This is from an idea introduced by George H. Smith. I think it is worth knowing. I am bored of hearing theists using Pascal’s Wager which I think it is too simplistic. I would be interested in hearing what you think of the merits of its logic.
Pascal’s Wager summarized:
Reason can't prove or disprove the existence of God. If the atheist is correct, nothing will happen when we die, and nothing is lost. But if the Christian is correct, the nonbelievers are going to believe in Hell for eternity. So it seems like the practical odds would lie with Christianity. We should wager on Christianity because the practical odds are so important. If you wager on Christianity and there is no god, you don't lose anything.
The obvious problem here is that if you are an Atheist you would have to forego your intellectual integrity in order to believe just so you can be saved from going to hell. It is not possible to do an about turn in your mind when your reason tells you that there is no god anyway.
So I want to introduce "Smith's Wager." It can be used after Pascal’s is mentioned. This is the premises of his 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 Smith’s wager comes in. Let's suppose you're an atheist. What are the possibilities?
The first possibility is there is no god and 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.
Thirdly suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs -- He's a personal god -- but that He is a just god. 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 and intellect 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 it led them to Atheism. Therefore, if a just god exists, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of belief.
Finally, 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 – if we became Atheists because of the reasoning he allowed us to be capable of. 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 Atheists.
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 an unjust god exists, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish universe, but we're in no worse position than the Christian is.
Therefore, if you're are 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.
Smith’s wager says that you should always wager on reason and accept the logical consequence, which in this case is Atheism.
1. If there's no god, you are correct.
2. If there's an indifferent god, you won't suffer in hell anyway.
3. If there's a just god, you have nothing to fear from the honest use of your reason.
4. If there's an unjust god, you have much to fear but so does the Christian.
Atheism can be considered the use of Reason. Smith’s Wager takes it to a more logical conclusion than Pascal ever did.