When you look at Environment Canada’s weather forecast it will give you the atmospheric pressure in units of kPa (kilo Pascal).
What does this have to do with the question of God’s existence? This physical unit of pressure was named in honor of the Physicist/Mathematician/Inventor Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).
He obviously was a very intelligent individual and part of his work dealt with the Mathematics of probability.
Pascal was also a Christian Apologetic. By the way to apologize originally does not mean “I am sorry,” but rather to defend.
Pascal formed a very thoughtful and practical argument for faith: The Pascal’s Wager.
In simple words it goes as follows: Either God exists or he does not. It is black or white or like a coin toss, heads or tails.
So what if the atheist is right? Both the atheist and the theist die and the game is over, no difference between them.
What if the theist is right? The atheist with all likelihood will not go to heaven and hopefully the theist who lived out his faith will go to eternal life.
What is the disadvantage for the atheist? It is obvious, he might go to hell.
We don’t really know what hell is but it does not seem to be a pleasant destination.
Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God.
If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc. in his short earthly life), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (eternity in heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in hell).
Of course in our time and place there are far more agnostics (people who don’t care about the issue) than solid, self-convinced atheists.
Where do the agnostics fit into the wager? As far as I know, Pascal did not say much about them.
But common sense tells me that as a thinking member of our species aptly named Homo sapiens (wise human) one should not ignore such a question.
It is like the ignorance of the infamous ostrich who sticks his head in the sand when facing danger. One thing is sure, some might get away with not paying taxes but no one has escaped death.
Unless self-inflicted or accidental most of us will die quite unhealthily. That may sound like a weird statement but again it is true that healthy people don’t just die.
So believing in a pleasant eternal afterlife is a comforting principle when dealing with declining health and facing death – if it is true.
And there we have another reason to investigate the 50/50 issue of make-believe or truth.
That does not sound very uplifting for the new year, but it is the truth and something to think about. I bet (pun intended) that many people would agree.
That fact alone might prompt an interest to investigate the issue a little bit more. Happy New Year and health to all.
John Krisinger, Terrace, B.C.