Now here is an excerpt from the book Atheism: a Case against God by George H. Smith. He proposes a counter wager to Pascals and here it is below. I never thought about it until i read this and thought it was great logic. I hope we can discuss this and share your thoughts on it and your experiences of arguing Theists who use the wager.
But I want to offer you a kind of counter-wager, called the "Smith's wager." Here are the premises of my wager:
1. The existence of a god, if we are to believe in it, can only be established through reason.
2. Applying the canons of correct reasoning to theistic belief, we must reach the conclusion that theism is unfounded and must be rejected by rational people.
Now comes the question, "But what if reason is wrong in this case?", which it sometimes is. We are fallible human beings. What if it turns out that there is a Christian god and He's up there and He's going to
punish for eternity for disbelieving in Him. Here's where my wager comes
in. Let's suppose you're an atheist. What are the possibilities? The
first possibility is there is no god, you're right. In that case, you'll
die, that'll be it, you've lost nothing, and you've lived a happy life
with the correct position. Secondly, a god may exist but he may not be
concerned with human affairs. He may be the god of traditional Deism. He
may have started the universe going and left it to its traditional
devices, in which case you will simply die, that is all there is to it,
again, and you've lost nothing.
Let's suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs -- He's a personal god -- but that He is a just god. He's concerned with justice. If you have a just god, he could not possibly punish an
honest error of belief where there is no moral turpitude or no
wrongdoing involved. If this god is a creator god and He gave us reason
as the basic means of understanding our world, then He would take pride
in the conscientious and scrupulous use of reason the part of His
creatures, even if they committed errors from time to time, in the same
way a benevolent father would take pride in the accomplishments of his
son, even if the son committed errors from time to time. Therefore, if
there exists a just god, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a
god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of
Now we came to the last possibility. Suppose there exists an unjust god, specifically the god of Christianity, who doesn't give a damn about justice and who will burn us in Hell, regardless of whether we made
honest mistakes or not. Such a god is necessarily unjust, for there is
no more heinous injustice we could conceive of, than to punish a person
for an honest error of belief, when he has tried to the best of his
ability to ascertain the truth. The Christian thinks he's in a better
position in case this kind of god exists. I wish to point out that he's
not in any better position than we are because if you have an unjust
god. The earmark of injustice is unprincipled behavior, behavior that's
not predictable. If there's an unjust god and He really gets all this
glee out of burning sinners and disbelievers, then what could give him
more glee than to tell Christians they would be saved, only to turn
around and burn them anyway, for the Hell of it, just because he enjoys
it? If you've got an unjust god, what worst injustice could there be
than that? It's not that far-fetched. If a god is willing to punish you
simply for an honest error of belief, you can't believe He's going to
keep his word when He tells you He won't punish you if you don't believe
in Him because He's got to have a sadistic streak to begin with.
Certainly He would get quite a bit of glee out of this behavior. Even if
there exists this unjust god, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish
universe, but we're in no worse position than the Christian is.
Again, if you're going to make the wager, you might as well wager on what your reason tells you, that atheism is correct, and go that route because you won't be able to do anything about an unjust god anyway,
even if you accept Christianity. My wager says that you should in all
cases wager on reason and accept the consequence"">logical consequence, which in this case is atheism.
If there's no god, you're correct; if there's an indifferent god, you
won't suffer; if there's a just god, you have nothing to fear from the
honest use of your reason; and if there's an unjust god, you have much
to fear but so does the Christian.
We come back full-circle to our original point, that atheism must always be considered within the wider context of the respect for reason and the respect for truth. I think that, as atheists, when you try to
communicate the atheistic message this is the central point you should
hammer home again and again.
This reminds me of Epicurus' thoughts on god... with a twist. I like it and I think it adds a new area to the argument. However, I can't see this argument carrying much weight if I were to, say, use it on my Uber-Christian family.
Reason being, many Christians feel that it IS just to punish non-believers as god gives us all a chance to believe and it is up to us to take it while we can. And then, of course, there are the backslider Christians who simultaneously insist that the Bible is the inerrant word of god and that "Well, you know, we don't judge who goes to heaven, god does". I always find that amusing considering the explicitness that the Bible contains in regard to what will become of and what should be done to non-believers.
I don't watch the show House, but I did really like a quote that I found attributed to the main character: "If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people".
Never really got how Pascal's wager is considered a good argument. It only talks about the christian god, but if you say that you should live as if the christian god exists just in case, then you also have to give equal consideration that every other god ever mentioned could be real and believe in them too, just in case. Well, many gods don't like it when you worship other gods, so if you try to play it safe by believing in all of them then there's a good chance that if one of them is real you are severely pissing them off and you'll be punished anyway. And if you only believe in one, then there's a pretty good chance that you chose the wrong one, and if the one that exists is one of the jealous ones then you'll still end up being punished. And if the one that exists is both jealous and omniscient, as many gods are said to be, then they'll know that you are pretending just to play it safe and send you to hell or whatever anyway. Even if you somehow manage to choose the right god, there's a chance you'll still be in trouble if you worship it the wrong way. So really, the most logical approach is to not believe, since if no god or a just god exists then everything is peachy, but if one of the many jack-ass gods exists then there's a pretty good chance you'll get screwed over anyway, so why waste your life stressing out about it?