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Why Pascal's Wager Persuades Even When It Doesn't July 8, 2009
The stakes in eternity that hinge on believing or not believing in God seem quite remote and absurd to our earthbound generation. So why does Pascal's wager still generate heat (if not light), at least among serious thinkers? I'm afraid it comes down to the keen but unstated modern perception that allowing God in leads to the dethroning of the self and the spectre of obeying some "other" (I do not say God because of the common notion that God is a fiction used by men to manipulate other men). And so even without the vision of eternity and a possible afterlife, wagering that God exists is clearly seen as the first step down a doubtful, possibly demanding, and certainly unaccustomed road.

This perception and the avoidance of God that follows from it are the very essence of sin. But whether you allow sin or not, it is clear enough that choosing God should ultimately lead to obeying God and renouncing a Godless life. And this seems quite tangible, much like the anticipated taste of a new food one reflexively hates without having tried it. This reflexive hatred is why Pascal's wager continues to hit people where they live even when it is aimed at generations long gone.

Related Web Links: Pascal's Wager  
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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