Have you ever heard of Pascal’s Wager? It has been used for centuries as an argument against atheism. I believe it is fatally flawed, and I have actually devised my own wager in its place.
If you erroneously believe in God, you lose nothing (assuming that death is the absolute end), whereas if you correctly believe in God, you gain everything (eternal bliss). But if you correctly disbelieve in God, you gain nothing (death ends all), whereas if you erroneously disbelieve in God, you lose everything (eternal damnation).
Basically, you might as well believe in God, because if you believe in God and he isn’t actually there you’ve still led a good life, but if you don’t believe in God but he is there, you will suffer huge consequences: eternity in hell. In essence, you must bet on the side of safety.
There are two main problems with this argument.
First, who is to say god cares about or values belief specifically? Perhaps he or she actually values good deeds, or animal sacrifices, and cares nothing about belief? Second, which God are we to believe in? There are hundreds to choose from. What if you choose to believe in Allah to hedge your bets, but it turns out that the Christian God is the real one, or vice versa? Pascal’s Wager, then, really is a silly argument.
After I became an atheist, I did quite a bit of thinking about Pascal’s Wager. I knew it didn’t hold water, but I wondered if there was a replacement I could find. After some time, I came up with one.
Libby Anne’s Wager
When it comes to the question of God, there are four basic options:
1. There is no God.
2. There is a God, but that God does not care about humans.
3. There is a God, and it is a good and loving God.
4. There is a God, and it is an evil and hateful God.
In the case of options one or two, what we do or do not do here on this earth does not ultimately matter in a cosmic sense and will have no consequences after death. In the case of option three, a truly loving God would care more about whether we live by love and help others than about whether or not we believe in him or her. In the case of option four, do we really want to serve a God who cares more about legalism than love, a God who sentences humans to eternal torture for not worshiping him or her? Therefore, whether one believes in a God, or in the correct God, matters less than does whether one lives by love.
There you have it. My conclusion is that what actually makes most sense is to live by love, seek to help others, and leave the world a better place. If that includes believing in a deity, so be it, but it doesn’t have to. And that is why I think Pascal was wrong.
Now you may wonder what I will do if the fourth option is correct, and it turns out that there is a God who values worship and belief over love and service, a God who believes that condemning people to infinite torture in return for finite sins is “just.” I do have a plan. I will start a rebellion.