The Poverty Of Pascal

I was watching a video of a talk by the British Humanist philosopher AC Grayling recently. He spoke of Humanism as encouraging you to live for yourself. This did chime with my own Taoist / Buddhist views as the message I get from them is to attempt to be fully present in the moment and live according to your own reason. The Kalama Sutra makes this clear and any attempts to avoid this that I’ve seen boil down to a Theistic attempt to frighten people into agreeing with the speakers views, or those of their sect.

This got me thinking about Pascal’s Wager. This is a famous bit of thinking that attempts to make the case for believing in God. The idea is that God either exists, or does not; You can either believe or not. If you believe and God exists, then you’re saved; If not, then you’re no worse off than an Atheist. If you don’t believe and God exists, then you’re in some trouble; if not then you’re no better off than the Theist anyway.

There are a few problems with this. The whole question assumes that you have the right God, but how do Zeus or Odin feel about all this? It assumes you understand the nature of God properly, but surely an all loving God makes the wager irrelevant? It assumes the nature of an afterlife, but what about reincarnation? But, I think that there’s another story here; one of the poverty of the supposed victor.

The theist “wins” by worship and submission to the will of a God, and in loss is supposed to be no worse off than an Atheist. However, has the Theist ever really lived for their own reasons? They’ve lived for their God, for their faith; but never for themselves. So, if the Theist does win the wager, it’s a hollow victory. They won, not on their own choices or merits, but by blindly towing the line; who they were never really mattered. And in loss? The only life they had was thrown away living for someone else’s agenda. Not a wager I think I care for.

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