The Limits of Religion

But his attempt to scientifically ‘prove’ why one should have faith was, and remains, remarkably original. Pascal's idea – which is probably history's first really elaborate theoretical calculation – was that the benefits one gets by living in a godly way (that after death one will be rewarded with eternal residence in paradise) far outweigh the benefits of a worldly life, ignoring Christianity's precepts. Mathematically, the argument can be boiled down to a formula that says however small the probability may be for God's existence, the result will still be the same, namely infinite, when you multiply this probability with the infinite value of an afterlife in paradise.

One can imagine Pascal’s actor standing in an empty field after death; will he or she go to heaven or will nothing happen? In the latter case, there is hardly much to fret about. The task was still relatively small in relation to the extremely high benefit ...

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