“Matt, What If You’re Wrong?”: Addressing the Infernalist’s Version of Pascal’s Wager

“Matt, What If You’re Wrong?”: Addressing the Infernalist’s Version of Pascal’s Wager January 5, 2021

In case you didn’t know, I’m a Universalist. This means that in the end, I believe all will be reconciled to God and one another. How this works out, specifically, I’m not sure. It could be Christocentric as my good friend Keith Giles says, or it could be more pluralistic as my best friend Michael Machuga suggests. Either way, it renders me a heretic in the eyes of many, leaving countless folks confused and asking, “Matt, what if you’re wrong?”

To that, I ask: “Well, what if YOU’RE wrong?”

I know people think they’re being unique and clever by asking this question, but they’re not. It’s a question with a long history, one that dates back to French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. In essence, he asserted that humans bet with their lives that either God exists or not. The problem, of course, is that there are many versions of God out there, from the bigoted, homophobic, wrathful gods of fundamentalism, to the all-loving, all-merciful, all-inclusive God of the mystics. So, which one do we have to dedicate our lives to in order to “get in,” as it were?

Without a doubt, when Christians ask me this question – “What if you’re wrong?” – they are assuming their version of God is correct. They aren’t even entertaining the notion that the God of Islam, for instance, is the right one, and that they have to become a Muslim in order to “get into heaven.” Hell, they probably aren’t even entertaining the idea that the “wrong” version of the Christian God is correct, and that they’ll have to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism, or from Orthodox to Coptic, or any other combination available.

Fascinating.

But let’s just pretend this is a good question. Let’s play along for a minute. What if I AM wrong? So what? Is God so small that I have to get all the facts about “him” correct in order to enjoy the sky-party that awaits the good Christians of the world? And what if I tried and tried and tried to be a good Christian but realized that in the end I was only deceiving myself, that I was only faking Sunday worship? What if I can’t actually worship a God who either sends or allows people to send themselves to the giant human posthumous bonfire under the earth? Honestly, I tried to do this for damn near three decades and came up short. So, if I’m wrong, I’ll let him know.

I’ll let him know that I couldn’t worship a God who allows humans to suffer for all eternity.

I’ll let him know that I couldn’t worship a God who despised people because of their sexuality.

I’ll let him know that I couldn’t worship a God who commanded genocide.

I’ll let him know that I couldn’t worship a God who uses fear as a tactic to get people to bend their knees.

But if this is indeed the God who runs the cosmos, then I’ll  have to answer the question, “What if I’m wrong?,” with “I guess I’m screwed.” I guess God’s love isn’t as wide, deep, broad, and high as Paul suggested. I guess Jesus isn’t the “savior of all,” as the Bible asserts. And I guess that even if I got things right and made it in, that I’ll have to endure the pain, like the rest of the in-crowd, of losing someone I love forever to the flames below. Because let’s not get it twisted: Some of those we love ain’t gonna make it. And that’s gonna be hell, in and of itself.

So, again, let me turn this back around and ask, “What if YOU’RE wrong?” What if your loved ones burn forever in hell? What if God is exactly like you say and that all your non-Christian friends will be ripped from you to be tormented night and day, eternally? Are you gonna count that as a win? Weird flex, but okay…

At the end of the day, I really hope I’m not wrong. And given how I understand the interconnectedness of the human being, you’ll probably hope I’m not wrong either. Because it’s gonna suck. Truly. For all of us.


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About Matthew Distefano
Matthew is a best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, long-time social worker, and hip-hop artist. He is an outspoken advocate for nonviolence, happily married, with one daughter. Outside of writing, his interests include gardening, hiking, and European football. He lives in Northern California You can read more about the author here.

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