Pascal’s Wager


Chance Howard

The decline in Religion across each recent generation

Suppose you were flipping a coin. A person will pay you two dollars every time you flip the coin, and you can predict that the coin will land heads or tails. If you wager it will land on heads, and the coin lands on heads, you win three more dollars. You win no money by wagering tails. Naturally, you would bet on heads every time. You would be crazy not to. But many people find themselves ‘wagering tails’ regarding religion.

Psalm 14:1 (ESV) states, “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God ”. This scripture can be interpreted that not believing in God would be foolish, making the atheist a fool. French mathematician Blaise Pascal developed an argument from ‘Superdominance’ for why an individual should be inclined to believe in God. The term superdominance means that believing in God trumps not believing in every situation. Pascal makes the wager that in every situation a human being finds himself in, it is better to be a theist (someone with faith in God) rather than an atheist(someone with no faith in God).

This chart expresses Pascal’s Wager visually. The person with faith in God will either go to Heaven or nothing will happen. However, the Atheist with no faith will (in their best-case scenario) die, and nothing will happen, or they will go to hell.

In a generation with almost infinite access to knowledge and technology, we lack basic wisdom in our daily lives. Generation Z is the least religious generation, with 55% of Gen Z not being affiliated with any religion. But why is this the case?

Joey Hester, A sophomore at Lafayette, believes they have the answer. “In an age of social media, we don’t find a necessity to be closely intertwined with our community, which is what drew people together for faith. We have more stability in life, so we don’t seek out something that would provide us with more stability”. In relation to the argument of superdominance that Blaise Pascal makes, they said, “I don’t think it’s fully invalid, but in a way, I do. I don’t think that God would punish someone just because they’re an atheist as long as they don’t go around denouncing people’s religion. Unless the atheist is doing bad deeds that would send anyone to hell, I don’t think that God would punish anyone in that manner because who is he to tell anyone, ‘screw you for not believing in me’, even if they were a good person and used their life in the way of good. Just because they didn’t believe in God doesn’t make them a bad person, and automatically makes them go to hell. I think what matters more is what you use your life to do, rather than your religious beliefs.”

While 54% is a disheartening number, 46% of Gen Z is still religious (Protestant, Catholic, other world religions). Many young people have a stronger faith than their parents, and with a resurgence of Roman Catholicism (and the Latin mass) and reformed Protestantism (Calvinism/ double predestination) in America, it is possible that as the years go on, 54% of Gen Z may change their minds.

Jackson Kennedy (sophomore) was raised in the church and keeps his faith still.
“I’ve always been a Christian, my parents are Christian and I was raised that way. Whenever I would have bad anxiety or things like that, God was always a constant there.”
He thinks that Pascal makes a good argument regarding the belief in God through superdomance. “ Yes, I feel like Pascal makes sense here. If you believe in God and you happen to be wrong, nothing ultimately happens.”

Sharing a similar view with Joey, Jackson also believes that technology has played a part in weakening religion. “I think that the over-usage of social media to the point where it controls all of your views has gotten stronger, especially recently”.

Eternity shouldn’t be something you gamble on, but if someone had to, they would bet that God exists every time. In every possible situation, you gain more from faith in God than you would have if you never believed. So stop ‘wagering tails’ (to stick with the coin metaphor) in regards to your religion. As you lay your head on your pillow tonight, contemplate this argument for the existence of God. If you lack belief, consider what outside factors could influence this decision. If you believe already, take it as another reason for your faith. The existence of God is brutally important to every human being, truly a matter of life and death.