Many of you resonated with the part of my sermon about Pascal’s wager, so let me go into it a bit deeper.
Pascal was a French philosopher who lived in the 1600s. He made a number of assumptions about the nature of God and reality as more people were questioning exactly the nature of faith as more people read the Bible and tried to reconcile reason and belief.
The premises are either that God exists and will punish you for disbelief or that God does not exist and therefore there will be no punishment. To not believe was to risk everything and gain nothing because if you were wrong and God did exist you’d be punished. However, to believe in God was to risk very little, because if you were wrong and there is no life after death it didn’t matter. If you believed and were correct you’d be rewarded.
Today, I doubt very many believe in God due to Pascal’s wager. An all knowing God may not take hedging your bets as a testament of faith, and an all loving God probably more interested in reconciliation than punishment. Atheists generally value integrity more so than a happy afterlife, so we don’t hear much about his wager anymore.
I think it could use a humanist update, myself. The premises, in this case, would be either we as a society will realize how we are all connected and must work together towards progress or we will perish.
To me, there is nothing to be gained by declaring we are going to perish. Instead, without ever being assured that we will make it, I dedicate my life to realizing our connections and urging us towards a destiny in which we move onward and upward forever. I think it’s worth it, especially as it appears we are regressing. Even if I don’t have all the answers, even if everything I do fails, I still believe that we are destined to be transformed for the better. I choose to place my faith in all of us, my hope in what will be, and my love in the spirit of life. Hopefully, this humanist take on Pascal’s wager is helpful to you as we navigate being alive in such heart breaking times as these.