Statesboro, GA, USA
You mean it suggests that a belief in god is better than disbelief and, hopefully, armed with that a good man will eventually select the correct belief (presumably Christian in your view), but I think Iíve shown that Pascalís wager proves nothing of the sort.
Actually Pascal would agree with you that his wager is not "proof" ... And so would I. His whole approach with the Wager, was in a different vein than traditional proofs. In fact many see in Pascal an anti-rationalism that would never associate God with any kind of proof at all. But that oversimplifies Pascal's thought, and ignores much that he said. Still, the elements of love, will, and devotion would be undermined if we were forced to believe by sheer evidentialism. Again, that's not to say that Pascal thought there were no good reasons to believe, or that the world of reality doesn't correspond with the truth of God. He was not recommending a complete fideism OR an easy evidentialism. Reality is not so simplistic as that.
Youíre on rocky ground with the Pascal in any case Stephen if we adhere to his betting analogy.
But I never offered Pascal's wager as a proof, but only as a highly suggestive thought ... especially in antithesis to Mike's assertion that the religious are no more than irrational gamblers, betting on a fool's errand. Of course I added my own thoughts on the wagering nature of unbelief as well, reminding that we all have something at stake. The thing is, no one is just a disinterested spectator. No one is without an objective clue, OR without a subjective battle with the personal dynamics of will, love, and rebellion. And Pascal understood this. His Wager is not (in my opinion) to be taken in isolation from his other thoughts. And if you've ever read much of his Pensees, you'll see that he apparantly didn't believe in any kind of "blind gamble" at all. I'll give you some quotes to support this, in just a bit ...
It can hardly be put forward as evidence that god exists and as guidance of how to gain redemption from that god if thereís a 50% chance that itís simply a book of fiction and lies. Doesnít any reliance on its contents simply beg the question?
Not exactly. The historical aspects of the Bible, (and particularly the New Testament) have little in common with the something like the purely philosophical texts of Hinduism, where history is completely detached. They are grounded in a historical framework, and that history may be discussed like any other history. The question for me is, do alternate versions, and historical revisionism, make good sense of the data we have. But either way, you speak as if these texts were written outside of any historical framework whatsoever. You should at least consider that Historians like N.T. Wright, and Gary Habermas have demonstrated that the historical aspect of the gospels is as real as that of Abraham Lincoln. Jesus "mythicism" is a fringe belief.
Therefore to view the Bible as historically honest is not "begging the question" any more than an atheist who tacitly (as a result of his philosophy) assumes miracles don't happen, and uses that as his criteria to prove that the Bible is unhistorical. We all have presuppositions. A kind of circle is unavoidable. Which is the right one, is still the question.
You donít believe thereís a 50% chance that the bible is wrong do you? Why not? Pascal did, thatís the reason he created the wager. His premise was that man cannot know by reason alone whether god exists, then he set out to suggest that even without knowing you were better off betting in favour of a god.
Pascal believed nothing of the sort. Indeed man cannot "believe" by reason alone. But neither is reason excluded, as in complete fideism. Consider these quotes of Pascal:
"There is sufficient light for those who desire to see, and there is sufficient darkness for those of a contrary disposition." (Pensees 149)
"... it is not true that everything reveals God, and it is not true that everything conceals God. But it is true at once that he hides from those who tempt Him and that He reveals Himself to those who seek Him." (Pensees 444)
"Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true." (Pensees 187)
"Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only." (Pensees 253)
Judging from the quotes above, it's safe to say that Pascal was not advocating a complete fideism, but was proposing that even the best evidence can be doubted, because there is no such thing as an innocent, neutral, and unfallen intellect. Its also notable that in his "Pensees" Pasal appealed to history, the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, miracles, psychological observances, moral law, and the explanatory cogency of Christianity on many levels.
To take his "wager" in isolation from these observances is to misjudge the intentions of Pascal, who was jousting with the extremes of empiricism and rationalism of his day. To say what you said of Pascal would be making a mistake of extremes; a mistake on the same level as that of assuming his Wager means that saving faith amounts to nothing more than self preservation. His writings, as a whole, don't support either of those mistakes.