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The wager is premised on what Jordan calls the "Next Best Thing Principle," which applies when one is forced to decide in the absence of tipping evidence. The Principle maintains that if an action produces no outcome worse than the worst outcomes of its alternatives, and produces an outcome as good as the best outcomes of its alternatives, and finally has other outcomes better than that of its alternatives, then we ought to choose that action.

Unlike Pascal's famous wager, on the Jamesian wager the benefits of belief in God are realized even if "God exists" turns out to be false. Turning to the evidence from social science, Jordan concludes that believing in God is probably better for the individual than not believing with regard to happiness and mortality, and moreover that disbelief does not seem to produce any greater benefits which overcome the advantages enjoyed by belief.


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Jeffrey Jordan contends that there are good prudential reasons to believe that theism is true even if the evidence for or against it is indecisive. But his "Jamesian wager" fails because it is unduly dismissive of various nontheistic religious possibilities, while the pragmatic benefits of religious belief he appeals to suggest that any form of religious belief can be life-enhancing.

Review: Jeff Jordan: Pascal's Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God | Mind | Oxford Academic

The community support and psychological integration grounded in a cosmic optimism found in all religions surely generate the various this-worldly benefits Jordan emphasizes rather than theism per se. Moreover, no one fully cognizant that the evidence for theism is no better than the evidence against it can believe theism without fooling herself about what the evidence shows. Belief in the absence of tipping evidence amounts to belief that the evidence on one side is stronger than the evidence on the other, contrary to the facts, and thus is dishonest self-deception.

The benefits of faith or hope without belief are at least as great as those of self-deception, but without retaining what is detrimental about self-deception.


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Thus, all things considered, it is irrational to take steps to self-deceptively induce theistic belief on pragmatic grounds when superior alternatives are available. John Schellenberg suggests that faith not belief that there is some ultimate reality in relation to which an ultimate good can be attained is preferable to old-fashioned theistic belief, as theistic belief in the absence of tipping evidence amounts to self-deception. However, self-deception only arises when inculcating a belief which one takes to be false, not a belief for which there is no tipping evidence or an indeterminate probability.

A belief that a proposition is probably the case is not the same as a belief that a proposition is probably the case based on the evidence at hand. Because one can generate a belief on the basis of a pragmatic reason without self-deception, Schellenberg's objection fails. Contra Schellenberg, the opportunity for hope and optimism is far greater with theism than with naturalism; and the expected benefits associated with a religious commitment swamp those of naturalism, even if religious uncertainty obtains.

It would be irresponsible to forego theism's established this-worldly benefits in favor of a nontheistic religion for which there is little or no evidence of comparable this-worldly benefits. And even if non-Western religions produce comparable benefits to Western ones, it is hard to see how this would comfort the naturalist. You can dismiss the support request pop up for 4 weeks 28 days if you want to be reminded again.

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Arguments For and Against God: Faith and Pascal's Wager

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Pascal's wager

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