Pascal, Blaise Pensees (Thoughts), 1660 [abstract 500 words] the religious wager [Full text http://www.orst.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/pascal/pensees-a.html]
The whole visible cosmos is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature
Mans body, imperceptible in the vastness of the universe, is a colossus in comparison with the parts that make it up.
What then is man in the midst of these two infinities? Nothing in comparison with the universe, infinite in comparison with the atomic. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, he is equally incapable of knowing the beginning and the end of things
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in an eternity before and after, the little space I fill engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified. The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me
But it is not from space that I must seek my dignity. I should have no more if I possessed whole worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows me as an atom by thought I comprehend the world.
famous passageMan is a reed
Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. It needs not that the entire universe should arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, should the universe crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the universe has the better of him. The universe knows nothing of this
Everything is nature is a matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing of Divinity in the world, I would say such did not exist; 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.
I have a hundred times wished that if a God was behind Nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally; and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether. Nature should say everything or nothing, that I might see which way to go. 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
If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is
Let us then examine this point, and say, "God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here What will you wager?
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is
What harm will befall you in taking this side?