Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pascal’s wager explained for Muslims...

(The Rationalizer’s recent interview with the chaps at iERA during their fund raising dawah campaign raised the issue of Pascal’s Wager. After watching  David Mitchell's musings on the topic on QI, a thought occured to me...)

It goes without saying that regular readers of Rational Islam are cultured, educated and intellectually curious individuals and need no explanation of this philosophical piece of whimsy. Nonetheless, as there may be some itinerant visitors who are unfamiliar with Pascal’s proposition, herewith a quick summary:

Given there is no way of knowing whether or not God exists, it is sensible to behave as if He does -since if it turns out it’s all a load of baloney then one has lost nothing, but if He is there, then the rewards are infinite (as are the punishments for disbelief....). In other words, Pascal would say, were he alive today: “Belief in God is a no-brainer, innit.”
It strikes me, as presumably it has struck The Rationalizer and many other critics of Islam, that although Pascal was thinking of Christianity when he came up with his famous wager, it applies even more obviously to belief in Allah nowadays. And here’s why...
Few educated Christians believe anymore in the physical existence of Hell nor in a Heaven which rewards believers with physical delights. Liberal theologians are more comfortable with the woolly notion of separation from God (Hell) and communion with God (Heaven). As the C of E has found, once you stop threatening and bribing the masses, they soon lose interest and your churches empty. Pascal’s wager thus becomes a bit of an irrelevance. BUT for Muslims, the wager makes a great deal of sense, since Islam promises a heaven full of earthly sensual pleasures (lots of booze and big-titted but modest(!) houris) and a hell described in graphic, parental-advisory detail.
The inherent irony, of course, is that whilst Islam forbids gambling, the blunt instruments of an orgiastic Heaven and sickeningly sadistic Hell mean that belief in Allah can be nothing but Pascal’s wager writ large.
Thus endeth today's lesson.

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