Alan Saunders: When the AbbÃ©de Villars published a criticism of Pascal’s argument in 1671, he said, ‘I lose patience listening to you treating the highest of all matters, and resting the most important truth in the world, the source of all truths, on an idea so base and so puerile, on a comparison with a game of heads and tails, more productive of mirth than persuasion.’ Now, he wasn’t the only person who said that sort of thing. The idea seems to be that there’s something disgusting in bringing gambling into a religious argument.
James Franklin: Yes, and in fact most religious people are even more keen to say that than atheist people. They, most religious people have not liked the wager and have headed for the hills at the mere suggestion that there’s any agreement between themselves and Pascal. People talk about the wager as if the mercenary or gaming aspect of it is very bad. Well, that’s just too bad. We’re all philosophers here and we’re interested in the validity of arguments. Not in whether they’re tasteless or not. Or convenient, or have a good look and feel about them.
We want to know, nevertheless, whether it’s a good argument, and talk about whether it’s base or not is really not to the point.