Blaise Pascal was an antisemite

You’ve probably heard of Blaise Pascal, whether because of his work in mathematics and physics, or because of Pascal’s Wager (the “believe in God just in case so you don’t go to Hell”) argument. What you many not know is that the Pensées, famous for being the source of the Wager, are also pretty damn antisemitic, perhaps most blatantly in this passage:

640. It is a wonderful thing, and worthy of particular attention, to see this Jewish people existing so many years in perpetual misery, it being necessary as a proof of Jesus Christ both that they should exist to prove Him and that they should be miserable because they crucified Him; and though to be miserable and to exist are contradictory, they nevertheless still exist in spite of their misery.

Similarly, in 735 Pascal says it was prophesied “That the Jews would reject Jesus Christ, and would be rejected of God.”

It’s worth emphasizing that this sort of antisemitism–as opposed to the loony racial theories of the Nazis–makes a great deal of sense in the context of orthodox Christianity. One point should be relatively obvious (but maybe isn’t, given how uncomfortable even “conservative” Christians have gotten about these doctrines): that Christians like Pascal thought all non-Christians were damned, Jews included. That’s the point of the Wager, after all.

The less-obvious point is that in the Bible, God often punishes the people of Israel or the people of Judah collectively for the misdeeds of a few individuals, like their king or whoever. Against that background, it makes a lot of sense to think that once some Jews killed Jesus, God would respond by punishing all of them (except the minority who converted to Christianity). Similar points, by the way, can be made about Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies.

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