Theology 101: Pascal's Wager

Blaise Pascal (pictured) was a 17th century French philosopher who is best remembered for what came to be called "Pascal's Wager." In the condensed version that is usually presented to nonbelievers (often by people who never heard of Pascal), it goes like this: Even if you don't believe in God, you would do well to worship him, because if he does exist, you will go to heaven, but if he doesn't exist, you will have still lived the most satisfying lifestyle of all, that of a Christian. 

I'm writing about Pascal's Wager because someone offered it in response to my last post, and I wanted to take time for an extended answer. The following are my objections to it, but I'm not consulting any sources, so I make no claim to completeness.

1) Pascal assumed (for no apparent reason except that he was a Christian) that there is an afterlife in which we will remember who we were in this life and be judged for what we did.

2) Pascal assumed (for no apparent reason except that he was a Christian) that his wager would result in one becoming a Christian (a Catholic Christian at that) as opposed to joining some other religion. 

3) Pascal assumed (for no apparent reason except that he was a Christian) that there is only one god.

4) Pascal assumed (for no apparent reason except that he was a Christian) that God demands our worship. What if God really wants something entirely different? What if God's real interest is that we all have twelve children, or else that we have no children? Or what if for some reason known only to divine omniscience, God prefers the company of atheists?

5) Pascal assumed (for no reason that I can think of) that God would reward people for simply going through the motions of worship.

6) Pascal assumed (for no reason that I can think of) that the same religion-oriented lifestyle that he, as a believer, found rewarding would also be rewarding to someone who wasn't a believer. 

7) Pascal's advice is meaningless to atheists because they see no reason to hedge their bets.

Maybe you're wondering why I've thought so much about Pascal's Wager. Well, way back in the antediluvian days of my youth, I took a few courses in theology in order to regain my faith, but the reverse occurred. Although my professor was a conservative Methodist minister and my classmates were ministerial students, I lost what little faith I had left when I started thinking even more critically about what the Bible meant and about the arguments in support of, first Christianity and then theism. I also observed that my classmates never seemed to come up with profound questions, and this too led me to doubt the intellectual respectability of religion. I thought that, yep, these people are dumb enough to be sheep alright, and they're the ones who are going to go out and run churches. Of course, in all fairness, most of them were Mississippi country boys whose families were poorly educated and who had just gone through twelve years of the worst public school system in the nation, and that's assuming that they didn't go to one of the white-only Christian "academies" that appeared in response to integration and were even worse than the public schools. It's also true that my professor didn't encourage probing questions, and as far as I could tell from the answers he gave me, he had never asked them.

However, my educational background had been similar to that of the other students, and not only that, I flunked three grades in public school, making me look even dumber. Why then, was I the only one who doubted, and did I really start doubting all at once at age twelve, or was I already headed in that direction a year earlier when I built a pulpit in my back yard and started preaching to my friends? All I can tell you is that I couldn't believe, and I did try. Now, I respect myself for being a skeptic by nature, and I forgive myself for having so devalued truth that I spent years trying to deny what I considered to be the reality about theism and religion.