In religio-mythology, Pascal’s wager (CR:13) is []

In c.1650, Pascal, in his Thoughts, attempted to grapple with the existence of god problem as follows: [1]

“Either god is or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong. You have two things to lose: the true and the good; and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness. Since you must necessarily choose, your reason is no more affronted by choosing one rather than the other. But your happiness? Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that god exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he does exist.””

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In 1884, Charles Bradlaugh (FA:107), in his “Christian Priest and Unbeliever”, gave one of the first cogent and logical refutations of a variant of Pascal’s wager; the gist of which is the following: [2]

Christian Priest: At least, belief is the safe side. When you die, if your unbelief be right, there is an end of you and of all your heresy ; and if it is wrong, there is eternal torment as your sad lot (see: Pascal’s wager).
Unbeliever: Hardly so. If I am right, my unbelief will live after me, in its encouragement to others to honest protest against the superstitions which hinder progress.

Christian Priest: But you, at any rate, may be wrong, and belief is, therefore, safest for you.
Unbeliever: Which belief? Must I accept alike all creeds?


See main: Neumann on god
In the spring of 1956, John Neumann, at the hospital, while in his last 18-months dereacting (dying) from cancer, invited Anselm Strittmatter, a well-educated Roman Catholic priest who could discuss classical Rome and Greece, to visit him for consultation, who thereafter he began to see regularly. During these visits, Neumann expressed great fear of death. To his visitors, he despaired that “he could not visualize a world which did not include himself thinking within it.” [3] Neumann recited in Old Latin passages about judgment, right and wrong, and freedom:

“When the judge his seat hath taken .. what shall wretched I then plead? Who for me shall intercede when the righteous scarce is freed?

Neumann told the priest that Blaise Pascal, in section 233 of Pensees, had a point, referring to Pascal's wager, commenting something to the effect of: [3]

“So long as there is a the possibility of eternal damnation for nonbelievers it is more logical to be a believer at the end.”

Neumann, in short, he sided with Pascal about betting one's afterlife on belief or nonbelief in the existence of god. Subsequently, so to not lose in the wager, Father Strittmatter administered the last sacraments to him. [4] To his mother, who was also dying from cancer during this period, he expressed the following similar view:

“There probably has to be a god, because it is more difficult to explain if there is than if there isn't.”
— John Neumann (c.1956), said to his mother late in life (reaction existence) [5]

Some of Von Neumann's friends, having always known him as "completely agnostic", believed that his religious conversion was not genuine since it did not reflect his attitudes and thoughts when he was healthy. As Dutch-born American physicist and science historian Abraham Pais reports: [6]

“He had been completely agnostic for as long as I had known him. As far as I could see this act did not agree with the attitudes and thoughts he had harbored for nearly all his life.”

Even after his conversion, Father Strittmatter recalled that von Neumann did not receive much peace or comfort from it as he still remained terrified of death.

1. Pascal, Blaise. (1861). The Thoughts, Letters and Opuscules of Blaise Pascal (translator: O.W. Wight; additions: Henry Rogers, Victor Cousin, Charles Louandre) (wager, pgs. 252-53). H.W. Dereby.
2. (a) Bradlaugh, Charles. (1884). “Christian Priest and Unbeliever”, National Reformer, Aug 31; in: Doubts in Dialogue; Originally appeared (Ѻ) in the National Reformer, Aug 31, 1884-Jan 11, 1891; Watts, 1909.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 414). HarperOne.
3. MacRae, Norman. (1992). John Von Neumann: the Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More (deathbed, pgs. 378-79). American Mathematical Society.
4. Halmos, P.R. (1973). “The Legend of von Neumann”, The American Mathematical Monthly, 80(4):382-94.
5. MacRae, Norman. (1992). John Von Neumann: the Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More (fly puzzle, pgs. 10-11; God, pg. 43; deathbed, pgs. 378-79). American Mathematical Society.
6. Pais, Abraham. (2006). J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life (pg. 109). Oxford University Press.

External links
Pascal’s wager – Wikipedia.

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