Tag Archives: Bertrand Russell

#68 – Notes on Pascal’s Wager

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In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan examines Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal (1623–62) was a talented French mathematician, physicist, inventor and writer, but he is most famous for his theological work. Pascal’s famous wager argues that it is rational to believe in God, because the benefits of this belief being justified when you die are vast: Entry into heaven, avoidance of hell. By contrast, said Pascal, even if God does not exist, the costs of living as if God does exist are trivial. To not believe in God, therefore, is irrational. Whilst it also means you will never know that God does not exist if He, in fact, does not exist, you risk fiery damnation if He does exist. Your life is a bet, believed Pascal, and, on the balance of probability, there is only one way to place it – on belief.  In a mathematical sense, if we believe in God, and He exists, the rewards are infinite, and if we are wrong, the losses are hardly worth worrying about. If we do not believe in God, but we are wrong, the punishments are potentially infinite. Aidan examines the merits of Pascal’s Wager, and explores its common criticisms. Place your bets.

Further reading:

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Transworld, 2006).

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, (New York: Twelve, 2007).

Paddy McQueen and Hilary McQueen, Key Concepts in Philosophy, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010).

Pascal’s Wager, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/.

Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004 [originally published 1925]).

The Quran, Chapter 29, Verse 46, https://quran.com/29/46-56.