We have a good selection of Christian (protestant-evangelical-charismatic) evangelism tracts here in the office, and I spent a portion of my lunch break perusing them. They are all written by the same author, and they target a wide range of religions–everything from Islam to “unsaved” Catholics to the Bahá’í Faith.
Just one of the tracts is written for atheists; it is entitled “Who has the most to lose?” and predictably puts forth a summarized version of Pascal’s Wager–a closed dichotomy between evangelical Christianity and atheism:
When confronted with the claims of Christ, many people want to know what happens if Christians are wrong and there is no God. Conversely, the major concern of Christians is what happens to unbelievers if THEY are wrong. Who has the most to lose?
Suppose unbelievers are wrong….Most of all, dwelling in hell for all of eternity is the most horrible consequence imaginable.
I’m sure you can imagine where it goes from there. But wait, what about all those other religions? What if Christians are wrong and Muslims are right? What if neo-paganism is the best way to go and Mormonism is wrong? Why did the author of these tracts seem so ready to talk about other religions before he narrowed in on atheists and had to establish a false dichotomy that ignored other options beside Christianity?
This is the disingenuous reasoning behind every variant of Pascal’s Wager. If the best thing you can put forward in a tract for atheists is “better play it safe,” then the alternative option to atheism should simply be the religion that promises the worst hell. That would probably be Islam. But heck, I could make up a worse hell right now. On what grounds would that not become the new exclusive option in the dichotomy?
On no grounds whatsoever, of course. And those are the same grounds upon which Christianity is the exclusive option. There are other significant issues with Pascal’s Wager, but this one stands out to me the most. Can any serious person take the Wager seriously?