Examining Pascal's wager and the weird God objection
Pascal's Wager states that it is in our best interest to believe in God. He states that the extremely bad possibility of an eternity in hell outweighs and advantage to not believing. He compares it to gambling, if you believe or not you are taking a gamble. Though we do not have any idea what will happen we can make some guesses based on our choices. His argument claims we have nothing to lose by believing in God. That we should in fact go through the motions as if we did believe and that we would eventually begin to actually believe. Basically we should live our lives as if God exists. It's in our best interest to do so if we don't then we may be looking at an eternity in hell.
Being a Christian myself I can tell you this does not work. Faith is involved in believing in God. It's one thing to say 'oh I believe' and quite another to actually have faith. His argument says that we have a higher expected value from believing, that if we believe in him we gain something wonderful and if God does not exist we lose nothing. (Pascal)
The argument stated in premise and conclusion form is: (Premise 1) To Take the option with the highest expected value is always the rational choice. (Premise 2) To believe in God always has a higher expected value for you than not believing in God does. (Conclusion) Therefore It is always rational to believe in God. (Hare)
The "Strange God Objection" says what if there is this strange God that rewards people who do not believe in his existence. These people go to heaven while those who believe in him wind up in hell. This objection states since we can't rule out the existence of a God who is generous we also can't rule out that this strange God may very well exist.
The "Strange God Objection" actually makes a whole lot of sense when you look at it rationally. This argument uses the same sort of logic as Pascal's argument. It makes Pascal's second premise that Believing in God has a higher expected value than not believing (Hare) sound less than solid. It also makes your expected value for an eternity in heaven become undefined. Truly if there was this strange God that inexplicitly punishes believers by sending them to hell, then there would be no point in believing at all. The "Strange God" objection was in fact well-crafted and it does damage Pascal's argument significantly.
While it is of course possible that there is a 'Strange God" that punishes those who believe in him. It is not very logical. Putting faith aside and looking at this argument and its objections has not been an easy task. In doing so I started wondering why would anyone regardless of how strange they are, punish their followers for doing good or right things? It really makes no sense what so ever, and since we should be looking at this logically it kind of stood out to me. There really would be no point in punishing people who are doing good things. Especially if God in benevolent as most people suppose he is.
There is something that bothers me about this whole argument. I mentioned this a bit above as well. The problem I am having with both the argument and the objections is faith, a person cannot come to know God without faith. It is the single most important feature to a Christian. This may not be true of other religions but with Christianity it is. You must have faith that God exists and truly believe. If you don't it doesn't matter that you claim to believe, or that you live a moral life and do good works. Without faith you go to hell. It's harsh but it's just the way the religion is. Pascal's argument completely over looks this fact. While I understand that he was speaking more generally and not pointing out any religion, I could never accept this argument for the main fact that with my religion it makes no sense. Faith s such an important part of Christianity. In a sense faith makes both the argument and the objection moot. Faith has nothing to do with logic or reason. Belief and knowledge can be attacked by using doubt. Faith is much stronger, if I have faith it does not matter what you say, or what evidence you show me.
In summary Pascal's wager tells us to believe in God, as we lose nothing by doing so. If there is a God we gain an eternity in heaven and if not, we lose nothing. Either way we escape an eternity in hell. The "Strange God" objection to Pascal's argument tells us we can't overlook the possibility of a god who punishes his followers for believing. While this makes some sense it wouldn't be very logical to punish your followers for doing good.
Hare, Caspar. "Pascal's Wager." MIT2400XT313-G0502_00. EdX Course, 2016. video. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jfl25hLeOs>.
Hare, Casper. "Objections: Generous Gods, Weird Gods, Punitive Gods." MIT2400XT313-G0504_100. EdX Course, 16 August 2016. video. 18 September 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0jzeV-YpK8>.
Pascal, Blaise. "Pascal's Wageer." Pansees. 1660. web. August 2016. <https://d37djvu3ytnwxt.cloudfront.net/assets/courseware/v1/646a69ba3bab0c1c52cf4adf3ae6a835/asset-v1:MITx+24.00x+2T2016+type@asset+block/PascalPensees233.pdf>.