Atheist's Wager

The Atheist's Wager, formulated by the philosopher Michael Martin and published in his 1990 book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, is an atheistic response to Pascal's Wager regarding the existence of God.

One version of the Atheist's Wager suggests that since a kind and loving god would reward good deeds – and that if no gods exist, good deeds would still leave a positive legacy – one should live a good life without religion.[1][2] Another formulation suggests that a god may reward honest disbelief, a reward which would then be jeopardized by a dishonest belief in the divine.[3]


The Wager states that if one were to analyze their options in regard to how to live their life, he or she would arrive at the following possibilities:[1][4][5]

The following table shows the values assigned to each possible outcome:

A benevolent god exists
Belief in god (B) No belief in god (¬B)
Good life (L) +∞ (heaven) +∞ (heaven)
Evil life (¬L) -∞ (hell) -∞ (hell)
No benevolent god exists
Belief in god (B) No belief in god (¬B)
Good life (L) +X (positive legacy) +X (positive legacy)
Evil life (¬L) -X (negative legacy) -X (negative legacy)

Given these values, Martin argues that the option to live a good life clearly dominates the option of living an evil life, regardless of belief in a god.


  1. 1 2 Martin, Michael (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Temple University Press. pp. 232–238.
  2. Alvin F Berry. So What If...the God of the Bible Exists...Does It Really Matter at the End ... Dog Ear Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 9781457500206. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  3. Philip A Stahl. Atheism: A Beginner's Handbook: All You Wanted to Know About Atheism and Why. ISBN 9780595427376.
  4. "The Atheists Wager". Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  5. Pascal's Wager as an Argument for Not Believing in God. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
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