by Rudolph Lohse
Blaise Pascal, a prominent French philosopher living in the skeptical age of the 17th century, was the author of the Pensees in which he argued that reason alone could never answer the question of whether God exists or not. Therefore he developed his famous wager concerning the manner in which a person should best conduct his life on earth in order to gain maximum happiness. At the far end of life, Pascal said that a coin is being tossed that will come down heads (God) or tails (no God). So how will you wager, i.e. how will you live your life in view of the uncertainty of that final truth?
Pascal’s Wager answered that central question by essentially claiming that:“It makes more sense to believe in God than not to believe. If you believe, and God exists, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. If you do not believe and He exists, you will be punished for your disbelief. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing either way.”
His wager amounts to hedging your bets. As Pascal says, “I should be much more afraid of not believing in God and then finding out that Christianity is true, than of believing Christianity to be true and finding out that God did not exist.”
We can apply Pascal’s Wager specifically to a person contemplating embracing the moral conduct demanded by the teachings of the orthodox Roman Catholic Church. Although that person believes the evidence for the orthodox Roman Catholic Church and its God is intellectually compelling beyond a reasonable doubt, he may feel that it is not certain. The question therefore arises as to the way in which the person should choose to live his life to gain the maximum benefits. Here are his options and their consequences:
- If his belief in God is true and he follows the teachings of his Church, he will be rewarded with heaven. If he seriously violates Church teachings, he will be punished in hell.
- If his belief proves false, there is no eternity for him to lose, only the fleeting temporal pleasures of this world, which he has not embraced. However, even in this life, he still gains peace, hope, joy – the things that put smiles on the lips of martyrs.
From The Educated Catholic: Forever Catholic by Rudolph Lohse - firstname.lastname@example.org