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Care to make a little wager?

June 20, 2007

by Ann

According to Wikipedia, Pascal’s Wager is French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal’s application of decision theory to the belief in God.  I am not going to pretend to know anything about decision theory, philosophy, or higher mathematics.  Far be it from me to second guess a thinker of Pascal’s stature.

But.

Latter-day Saints have a view of the afterlife that is very different from the view universally held by Christians in the 17th century. After death there were only two places to go:  Heaven or Hell.  A third location, Purgatory, was not a permanent situation in post-mortal life, but rather a way station offered by Catholicism as a place of suffering for those who did not die in a state of grace, but who were not guilty of any unconfessed mortal sins.  Another Catholic post-mortal option, Limbo, was concocted by Augustine as a place of natural joy for sinless unbaptized infants, and thus not an option for adults.

LDS teachings about the afterlife don’t have anything like Purgatory or Limbo or even Hell for good people who don’t believe in God.  Good and just and compassionate atheists can receive the same kingdom of glory as good and just and compassionate Lutherans or Buddhists or Muslims or Zoroastrians or Catholics or even Baptists:  the Terrestrial kingdom, a place of incomparable glory where they will dwell in the presence of the Son of God.  Not bad!  If the Mormons are right, then believing in God really DOESN’T matter, because that’s not the key element of the faith question.  The key elements are:  have you been baptized by proper authority, sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, and endured to the end in your faith?  Believing in God is part and parcel of the package, but it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  In Mormon Doctrine, Pascal’s wager is missing far too many key variables to be a valid basis for measure the value of belief in God.  For the Latter-day Saint, belief in God for non-LDS is only important as it shapes your behavior, because in the end, your behavior is what determines the Kingdom you end up in.

Is it worth it?  Well, if the LDS are right, it’s worth it if you get something from it, and it’s not worth it if you don’t.

If the LDS are wrong, we’re probably better off if there ISN’T a God.  Heaven help us if the Baptists are right, because their version of the afterlife for those who die believing in the Wrong Jesus is pretty terrifying.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting line of thought. I have always liked the LDS doctrine of the afterlife – it seems more inclusive. Unfortunately this doesn’t really translate into practice in how LDS view people who are different. I still hear LDS people say that certain people are going to hell. I just shake my head and wonder do they even know what the Three Degrees of Glory is all about?


  2. Yeah I’ve got to say, whatever orthodox Mormons believe about the degrees of glory, they sure practice an exclusive religion and social life here on Earth. Especially in Utah.

    Prejudicial, jingoistic, homophobic, paranoid jerks that they are…in Utah, I mean.


  3. Greetings!

    You seem to have perhaps mis-understood Catholic teaching on the afterlife. There are two and only two eternal destinations. Heaven and hell. Purgatory is not a place or third destination. Purgatory is a purification process and not a place of suffering, as the word sufffering is usually understood. Purgatory is suffering in the terms of peroxide poured into a wound. Purgatory is suffering as in the pain that accompanies healing.

    Limbo is not offical Catholic doctrine but a theological construct. It also is not a place, but a condition of the soul. Per the construct, Limbo occurs in heaven for some souls. Again, there are only two eternal destinations in Catholicism.

    God bless…


  4. If we’re wrong, and there is a God, I don’t think we’ve lost much. If we’re right and there is a God, I don’t think the others will lose as much as we like to crow about in Sunday School.

    I just think God is way nice and everybody will be happy. BTW, I found a good parking place at Wal-Mart today and I said a nice little “thank you.” 🙂



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