"Pascal's Wager" as to the existence of God is an early example of how the rhetorical FALLACY OF THE EXCLUDED MIDDLE may be used to push an unsuspecting audience to unwittingly accept an argument that is lacking in basic logic. Blaise Pascal, 1623–1662, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, yet even he was taken in by this fallacy! He argues as follows:
• God is, or He is not. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is.
• Wager, [that God] is ... There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, … against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.
• And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
This argument seems reasonable at first glance, particularly if you are motivated to want to believe in God. Our life here on Earth is difficult, short, and FINITE while our potential life in Heaven after our Earthly existence passes is INFINITE in length and high in quality.
Reason alone cannot answer the question as to God's existence, so we should assume a 50% chance either way.
As the decision matrix above shows, existence of God is either FALSE (TOP ROW) or TRUE (BOTTOM ROW), and we can take ACTION to CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN GOD (COLUMN A) or CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE (COLUMN B). We have no control over the rows, but we do have control over the columns.