When I was younger and just beginning to question the existence of God, one of the arguments that always seemed to sway me back to Christianity is one that was first developed by Blaise Pascal; a philosopher, mathematician, and physicist that lived in the 17th century. The argument is called “Pascal’s Wager” and it goes something like this;
If you’re not sure that God exists it is still better to believe and live your life as if he exists than to not do those things. If you believe in God and he turns out to be nonexistent, you’ve lost nothing. If you believe in God and he does exist, you get eternal life. On the other hand, if you don’t believe in God and he turns out to be real, you’ll burn in hell forever. Obviously, the rational bet is to believe in God.
When I was talking with my Christian girlfriend about God recently, she brought up this argument and I was reminded of the fact that I have also used it. I started wondering why it no longer seems like a rational bet to me.
Pascal’s wager only makes sense if there is some evidence of God’s existence. It is only convincing to those that believe the odds of God actually existing are about 50/50 or better. As adults, we aren’t “good” simply on the off chance that Santa really exists. In much the same way, an atheist or an agnostic thinks the Christian God is such a ridiculous idea that it doesn’t merit even the slightest change in behavior on the off chance that God exists and that you’ll be rewarded for your behavior.