This argument just presented is formally similar to the following: Either (a) there is a god who will send you to heaven only if you commit a painful ritual suicide within an hour of first reading this, or (b) there is not. We cannot settle the question whether (a) or (b) is the case or it is at least not settled yet. But (a) is vastly preferable to (b), since in situation (a) infinite bliss is guaranteed, while in (b) we are left in the miserable human condition. So we should wager for (a) by performing ritual suicide.
It might be objected that we can be sure that there is not a god who will send us to heaven only if we commit suicide, but we can’t be sure that there is not a god who will send us to heaven only if we are religious. However, a sceptic would demand proof of this. . . .5
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NOTES 1 If the lottery gave a consolation prize of a shiny new quarter to all losers, their net loss would be only seventy-five cents. Since most lotteries do not give consolation prizes, the net loss equals the cost of playing such lotteries.
2 Gregory Kavka, “Deterrence, Utility, and Rational Choice,” reprinted in Moral Paradoxes of Nuclear Deterrence, 65–66. Kavka uses this medical example to argue for his disaster avoidance rule and, by analogy, to defend the ration- ality of nuclear deterrence.