A Pascal-ish Wager
Why you should pray for the regular people in America and the West . . . even if you consider yourself agnostic.
A Jordan Peterson Christian
Years ago, when I used to interact with people on a personal level on Facebook, I remember occasionally seeing relationship statuses set to “It’s complicated.” If I had to describe the status of my relationship with Christianity, that phrase is probably the best I could do: it’s complicated.
I won’t bore you with all the details of my meandering and haphazard spiritual journey — at least not in this post — but I’ll just say where I’m at right now with the traditional gospel message about Jesus: I wish it was true. And on some level, I believe that story does convey some very real and very important spiritual truths about our world and about us as human beings, which is why the story is so compelling. But is it true literally and historically, in the way that fundamentalists insist that it is? That seems, at best, doubtful. The New Testament contains so many internal contradictions, some superficial but others really undercutting the very foundations of Christian theology, that it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in its literal historical accuracy — and that’s before you even get to the Old Testament, which is frequently incorporated by reference into the New Testament in some key passages — and that’s not even considering the extra-biblical historical evidence that undermines the biblical accounts of some major events. Nevertheless, the story of Jesus is so powerfully engaging on such a primal level, and it provides such useful symbols and metaphors for understanding ourselves as spiritual beings, that it cannot be rejected out-of-hand as some irrelevant ancient myth.
I’ve taken to calling myself a “Jordan Peterson Christian.” Holly Math Nerd, who has expressed similar sentiments in her writings on religion, refers to herself as “Christian-ish.” I recall reading a quote from Anthony Burgess on the dust jackets of older editions of C. S. Lewis’s books where Burgess said something to the effect that “Lewis is an ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the man who wants to be Christian, but finds his intellect getting in the way.” I’ve read Lewis and greatly enjoyed his stories and arguments, but I’m still finding my intellect getting in the way, though I very much do want to be Christian.
One argument for God that never really resonated with me was Pascal’s wager:
Either God exists, or he does not;
Either you either believe in God, or you do not;
If God exists and you believe in him, you are rewarded, but if God exists and you do not believe in him, you are punished;
If God does not exist, nothing happens whether you believe in him or not;
If you do not believe in God, the best-case scenario is nothing happens, but the worst-case scenario is God punishes you for not believing;
If you do believe, the worst-case scenario is nothing happens, but the best-case scenario is God rewards you for believing;
Based on these possible outcomes, it is wise to believe in God, since there is little to no downside if you are wrong, but tremendous gain if you are correct; and this stands in stark contrast to the potential outcomes for you if you choose not to believe in God: either nothing happens, or you suffer tremendous loss.
I understand the logic of it, but I’ve never been able to consciously believe something that I don’t actually believe, merely because professing such belief is somehow helpful. If I profess a belief, it’s because it appears to me to be true, or at least probably true — or at the very least (if it’s something I hope is true) it appears potentially true. I am subject to cognitive biases as much as anyone, and I know that on a subconscious level I have refused to see facts about myself and the world that were too psychologically difficult for me to consciously acknowledge; but I cannot consciously acknowledge credible evidence that a proposition is false and at the same time believe that the proposition is certainly correct.
But even if I could consciously engage in that kind of doublethink, what kind of God demands and rewards belief based on bad evidence? When I look at the human leaders who demand and reward such credulity from their followers, they always strike me as psychopathic, not benevolent. And then there’s the way the New Testament emphasizes the spiritual value of Truth and not being deceived by spiritual beings who seek to manipulate us with lies and half-truths. Jesus says, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” which seems to me to be excellent counsel; and those who have ordered their followers to ignore contrary evidence and just trust them blindly, well, these leaders have tended to produce pretty rotten fruit.
Pascal’s Wager Applied to Religious Practices
So maybe Pascal’s wager is not good as epistemology, but maybe it could work as a rationale for adopting certain religious practices that do seem to be beneficial. You could think of these practices as spiritual technologies. In the case of material technologies, you don’t have to understand how or why they work in order to make use of them (I say, as my fingers strike the keys on my computer keyboard, transmitting symbols that will be read by people on their own screens many miles away, thereby making use of technology I will never fully understand), and I think this is probably true of spiritual technologies as well, such as prayer.
For those who believe in an ultimate God, whether Christian or not, praying to such a being seems helpful and effective. At worst, it has only a placebo effect on ourselves (which is still something), and at best, prayer somehow connects us to a God who can order and direct our energy in concert with his actions on a higher plane of existence and in accordance with his higher purposes. enabling us to accomplish far more good in partnership with God than we ever could apart from him.
In the case of religious practices like prayer, I think Pascal’s wager is more persuasive:
Either prayer is effective or it is not [and objectively it appears to be effective, even if only as a placebo];
Either we pray or we do not;
If we pray and prayer is effective, we benefit;
If we pray and prayer is ineffective, we incur neither benefit nor detriment (aside from the loss of whatever time we spent praying, which given how much time the average person wastes on bullshit, how much of a loss would that even be?);
If we do not pray and prayer is ineffective, we incur neither benefit nor detriment;
If we do not pray but prayer is effective, then we suffer loss;
Premises considered, it is wise to pray, for there is no real downside, whereas there is potential benefit; and given that a placebo effect seems demonstrable, there almost certainly is some benefit to praying.
And if it is beneficial to pray, then I suggest that we all pray for ourselves and for all regular people of goodwill in America and the West, because we are under the rule of literal psychopaths.
A Pascal-ish Wager: Praying for Regular People in America and the West
Right now, we have a parasitic and psychopathic elite class. These elites lie, cheat, and steal without remorse or accountability. They push for unworkable programs like “green energy” and “ESG.” When the evidence piles up showing that these programs actually produce widespread impoverishment, suffering, and death, these elites simply double down and push for these programs even harder, ramping up their lies and abuses of power to force these programs on an increasingly unwilling population.
Now, it is reasonable to assume that people intend the natural and ordinary consequences of their actions: if you throw a brick at a window, we can reasonably infer that you intended to break the window. Our elites are intentionally engaging in concerted actions (a worldwide “great reset”) that have the demonstrated consequences of producing widespread impoverishment, suffering, and death; therefore, it seems reasonable to me to assume that they intend to cause such widespread impoverishment, suffering, and death.
And what kind of person consciously acts so as to inflict widespread suffering on unwilling victims? Especially when such suffering is not incidental or accidental, but actually seems to be the only reliable result of their actions? Sounds like something a psychopath would do. Or maybe, even, someone who is possessed by literal demons. “By their fruits ye shall know them . . .”
Anyway, the regular people in the West are faced with a powerful, organized, and entrenched ruling class overwhelmingly comprised of psychopaths. And if there is a demonic spiritual power interacting with our world, those psychopaths seem to be allied with it. We should use any and all tools at our disposal to fight their cruel and murderous agenda, including taking a Pascal-ish wager and praying for the real God, the ultimate and ultimately good God, to intervene on our behalf and destroy the works of these demons.
Suggested Reading (and Listening)…
If you want to take a deeper dive into the subject of spiritual evil and its apparent effects on and manifestations within our world, Mark Bisone wrote an excellent essay on his substack, The Cat Was Never Found:
And Rolo Slavskiy, who writes The Slavland Chronicles, had a couple of great discussions with Harrison Koehli like the one in this podcast:
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