For anyone who is agnostic or atheist, or has been on the fence about Christianity in general (even if you eventually became a believer when it was all said and done), Pascal’s wager is nothing new. But for many of these people, they may have actually thought about it at some point without actually realizing that this thought process itself actually has a name. For those of you who don’t know, Pascal’s wager is essentially an argument for why you should “believe” in God or whatever religion is the case, as opposed to being an atheist.
Ultimately, it comes down to assuming that there are two possibilities: That God exists, or that he doesn’t exist. In both cases, you as an individual must consider whether you should put your faith in God and the consequences of your choice.
If you believe that God does exist and make a concerted effort of worshipping Him and being a full-fledged participant in Christianity, then there are two possible outcomes that may happen whether your initial assumption and belief was right or wrong. If you were right, then you will certainly go to heaven and have eternal life and happiness. And if you were wrong, well then you may have wasted your Sundays worshipping a false deity, but nothing more is of consequence.
Now if we were to take someone wo didn’t believe in God, we can see that if they were right, then not much good comes out of it, other than the fact that they could theoretically brag about being right. But there would be no heaven to go to anyway. But if they were wrong in believing that there was no God, then the consequence would be eternal damnation in hell.
If you were following along, you will see that there are four potential scenarios that play out depending on if you believe in God and worship in, as well as whether you are actually right on your assumption. It is obvious that the best outcome is to believe in God, regardless of whether he actually exists or not. If you truly believe, then you either go to heaven, or nothing happens. However, if you just don’t believe at all, then your only options are nothing happens, or going to hell.
What Pascal’s wager really boils down to is the fact that people decide to “believe” in God simply because it makes the most sense when weighing all of the possible outcomes (in fact, Pascal’s wager was one of the first examples of decision theory which was absolutely groundbreaking in the realm of probability theory in general). However, if we’re being honest simply going to Church every Sunday is a far cry from actually believing in the word of God.
In fact, there are plenty of people who just go to Church in direct response to Pascal’s wager, without fully believing in God, which could admittedly keep them from truly achieving heaven if God does exist. But when Pascal’s wager makes it clear what the best outcome would be, it only makes logical sense to make an effort to fulfill that outcome by going to church. Interestingly enough, the analytical and logical nature of Pascal’s wager ironically pushes people every day to behave in an emotional and spiritual way as a result!