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Aren't you afraid of hell? Don't you worry about what might happen to you when you die? This sort of question is based upon a common theological argument known as Pascal's Wager: if the believer is wrong and God doesn't exist, then nothing has been lost; on the other hand, if the atheist is wrong and God does exist, then the atheist risks going to hell. Therefore, it is smarter to take a chance on believing than to take a chance on not believing, and the atheist is in a bad spot.


Read Article: What If You Are Wrong And God Exists?

December 20, 2006 at 11:16 am
(1) John Rose says:

The idea of an all powerful being has been around since the beging of man. The idea of god exists today because people are afraid, and they want easy answers to thier problems. god is easily excepted because instead of blaming yourself you can always blame a higher power wich is much more convenient. This is why people belive god exists, nothing more

December 20, 2006 at 8:50 pm
(2) don says:

As you get older you should get wiser, but some never do. They continue to believe there really is a place called hell. Its time to grow up and use common sense. Hell was used to put fear in you, as a way of being good. We don’t need hell any longer, we have laws.

December 22, 2006 at 4:16 am
(3) Brian says:

If God is going to persecute me for using my brain and doubting his existence, then I don’t want to be with him anyway.

March 14, 2008 at 5:45 pm
(4) marc says:

What if you are wrong and God exists? Aren’t you afraid of hell?
If this is an accurate quote from a visitor to this site, it displays quite a bit of arrogance. Suppose that God does exist, what makes you think it is the Christian view of God?

March 14, 2008 at 6:35 pm
(5) Religiarchy says:

I think Christians should be more afraid that they could be wrong about something else…like if their god turned out to be a woman :) .

There are plenty of things to be afraid of, but hell and god are not among them. Treating one’s time on earth as temporary is arrogant and leads to treating others–and the planet–like crap.

March 14, 2008 at 7:00 pm
(6) tracieh says:

I can’t get past Sagan’s Dragon in the Garage. If the Xian god exists, but there’s no way to know god exists, what difference does it make? Even with a threat of hell, I can’t “believe” a god exists, if I can’t find anything to support that a god exists, I’m pretty much simply screwed.

It would be like putting me on top of a skyscraper and telling me that unless I “believe” I can step off the building and float, I am going to hell. To test me, I’m asked to show my faith by taking that step.

I’m tellin’ ya, I’m pretty much goin’ to hell, because there’s no way. As much as it would be interesting to be able to force myself to believe whatever I like, I can’t do it. It’s just not possible to believe what is unsupported by my experiential reality without something pretty Earth-shattering to convince me.

March 14, 2008 at 7:46 pm
(7) Joseph says:

The fallacy in that argument lies in “if not A, then B”. Nevermind that there are more flavors of Christianity than ice cream at Baskin Robbins, each of which has different rules and expectations. Other religions have their own ideas of the after life. For a Christian, all their years of their self-righteousness could be giving them some serious bad karma, and they’ll be reincarnated as a lowly cockroach… or a person born into a lifestyle they berated.

March 14, 2008 at 8:30 pm
(8) Alex Novak says:

Another problem with Pascal’s Wager is this. As many have pointed out, if there were a god, who knows which would the the right god to worship. If, as Pascal suggests, I am motivated by minimizing the chance of my worst case scenario, then I should believe in the god the promises the most terrible eternal punishment possible. Thus, the god I should believe it is the most psychopathic, vengeful and unforgiving that can be imagined.

March 14, 2008 at 8:36 pm
(9) Joseph says:

Yes! All hail C’thulu!

March 15, 2008 at 1:23 am
(10) Blunderov says:

It seems strange that mere belief in “god” is sufficient to save one from the furnace. So believe and sin as you please. All will be forgiven.

Meanwhile every atheist is consigned to the flames whether she has lived an exemplary life or not.

Things that make you go hmm…

March 15, 2008 at 3:31 pm
(11) Paul Buchman says:

It seems strange that mere belief in “god” is sufficient to save one from the furnace. So believe and sin as you please. All will be forgiven.

It’s been said that Emperor Constantine (“the Great”) waited to be baptized until he was on his death bed so that he could murder with impunity during his life and still be pure when he made his exit.

The idea of god exists today because people are afraid, and they want easy answers to thier problems.

I think that religions were created BY priests FOR priests.

March 15, 2008 at 7:45 pm
(12) socrates says:

My question to this question is always the same, “Why do you brother Christian need to care if I or 1000 non-Christian’s believe in your version or concept of God?”
Do Christian’s get extra brownie points or better mansions in heaven if they have 1, 25, 1000 converted, saved souls tied to their personal names? Sounds Mighty Arrogant to me.

March 16, 2008 at 11:46 am
(13) sornord says:

Wouldn’t the questioner be surprised if he/she passed and meets one very pissed off Zeus!

August 7, 2010 at 6:47 pm
(14) ls says:

Putting aside your contention that belief really isn’t a choice (which I completely agree with going on the definition of “believe” as accept X as true), what I consider to be another true failure of Pascal’s wager is that it permits you to believe (as true) literally anything that pops into your mind.

It truly allows you to reason away any impediment to the belief in anything whatsoever. Just twist hard enough and you’re there. I.e. what if magical elves that sit on my shoulder and reveal the secrets of the universe to me really do exist? What if the transcendent principles of mathematical addition are really concatenative and not additive, i.e. 2+2 ultimately really equals 22 and not 4? If I believe these things as the default position and I turn out wrong, what have I lost? (Hint: Well…. if you go through your entire life truly thinking elves guide you in your life and 2+2 = 22…. yeah, you’re actually lost out on a lot!)

The other consequence of this permissiveness is it allows you to suspend your nominal moral judgments and assign truth values to propositions in ultimately horrifying ways. I.e., What if I’m actually right in believing that homosexuals are evil and can’t be good parents? What if Hitler was actually right about the Jews trying to take over the world? What if non-whites really are inferior races to whites? Yep, all these beliefs too are equivalent if your only guide is Pascal’s wager.

Finally, PW’s is an illicit shifting of the burden of proof. It assumes the truth value of the proposition from the start and proposes only to abandon it if it’s later shown to be false. The analogue is “guilty until proven innocent”. I think the correct strategy is the other way around, in line with your Atheist’s Wager: don’t accept _any_ truth value for a proposition until one has been _demonstrated_ to be the case for it (true or false). Until then, assume it doesn’t have one. In other words, “innocent until proven guilty” is a much more rational guide, in my view.


August 7, 2010 at 11:46 pm
(15) Larian LeQuella says:

In cases like this, all too often I hear the stupid pascal’s wager brought up. Ignoring the problems of which god to believe in, or how to will yourself to believe what are clearly fables… I offer the atheist wager (slightly modified from Austin’s original version):

Instead, my wager is that if there is a god, and it is a just god, then living a just and moral life will be acknowledged regardless of ones beliefs. If there exists an unjust or immoral god, then I could never satisfy both my conscience and such a god. My wager is that if the christians are right about god being just and all-knowing and all-loving, I will be rewarded if I act in morally sound, justified ways.

I don’t have any evidence that there is a god. To me, the idea of a god, or even of an afterlife pales in importance to what we experience everyday. Life. Life is the only thing that I “know” I have and when that is gone, I doubt I’ll be around to care, however, others will. I must live my life as I please, and since I believe I will only ever get one chance at it, I want to live it in the best manner that I can and help others do the same.

August 8, 2010 at 4:23 am
(16) Valdes says:

Here’s the answer. If life doesn’t end it will continue to evolve. So even if yo are wrong, which is an improbable possibility you would adapt to enjoy Hell. (why do posts take so long to get in?) (I’ve blogged other arguments in other topics and my comments never came up)

August 8, 2010 at 11:46 am
(17) mobathome says:

(14) Valdes says:

Here’s the answer. If life doesn’t end it will continue to evolve.

Individuals don’t evolve, they accommodate environmental changes. Gene pools evolve, usually with mutation and reproduction. Even changing your statement, you seem to assume both factors will be present in “Hell”, but as that place is likely outside of nature, how can you provide justification for supporting that the two factors of mutation and reproduction will be present? Also, reproduction in “Hell” assumes “God” will allow complete innocents to be born into eternal torment, but assuming “God” is moral and good, he can’t do that.

August 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(18) nothingUnreal says:

When a theists asks “aren’t you worried about hell?” or “What will you say when you die and have to face God?’, here is your answer:

“What will you say when your belief in magic, having bought shelter for extremist fanaticism all over the globe, brings about the Armageddon you crave, and you survive it to find not one single believer being beamed into rapture, and everything man has created rotting and radioactive, destroyed, preventably and utterly; your child doomed to a protracted death in a hell on earth you helped create?”

August 8, 2010 at 5:03 pm
(19) Valdes says:

Mobathome: mutation is not the only form of evolution. Choices within environmental circumstances are also forms of evolution. Even the slightest decisions that made hell an insignificant amont more enjoyable over a course of millions of years. Since they have infinity on their hands, evolutionary choice is possible and probable. As far as God’s morality goes it certainly does allow children to be born under terrible environments already.

August 9, 2010 at 10:40 am
(20) mobathome says:

(19) Valdes says:

Mobathome: mutation is not the only form of evolution. Choices within environmental circumstances are also forms of evolution.

Do you mean natural selection as a source of changes in the gene pool? Just as there probably won’t be reproduction in hell, there probably won’t be death. I mean, you go there when you die, and then you’re done with death. In hell, you face unbearable torment for eternity, or at last weeping and gnashing of teeth without the benefit of a protective retainer. (So I assume, of course. Does the health care program of hell include dental care?)

As far as God’s morality goes it certainly does allow children to be born under terrible environments already.

No earthly environment is supposed to be even close to the terribleness of hell, and even a person with lax enough morals to accept the level of collateral damage on earth such as “God”, wouldn’t be immoral enough to accept putting innocents in hell. In support of this, Catholic dogma has unbaptized babies go to limbo, not hell. Baptized ones go straight to heaven.

August 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm
(21) IndianaJohn says:

I’m not wrong. God does not exist.

August 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm
(22) Robb says:

I’m not sure the Apostle Paul would agree with Pascal’s wager and the idea that “if the believer is wrong and God doesn’t exist, then nothing has been lost;”

Paul said “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; … If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:16-19

July 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm
(23) Jeanne says:

Has it ever occurred to a believer that if god exists and gave them intellect that he actually expected them to use it?

Such a god would understand rational doubt and not punish people for it.

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