I suck at gambling.
Someday, I’d like to have some sort of philosophical rule named after me. It’s really just another measure of success and fame. Like William of Ockham. He managed to snag Ockham’s Razor, and people love the hell out of that.
Another guy that managed to grab a catchphrase of his own was Blaise Pascal. Blaise’s (that name…why did his parents hate him? I’ll imagine his friends called him ‘Blaze’!) big claim to fame was “Pascal’s Wager” which posits that when it comes to God, you’ve got two options:
- Believe in him and if he turns out to be real, you get to go to heaven.
- Don’t believe in him and run the risk of not going to heaven, possibly going to hell.
He framed the question of faith into an argument that’s hard to refute. “Why risk it?” he says. “If you don’t know the truth, at least bet on the option that has a happy ending.”
If you choose option 1 and it turns out there is no heaven, or you still go to hell, or maybe instead it turns out all of the Aztec gods are actually the only real divine entities and we’re all screwed, then sure, you wasted your life believing in something that wasn’t real. But you’re dead, what do you care?
But if you choose option 2, you’re most definitely accepting a bad (or at least uneventful) endgame scenario. Hell, purgatory, nothingness. Upside? You didn’t blow your time on earth praying and going to church and all that.
Personally, I like to think there’s something bigger than all of us, but really, that’s just the simple monkey in me that’s afraid of the answer to “Why are there bananas?” being “Because of cosmic dust.” There has to be a bigger framework around the hows and whys, but I’m just not so sure any of us simple monkeys have it figured out.
Pascal has no time for that, though. There is no option 3 – “I believe in ‘something’, so maybe I could, you know, slip into heaven, if you guys, like, got room, ‘n stuff.”