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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wager War

I came across something very interesting on the Internet recently; the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal’s Wager. Pascal's Wager is a suggestion that if you have to choose between believing in god or not, a person should “wager”(assume) as though God exists, because so living has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. This is because if at some point in the course of human race, if it is proven that god does exist then we all will have an eternal life. Eternal life not in the sense that we shall remain immortal till the end of time rather it is our soul which shall forever remain immortal and at peace in heaven even after leaving body in the event of death for we have spend our life assuming god exists and thus have not committed the sin of not believing in him. But if by any chance it does come to be proven that there is no such thing as god, we have nothing to lose for we have to face death just like the people who choose not to believe in god, thus making it the best option.

However there are many anomalies in this perception as pointed out by the famous biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion”. Firstly if god does exists would he really be pleased to find out that we choose to believe in him just so as to get a easy entry in heaven rather than out of respect and love? It seems like we are deceiving god just for our own benefits. Another point of view which Dawkins presents in the book is of a “Anti–Pascal Wager” in which he suggests the exact opposite of Pascal i.e. if we were to choose between believing in god or not, the best and most advantageous option would actually be of not believing in god because if at some point its proven that god does exists then god might perhaps like the people who choose not to believe in him for they did not find enough proof for it. God would probably respect a man who made an effort to search for the truth rather just giving in to what everyone else said and if it is proven that god does not exist then we would have spend a life without wasting time worshipping him, doing unnecessary rituals or getting involved in fights often caused between religious groups, hence proving to be a win-win situation.

Now although it seems that the obvious choice at this point will be to not believe in god’s existence I have to point that while god might respect a man who made an effort to search for the truth and did not just blindly believe in him, not believing in god is still a sin for which u cannot be allowed in heaven.

Some of the other criticism which Pascal’s wager has faced over the years if of people who thought that although assuming the existence of god might seem advantageous it still does not in any way prove that god exists. While this is true it cannot be really be considered as criticism for Pascal’s Wager because he never set out to prove the existence of god. He merely suggested a better option of assumption which might help us. Which brings us to the all important question of why do we have to make an assumption in the first place?

Pascal found the life to be full of uncertainty. Everywhere you look there is uncertainty, be it nature, religion or science. Till date we have not been able to go farther than mars then how are we supposed to find out about the almighty who presumably is the creator of the entire universe! We can never prove/disprove the existence of god for god’s essence is “infinitely incomprehensible” and thus, according to Pascal, we are left with choice but to assume and the only question now is which one to assume. But what I can’t understand is - Why is assumption our only option? Cant we simply state that “We don’t know”. Since there is no way one can find out weather or not god exists doesn’t it make more sense to admit the fact rather than live your life believing in something which cannot be proven just because it seems to be more profitable to you??