Wagering on the Afterlife

What happens after we die? For some people this is a really easy question to answer, others struggle with it greatly. Personally, I subscribe to the belief that after I die I can return to live with a loving God in another life. I know a lot of people don’t subscribe to such a belief and in fact, may believe me a ridiculous human being for believing in such a thing, but I do. I didn’t always though and I’d be lying if part of what influenced me to return to being a believer was Pascal’s Wager.

For those who have yet to take introductory philosophy courses, Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and philosopher who lived in the 1600’s. He suggested that human beings make a wager on whether or not God exists and live their lives accordingly. Pascal also suggested that a rational human being would live their life as though God did exist because if God existed (and therefore an afterlife) you would be rewarded for your belief and if you died and there was no God well… none of this really matters then does it? The basic idea is that if you’re unsure of the existence of God you should “hedge your bet” by acting as though God exists.

Simple right? Obviously not. There are some pretty clear problems with Pascal’s Wager, right off the top of my head Pascal’s Wager does not account for the huge sum of religions and interpretations of God (or Gods) that exist. It’s one thing to believe in a deity, but another entirely to believe in the right one. This is exemplified by the fact that Pascal himself was a staunch follower of a niche sect of Catholicism, a religion like my own that believes that they are the one true church. Sure Pascal thought he was doing the smart thing but this wager doesn’t really account for what happens if you believe in the wrong God does it?

Pascal’s Wager also doesn’t really account for what experiences/aspects of life a person can miss out on because they deny them on account of their religious belief. Like I won’t ever know what it’s like to get drunk because it’s part of my religion to abstain from alcohol. It might be a lot of fun, I might’ve done things I would never do sober and there is surely a chance that my mortal life could be diminished by not having those experiences but that’s what I’ve chosen to do. (or perhaps more accurately not do)

The final area where Pascal’s Wager comes short (at least in my mind, I’m sure more philosophically minded people can think of other things) is the idea that heaven can be diminished by not having friends and family there with you. Could there not be an argument constructed that if your religious beliefs could separate you from those you care about in a mortal life it may not be necessarily worth it to hedge your bet on an afterlife then? Maybe, luckily for me, I haven’t ever been put into that sort of a situation. I’ve yet to have to disavow someone in my life because of religious belief and I sincerely hope I never have to, but it’s something to be aware of I suppose.

Why am I bringing this all up though? Talking about religion has never been something I’ve done much of on this blog.

I bring it up because I stumbled onto what I consider to be a pretty interesting article (Right here btw) that talked about how it relates specifically to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members. (This whole moving away from using Mormons thing is starting to get real exhausting honestly) In the article, the author brings up another wager that in my mind works a little better. He refers to it as Mr. Rogers’ Wager and the basic idea of that is that if we simply act the best we can while loving and respecting those around us. This is also taught in the Bible in Matthew 22: 35-40 with the addition of loving your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. It’s also in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!”. It’s a pretty common thought honestly, but it is one I think has a lot of value and with that thought, I’ll wrap up for the day. Thanks for reading, later.

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