Understanding of Pascal’s Wager (or betting/gambling) made easy by Wikipedia

Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal. courtesy Wikipedia

I tried to read the Pensées of Pascal but since my mother tongue is not English; I could not understand it fully from the words of Pascal.

So I looked to Wikipedia- my virtual university. Now I feel that my understanding has been bettered after reading the .Please see “explanation” clicking the link:

Explanation: by Wikipedia


Below I give in the inverted commas the “Explanation: by Wikipedia”
Followed by comments/opinion on each point as “Paarsurrey” what I believe to be the truthful concept irrespective if Pascal believed them or he believed otherwise.

The wager is described in Pensées this way:

1. Explanation of Pensees: “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible”
Paarsurrey: Yes; merely by reason or by reason alone God is incomprehensible.

2. “since, having neither parts”
Paarsurrey: yes; He has no physical, material or spiritual parts as He is only an attributive being, reflecting himself by his attributes.

3. “nor limits”
Paarsurrey: Yes; he is Absolute in every good attribute, having no blemished attribute; nobody can set limits for Him while He sets limits for others.

4. “He has no affinity to us”
Paarsurrey: If the word affinity is taken as to have no resemblance or likeness; then yes, He is ONE singularity, uniqueness: If we take affinity to mean relationship or kinship or attraction or sympathy; since he has created us humans with a lot of sentiments; so He does take care of us and he helps us when we need Him; we implore him ,we make supplications to Him , we pray to Him with emotions; so he hears our prayers and solves our problems and attracted to us when we need him; saves us and forgives our sins.

5. “We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is….””God is, or He is not.”
Paarsurrey: As just we have seen if we use the right and appropriate resources, we are capable of knowing Him; if we refuse to use the resources and insist on using our preferred and biased resource of “reason only”, then of course we cannot know Him, not for any of His fault; but our own irrational fault.

6. “But to which side shall we incline?”
Paarsurrey: Naturally we must incline to the most beneficial line.

7. “Reason can decide nothing here”
Paarsurrey: Yes; reason without an appropriate tool is blind; cannot see anything.
8. “There is an infinite chaos”

Paarsurrey: I don’t understand as to what he means using the word “chaos”; universe is in a rhythm, it is orderly and symmetrical. If he means be it the obscurity that exits in the human minds on the issue; it will remain or even increase if we try to comprehend God by “reason alone”.

9. “which separated us”
Paarsurrey: He is always near us with his fine attributes.

“A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up”
10. Paarsurrey: God is definitely playing no games with us. He could play games, if he desires, without us. If he means the human choice; or free will choice; yes; he does not want to use force on us .Had he done it; then we would have not been given the choice or free will..

11. “What will you wager?”
Paarsurrey: We don’t have to wager or bet. We either accept him with certainty or we deny Him) “According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.”
Paarsurrey: (We have to use reason prudently, understanding its limitations; and not otherwise.

12. “Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it”
Paarsurrey: It is for this that we are not to judge anybody; and that should be left for Him to judge on the Day of Judgment.

13. “No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all.”
Paarsurrey: When we make a choice guided by the Word of Revelation using sincerely all our faculties; we are in fact not betting; but doing the right and the most beneficial thing.

14. “Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see.”
Paarsurrey: When we follow the most successful and perfect human beings called prophets messengers; we can’t fail.

15. “Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will,
Paarsurrey: We lose nothing but we gain everything; right reason, right will, right knowledge and above all happiness

16. “your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery”
Paarsurrey: that will not touch us.

17. “Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all”
Paarsurrey: Yes; we gain all; as we choose the right path;

18. “ if you lose, you lose nothing”
Paarsurrey: with the mercy of Him; there is no question of losing.

19. “Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.”
Paarsurrey: Yes; choose the right middle path.

20. “That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much. Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss”
Paarsurrey: not so exactly,

21. “if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager.”
Paarsurrey: Yes we gain two lives
22. “But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play”
Paarsurrey: since you are under the necessity of playing,

23. “and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain.”
Paarsurrey: There are only two lives; there will not be any third life

24. “But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.[5]”
Paarsurrey: Yes; but without any bet; with rational reasoning and positive decision.

25. “Pascal begins by painting a situation where both the existence and non-existence of God are impossible to prove by human reason. So, supposing that reason cannot determine the truth between the two options, one must “wager” by weighing the possible consequences. Pascal’s assumption is that, when it comes to making the decision, no one can refuse to participate; withholding assent is impossible because we are already “embarked”, effectively living out the choice.”
Paarsurrey: When we throw a ball; either it ascends high or it falls; it won’t remain suspended there.

26. “We only have two things to stake, our “reason” and our “happiness”. Pascal considers that if there is “equal risk of loss and gain” (i.e. a coin toss), then human reason is powerless to address the question of whether God exists or not. That being the case, then human reason can only decide the question according to possible resulting happiness of the decision, weighing the gain and loss in believing that God exists and likewise in believing that God does not exist.
He points out that if a wager was between the equal chance of gaining two lifetimes of happiness and gaining nothing, then a person would be a fool to bet on the latter. The same would go if it was three lifetimes of happiness versus nothing. He then argues that it is simply unconscionable by comparison to bet against an eternal life of happiness for the possibility of gaining nothing. The wise decision is to wager that God exists”
Paarsurrey: Here clarity of concept of God becomes very essential. With concept of God that Jesus and Mary believed; the decision is fine; but with the concept of Paul and the scribes as described in NT; it is not reliable.

27. since “If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing”, meaning one can gain eternal life if God exists, but if not, one will be no worse off in death than if one had not believed. On the other hand, if you bet against God, win or lose, you either gain nothing or lose everything. You are either unavoidably annihilated (in which case, nothing matters one way or the other) or lose the opportunity of eternal happiness. In note 194, speaking about those who live apathetically betting against God, he sums up by remarking, “It is to the glory of religion to have for enemies men so unreasonable…”
Paarsurrey: Yes belief in God brings eternal life or everlasting life indeed.

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9 Responses to “Understanding of Pascal’s Wager (or betting/gambling) made easy by Wikipedia”

  1. Bryan Says:

    Hi and thanks for this post and your reply to my question. I think the wikipedia article is very good and is basically in agreement with what I had posted especially in regard to the common criticisms of the wager because of the question of other religions. Whoever wrote it had an excellent grasp of Pascal’s wager and the common misconceptions regarding it.

    As for your own comments I basically agree with you except for a few things you say. You say…

    “Here clarity of concept of God becomes very essential. With concept of God that Jesus and Mary believed; the decision is fine; but with the concept of Paul and the scribes as described in NT; it is not reliable.”

    I do not think that God as believed in by Jesus and Mary in the gospels is any different than God as believed in by Paul and the scribes of the NT. This is a complex issue but I think the apparent differences are mainly due to variations in vocabulary and purpose. Each gospel and NT book had a specific purpose for a particular reading audience, but they are not ultimately contradictory.

    You also say…

    “When we follow the most successful and perfect human beings called prophets messengers; we can’t fail.”

    I believe that your statement here is only in agreement with Pascal if the “prophet messengers” you mention are in agreement with Jesus and the authors of the NT (and also those that Paul calls pastors, teachers, evangelists, and others that teach in agreement with Jesus and the writers of the NT).

    I also feel that the unmentioned main factor that is necessary for Pascal’s wager to be effective is the Spirit of God that influences the heart of man (or woman) in conjunction with the word of God. If we leave God’s Spirit out I think we will end up back in the camp of rationalism as what enables us to find God. Pascal does not mention this, but the Spirit of God is implied.

    In Pensee 287 Pascal says: “For God having said in His prophecies (which are undoubtedly prophecies) that in the reign of Jesus Christ He would spread His spirit abroad among nations, and that the youths and maidens and children of the Church would prophesy; it is certain that the Spirit of God is in these and not in the others.”

    And in Pensee 282 Pascal says: “Therefore, those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very fortunate and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual insight, without which faith is only human and useless for salvation.”

    Pascal certainly believed that without the Spirit of God we would be left not only with our mere human reason but also with our mere human faith, which is “useless for salvation.”

    I believe that Pascal was also one that was in agreement with Jesus, Mary, Paul, and the NT scribes, and that is why his wager is important for salvation.

    I find your own interest in Pascal very interesting, and hope that you will continue to study his Pensees. I have quite a few things about Pascal at my blog and have a category by his name.

    Thanks, and best regards!
    Bryan at manifestpropensity.wordpress.com


  2. Bryan Says:

    Hello again and thanks for your reply. I read the other post you sent the link for but found it unconvincing. For one thing if the gospels are suspect because of Paul then whole New Testament itself is suspect and comparing Jesus and Paul is impossible and a complete waste of time since there are no other reliable historical sources for the details of their lives and teachings. But a careful comparison of the teachings and lives of Jesus and Paul as recorded in the NT results in the fact that Paul was a follower of Jesus, in fact he called himself his slave and therefore would not “invent” Jesus or distort him in any way. This does not mean that Paul did not expand upon truths that Jesus introduced, but his “expansions” are essentially non-contradictory.

    In fact if you say parts of the gospels are wrong because they are from Paul you are actually admitting that the gospels and Paul are in harmony but you just don’t agree with your own conception of Jesus.

    Here is a scholarly article about Paul and Jesus:

    Thanks for the discussion and your graciousness.


  3. Bryan Says:

    I’m sorry my grammar was wrong in the last sentence. I should have said “the gospels and Paul are in harmony but they just don’t agree with your own conception of Jesus.” In other-words, when you say there are contradictions in the gospels “because of Paul” you are saying (at least in those particular texts) that Paul and the gospels are saying the same things. I hope this makes sense. (I am referring to things you wrote in the post “one could defend jesus concepts rationally not of pauls”.)


  4. Bryan Says:

    I will try to leave comments to these new posts you have written. Thanks for your hospitality.


  5. Why I’m an atheist and Pascal’s Wager. | paarsurrey Says:

    […] Paarsurrey says: I like your last sentence "God demands that I truly believe, he would certainly know if my faith was not genuine, which gives me a one way ticket to eternal torture (for the finite “crime” of disbelief). Pascal’s Wager fails in a very short paragraph." In religion, as it deals in ethical, moral and spiritual matters the faith should be based on reason, experiences and Word of revelation; in science as it deals in physical and material realities faith is based on reason and on reliable experiments. Please read my post on "Pascals wager or betting gambling made easy by Wikipedia" and my comments on it: https://paarsurrey.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/pascals-wager-or-bettinggambling-made-easy-by-wikipedia/ […]


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