Objection to Pascal's Wager (I don't see this argument being made)


I've always felt the following is the most direct obvious objection to Pascal's wager, yet I see no philosophers making it. I'm curious why.

Taken from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager

"Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing"

Why would this be true? We could live in a reality where belief in god leads to eternal suffering... Why is this reality less likely than the theist conception?

My confusion is that I see a lot of jumping through hoops to beat Pascal's wager, when this to me seems the obvious direct one.

I can start an arbitrary religion that states any belief in a god leads to eternal suffering... So don't believe in god, and lose nothing... believe in god and lose everything. Why is the religion I just invented less likely to be true than others? So according to my reasoning, lack of belief in god is the safer bet.

Ameet Sharma

Posted 2020-11-30T15:47:01.547

Reputation: 1 354

Because it follows from the conception of God Pascal has in mind that wagering on him leads to eternal bliss by definition. – Conifold – 2020-11-30T20:29:23.393

Yes, infinite bliss if Pascal's god exists... infinite hell if my conception is true. So what reason do I have to wager on Pascal's god, when that wager is just as likely to lead me to a hell. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-11-30T20:38:24.653


That would be the many gods objection which is in circulation since Diderot (at least). You do not even need alternative gods to inflict torments for Pascal's payoff matrix to be invalidated (indeed, most people then and now find evil Gods implausible).

– Conifold – 2020-11-30T22:27:12.693


I have seen some sources (such as here) refer to this argument as "Pablo's Wager."

– Sandejo – 2020-12-01T00:24:56.860

@Conifold, right... but I think sticking with 'many gods' is still playing the theist's game so to speak... and isn't revealing the "ridiculousness" of Pascal's wager for what it is. There are an infinite number of possible realities with infinite possible rule sets... an infinite number of them will lead to eternal suffering, an infinite number them will lead to eternal bliss, depending on an infinite number of possible circumstances. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-01T01:17:54.507

2You are right -- the fallacy in Pascal's wager was the assumption of, say, 50/50 chance of the Christian God actually existing. Which wouldn't look too incredible in Pascal's times. With what we know now, the chances of any religion or spiritual belief turning out to be true are close to zero... so betting on them makes no sense whatsoever. – Yuri Alexandrovich – 2020-12-01T03:32:36.243

That being said, we must make a certain leap of faith simply to make a rational system of beliefs possible. That was, actually, the original God, the Ultimate Reality. The leap of faith is (an irrational) belief in a) the one and only objective reality, one that we all share and are a part of. And b) that reality being explainable -- nothing happens at random, but everything can be traced to its cause in the past: "Through [λόγος, the logic and reason] all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made.*" -- John 1:3 – Yuri Alexandrovich – 2020-12-01T03:57:51.930

2The belief in the objective reality (in science, really) is, itself, irrational -- a leap of faith. Making that leap, however, is anything but -- in fact, it is our only rational choice. – Yuri Alexandrovich – 2020-12-01T04:04:23.833

The "are" in "there are an infinite number of possible realities" is equivocal, and the "evil God" form of objection will have the effect opposite to the one you intend. Since even most proponents do not seriously consider it a real possibility, instead of making the objection more potent it makes it dismissable on those grounds. This is a motivational play, only viable possibilities matter, the nebulous sense in which abstract logical possibilities "are" there makes them moot. This is often used as a response to many gods generally. – Conifold – 2020-12-01T10:30:33.263

@Conifold, "Since even most proponents do not seriously consider it a real possibility"... So what? To present a legitimate argument they need to give reasons why their "good god" is a legitimate possibility and the possibility I presented isn't. If they simply ignore the objection, that only means the objection worked, or they can't find a way to defeat it. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-01T10:37:13.480

All arguments have a target audience that accepts some assumptions, there are no arguments from nothing to everybody. Those not sharing the rules are not invited to the games (of raising objections). Pascal's target are people on the fence sympathetic to something like monotheistic God. To them the boiler plate of theistic arguments, or some personal experiences or..., are "legitimate" if not fully persuasive. The wager is aimed at them. – Conifold – 2020-12-01T10:46:39.010

@Conifold, so you're saying proponents realize that Pascal's wager in and of itself is unconvincing without some additional assumptions like sympathies towards the monotheistic god? – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-01T11:06:20.767

1"Itself unconvincing" does not mean much, anything is unconvincing to somebody. Invert the situation. Someone walks up to you on the street and tells you to donate $1000 or suffer eternal torment. You tell them to get lost. Did it work? When an argument or objection is ignored does not mean that it worked, it means that it failed from the start. Objectors try to sway the same audience the argument is aimed at, best defeat is the defeat on proponent's own terms. You wanted to know why the evil God objection is rarely raised, this is why. – Conifold – 2020-12-01T11:26:12.577


Is this, in essence, a duplicate of https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/76902/the-melisandres-wager ? Of course you can start a religion that claims anything, but the claim by revealed religions is that the promises were made by God himself, which you know to be false for your own religion.

– kutschkem – 2020-12-02T07:11:08.280

@kutschkem, ok. But this is irrelevant as to whether my religion accurately describes reality, or other religions. ie: in terms of probabilities, my religion is just as likely to be true as the other. So wagering on the revealed religion does not make sense. It comes down to whether there are good reasons for think the religion accurately describes reality. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-02T09:41:03.297



This is closely related to the common response that belief in the wrong god may result in worse punishment than belief in no god at all. The only difference is that you're considering the possibility of a god who punishes based on the belief in any god, including itself. This possibility isn't necessary, since already it's enough to consider two different possible "jealous gods," who will punish belief in each other more than nonbelief. Moreover, this new type of god isn't posited by existing religion (to my knowledge anyways), and one might even argue that such a god is "meaningfully less plausible" than the merely jealous gods. So this argument lacks the force that the more common argument posesses by virtue staying within the realm of common religious beliefs.

Noah Schweber

Posted 2020-11-30T15:47:01.547

Reputation: 2 210

I guess I'm wondering why this is "meaningfully less plausible". – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-01T00:58:01.200

My thought is... the whole "other gods" idea is still playing the theist's game so to speak. There are an infinite number of "possible" realities, and infinite number of them leading to eternal suffering or eternal bliss depending on the rules of the possible reality. There's no need for other gods. – Ameet Sharma – 2020-12-01T01:12:56.633