For thousands of years, people have been attracted to religion simply because of the worldly benefits it provides to its followers and more importantly because of the promise of a blessed eternal life in the next world. This is the most cherished prize of believing. People do everything to secure a place in heaven. Sillily, an online company offers a certificate to heaven for a price plus $2 shipping and handling!
A seventeenth century mathematicians/philosopher by the name of Blaise Pascal tried to persuade people that believing in God is a good bet. If God exists, he says, and you believe in him, the afterlife reward – unending blessed life in heaven – is really enticing and should give you enough incentive to believe in him. However, the consequence of not believing – eternal hellfire -is horrendous. Even if God does not exist and you believe in him, you do not lose much, he seems to suggest.
Pascal conjecture is based on the simplistic assumption that there is a 50% probability that God exists and if in fact he does and you believe in him you are guaranteed a place in heaven with 50% chance. Accordingly, even if we may not be able to prove God, it pays to believe in him because this is the only way you can win the grand prize, access to heaven.
What I want to argue is that his preposition was too naive and based on erroneous assumptions. His cost-benefit analysis scheme was not based on accurate depictions of the actual costs and the benefits of believing. In particular, the probability of eternal life in heaven is way overestimated.
Assuming that God really exists and you choose a right religion and perform all the requirements satisfactorily, and if you do, then you will be entitled to a place in heaven. Let’s see if the rules of statistics help us to calculate the probability value of going to heaven:
- Conservatively, the Probability that God may exist is 50%.
- Probability that God may exist and indeed has send prophets and wants us to believe in a religion religions is another 50%. Therefore, probability that God exist and sent prophets and wants us to believing that religion is 50% (0.5) x 50% (0.5) = 0.25
- What is the probability that you happen to choose a right prophet and a religion? According to Islamic teaching, God has already sent 124,000 prophets to mankind each of them claimed to have brought the right religion as well as having monopoly access to heaven. So, probability of choosing the right profit and it right religion is: 1/124000 = 0.000008.
Consequently, the probability that God exists and wants you to believe in a religion and you happened to have chosen a right religion is: 0.000008 x 0.25 = 0.000002
- Let’s say you have chosen Jesus and Christianity and it happened to be a right religion. According to the information we have, Christianity has nearly 41,000 denominations (Wikipedia) and probability of choosing the right denomination is:1/41000 = 0.0000244
As a result, the probability of choosing a right religion and a right denomination is:
0.000002x 0.0000244 = 0.00000000000049
- Let say probability of performing the requirements of the right religion right denominations satisfactorily is 50%. Therefore our probability so far boils down to 0.00000000000025
- Finally, probability of heaven exists in the physical form described by religion is another 50%, then the ultimate probability will reduce to 0.0000000000025 x .50 = 0.000000000000124. I hope plus and minus margins of errors are not that high!
That is perhaps why according to a popular Islamic Hadith, the bridge to heaven (pole Sirrat) is thinner than human hair and sharper than a sword! Good luck crossing that bridge!