The atheist's wager

By atheist wager

I have been an atheist since I was twelve years old. Most of my friends are atheists too, so sometimes I forget that most people have a belief in God. I’m not much for political correctness and rarely censor myself, but I don’t go around provoking religious people. There is very little to be gained by arguing with those who have faith. Their beliefs cannot be proven and they are not going to believe me regardless of my arguments against faith. I don’t usually have the time and energy for a senseless disagreement where neither side gains anything but annoyance with each other.

On a beautiful summer day, I found myself at a party talking to a friend. I had mentioned how some Mormon missionaries were out in my neighborhood and said something about wanting to convert “them”. At this point, a girl who had been eavesdropping turned to me and asked, “But what would you offer them?”

“I don’t have anything to offer. Maybe some more free time on Sunday.”

To which she replied, “I would prefer hope and salvation over a few hours back.”

I removed myself from the situation, it wasn’t my party and I didn’t want to cause a scene. The debate we would have had comes down to Pascal’s Wager. To sum it up, Monsieur Pascal theorized that belief in God was rational based on game theory and probabilistic outcomes.

To Pascal, there were two choices – believe in Christianity (I’ll address this later) or not. Along with these two choices are two possible outcomes – go to heaven or don’t.

Pascal's Wager
Go to heavenExtremely good outcomeVery bad outcome
Don't go to heavenHarmless outcomeNot a benefit

As we can see, an atheist can’t go to heaven (or at least according to Christianity, heaven is gained by faith not works). The two possible outcomes for our atheist is God is really and won’t allow the atheist into heaven or God is not real and our atheist doesn’t go to heaven because heaven doesn’t exist. Either outcome for the atheist results in a losing proposition.

For a Christian, their faith is justified in the next life and they get to go to heaven which would be an extremely good outcome, or their belief was wrong and there is no God and no heaven in which case they are no worse off than the atheist. Even if we assign a very small probability of God existing, the benefit is so great, Mr. Pascal would have you believe, that the only rationale choice here is to be a good Christian. Since this is the only way to heaven and the reward is so great, a rational person would have to be a Christian. Who wouldn’t want a little “heaven insurance” at the cost of a few prayers and a few hours in church? You’d have to be crazy not to, right?

Hey, thanks Blaise, but your little game theory diagram is woefully simplified. The problem isn’t choosing between Christianity and atheism. How amazingly Eurocentric of you to lay these out as your only two possibilities. In Western cultures, the choice comes down to the big three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim. Even within these faiths there are Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, and Orthodox Jews. Muslims have the Sunni and Shiite denominations. Christians? There are Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, etc.

That’s just the Western World. The Eastern World has Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and that’s just to name a few. The choice isn’t so easy between Christianity and atheism, is it?

Now ask oneself why one has chosen their faith? The most likely reason is because it was the faith inherited by their parents. They have been indoctrinated into the faith at an early age before rational thinking has been established. In the theists basic desire to be perceived as good, they absorb their religion and cling to it as true. Still, one could ask what harm does religion do? For starters, it divides humanity rather than unites, see the following list of just a few of the atrocities done in God’s name:


  • Detailed genocide against rival tribes throughout the Old Testament

Christians against Jews

  • Spanish Inquisition
  • Crusades
  • Holocaust

Christians against Muslims

  • Crusades
  • Bosnia

Muslims against Christians

  • Crusades

Shiite against Sunni

  • Iraq

Protestant against Catholic

  • Northern Ireland

It is without exaggeration to say that millions of people have died because they have different unproved religious beliefs inherited from their parents along tribal lines. Now imagine that Earth was invaded by an alien force with superior technology. Imagine, if you will, that humans were kept in cages and forced to fight each other to the death for the amusement of the aliens. Would you kill your fellow man and hope to gain favor with the aliens or would you resist by any means necessary and strive to regain human dignity? Which is the more moral option?

I propose as my answer to Pascal’s wager, two choices and two outcomes. The choices come down to theism (of any religion, not just Christianity) vs. atheism. The outcomes include going to heaven or not going to heaven.

Atheist's Wager
HeavenInherit the “correct” beliefs from parents and go to heaven at the expense of every human who inherited the “wrong” beliefsStand up to a corrupt God and demand dignity for the entire human race beyond my tribe
No God/No HeavenWorship a non-existent deity and not be rewarded in the afterlifeConcentrate on this life and focus on the issues that matter

If God only rewards those who follow the “correct” faith and faith is inherited from one’s parents, then the God who refuses to prove his existence is playing favorites over his creation based on tribal lines pitting groups of humans against each other just like our aliens. If, by chance and chance alone, one is born into the right religion and curries favor with God Almighty, then this person is actively collaborating with the enemy of humanity. The atheist may find himself in hell for his disbelief, but at least he is not a traitor. Until God accepts that religion is His responsibility and can provide some real proof and guidance as to His plan, He is completely unworthy of our worship. To continue to worship a deity that arbitrarily divides us as a species, rewards a chosen few for their faith in which there is no evidence, and has deliberately chosen not to intervene when His name is used inappropriately is no different from collaborating with the alien cage fighters. By dividing humanity amongst different sects with conflicting ideology and allowing war in His name, God is evil. To worship a deity like this is to commit an act of treason. Unless God proves his existence and changes the outcomes, we as a race owe it to ourselves to not worship Him.

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