Blaise Pascal was a famous mathematician who lived in France in the 1600’s. A child prodigy, Pascal was also an inventor, physicist, writer as well as theologian. He’s well known for a bet of sorts, “Pascal’s Wager”, that I believe is very relevant to consider today.
The basic premise is that every person has a decision to make: do you believe in God? You can’t NOT make this decision, it’s either a yes or a no. No fence exists to sit on here. As you read this now, recall what you currently believe and whether you’re a “yes” or a “no”. Part of the challenge here is that you have to decide without certainty, facts and proof. Some of us may have personal experiences that lend strength to why we decide what we do, but this is a decision we all have to make rather than a conclusion we can arrive at scientifically or based on any real evidence.
Note, that whatever you decide, when you die you’ll find out whether Gods’ existence is a “yes” or “no”, but until then you’re making a choice and betting on that choice with how you live your life.
Here’s how the different scenarios play out based on this decision and the potential outcomes.
We can’t control (or know) the real “Yes” or “No” but we can decide on how we conduct our lives (Righteous or Sinful) – which is largely motivated by our decision.
How you live based on that decision
If you choose to be a “yes” you will very likely be motivated to live a righteous life. Belief in God comes with a belief that there is an eternal reward for how we conduct ourselves, hence the righteous life. The many Saints were happy to forego short-term enjoyment in their worldly lives on the belief that infinite enjoyment was waiting for them.
It’s a lot harder to be motivated to lead that kind of life if you choose “no”. You may still be righteous if you have good values & ethics (most likely coming from positive influences in your childhood) but the motive for that is not near as strong as those who’ve chosen “yes”. I would argue that the “No” betters are more inclined to lead a life focused on their own enjoyment and pleasure because of their belief that when they die it’s all over anyway. What’s the point of making sacrifices or helping others, surely they should seek the very best for themselves (often at the cost of others) because when they die there’s nothing anyway?
What are the stakes?
Since we don’t know the real outcome of whether God exists until we die, we’re essentially placing a bet on our choice. It becomes a matter of short term enjoyment and a risk/reward on infinite enjoyment based on the Yes/No dynamic. Putting the Risk/Reward against each box of the above, it looks like this:
Place your bet
Ask anyone who gambles often (or professionally) and they’ll tell you that the bet they place is rarely tied to their own allegiances or favourites but where they get the best payout based on the stakes. I’ve seen some ridiculous bets being placed because the payout – if it happens – is huge.
Consider the payouts of the above scenarios and how that impacts your choice, and the conduct to follow. To bet on “No” you only have a short term gain at the risk of an infinite loss. To bet on “Yes” you have an infinite gain at the cost of a short term loss. Even if it turns out you’re wrong and God doesn’t exist and after dying it’s just nothingness. Your only loss was the finite enjoyment that you sacrificed on – but you won’t exist to even regret this. Betting on “No” being wrong, however, that’s not a place I’d like to find myself after death.
So what’s your decision?