Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ross' Corollary to Pascal's Wager

Blogger was down again, so this got posted late.

Today on the way to get some lunch the subject of religion came up, and with it the concept of Pascal's Wager. For those unfamiliar with the wager I'll try and quickly summarize it. Assume that there is a non-zero chance that God exists. Now further assume that if God does exist and we do what he says that our reward will be infinite happiness over an infinite time. Once we've established these conditions then any finite "bet" we make is work it if the possible payout is infinite. Of course the bet we make is our life, and actually not merely that, it's the manner in which we live our life, which frankly is not a bad way to live even if there was no God.

There are of course various criticisms of Pascal's Wager, most of which have zero bearing on someone who isn't a "strong atheist". There are also criticisms around it's assumption of a Christian God, but for most people at least in the West this is not a big issue either, in fact once you assume a Christian God the question transforms from whether you should make a bet, into which religion you should place your bet on, and that's where Ross' Corollary comes in. Ross' Corollary to Pascal's Wager goes something like this: "Having chosen to wager you should place your bet with a religion which claims to be 'the only true church'."

My reasoning is as follows. Let's imagine two churches. Church A claims to be the only true church, while Church B claims that anyone who accepts Jesus will be saved. If Church A is correct only those that belong to it will gain the full benefits, but if Church B is correct then both the members of Church A and B will saved. So if A gives you all the benefits of A and B, why would anyone join B? I think it's because in general "type A" churches are significantly more strict than "type B" churches, plus most people have not put the amount of thought into the question that I have. But the moral is that if you've got what it takes then "type A" is your huckleberry.

Unknotting thorny philosophical issues since April 2003


Post a Comment

<< Home