Pascal's Wager was much discussed at the FMER conference I've already reported on. I'm not myself a fan of Pascal's Wager for a number of reasons, the chief of which is that I have serious Cliffordian questions about the legitimacy of trying to get oneself to believe something for other than evidential reasons, as a "bet."
Richard Swinburne's stated preference in one Q & A is for a wager that involves acting as a Christian, not necessarily trying to "get oneself to believe" in the truth of Christianity. And I am told that in the English apologetics tradition of the 18th and 19th century, the practical recommendation was that, in view of the importance of the truth of Christianity, one should take plenty of time to investigate the truth-claims seriously. I do heartily endorse this last view, and I am often frustrated at the lazy ease with which people lose their faith or reject Christianity, but it bears little resemblance anymore to Pascal's original wager.
Anyway, it has often seemed to me that even if we waive the kinds of hesitations I have about the wager, one thing that is not considered much is the question of what the non-Christian has given up if Christianity is false. Jesus said we should take up our cross and follow Him, and the picture I think a lot of philosophers have in their minds of what the wager would involve is something much tamer, like going to church or giving up riotous living. But how would the utilities be changed if, to wager, one were required to give one's life as a Christian, perhaps in some torturous way?
The key question, from a formal point of view, is whether that would make the "disutility," as it is called, for making the wager infinite in a world in which God does not exist. The strongest form of the wager gives infinite disutility to not wagering if God does exist--the idea being that one goes to hell for all eternity in that case. And it also gives infinite utility--infinite good-stuff-ness--to wagering for God if God does exist, because one goes to heaven and experiences infinite bliss after death in the beatific vision.
Not being an expert by any means in decision theory, I am not sure that giving infinite disutility to wagering mistakenly--for example, dying as a Christian martyr and not getting heaven--would actually undermine the wager from a purely formal point of view. It seems plausible that not wagering would still have only finite utility--a happy earthly life.
But what is the argument for regarding wagering in a universe without God to have infinite disutility, even if one does have to die? The idea is that in that case one loses everything. The atheist, on this view, has every reason to hang onto his life, because that is all he has. There is nothing after death. In that case one would be treating dying prematurely for one's faith and going nowhere (simply ceasing to exist) as being just as bad as dying and going to hell (if one does not wager and it turns out that God does exist).
This seems rather implausible, though. So the counter-position is that, since everyone is going to die anyway, the atheist should not value his life so highly or put such a strong disutility on dying prematurely (even under torture?) and simply ceasing to exist.
What do you think, dear readers? Should atheists value their earthly life so highly that they would think it just as bad to die unpleasantly years before their time as to die and go to hell? (This on the consideration that a martyr in a universe where God exists loses everything, and loses it unnecessarily and with no gain.) Or do you think rather that one should say, "If God does not exist, I stand to lose only my earthly existence, even if more unpleasantly than most people do and earlier than I otherwise would. But this is still only a finite loss if there is no God and no afterlife. Death comes to all"?