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Some Great Pascal Quotes – #8 Post of 2009

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I am reading Pascal’s Pensees right now and couldn’t help but stop and record some of the wonderful quotes I’ve run across.

 Some Great Pascal Quotes   #8 Post of 2009

With regard to the interaction between faith and reason, Pascal said:

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.

With regard to the search for God:

There are only three kinds of persons; those who serve God, having found Him; others who are occupied in seeking Him, not having found Him; while the remainder live without seeking Him and without having found Him.  The first are reasonable and happy, the last are foolish and unhappy; those between are unhappy and reasonable.

With regard to belief or non-belief in God:

I would have far more fear of being mistaken, and of finding that the Christian religion is true, than of not being mistaken in believing it true.

With regard to the person who hears the gospel and immediately believes without ever reading the Bible:

Those who believe without having read the Testaments, do so because they have an inward disposition entirely holy, and all that they hear of our religion [Christianity] conforms to it.  They feel that a God has made them; they desire only to love God; they desire to hate themselves only.  They feel that they have no strength in themselves; that they are incapable of coming to God; and that if God does not come to them, they can have no communion with Him.

And they hear our religion [Christianity] say that men must love God only, and hate self only; but that, all being corrupt and unworthy of God, God made Himself man to unite Himself to us.  No more is required to persuade men who have this disposition in their heart, and who have this knowledge of their duty and of their inefficiency.


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  • http://www.secularthinker.com The Secular Thinker

    “With regard to belief or non-belief in God:

    I would have far more fear of being mistaken, and of finding that the Christian religion is true, than of not being mistaken in believing it true.”

    This is also known as “Pascal’s wager”. It is basically saying that belief in Christianity is better than non-belief because of the potential consequences if Christianity is true. However, while slightly appealing, it does not actually present us with a valid reason to believe in any religion. If you always followed Pascal’s reasoning, then wouldn’t you also be a Muslim, because of the “fear” of being wrong? And shouldn’t you be Buddhist, in case that turns out to be the “true” religion. You just can’t operate on that principal, believing just to “hedge your bets” and “cover your bases”.

    If you are going to believe something, it should be for valid reasons, not for the potential consequences if it turned out to be true. For example, I am going to tell you the story of the invisible closet monster. Every night he comes into your bedroom and hides in your closet, and unless you believe in him, he will kill you and your family and torture you for ever and ever and ever, in the most horrible and gruesome ways. If it’s not real, then you have nothing to worry about. But if it is…you better watch out.

    Now, should you believe that this monster exists, even though you have never seen it, or seen evidence of it? Of course not, and that is why Pascal’s Wager, I would argue, is not a valid reason to believe in anything.

  • Bill Pratt

    “However, while slightly appealing, it does not actually present us with a valid reason to believe in any religion.”

    Agreed. This is really an existential argument that is meant to appeal to people who are teetering between believing in Christianity and not. Pascal is saying to these people, “If you are 50-50 on this question, you might want to think about the consequences of being wrong.” So, his wager only works for someone who already has good reasons for believing in Christianity, but they are unwilling, for whatever reason, to take the next step.

    If I were speaking with someone who is a skeptic of Christianity, I would only raise Pascal’s wager when they had enough other good reasons to believe, and they needed a little more of a push to make that bold step toward Christ.

  • http://www.secularthinker.com The Secular Thinker

    Fair enough, however I would then argue that you should expect the same argument to hold sway with a person on the fence about Islam, or Buddhism. Do you think that anyone who already is near to becoming a believer should utilize Pascal’s wager to help push them along to whatever faith they are near?

  • Bill Pratt

    No. Pascal is arguing for Christianity in particular, not belief in God in general. It would be odd for someone to use Pascal’s arguments to become an adherent of a different religion, although I guess not impossible. I would think that person hadn’t read much of Pascal.

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