The joys of heaven almost fail to compensate for the ire I experience when reading the reports of what earthbound mortals are doing with some of my philosophical arguments, particularly the long fragment from my uncompleted treatise on defending the Christian faith, which my relatives posthumously dubbed Pensées. (I could think of far better titles, but they did the best they could.) I continue to receive commendations on my scientific writings and not a few histories of science credit me as a key figure in discrediting the medieval superstition that “nature abhors a vacuum.” For this, I am thankful. But when it comes to assessing the wager, many philosophers, otherwise quite accomplished, fail to discharge their critical faculties adequately. It seems to me that many of them must feel a kind professional obligation to pillory the wager, or at least pale imitations of it. Many supposed invocations of Pascal’s wager (even by proponents) are not Pascal’s wager at all. Another bother is that when anthologies include anything by me, they include the wager by itself without explaining how it fits into my larger philosophy. I did write a few other things besides the wager, one might remember. These are no small sins of omission to my mind.
My wager argument was never meant to be an intellectual veto on any knowledge of God whatsoever. The careful reader of Pensées (and a few of my other writings) will find a number of arguments for the rationality of Christian belief, even though I dispensed with “metaphysical arguments” for God’s existence (what you now call natural theology). That enterprise was pretty stilted in my day anyway, and I found more compelling arguments for Christianity proper (the entire worldview), not merely for the existence of a First Cause or a Designer. So, I argued that the Christian account of the human condition provides the best explanation of a race east of Eden, but under heaven. I compared the Christian understanding of humans as both created in God’s image and fallen from grace with the view of humanity given by several other worldviews, particularly skepticism and stoicism, and found the biblical assessment to be superior. In fact, the argument form I employed is what you now refer to as an “inference to the best explanation” or “abduction.” A few earthbound philosophers have recently picked up on this, and have expanded upon this argument, but they are still dwarfed by the throng of those attacking the wager. I give several other arguments for the rationality of faith as well. In fact, my famous quotation, “The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of,” is often taken to imply a blind leap of faith in matters of religion. This is not so! By “heart” I meant an organ of knowledge different from linear ratiocination. Nevertheless, I knew the place of logical arguments, and I offered my share of them.