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The Contender
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Pascals Wager is not a logic fallacy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/15/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,820 times Debate No: 23620
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)




Pascals wager in short for this debate can be summarized as:

  1. "God is, or He is not"
  2. A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. (It's not optional.)
  5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  6. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (...) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

and a link to it can be found here and here

I will be argueing Pro that the wager is not a logical fallicy, and my opponent will be arguing that it is a logic fallacy.

First Round is for accaptance only, the character limit has been set to 6,000 largely to force myself to challenge myself to say what needs said with limited space. I have set restrictions on who can accapt and understand that theres a little less than 2 pages of people on this site who qualify (ranked as high or higher than me) so if you really want this debate and dont qualify say so in the comment section and I will consider dropping it for you. I put the restriction just to block troll accounts that accapt debates and dont finish them. If when I look at your past debates and see that for the most part you dont forfiet then I will likely give this debate challenge to you.



I accept! Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Awesome, a skilled opponent actually took my debate. And one who I know from mafia games we have played is a very logical thinker and I very much respect your ability to use reason Drafter. I look forward to this debate.

From my experience on this site Pascals Wager is often the most mocked by atheist as a stupid argument from theist. But it most often refuted in such a way that shows a lack of understanding in exactly what the wager is supposed to show. Example “well the problem with Pascals wager is it does not prove god exist”

Its not supposed to. The argument is one of what the most pragmatic rational choice is in face of choosing between 2 unkowns. In my experience most all atheist at the very least admit that God ‘could’ exist although it cannot be proven either way with 100% certainty; that God exist or that God does not exist. Pascals Wager starts from this point. We already kind of agree that I cant prove God exist to you and you cant prove the opposite.

But one of us is right, either God exist, or he does not. With one of those possible truths, there are consequences to our choices in actions and beliefs. With the other there are no consequences in regards to the way we live and believe.

To put it in gambling terms the way Pascal would like it, say a lotto ticket at the gas station cost $1. The odds of winning are 1 in 5 tickets of getting your dollar back. The odds are 1 in 84,000 in getting $888. All in all not really worth the trade is it? 4/5 chances you lose a buck and VERY bad chances at getting real money back.

But what if even all the losing tickets gave you a dollar back? And the top prize winner gives you back infinite money? No matter what the odds are on that winner ticket (they could be 5 times worth than the megamillion & powerball tickets) you would still be a fool not to chance buying a ticket. Even more a fool if you know you might have to pay up a few bucks just to leave without getting a ticket.

No matter what probability you put on the existence of God being true, when you weigh that against the infinite gain of eternal life…in heaven, and you take into account that this cost practically nothing that you don’t lose anyway (even if there is not god your going to die aren’t you no matter how you live your life).

Now if you feel there is 100% proof there is no God then Pascals Wager cannot apply and does not give you reason too live as if there is a God. This argument purely applies to those who admit they don’t think they can prove God does not exist or that he does. From those 2 unknowns, even if its your position that the unknown that God exist is very unlikely and the unknown that he does not is very likely, there is potential infinite gain in believing he exist, and maximum loss for being wrong about his existing is ….well there no loss.

Pacals Wager is a pragmatic decision in dealing with outcomes that you don’t know for sure whether you will get. And it’s a logical one.




Let us examine Pascal's wager:

"1. God is, or He is not"

This is a simple case of the Law of the Excluded middle[1]. However, even this simple statement raises questions regarding semantics, especially with the term "God."

In the sense of Pascal's original intention, the "God" being referenced here is a specific god; the Christian God[2]. However, some may argue more generally and extrapolate Pascal's wager to pertain to any god. In the interest of thoroughness, I shall demonstrate that both interpretations lead to logically fallacies.

Prior to evaluating each of these two cases, I shall post a few more lines of the argument, for simplicity:

"2. A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
4. You must wager. (It's not optional.)"

Each of these is a premise in its own right, which I accept without further comment.

Case 1: The Christian God

Since this is the most common and likely interpretation, I will address this one first. In this sense, the "God is, or He is not" becomes, "The Christian God is, or He is not." It is still a valid statement, adhering to the Law of the Excluded middle. However, in practice, Pascal's wager is often levied against atheism. Such implementations of the Wager invoke the fallacy of the false dilemma[3].

There are many options between Christianity and atheism. By way of example (but not limitation), we have: Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Egyptian mythology, Norse mythology, Native American religion, and a whole host of others. Given the interpretation that "God" in the wager is the "Christian God." then "He is not" encompasses, not just atheism, but all non-Christian religious beliefs as well.

To see the repercussions of this, we will continue through the rest of the argument:

"5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing."

Here we can see the implicit treatment of "He is not" as referring only to atheism. Indeed, if we believe in the Christian God and are right, we gain all. If we are wrong, we lose nothing. (I will note that we do, in fact, lose something: the effort required to bring us to believe in God and the requirements in living in accordance with that believe, which the argument will subsequently acknowledge as a "finite stake." This is, however, immaterial to my argument.) As we have demonstrated, reducing the choice to Christianity or atheism is a false dilemma. But what if we interpret it as including all non-Christian religions?

When we do this, we eliminate the false dilemma, but render the inference "if you lose, you lose nothing" false. If, for example, the Muslim God is the true God, yet we wagered on the Christian God, we stand to lose a great deal, perhaps infinitely so (eternal punishment).

In summary of this case: treatment of "he is not" as only atheism invokes the fallacy of the false dilemma, while treatment of "he is not" as all non-Christian philosophies invalidates the statement that losing in a wager for the Christian God risks nothing.

Case 2: Any god

In this interpretation "God is" refers to any possible god. As such, "He is not" necessarily refers to the atheistic position. This allows us to treat it as such without invoking a false dilemma.

Similar problems regarding the rewards and loss arise here as well. Truly, if we wager in a god and lose, we lose nothing, and this inference holds in this case. However, we no longer have a guarantee of an infinite reward against which to weigh it. We may believe in a god (either specifically or generally) but any reward depends on which kind of god actually exists and which god we ended up believing in. As stated, belief in one god when another god actually exists could end in punishment, rather than reward. There is no guarantee, or even a reasonable expectation of reward, should we wager that God is and win.

In summary of this case: treatment of "God is" as any god eliminates the potential for a false dilemma, but invalidates the statement that winning the wager necessarily results in infinite reward.


In my argument, I have employed the tactic of Case Analysis[4] to demonstrate that all interpretations of the argument lead to some fallacy. Thus, one cannot employ Pascal's wager without invoking one of the aforementioned fallacies, making logical fallacy inherent in the argument itself.

[2] "Pascal formulated the wager within a Christian framework,"

Debate Round No. 2


I will be rebutting from an interpretation of Pascals Wager that fits Case #2 “God is” is any god(s).

Infinite reward still holds:

Before dipping too specific into the potential reward or punishment different faiths, I think you showed that you agree they can range from Infinite Bad to infinite good. Weighing the sum of either still gives you a wager on “God is” having consequences that are potentially infinite in value against “God isn’t” where the only way to look at it is a very finite if anything loss.

The wager still basically works out to were it makes no difference if your wrong about ‘God is’ but it makes all the world of difference if you wrong on wagering “God is not”. So while your actions and beliefs that you should pursue are made more complicated by considering all religions with any God, Any one of the faiths in a God stack up in a very similar fashion against there being no God.

Further use of Game and Decision Theory with adding other faiths to the mix:

When considering the further possible Gods if you consider there to be no reliable source of data to narrow down which is true with 100% accuracy you can actually further apply the principal behind Pascals Wager to those faiths. To be quick on the point for character space sake I will jump to using the Christian God against all other plausible Gods.

1) Non-Christian Gods provide no answer to the problem of Sin
2) The Christian God is the only to provide a solution to the problem of Sin
3) Wager on Non-Christian God, Get eternal punishment to finite punishment for your sins if your right, and punishment if your wrong
4) Wager on Christian God, feasible Sin solution available, gain infinite if right. Lose infinite if wrong

In other words, do to the fact that your actions cant live up to what your faith will require as a Muslim you will suffer regardless right or wrong. And the same case can be made for most other faiths too as there are none with a sin solution. If you want to get into those specifics that’s a debate for another time though.

There is no significant loss with wagering against atheism and losing:

You suggested last round that there is a loss in wagering there is a god of some kind should there in fact be no god. Granted even you confessed it can ultimately be considered finite loss so it’s immaterial to the logic behind Pascal’s Wager. But consider my situation as a Christian focusing on this debate for a moment. If I’m wrong, then I just live a finite life in the state of joy most born-again Christians will tell you came with being closer to Jesus. I am motivated to do good charitable things because its what Jesus taught but I don’t stress out over the need to do them as my salvation does not rely on my works.

Fact is I have only gained from trying to live a Christian life, and loosed nothing even if it turns out none of its true. I am freer from the addictive sinful things that enslaved me before I had Christ, I pursue my passions and dreams like there potentially a God given purpose. A child in Africa named Patrick eats because I give to food for the hungry. And well I could just go on, but basically there’s not an aspect of my life directly caused by my Christian faith that seems to be negative, there are only positives for both myself and others.


Since my opponent has clarified that we will specifically be talking about Case #2, where "God" is "any god," I will expand on the rebutal for that case alone.

To reiterate:

"5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing."

If "God" is "any God" then the inference referenced here is not longer justified.

"If you gain, you gain all."

Since "God" is "any God" it is unjustified to assume that the god believed in grants infinite reward if believed in. Certainly this is the case for the Christian God (among others) but we are not limiting ourselves to that. There are many Gods who are indifferent toward their believers. What does Loki care of those who believe in him? Furthermore, there are Gods, such as Cthulu, who are not only indifferent, but explicitly antagonitistic towards all, regardless of belief.

Once you open the gates to all Gods, you can no longer assume that you gain if the wager is correct, nor can you assume that the gain is necessarily infinite in magnitude.

"If you lose, you lose nothing."

The flip side is true. Even if you believe in a God, you may still lose the wager if you believe in the wrong God, and risk eternal punishment. This completely turns the wager on its head. One believes in a God, wagering that "God is" and can not only be correct, but still lose, and lose infinitely so, all for chosing the wrong god.

Game Theory

Let us analyze this from this field.

"Wager that God is"

Since God is "any god" of which there are infinite possibilities, for each God that would reward believing in it we can conceive of a God that punishes for believing in it. The net result, then, is zero reward or punishment.

"Wager that God is not"

Again, since there can be any god, we can conceive if an infinite number of gods that reward not believing in it as well as punish for not believing in it. The net result, then, is zero reward or punishment.


By expanding the scope to any god, I have shown that neither wagering that God is nor wagering that God is not have any expected reward or punishment, demonstrating a premise of the wager to be unequivocally false, and rendering the wager itself as objectively pointless.
Debate Round No. 3



If any would like to challenge to me on this resolution in the future PM me and I will consider it. I’m not forfeiting this debate, but it seems like I suggest is the case with the consequences of atheism if its true whether you believe it or not, my arguments will be acknowledge with the same degree, whether they are made or not.

I could put my heart and soul into trying to rearticulate my previous arguments better but ……just don’t see the point



I am sincerely sorry that my opponent has given up. But either I have failed in communicating my point or my opponent simply choose not to address it.

Issues of sin or deciding which got to believe in (in the sense of Case #2) are out of scope of the argument being discussed. While my opponent's reasoning in this area may be sound, the fact is, he must alter the argument at hand in order to reach that point. Doing so is basically an implicit admission that the argument, as-is, is insufficient.

Other than that, I'm not sure what I can say, other than to reiterate and clarify my points.

Pascal's wager, as originally formulated, fallse into the fallacy of the false dilemma, as it pits Christianity against atheism, ignoring all other faiths.

If we interpret the arugment in such a way to eliminate the false dilemma (either theism vs. atheism, or Christianity vs. Non-Christianity) then the reward vs. loss component of the argument ceases to be valid.

Wagering that God is no longer results in infinite gain vs. no loss as the god that ends up actually existing may not grant an infinite reward or may, in fact, punish me, and infinitely so. Consider:

"5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing."

But, if I wager that, Zeus is, and I gain, what do I gain? Not eternal bliss as promised by the Christian god. Maybe some sort of neat artifact, some sort of demi-god power, luck in battle?

If I wager that, Cthulu is, and I lose (even by being right!) I go insane, along with the rest of humanity.

By incorporating all gods, all gods that have been conceived, all gods that are conceivable, cost-benefit analysis of the wager gets thrown right out the window. There is, literally, no basis for Pascal's assessment in this situation.

Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by drafterman 6 years ago
Sorry Marauder, but I made the decision to stick to what I felt was relevant. Your points really didn't address the substance of my rebuttals either.
Posted by royalpaladin 6 years ago
Marauder, your "problem of sin" argument is WAY off. Most religions deal with sin . . .
Posted by Marauder 6 years ago
well then actually say you find sins outside the scope of the wager in the debate when you think the argument from me is a fail. not saying anything is about as good as just dropping the point.

I'm fine with people expanding upon there original arguments but common, prioritize a little. expansions have got to come second to rebutting existing unaddressed opposing arguments.

"but those arguments weren't good enough"
of course, if you thought they were, then I would have succeeded at changing your mind. that doesn't mean you should just ignore them. that off my chest. I'm going to work to on the final round now.
Posted by drafterman 6 years ago
It's an expansion of my original points. I'm sorry if I'm not making my argument clear, but it dont see how you refuted my points and, frankly, issues of sin are out of scope of the wager. The point is, Pascals infinite gain vs. no loss judgement is false.
Posted by Marauder 6 years ago
what the heck is up with your round 3? you gave multiple headings for basically arguing the same point and none of them show remote context with my particular defense I gave.

I know your smart, did I fail to articulate my case or something and your just being polite by not asking me to clarify my meaning and just debating your take on Pascals Wager in general?

I dont want to make my last case before you answer this as i will just feel like I'm talking past you this debate considering its starting to feel like your just talking past me.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con showed that employing the wager either draws upon fallacy or collapses all arguments into irrelevance. Pro seems to acknowledge this in his final round.
Vote Placed by Stephen_Hawkins 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I personally did not believe it was a logical fallacy before, but drafter highlighted what fallacy it contains. Marauders case basically revolved around the specific God which, as drafterman shown, was a false dilemma. Marauder then stated God was more likely because of factors X, Y and Z. This gets in the way of Pascal's wager further, rather than addressing the contentions, I felt. In short, CON demostrated the logical fallacy well, PRO did not defend it well enough.