Pascal’s Asshole

The problem with Pascal’s Wager is that belief entails action. There’s nothing significant to any assertion unless it has the ability to change a person’s behavior. One can say they believe in God, but what on earth does that mean? That assertion isn’t meaningful because it’s completely unclear how belief in it ought change our behavior if true? With a transcendent God, there comes ineffability. Belief in God is then incoherent because the assertion cannot signify God. Beliefs about God must be about something else and matter in some other way, if at all.

Next, no one can choose what to believe about anything. We are determined to believe whatever we think or feel the case is. Again, we can say we believe, but that’s only true if behavior changes. Even then, one can “act as if” they believe and this can be as indistinguishable as one who “acts as if” what they believe is true. There’s a huge difference between the two however. In either case, God must only care about the behaviors belief can produce.

Behavior matters but what matters about intellectual ascent except behaviors they can produce? And certainly belief in God can turn good people into assholes just as much as turning assholes into genuinely good people. Unless God’s an asshole, religion must literally be for assholes, in hopes of creating good people. 

Clearly then, as not all assholes are unbelievers and not all unbelievers are assholes, a God who is not an asshole cannot care about intellectual ascent to some idea; like the idea of God itself.

Were Pascal more thorough and less cavalier, he’d have concluded with the ancients, from Plato to Marcus Aurelius. He’d have properly concluded, because of all of the above and more:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

Just a thought.

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