As a sophomore in college, I first heard of Pascal’s wager and it always bothered me because the basis of his wager was a philosophical proposition of a joint probability that convinced the general population that they should believe in God. The wager went something like this: If you believe in God and he doesn’t exist, then you only wasted a lifetime to believe in him, but if you don’t believe in God and he does exist, then you risk eternal damnation. Of course, if you don’t believe in him, and he doesn’t exist, then you “enjoy” your life, and if you believe in him, and he does exist, then you will be spend eternity in heaven.
The premise of this argument had me stifled that something so simple could prove that my non-belief in God could, with equal probability as the other 3 options, turn out to have the worst consequences by far. It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally believe that I found something that circumvents this wager.
There are at least 30 MAJOR religions in the world that I know of. So the argument that I should believe in “god” has me trying to figure out which god? Most religions mandate that you worship their god(s) and these gods are actually jealous gods who punish you for belief in another one. So, in order for the joint probability above to hold, the assumption would have to be inserted that I know which religion, and therefore god, is real. Furthermore, assuming 30 different religions (which there are probably a lot more), I’d have 30 joint prob cases where “a god” would spite me for belief in the wrong religion or no religion, and still just 1 case where I’d be saved.
Suddenly, the probability is stacked against me to choose a god because the path to being saved is contingent that I pick the right god and the religion exists. The following is the new joint probabilities (we’re assuming either 0 or 1 religion is right):
P(believe in god 1 & he exists) = 1/31 * (1/31)^30;
P(believe in god 1 & he doesn’t exists) = 1/31 * (29/31)^29;
P(believe in god 2 & he exists) = 1/31 * (1/31)^30;
P(believe in god 2 & he doesn’t exists) = 1/31 * (29/31)^29;
[etc to god 30]
P(don’t believe in any god & any of them exists) = 1/31 * 30/31;
P(don’t believe in any god & none exists) = 1/31 * 1/31;
The key is to focus on the consequences… If I try to choose a god, and a different one exists, then I get spited with a probability of close to 100% AND life sucked. If I don’t choose a god, and a god exists, then I get spited with a 1/31*30/31 probability but I enjoy my life. If I don’t choose a god, and none exists, then I just lie still in the ground forever BUT I enjoy my life with 1/31^2 probability. And finally, if I choose the right god that does exist, then I get saved but I don’t enjoy my life and the probability of that is close to zero.
Therefore, to avoid the ~100% probability case that I will be spited AND life would suck, I would go with the not believing any god choice & then if one of them exists, at least I enjoyed my life (with higher probability). Just think of it as roulette…would you rather place your money down on green 00 or would you rather stick to black or red. Well, unless green 00 has been hitting with some certainty, I’d put my money on a color and close my eyes and…pray? Well, maybe not.