Nautilus

Why Pascal’s Wager Is Eminently Modern

Fingers Crossed: Pascal reasoned that life is a sort of “game,” and that our faith in God, or lack-there-of, is our wager as to the ultimate nature of reality.Photograph by Albert / Flickr

On the evening of November 23rd, 1654, the brilliant polymath Blaise Pascal was thrown from his horse-drawn carriage, the creatures having been frightened by a thunderstorm. The horses fell off the bridge they had been crossing into the turbulent river below, and Pascal was left dazed in the road.

That night, toward the midnight hour, a grateful 31-year-old Pascal (who was still recovering from, and spiritually reflecting on, the death of his beloved father three years before) had an intense, mystical vision for close to two hours. Following the vision, Pascal wrote on a piece of parchment, “Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars

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