I've been reading through chapter III of Pensées by Blaise Pascal, which contains the origin of Pascal's Wager. People seem to suppose that Pascal's Wager goes something like this:
1. If I believe in God and I'm right, I'll gain infinite happiness.
2. If I disbelieve in God and I'm right, I'll gain only finite happiness.
3. Therefore, as long as there's some chance of God's existence, it's rational to believe in God.
The document does contain text that goes something like that (section 233 of Pensées
). But if you take it in context, I don't think that's what Pascal meant. I think that particular section was spoken in a mocking, tongue-in-cheek sort of way, and that Pascal did not seriously believe based on that argument, or expect anyone else to.
Rather, it seemed, from the surrounding text, that his point was twofold.
1. To show people that it's rational to seek
the truth, and that it's irrational to sit around lazily as if religion doesn't matter, whether or not you believe in it.
2. To show people that it's rational to seek virtue, rather than the temporary pleasures of this world, whether or not you believe in a God who will reward you. If you seek virtue as an unbeliever but it turns out God exists, you might gain infinite happiness; but if you're wrong, you won't lose much. He was mocking hedonism without thought of the eternal as utterly irrational.
This reasoning actually makes quite a bit of sense. In fact, in light of it, I'm not sure there's as much point in me wanting to be an atheist anymore, unless I could be completely sure there's no God, which seems impossible. As long as God might exist, I should still act virtuous just in case, which means I can never (rationally) have the complete freedom that I desire. (However, there are still particular morals of Christianity that it would be nice to discard as not following from anything.)
But there is still a significant flaw even with this reasoning. The dichotomy between a certain God or physicalism is false; Buddhism has a chance of being true, for example. Maybe the real God or the real ultimate reality will punish Christians forever and reward people based on some criteria other than virtue or belief or whatever you happen to believe rewards people.
Which makes it all the more important to continue trying to convert to everything. In fact, that seems to be the most important goal in life.