May 12th, 2008

That Pensive Rascal, Pascal

I'm reading Pascal's Pensées for book club.

The man is obviously brilliant, but he's obsessed with making the best case for his own somewhat contradictory religious beliefs.  For me it's not a pleasant journey so far, because he spend so much time talking about the misery of human life.

The founder of probability theory, he put forward the "Wager" argument for believing in God.  Super simplified version:

1. If you believe Christianity, and it's true, you win.

2. If you believe Christianity, and it's not true, you're none the worse off.

3. So, believe!

This argument has a variety of logical problems, but I think it accurately describes a lot of people's decision-making processes.

They never really see the holy light,
but they bet on the chance the preacher might be right.