Attached is a short dialogue on the question of whether it is a good gamble to bet on God's existence, exploring some of Blaise Pascal's thoughts on the issue. This appeared in the journal Think (issue 7, Summer 2004), and also in the British Humanist Association's Thinking About Death (London: BHA, 2004) edited by Peter Cave and Brendan Larvor.
Here is the first page or so:
Imagine you are on your death bed, You have been an agnostic all your adult life, but are now aware that you have at best a few hours to live. You still believe that there is a small chance that the Christian God exists, that is why you never felt able to embrace atheism and declare that there is no God. But you are not convinced that there is a God. In fact on balance you believe there is no God, no heaven, no hell, and that within a few hours you will simply cease to exist forever, except in other people’s memories and by the other traces you have left behind you. At this moment, a friend who has read Blaise Pascal’s Pensées comes in and tries to persuade you to embrace a belief in God.
You: I really think this is it. I have to be honest with you, I don’t think I’ll last much longer.
She: Don’t speak like that, you could still recover.
You: No. Ive spoken to two doctors now. They only give me a matter of hours. I’m about to slip away to nothing. I can’t say I feel too bad about it. Perhaps it’s the painkillers I’m on, but I feel quite serene. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had quite a good life. Plenty of friends, no serious hardships. …Why are you crying? Don’t cry. Let’s talk about something else. Look out of the window, the crocuses have come out already. It’s not that bad.
She: It might be.
You: What do you mean? Why are you looking so scared?
She: What if you are wrong? What if Hell really exists and you end up there forever?
You: But it probably doesn’t exist, does it. Be realistic It doesn’t seem very likely. You’ve been looking at too many Hieronymous Bosch paintings…Hell is a medieval belief. We’re in the twenty-first century....
[For the whole dialogue, download below]
[12KB rtf] Download gamblers_argument.rtf