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Pascal's Wager: Christianity and an Inherent Flaw

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Blaise Pascal's Wager: An Inherent Flaw

In my December 21st, 2005 blog entry, I explained how Pascal's Wager influenced my otherwise agnostic belief system by providing an intellectual basis for a rational belief in a Christian God (http://thelastbastionofreason.blogspot.com/2005/12/blaise-pascals-wager-proof-of-god.html). It has been a cornerstone of my self-justification for belief in a world where little empirical evidence exists to foster anything beyond sheer faith alone.

Yet in performing a closer examination of Pascal's Wager, I have found what may be a flaw in his logic. Inherent in his wager is the implication - right or otherwise - that Christianity is the only religion that may be utilized on the axis. This assumption undoubtedly arises from having been born and raised in predominantly Christian Europe, his perceptions and assumptions revolving around a Euro-centric idealism otherwise known as ethnocentrism. But are his assumptions correct?

For Pascal, the unquestionable act of placing a Christian God along the axis of his wager was natural, yet in a cosmopolitan contemporary world that recognizes greatness is not just found within the confines of the Greco-Roman era, there exists other concepts and religious deities that can take the place of the Christian God. For instance, if we substitute the Islamic deity "Allah" for God, we suddenly find a wager whose outcome statistically supports the belief in Mohammad, Allah's prophet, as the key to eternal life and happiness. Substitute Brahma, part of the East Indian trinity, and we have eternal life and happiness dependant upon him. Where does it stop?

Utilization of Pascal's Wager to convince an unbeliever of the statistical correctness and ultimate logic of belief in a Christian God is only valid if both parties in the conversation share a fundamental religious and cultural background. For example, if a Christian believer is attempting to convince a non-believer who was raised in a Christian country of the necessity and logic of following Jesus Christ, then the argument would be valid. However, to use the logic of Pascal's Wager to convince, say, a Muslim that he/she should follow Jesus Christ instead of Mohammad is an insufficient argument and invalid for the purpose of conversion; both parties fail to share a common religious denominator critical to making the implied, underlying assumption in Pascal's Wager universal. The Muslim adherent could easily turn the argument around on the Christian proselytizer by attempting to use the latter's own logic against them: "Believe in Allah or you will face eternal damnation and a meaningless life."

Although I have not researched this in depth, undoubtedly many religions purport that one must believe and accept their theology or face damnation as an infidel or unbeliever. How, then, can Pascal's Wager apply when one has a greater awareness of diversity in a world growing closer every day? Is this concept of religious ethnocentrism mutually exclusive with religious tolerance and multiculturalism?

For instance, does Pascal's Wager also imply that if one holds devoutly to a non-Christian religious tradition they too shall live a life of unfulfillment and eventual damnation? If yes, then I see we are indeed at a Christian fundamentalist impasse, where the only way "to the Father" is through one faith and the same spirit (excuse the pun) that drove "manifest destiny" to enslave Africans and to commit genocidal war on the Native Americans is alive and well in the West. If no, then Pascal's Wager is deemed all but null and void, for if one can trust in any faith, in any God, then what does it matter if that God is Christian or otherwise?

So are these my options: Euro-centric Christianity or a religious potpourri? The choices are startlingly devoid of intellectual comfort.

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