And as one reader noted last year, the idea is that "It is better to believe in God and find out that he doesn't exist, than to not believe and find out he does." That is not a direct quote from Pascal, but it is the best summation of his famous Wager that I have heard, to date.
I'm not a fan of the Wager, personally, for a number of reasons, one of which is that citing the options of polar opposites (belief and unbelief) is not a reasonable premise for me to choose either of those polarities. I already know as much.
On top of that, however, I question the relevance of determining whether this-or-that thing is 'better' than another without having any real content to demonstrate such a claim. For example, simply stating that cheese is better than non-cheese tells me nothing about cheese that I should consider it 'better'. Similarly, telling me belief is better than unbelief tells me nothing about the content of 'belief' or 'unbelief' that I would consider one or the other 'better'.
As a conclusion to a well defined argument, the Wager can have its place. Still, Pascal's Wager is wholly dependent on having a rational, well-placed argument to render any meaning or purpose to wagering at all. And, incidentally, Pascal was not attempting an argument when he penned his famous wager, nor did he consider his Wager to be a sufficient premise to bring about salvific understanding. Pascal simply intended the Wager as an observation of the fact that people ultimately make choices; and the existence of God is just another choice about which someone can be right or wrong. Thus it is a wager, and not an apologetic.
Unfortunately, the Wager has been used as an apologetic in and of itself to coerce people into making a decision for or against Christ. Sadly, the few times I've seen this tactic used one of two results occur:
- The person feels anxious and afraid that they may choose wrong and suffer some terrible consequence -- hell, or some other uncertainty about death and after-death.
- The person becomes riled and considers Christians to be a batch of noisy idiots.