Quote Originally Posted by animenagai View Post
i'm shocked that no one has mentioned pascal's wager. don't have any direct quotes, but i'll paraphrase it.

one either believes in god or one doesn't. god either exist or he doesn't. let us draw up a table for all the possibilities (i'm not actually gonna draw one :P). you can believe in god and god can exist, you can believe in god and god can not exist, you may not believe in god and god may exist, you may not believe in god and god may not exist. now, let us think about the consequences of believing/not believing in god. if i believe in god, i'll have to give up a certain number of 'happiness points' so i could go to church every sunday, not drink all the time etc. for the sake of simplicity, let's call this arbitary number 500 happiness points. therefore, if i don't believe in god and god does not exist, i would have earned +500 happiness points. if i don't believe in god and god does exist, i go to hell. that's an eternity of suffering and hence negative infinite amount of happiness points. however, if i believe in god and god does exist, i get to go to heaven. that's eternal bliss. by definition, that's an infinite amount of happiness points. if i believe in god but god doesn't exist, i lost out going to church when i coulda been with my friends. that's negative 500 points worth of happiness, or 500 happiness points lost.

given this, if i believe in god i can either gain an infinite amount of happiness or lose say 500 units of happiness. if i don't believe in god i can gain a set unit of happiness (500) and lose an infinite amount of happiness. given this, your odds of winning out in terms of happiness are much better if you believe in god. hence if you are on the fence, the logical thing is to believe in god.
I didn't mention it because I'm tired of hearing about it, honestly. It's one of the things I like LEAST of Pascal's works ... and one of the most over-discussed.

Jack mentions one big, valid flaw with Pascal's wager -- namely, an apparent inherent assumption that it's either the "Christian" God or no god at all. That's logically fallacious, although I think he had simply made that a given assumption of the scenario he described and might not have been meaning purposefully to be exclusive. He was more interested in "is it more sensible to believe in [a] god figure or not?"

Personally, my largest gripe about it was from a different angle: I don't think salvation and goodness comes from testing the winds and picking the most personally convenient choice, and I wouldn't want to follow a god who accepted people based on them "playing the odds" for their own benefit. That goes counter to anything I think is psychologically/spiritually healthy in people; it's just another form of self-gratification and self-interest.

However, I think we have to step back and consider more of Pascal's faith/philosophy. He was more fidelist, and he was approaching things from the angle that God cannot be proven by reason. In the end, the choice of God or not God was a personal choice (and of faith), not reached by logical conclusion.

So he wasn't proselytizing as much as simply saying that, if you can't prove God, no evidence to go on, and you have to make a pragmatic decision, then it makes sense logically to choose the option that provides you with the least amount of loss along with the greatest possibility of gain long-term (since we're talking about "eternity").

Hence, the risk of believing in a god and being wrong (in the sense god is not real) has a lower cost than not believing in god and being wrong (in the sense that god is real) and losing out for all eternity.

He didn't seem to mean it as a form of proselytizing, he was just stating the pragmatics -- a point the modern church seems to have failed to perceive, because it routinely steals his comments and promotes it as some reason why people have to believe in their version of god.

IOW, they've taken Pascal's comments and twisted them into some form of argument they use to convert people, but I don't think he really meant it that way.

Quote Originally Posted by LostInNerSpace View Post
He once abandoned mathematics because he considered it a form of sexual indulgence. I'm considering doing the same of posting here.
But who will I have forum sex with if you leave?