From the mailbag: Pascal’s Wager
What if you're wrong? Posted on: September 19, 2013
From the mailbag yesterday:
On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 2:07 PM, Main Site wrote:
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First Name: Ryan
Last Name: *****
Email: [email protected]
Message: I am a born again Christian. I look forward to spending eternity in heaven. Since I’m sure you reject the concept of heaven and hell, I ask: what IF you are right and I am wrong? I have not lost nothing. HOWEVER, what if I am right and you are wrong? You have lost everything and it will be too late for you.
PS: It’s not too late for you to come to Jesus.
Thanks for your message. This is a question we receive a lot. It’s otherwise known as “Pascal’s Wager,” after Blaise Pascal, who formulated it in the 17th century. There are several major reasons why this argument doesn’t work. It assumes that belief is a choice, when it isn’t. It assumes that you lose nothing by following a religion, which isn’t true. It assumes that there are only two options, being a Christian or not being a Christian, when in fact there are thousands and thousands of religions that could also be true. It assumes that Christianity has it right when it says that there is a heaven and a hell. It assumes that God doesn’t care that your belief is motivated by fear of hell or just wanting the reward of heaven just in case—that God doesn’t care if your belief is superficial. There are other problems with it, too.
As far as the “what if we’re wrong?” part, all I really have to say is, “What if YOU’RE wrong?” What if another religion is right—say, Islam? A Muslim could make exactly the same argument you’re making and say “You’d better be a Muslim just in case. You lose nothing if you’re right, but you lose everything if you’re wrong. You don’t want to go to hell for not believing that Allah is the one true god and Mohammad is his prophet, do you?” And frankly, the hell as described in Islam is much worse than the hell as described in the Bible, so it makes sense logically to choose the religion with the worst hell if your reason for believing is better-safe-than-sorry.
You are also assuming that you have picked the right *kind* of Christianity when in fact you have no way of knowing that, even if Christianity is the right religion. What if only Catholics go to heaven? What if only Lutherans go to heaven? What if only Missouri Synod Lutherans go to heaven? What if only Missouri Synod Lutherans, reformation of 1976 go to heaven? You see the problem here—there are over 30,000 denominations of Christianity in the world today. Even being a Christian “just in case” doesn’t solve the problem you’re presenting. And you have no better way than anyone else of determining which belief system is correct, if it’s true that any of them are, which we also have no reason to believe.
If you want to read more about why this argument doesn’t work, here’s a good explanation:
Hope this helps! Thanks for writing.
– Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director
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