Merridith Frediani applies Pascal's Wager to a modern moral debate.
Pascal’s Wager posits two axioms and four potential outcomes based on which possibility one chooses to believe and which possibility is true.
Axiom #1: God exists.
Axiom #2: God does not exist.
Outcome #1: if you believe God exists and He does, there is the possibility of heaven and everlasting happiness after death.
Outcome #2: If you believe God exists and He doesn’t, it’s irrelevant because there is nothing after death.
Outcome #3: If you believe God does not exist but He in fact does, there is hell and everlasting suffering after death.
Outcome #4: If you believe God does not exist and you’re right, again, irrelevant because there is nothing after death.
Pascal’s wager is that it is safest to believe in God because not believing carries a much worse worst-case scenario than believing. It makes good logical sense.
Let’s take it one step further. Suppose you believe in God and He exists. As stated earlier, there is a possibility of heaven. If you don’t believe in God and He exists, Outcome #3, eternal damnation, is your lot. That’s a worst-case scenario of the greatest kind. So, in there being a God that exists, there are two possible post death possibilities: heaven or hell. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, says that to go to hell one must willfully turn from God (1037).
We can extend the wager as such. There are two post-death possibilities.
1. Heaven: eternal communion with God
2. Hell: eternal separation from God
God doesn’t force us to believe in Him, love Him, or follow His teachings. We, through the gift of free will, and with His grace, choose to know, love, and serve Him.
I make a choice—I believe in God and I know He exists. The next choice is: will I follow God’s laws? This is where it can get challenging. God is pretty clear on a few things that, these days, our culture wildly disagrees with.
One is the Fifth Commandment: thou shalt not kill. It’s hard to be more specific than that. Don’t kill. Yet every year, according to the CDC, more than 600,000 people are killed through abortion. In other words, 600,000 people have chosen to ignore this Commandment: don’t kill and countless others have participated alongside by either performing the abortion, assisting in it, encouraging it, voting for it, or promoting it via social media. What’s also alarming is how many of those people profess to believe in God.
According to a Pew Research Center study, close to half of the Catholics surveyed believe abortion should be legal in all/most cases. Other religions who also follow the 10 Commandments are similar. Evangelical Protestants are lowest at 33% while mainline Protestants are at 60%. 83% of Jews believe abortion should be legal in all/most cases.
Back to our choices. It’s a safe assumption that someone who is Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish believes in God has been instructed in the Ten Commandments.
We know that because God exists, there are two post-death possibilities: heaven and hell. We know we can attain heaven through our belief in God and following His Commandments. We know he commands us to not kill. We know that abortion kills a person. Where does this logically lead?
I am not willing to say that anyone who has an abortion or participates in, encourages, or promotes abortion is going to hell. That is not my decision or place to say. I will say it’s a wager one is making in believing in God and going against His command.
What I know is that God is merciful and forgiving. His mercy knows no bounds and He doesn’t tire of forgiving us. That’s good news for anyone who struggles with one of his Commandments. We can go to our loving Father with a contrite heart and the resolution to not sin again and be forgiven, to have that sin wiped from the record.
Amen and alleluia.
Copyright 2022 Merridith Frediani
About the Author
Merridith Frediani loves words and is delighted by good sentences. She also loves Lake Michigan, dahlias, the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, millennials, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. Merridith writes for Catholic Mom, Diocesan.com, and her local Catholic Herald. Her first book, Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Adoration, is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. You can read more at MerridithFrediani.com.