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What Pascal Didn't Wager

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It’s a commonly asked question within the context of witnessing. What have you got to lose? Even if you don’t believe in god, even if we can never prove god, wouldn’t your life be better if you still lived as though there was one?The answer is a resounding: “No!”

Pascal’s Wager was postulated by Blaise Pascal as a form or Christian apologetics, hypothesizing that the gamble would payoff either way. If you lived as a Christian, and it turned out that there was no god, you’ve lost nothing. However, if you lived your life as an atheist, and there was a god, then you’ve lost everything.

What he didn’t mention though, and what nobody else does either, is the true cost of embracing ‘any’ god.

Let’s explore what it means to be a Christian. The very first step is to “surrender your life” to God, or Jesus. In that act, you cede your ideals, your values, your dreams, your “self.”

So to make that question personal: “What would I lose?”
I would lose ME. I’m no longer at the helm of my life. Whenever I’m faced with a dilemma, I’m now obligated to do what’s “moral,” not what is right. When compassion compels me to reach out to someone whose life is in conflict with my morality, I’m obligated to abandon them in favor of that morality.

If any god were to approach me and demand that I take my only son and offer him upon an altar as a sacrifice, “ME” that is “ME” would oppose that god. If any god were to command me to go into a country and murder men, women, child, and beast, “ME” that is “ME” would defy that god. If any god were to tell me to accept slavery or treat women as property, “ME” that is “ME” would defy that god.

However, once I give my “life” over to “god,” I would not be allowed to oppose those commands, no matter how reprehensible I found them. Instead, rather than question, I would be obliged to carry them out, regardless of how much pain that caused.

All we need to do is turn on the news and we can see this illustrated very clearly. Listen to any of the fundamentalists pundits and we are confronted by people who have “surrendered” their soul to their “god.” As a result, they are no longer able to feel compassion. We see it in the abortion debate, we see it in the gun debate, and we see it in the healthcare debate. On Fox “news” we see it in every issue they discuss.

If a fundamentalist father’s daughter gets raped, and therefore considers an abortion, her father, regardless of how compassionate he feels toward his daughter and her situation, is not allowed express that. The morality of his god must supersede his own parental concerns. He has no say in his interaction with her. If she decides to go through with the abortion, then he must ostracize her, not because he doesn’t love her, but because his god said that he must.

Paul himself made this point:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20

Ironically, he also answered Pascal:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
I Corinthians 15:17

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
I Corinthians 15:19

So Paul concedes that you don’t gain anything if god does not exist, and you lose everything if he does.

We get to bring one thing into the world… we get to bring us. Yes, we are born into social strictures, with familial beliefs, and societal ideologies, but even so, somewhere deep inside, we are given a profound connection to “who we are.” Most of us haven’t spent a lot of time cultivating that connection, and getting to know us, but if we did, we’d discover a wealth of power: The power to love, the power to create, and ultimately, the power to use compassion to make the world around us a better place to live.

If I give my life to god, then I must surrender all of that. So what have I got to lose?

“My soul.”

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