A post from Tony C Today (October 2008) right in the middle of the Presidential election.
Over the 18 months of managing the http://www.stickwithjesus.com/ website (sorry, no longer up), I received a number of interesting emails from both atheist and agnostics. For me, it's easier to relate and respond to the agnostics, because I've been where they are spiritually at a point in my own life. The arrogance of atheists, however, really bothers me (I know, that's not very Christ like…I'm working on it). I had a conversation of the atheist variety this past weekend.
Atheists always want to bring up Pascal's Wager in discussions. Of course, the lack of scientific evidence is also a popular point for atheists, but responding to the point that there is no proof God exists is too easy…"Prove He doesn't exist." I think Thomas Aquinas covered this best almost 800 years ago in Summa Theologica.
Blaise Pascal was a famous French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher in the mid-1660's. People my age probably remember the computer programming language named after him in the late 70's and early 80's (and the only subject in college I made a D, thanks Blaise). Needless to say, he was a pretty smart fellow. His philosophy, however, took on a very rigid, structured matrix that didn't allow for more pliable principles and concepts.
In his Wager, Pascal attempts to provide an analytical process for a person to evaluate options in regarding belief in God. This is often misinterpreted as simply believing in God or not. As Pascal sets it out, the options are two: live as if God exists, or live as if God does not exist. There is no third possibility. Therefore, we are faced with the following possibilities:
You live as though God exists (and follow His word).
If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite (best case).
If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.
You live as though God does not exist.
If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite (ouch, not good).
If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing (no time to gloat either).
With these possibilities, and the principles of statistics, Pascal attempted to demonstrate that the only prudent course of action is to live as if God exists. Now that's a nutshell version of the Pascal's Wager, but if you want more detailed information, click on the link above. For those mathmatically challenged, like me, best leave it here...just trust me.
Atheist, for some reason, rally around the Wager as the only possible explanation a rational person could believe in a 'fantasy' like God. When backed into a corner during a heated debate on God, it will come flying from an atheist out of no where…"You're just hedging Pascal's Wager on heaven and hell!" Then you'll get a 'top-that' look in their mind that surely closes the deal…well, not quite.
You see, my belief in God has little, if anything, to do with the fear of going to hell. Besides, you can't base your committment to God on just logic. He wants your love willingly and true. God knows your heart, so you can't bluff or hedge your way into heaven.
I love God because He is gracious enough, merciful enough to love me…yes me. That still blows my mind! The Creator of all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be cares about the most insignificant creation He made…me. Wow!
And how do I know? Because I talk to Him every day. I feel His presence in my life every day. I have His word that has stood the test of thousands of years to read from daily. I don't need the logic of Mr. Pascal and his mathematical equation to tell me to put my faith in God. Jesus took care of that long before Blaise…Hey, maybe we need a programming language based on His teachings.