Pascal’s wager falls flat

To the Editor:

When a letter is published which addresses me as directly as did the letter (5/1/13 DMG) from Vince Bennett that was published yesterday, I feel that a response is not only warranted, but obligatory. What Mr. Bennett has done is presented a very straightforward Pascal’s Wager argument, but he did it in such a way that also ties in an incredibly empty threat and I want to address those things independently.

Pascal’s Wager falls flat in many ways. First, it falsely bifurcates the issue. There are at minimum four alternatives which ought to be considered: the Christian God and afterlife, some other god and afterlife, atheism with afterlife, and atheism without afterlife. Since the presented argument only addresses two of these four options, it’s invalid.

The second issue is the “wrong hell” problem. If Mr. Bennett has devoted his entire life to a Christian God and there is a different god, he has avoided the wrong hell all along and is as likely to visit some other religion’s version of hell as I am to visit his religion’s version.

Logically, if Pascal’s Wager were true, we must choose to follow the religion with the worst hell and greatest heaven as it assures that, if we are wrong, we would go to a hell that is less bad than the worst option and if we are right, we are rewarded with the best of all possible heavens. As such, we should choose to worship the Invisible Pink Unicorns because they have an infinitely bad hell and an infinitely wonderful heaven.

Additionally, most of the world’s religions teach that blasphemers will be more severely punished in the afterlife than non-believers. Thus, if we calculate the likelihood of you being wrong based on assuming all religions equally likely (since evidence to support the existence of god is equally lacking for all religions, this is a reasonable assumption), the probability is P=1-(1/n) where n is the number of religions. Thus, a false believer runs a greater risk of punishment than an atheist and a risk of greater punishment.

Now, I want to address that threat of hell. Mr. Bennett, any god which is as insecure, vain, and vindictive as to eternally punish otherwise good and loving people for something as simple as a lack of belief is no god worth worshiping at all.

Bryan J. Sebeck