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Game Theory: Which Faith Gives the Best Payout?

By Pastor Billy-Reuben, VP of Evangelical Outreach

Pastor Billy-ReubenI'm sure that most of you are familiar with Pascal's wager. It proves that atheism is a gamble not worth taking. If the atheist is right, then when he dies he's just dead, and the Christian doesn't fare any worse for being wrong. If the atheist is wrong, however, then he will pay for it by burning in Hell for eternity while the Christian receives eternal bliss in Heaven.

The situation can be summed up by the following chart, showing the payoffs of the two beliefs compared to the truth or falsehood of those beliefs.

Christianity is True Atheism is True
Christian Heaven (+∞) Dead (0)
Atheist Hell (-∞) Dead (0)

As you can see, the atheist gains nothing by being right, and the Christian loses nothing by being wrong. You would have to be really bad at math to think there is any benefit to atheism.

Last Friday morning I was doing some street preaching in Raleigh just across Hillsborough Street from the NC State campus, and I brought up this topic. An atheist heckler in the crowd shouted at me, "What if the Muslims are right? Then you'll be in Hell with me!"

I said in response, "You don't know what you're talking about, friend. According to Islam, Christians like me are considered 'people of the book', so in the off chance that Islam is true, I will also go to their Heaven. I would be a Dhimmi, or a second class citizen, but that's better than the Muslim Hell, which is where unbelievers like you would be."

A tired objection that skeptics always raise to the Pascal's wager argument is that it only accounts for belief vs. unbelief, and is unhelpful in choosing among religions. So I expanded the payoff chart to account for Christianity, Atheism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Wicca.

Before I compiled the chart, I knew how it was going to turn out. Christianity is the only religion where salvation is based solely on faith. All other religions are either partially or completely works-based.

I counted any Heaven as infinite payout and any Hell as infinite punishment. I arbitrarily decided that Dhimmitude in the Muslim Heaven is half as good as being a first class citizen of Heaven, but any fraction of infinity could have been used without affecting the relative payout. I also arbitrarily chose +1/-1 as the values for being reincarnated into a better or worse life, respectively, but any positive/negative fininte numbers could have been used without affecting the relative payout. More...


Replies:
Prayer Warrior (12-06-2020 10:13 PM): One of my favorite threads that I wanted to revive. With Covid-19 and all the unsaved people dying it's a great chance score some death bed conversions and this seems like a terrific logical way to go ...
Romeo Rovagnati (14-06-2020 07:03 AM): I'm sure that most of you are familiar with Pascal's wager. It proves that atheism is a gamble not worth taking. If the atheist is right, then when he dies he's just dead, and the Christian doesn't fare ...
Didymus Much (14-06-2020 07:17 AM): You forgot to add Purgatory in your table of afterlife. KJV Scriptural support for the existence of purgatory, please. 🙂 (that should keep him busy for a while) ...
Romeo Rovagnati (14-06-2020 11:33 AM): KJV Scriptural support for the existence of purgatory, please. 🙂 Here you can find a post were i prove that Purgatory is in the Bible. Also, if this is not enough, here is a verse that we use to demonstrate ...
Dr Laurence Niles (14-06-2020 02:44 PM): Here you can find a post were i prove that Purgatory is in the Bible. Also, if this is not enough, here is a verse that we use to demonstrate misbelievers that Purgatory is a fact: (1 Corinthians 3:15) ...
Prayer Warrior (20-06-2020 06:40 PM): You forgot to add Purgatory in your table of afterlife. There is no biblical basis in support of Purgatory. It's something that a Pope made up. https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/search.php?q=Purgatory Greetings ...
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