kinda. A hypothesis is like an educated guess that is subject to falsification, whereas a presupposition is a firm belief that cannot be shaken. Most religions don’t ask you to hypothesis the existence of God and then test it with predictions. They demand that you just believe, or else.

            We should be able to investigate without being threatened in the mean time. We can’t possibly be objective while believing that we’ll go to hell unless we reach a particular conclusion.

            At any rate, I spent many years searching for God and all I got was a bunch of fallacies. What I finally realized is that if God exists, it should be his job to find me, not the other way around. I’m done playing hide-and-seek with the invisible man.

  • Wolfgang Groiss

    Why do you hate Odin?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      His granted powers to his clerics are boring.

  • Bitter Lizard

    If someone cites Pascal’s Wager as a serious argument, you already know two things about them:

    (1) This person would prefer to choose the most shallow, self-interested position over conscience, truth or principle.

    (2) This person is too stupid to even do “1″ correctly.

    So, no brain and no conscience, but I’m sure they’re still great people.

  • Ryan Fox

    I may be wrong because I do not know the name of all the dead religions, but like that of the Mayen people, for example. Should all of those also apply to this. How about the Jonestown people, or the ones that caught a ride on the commet? Surely they get a shot.

  • The_L1985

    Small correction: The name of the religion is “Wicca,” not “Wiccanism.”

  • John Gills

    Add this to the typos. “unkonown” next to the “Nothing or Unkonown” icon. As sad as it is, people will denigrate the chart based solely on typos.

  • missing

    I find it interesting that, if we play this “game” within its own framework (ie, seeking to maximize chances of getting the ‘sky’ icon), then Christian Fundamentalism seems to be the way to live your life, with 13 sky icons in its’ row. Followed by a few 12′s, of which one is Catholicism. Atheism comes in with only 9 sky icons.
    The lowest chance of getting a sky icon comes in with “Bad deeds Rewarded”, which kind of makes sense.

  • ZZZZZZZZ

    I am OH SO happy to be a part of a protestant denomination (Seventh-day Adventist) that doesn’t believe everyone is going to burn in hell for not being a Christian. We don’t believe in a torturous eternal hellfire either.

    Pascal’s Wager is a pile of garbage. Pure foolishness.

  • Cybershaman

    Another nice find, Friendly Sire. Do we live is such a polarized society today that there are only those who are Judeo-Christian or Not(tm)? Is it just us? Such a conundrum it is for the only nation with the largest stockpile of somewhat controlled nuclear weapons… I sometimes wonder what life would be like if one of the more “plural” religions got a foothold in the world. Or perhaps the correlation between industrial/imperialist progress and Judaism/Christianity/Islam is not as coincidental as it may at first seem…


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