#72 – Pensees by Blaise Pascal (My 100 Favorite Books)

Pascal’s work is a collection of thoughts, unfinished at his death, but still incredibly profound.  One of my favorite parts, and why I see Pascal as a kindred spirit, is how he wrestles with the silence of God in the universe:

This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred time wished that if a God maintains nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow. Whereas in my present state, ignorant of what I am or of what I ought to do, I know neither my condition nor my duty. My heart inclines wholly to know where is the true good, in order to follow it; nothing would be too dear to me for eternity.

On one hand, there is so much that makes me affirm that God is living and active. On the other hand, on my darker days the world appears silent and I question whether God is even there.

From this point we get to Pascal’s famous Wager.  If you can see both sides, it makes sense to trust that God is there.  If you wager there is no God, you stand to lose everything if you are wrong.  If you wager there is a God, you can only gain.  Unfortunately, Pascal’s Wager is often disconnected from this context and thrown out in such a way as to make it easy to reject.  If a skeptic is confident that God is not there, if they do not see both sides, then the wager is useless.  But when you can feel the pressing on both sides, then the leap into God (as Kierkegaard may say) makes sense.

Overall, this is a fantastic book which deserves a place on my list.

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