Frenchman Blaise Pascal was a mathematician and physicist as well as a philosopher and theologian. Pascal made contributions both to science, working on the barometer, and an early calculator, and inventing the syringe, and also to mathematics, influencing the development of modern probability theory. He was also an active philanthropist.

Pascal gives his name to Pascal’s Wager, a pragmatic rather than an evidential argument for belief in God.

The argument presupposes a strong agnosticism, the view that it is impossible to either prove or disprove God’s existence, supported elsewhere by an argument from incomprehensibility. As we are unable to determine by reason whether or not God exists, Pascal argued, we are justified in basing our decision what to believe on self-interest.

Self-interest, said Pascal, dictates that we believe in God: If he exists, then it is important that we believe in him, whereas if he does not, then it does not matter whether we believe in him or not. We should therefore play it safe by believing in God and living out a Christian life.

As reason cannot decide, and pragmatism dictates that we should believe, we should believe.