In Friday’s issue of The Miami Student, essayist Kiel Hawk made the claim that Blaise Pascal’s famous wager on faith is “logically unsound,” and moreover, that leading a life guided by “Christian principles” negatively impacts the world at large from the “humanitarian perspective.”
I think this argument is seriously misguided.
First, I think it would be helpful to look at Pascal’s own words – the quote Hawk refers to: “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.”
Faith isn’t logical, as my colleague points out. And I think this is exactly what Pascal argues.
I contend that Pascal actually cautions man from analyzing the world with too skeptical an eye; that there is an abundance of splendor and miracle, which, as the Bible emphasizes, is the creation of an all-powerful and loving God.
But the reason I write this letter is to address Hawk’s issues with Christianity, starting with the principles.
Certainly, the greatest of Christian principles is the golden rule, to love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus stresses this law countless times throughout the Bible. I don’t see how it is destructive in the least, even from the humanitarian perspective. And although the golden rule is second of the Ten Commandments, it is regarded as the highest law – all those subsequent are simply an extension.
Second, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are over 38,000 Christian denominations worldwide, many which support gay rights, use contraceptives and advocate for environmental justice.
There is no agreement on the major issues my colleague presented. They are, in my opinion, low blows.
And finally, I wish to address Hawk’s charge that Christianity does little with respect to humanitarian efforts. I contend that Christians do more than any religious group or nonprofit to ensure the wellbeing of others.
For example, in the last decade Catholic Charities US have ranked in the top 1 percent of all international charities. Providing emergency disaster care, nutrition for the famished and support for foster homes are just a few of the services offered.
Indeed Hawk means to say that Christian funds ought to be invested in this research. However, Christian and Jesuit research hospitals, for instance, are among the best in the world.
They are universally known for ministering to the sick and never turning them away. These institutions could not survive without the generosity of private citizens, a large majority of them religious.
I believe the author of last week’s essay overreached when attempting to interpret Pascal’s words, specifically dealing with the warning of “penalty” in the afterlife for not believing in God while on Earth.
Furthermore, I thought it to be a poor argument by evidence of his sources. The ones I found to be most troubling dealt with the destruction of human life over differences in belief, “that non-believers should be put to death.”
The examples he drew from scripture completely ignore the foundation of Christianity, which is the New Covenant.
The New Covenant, in essence, is the sacrifice of Christ for man’s sins. That means that all wrongdoing is forgiven in the eyes if God, and by virtue of our humanity we share in a perfect, unconditional love.
My colleague disparaged the Christian faith and way of life by avoiding its most important element, Jesus’ own message. This ingredient was vital to making a credible argument.