Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pascal's Wager and the Seduction of Fear

Pascal wagered that it was better to believe in the existence of God and be wrong, than to not believe in God and be wrong, since in the former situation you would simply be nothing, but in the latter one you could end up roasting for all of eternity. Pascal apparently never thought to question how totally f-ed up it is that we must "believe" in something that we can never prove to exist, or burn for all of eternity.

Nor did he ever think to question how - since God and "His will" are so ambiguous and the Bible so full of obscure and contradictory passages that it can even be used by the Devil to support his claims - a deeply flawed and fallible humanity could ever know, with any certainty, that it is "believing" anything even close to what they must "believe" to avoid that hell. Hence, people could devote themselves to "believing" their entire life, only to discover upon their death that the Muslims or the Jews had been right all along. (Pascal sounds like a degenerate gambler.)

But to reduce the possibilities of what could happen to us when we die to these two options alone, is not only a false dichotomy, it is one that uses fear to convince a person of which option they should choose.   And by doing so, it implants the idea that being afraid is always a good idea. The butterfly effect of such an  idea flapping its wings, however, leads to every label we can assign each other, and be afraid of.

It is, in other words, an open invitation to all of the worst fears we can think to be afraid of. But what it really teaches us, most of all, is to be as afraid of life as we are of death, and as afraid of others as we are afraid of ourselves. 

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