Posted in Philosophy

Pascal’s Wager

In the 17th century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal made the following argument for believing in a god:

  1. There is a god or there is not.
  2. You can choose to believe in a god or not (the wager).
  3. If there is a god, you will be rewarded eternally in the afterlife for your faith, but be punished eternally if you do not believe.
  4. If there is no god, you lose a finite amount of your time and maybe some material wealth for believing in a god.
  5. Ergo: As the rewards and punishments that follow in the case of god existing is infinite, it is better to bet that there is a god, no matter how infinitesimal the odds may be.

Pascal’s wager does not deal with the possibility of whether gods exist or not; that is irrelevant to the wager. He merely suggests that the odds suggest that you should believe. But is this really the case?

To begin with, what Pascal promotes through this wager is not true belief or faith, but a rational choice to believe – something that is not really possible. Believing is not a product of reasoning but more of an alternative. Furthermore, if there really is an omniscient god, would he not easily see the impure motives behind your “faith”?

Secondly, how do we know that the god you believe in is the true god? There have been thousands and thousands of religions throughout history. Who is to say that the deity that you will face in the afterlife will not be Hades, Odin or Yama? If that is the case, then you will have lined up behind the wrong god and you will be punished for your “idol worship”. This argument nullifies the mathematical advantage of infinite rewards that Pascal suggests.

Lastly, one cannot rule out the possibility should a god exist, there is no way of knowing whether that god is benevolent or malevolent. Pascal’s wager only deals with the two possibilities of a benevolent god and the absence of god, but if a malevolent, wrathful god exists, then what is the gain from worshipping him? When you kill an insect, do you judge whether that insect has faith in you then reward or punish it accordingly? It is likely that in this scenario, worshipping such a god will be a waste of time and you will be relatively better off not believing in god.

In 1990, an American philosopher named Michael Martin presented a counter-wager to Pascal’s wager – the so-called atheist’s wager. He argued that if a benevolent god existed, then he should reward good deeds regardless of your faith. If a god does not exist, then your good deeds will leave a good legacy and the world will (hopefully) be a slightly better place to live in after you pass away.

Ergo, the wager we should be making is not whether a god exists or not, but that we should be good.

(If you are interested in this, you should read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, he explains this very elegantly)

Posted in History & Literature

Flash Fiction

A short story of very small word count is known as a flash fiction. However, most flash fictions are between 300 and 1000 words. There are shorter examples such as nanofictions, which are flash fictions exactly 55 words long. But due to the criteria that a story must have a beginning, middle, ending, protagonist etcetera, it is quite difficult to write a story any shorter than that.

Ernest Hemingway once made a bet with a friend that he could write a short story which would have just six words. Of course, Hemingway being Hemingway, he easily completed the challenge. Like any other story, Hemingway’s short story had a beginning, middle and an end. It had a protagonist, a conflict and a resolution. Even within such a small word count, he filled the story with a variety of themes such as hope, joy, tragedy and agony. However, as so much content has been compressed to the extreme, the story may take a few reads to completely understand it. Hemingway’s story is as follows:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Posted in Life & Happiness

Slap Bet

If you ever have a disagreement with a friend and would like to bet over who is right, make the ultimate wager: the slap bet. Basically, whoever is right gets to slap the other person in the face as hard as they possibly can. On the surface it appears to be simple and harmless. But in reality, it is a deadly and formidable wager. For example, if one ever makes the unfortunate mistake of making a slap bet with the condition that the slap can occur at any place at any time, then they must live in fear of a slap appearing out of the blue and leaving a glowing, red and rather painful hand print on your face.

Being such a pricey bet, it is always useful to appoint a Slap Bet Commissioner. The Commissioner is responsible for resolving any problems that may arise regarding the bet, such as making a ruling. They must remain completely unbiased and hold the integrity of the slap bet above all else. They must also enforce the sacred rules of the slap bet, such as no premature slapulation. If the rules are disobeyed, the Commissioner has the power to endow one player the right to slap the other player (with completely subjective judgement of how many slaps they can get).

The slap bet is also highly customisable, where the players can settle on the number of slaps and the manner in which they will be delivered. Will the loser receive ten slaps in a row? Or will they get five slaps that can occur from the moment they lose to infinity?

A slap bet is the ultimate bet that is so satisfying and cathartic for the winner, but for the loser it is… well, let’s just say it is a real slap in the face.