Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was a French philosopher and mathematician. He contributed to the development of hydraulics and calculus, but he is most remembered for what has come to be known as “Pascal’s Wager.”
Pascal, who had developed the mathematics of probability in relation to gambling activities such as dice, applied the idea of a “wager” to belief in the existence of God. According to Pascal, it was better for a person to wager in favor of God’s existence than to bet on the opposite idea that God did not exist. Why? The answer is related to the consequences of each option.
If a person wagers on God’s existence, and it ends up being true that God does indeed exist, then that person will inherit eternal life. If the end result is that God does not exist, then the believer loses little. He merely ceases to exist.
On the other hand, if a person chooses to not believe in God and it so happens that God does exist, then that person will suffer the horrible consequences of eternal punishment in hell.
For Pascal, then, the choice was clear. If you are undecided as to whether to believe in God or not, the smart bet is to wager on God’s existence.