On the Folly of Paschal’s Wager

Goldstein’s 31st argument, named Paschal’s Wager, sounds reasonable on the surface. The gist is that it is safer to believe in God “just in case” because the upside is greater than the downside of wasting your time with a baseless belief. This was a common sentiment when I was young, or at least I remember it that way. I suppose this concept has been filling churches for centuries, if not longer; people agreed to give up their Sunday mornings ‘just in case’, and entire societies were built around the idea that most people would be busy on Sunday morning. Stores would close on Sundays, and blue laws would be made to make it illegal to gamble against Paschal. ‘Just in case’ became ‘or else’, as what began as a choice became a demand. I think this strange evolution is the cause of one of the most disingenuous arguments for the existence of God: God must exist because most people go to church; if God does not exist why would so many people go to church? Pygmalion would be proud.

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