Pascal's Wager (Short-form)
- If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: thus an infinite gain.
- If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: thus an infinite loss.
- If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: thus a finite loss.
- If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: thus a finite gain.
The thing about Pascal's Wager is, it isn't quite as good a value bet as the apologist would have you believe. Quite apart from the fact that it depends upon one making a choice with regard to what one believes (rather than being convinced after a thorough evaluation of the claim), it only reflects the personal god of each person that proposes it.
It is hoped, that sometime in the not too distant future, I will have more time to dedicate to a more comprehensive rebuttal of Pascal's Wager, but in the meantime, my 'go to' argument against it comes from George H. Smiths, Atheism: The Case Against God.
What follows below the image, is taken directly from the book.
There are only four possibilities, as follows:
1) There is no god. The atheist is correct, and consequently lives a happy, fulfilling life free of mindless dogma and emotional tyranny.
2) The second possibility is the god of deism, who was said to have created the universe and then left it to run on its own. There is nothing to fear from such a god; he or she is impersonal and does not reward or punish us.
3) This third possibility is a god that is concerned with humanity. He is a fair and just god. Such a god, in his infinite goodness would never punish anyone for honest errors of reason, assuming of course that there is no moral turpitude involved. Here again we have no reason to fear such a god. In fact, if our reason is what separates us from the animals, then not to use it might be construed as the gravest of “sins.” If anyone is in danger of punishment here, it is the theist, and not the atheist.
4) The last possibility concerns an unjust god. Unconcerned with justice, he will burn us whether our mistakes are honest or not. There is, after all, no greater injustice than to punish someone for an honest error of belief, and yet that is just what this fourth god, the Christian god, promises to do. He is unconcerned with issues such as honesty and intellectual integrity and, according to the Bible, will burn us eternally if we doubt his existence. No matter what kind of life we have led, this issue is central in determining where we will spend eternity. Gullibility thus becomes a virtue rather than a vice. Therefore, by definition, this fourth god is a most unprincipled deity. Christians have always felt that they are in a better position here, but if one thinks about it, they are really in the same boat as the atheist. Why? Simply because, if this god really gets such a thrill out of creating people just to burn them, what could give him greater enjoyment than to promise the Christian eternal bliss and then turn around and burn him too? Certainly, you cannot trust the word of an unjust god when he promises you something, since he must have a sadistic streak in him to begin with.
This then is the wager: Use your reason in all areas of human endeavor, including religion. This should lead you to atheism. If there is no god, you are correct. If the Deistic god exists, you have nothing to fear. If a just god exists, there is again nothing to fear; the only one who is at risk is the believer. And if the fourth god exists, we do indeed live in a nightmarish universe, but the Christian is in no better position than the atheist, so why not live our lives as rational human beings? Why not do all we can to make this world, our only home, a better place and do all we can to make life worthwhile and enjoyable for all? In Smith’s wager, there truly is nothing to lose!
From George H. Smith's, Atheism: The Case against God.