I think I may have conceived of a novel response both to pragmatic moral arguments (such as Victor Reppert’s recent post about eternal accountability) and Pascal’s Wager, but I’m neither certain it is novel nor that it works.
The basic idea is that these two arguments contradict one another. To the person who is uncertain about God’s existence, Pascal says they have to place a bet on either atheism or Christianity. The risk of infinite loss (from atheism) compared to the opportunity for infinite gain with Christianity is supposed to make atheism an irrational choice. Pascal recognizes, however, you can’t just will yourself to believe theism if you’re an atheist. So he recommends going to church, etc. in an attempt to influence your beliefs. But if his advice to atheists is to act like a Christian until you actually believe Christianity, then his advice entails that atheists should act moral. So PW entails that it is irrational for atheists to act immorally.
Prudential moral arguments, however, claim that it is irrational for people to behave morally when it goes against their self-interest. Furthermore, since ‘secret’ violations of morality are at least possible if atheism is true, atheism entails that it is at least possible, for an atheist, for the demands of morality to go against self-interest . When that happens, it’s supposed to be irrational for the atheist to choose to act morally.
Herein lies the apparent contradiction: the person who runs both arguments seems to claim both it is irrational for atheists to act immoral (because it’s irrational bet on immorality) and that it is irrational for atheists to act moral when it goes against their self-interest.
Suppose I’m right and that is a contradiction. Which argument should a Christian run? I’m leaning in favor of what I will shamelessly call Lowder’s Wager:
If God exists, it is likely that God cares more about your behavior than your beliefs. So if you’re uncertain about God’s existence, bet on moral behavior over immoral behavior.
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