photo by annca
Philosophy is hard. I try to understand it, really. There are some things I can hold on to. Just this morning I read Thomas Aquinas’ “The Five Ways” and I understood that, I think. So, although I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to philosophical writing, I have noticed that some philosophers just ramble, and that is something I can do well.
I have heard some people criticize “Pascal’s Wager” as being intellectually dishonest. It seems to many that Pascal is saying that because you may be knocking at eternity’s door, it is better to believe in God and enjoy eternal happiness than to risk losing eternity all together. I can see where many would consider that intellectually dishonest. I, myself, do not like to put stock into something unless I have a high degree of certainty that it can and will work. Granted, we take risks every day, and not everything can be calculated with a ninety, eighty, or even seventy percent degree of certainty. But, the dishonesty is not what I want to address. It is something else Pascal says that I find more convincing than the rest of his argument.
“Yes, but you must wager. There is no choice, you are already committed. Which will you choose then?” Despite how you feel about the rest of his argument, Pascal brings out something that no one can deny: we are here (unless you want to go all Descartes and try to deny or doubt absolutely everything, be my guest. I will not join you). If there is one thing Pascal got right it is that on the basis of simply existing we have entered the Wager whether we realized it or not. We have the two options sitting before us: “Either God is or he is not.” There is no in between. We must examine the evidence we have at our disposal and find which is more reasonable, that God is or he is not.
If there is one thing we don’t like being accused of it is being lazy. Too many times we hear these accusations flying from both sides of the aisle. “Atheists are intellectually lazy!” “Theists are intellectually lazy!” There may be many in both camps who are, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Sure, both parties will continually try to convince each other that their view is the most reasonable, and I think that is the bigger issue. Both sides need to get everyone who is in between to realize that if God is worth defending or denying to the extent we see today (and have for centuries), then his existence is a very important issue in life to get right.
While I don’t want anyone to be intellectually dishonest with themselves or someone else, I do want to end with what this whole thing means. If God does exist, then we could gain or lose everything. If God does not exist, then we could gain or lose nothing. I do not use this to pigeonhole anyone, but simply to lay the cards on the table to say, when it comes to God, these are the consequences. It is up to each one of us to choose.