Pascal’s Wager argues that although you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, specifically Yahweh from the Bible, there’s always the chance you could go to Hell for not believing in Him. So you might as well believe in Yahweh just in case.
The gigantic, glaring hole in Pascal’s logic is that he’s taken one mythological deity out of the thousands of mythological deities humans have invented and assumed his is the one true God. Pascal was raised around Catholics in France, but if he were raised around Muslims in Saudi Arabia he would have said the same thing about Allah. If he were raised around Hindus in India he would have said the same thing about Shiva. In fact, if he had been raised by Jews in Israel he would have said the same thing about Yahweh except without the added modifier of Jesus Christ.
However, he does raise an interesting point. It’s true that we don’t know what happens after we die, and there is prudence in assuming a worst case scenario, but how do we hedge our bet if we’re not going to just pick a mythological deity at random and base our lives on the commandments ghost-written in that God’s name?
Pascal’s call to action was to believe in an invisible man, attend weekly religious ceremonies and tithe 10% of your income to the Ministry of Funny Hats. That’s actually not very hard to do, and if you break any of the arbitrary moral rules laid out by the sexually repressed chauvinists who wrote the Bible, you can always ask for forgiveness. You never need to think for yourself. In fact, you’re commanded not to. You just wind down your existential clock going through the motions of life as absentmindedly as Catholics reciting their Sunday invocations. This is an easy way out. It’s so easy as to be a coward’s way out. Religious fanatics would argue that it’s not easy to be religious. To that, I would reply, compared to what?
If you wager that you have but one brief life to live and no supernatural agent to carry the burden of eternity for you, then it’s solely up to you to live a life worth living. To make matters even more severe, you don’t get a religious cheat sheet. In fact, if God doesn’t speak through men and everyone is truly equally lost then you can’t rely on the authority of any man living or dead. So not only do you have to live your life for yourself, but you also have to figure out life for yourself. That’s terrifying. That’s the greatest responsibility any living creature could possibly bear.
Religious fanatics tend to minimize the courage it takes to accept the challenge of living alone by pointing out that without the belief in a sadistic, mythological deity there’s nothing stopping you from just living a completely selfish, hedonistic lifestyle with no concern for the future or anyone else. And while that’s technically true, very few people actually analyze the grandeur of life, the universe, and existence and then weigh all their options and decide to take that path. You don’t need God to tell you there’s more to life than getting drunk before noon and raping your neighbor. If you can’t see that then it’s no wonder you would settle for a life of meaningless rituals and self-deprecating rules to fill the void between birth and death.
But what else is there? Well, I’ll give you my two cents, but remember that I’m no more an authority on the subject than anyone else. As long as you agree to take this with a grain of salt I’ll hazard to point out the obvious, which is to tell you that by asking that question you’ve already answered it. Consider this. Do the technicians who design sports cars (or computers or video games or fine art pieces) see themselves as failures until they’ve built a complete sports car? Their passion, their success doesn’t lie in looking at a completed car. Their passion, their success lies in the pursuit of designing the perfect car. In fact, once they finish designing a car they get right back to designing another one. Do you want to know what to do with your life? Your brain was designed to solve problems. You were designed to solve problems. Your life begins the day you start thinking about it. I would wager my life on it. In fact, I am.
If there is an answer to the question of the meaning of life, the only way you’re going to figure it out is by thinking about life, the universe, and your existence. If there isn’t an answer or its true nature is as elusive as God, then the only way to figure what the next best thing to do with your short, irreplaceable life is to think about it. If there is a God watching us to see how we make the most of our lives in an absurd, existential universe, what could possibly please that being more than doing the very thing He/She/It must have done to design this sports car of a universe we’re joyriding our bodies around?
You’re a sentient being. Think about everything, and have fun doing it.
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