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Discussion 2 to Meditation 58
More thoughts (though daytime ones) on Pascal’s Wager

by: Tom Adam

re: Meditation 58 - Late Night Thoughts on Pascal's Wager

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Both Mr. Tyrrell and Mr. Haykin have adequately summed up what is known as “Pascal’s Wager,” a completely logical, pragmatic argument about believing in God. I have already discussed the argument (Meditation 44), and here I wish to respond to Mr. Haykin’s assertion:

It's hypocritical! You're saying "I'll elect to believe and be moral IN CASE there's a god and a reward in heaven," so it's a "cost effective" choice worthy of a corporate bean counter, and I'll do ANYTHING to be on the safe side.

As Blaise Pascal meant it, deciding to believe in God was not simply making an intellectual assertion that “I believe in God.” It entailed a much larger responsibility, namely brainwashing oneself into truly believing. He said that if someone were to accept his argument they should go to church, follow the commandments and morals and literally brainwash themselves into believing in God’s existence.

If a person actually did this, they would not be hypocritical, he would truly believe. The interesting element is that Pascal admitted people should brainwash themselves into believing. If a person has to be brainwashed, perhaps it is not something worth believing. And though Mr. Tyrrell and Mr. Haykin (and myself at other times) have suggested that the wager should truly be “Pascal’s Lottery,” at the time Pascal wrote, there were not the choices we see today in religious attitudes.