When I was a first year student at Georgia Tech, some 56 years ago, one of the required readings in a literature class was an essay written by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pascal’s Wager about God.
It was tedious reading as it created a testament to Pascal’s brilliant and complicated mind. I remember well thinking he was overstating his case, a case that could be, perhaps, boiled down to one simple paragraph:
If God exists, then believers will enjoy eternal bliss, while nonbelievers will suffer eternal damnation. If God does not exist, then nonbelievers will enjoy limited happiness before they die, but somewhere in the depths of their minds they will worry that maybe they’re wrong. While believers will enjoy happiness through the comfort of anticipating eternal life while living a good life believing in God and following his teachings.
Pascal summarized that thought by saying, “Regardless of whether God exists, then, theists have it better than atheists; hence belief in God is the most rational belief to have.”
Pascal’s essay has stuck with me for more than half a century.
Today, it seems to me, there’s somewhat of a correlation to that thinking in the argument about whether or not to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
I have been vaccinated and, because of that, I am experiencing the comfort, i.e. happiness, of believing I am protected against the threat of death. If I am wrong, I have still experienced that comfort.
People who do not believe in getting the vaccination experience the comfort of believing they are right. But if they are wrong, they could very well contract what has proved to be a horrible and deadly virus. And they are exposing others to that same fate, including their friends and loved ones.
To paraphrase Pascal, regardless, taking the vaccine is the most rational thing to do.
Oh, I am well aware of the fact that there are many who believe, without facts, that the vaccination is worse than the virus itself and others cling to the claim that it is some sort of government plot. But I find such thoughts to be irrational.
I don’t do Facebook very often but the good wife shared with me over the weekend a thread that was prompted by the article in last week’s Ledger reporting the low percentage of people in Jeff Davis County who have been vaccinated. That resulted in the county being declared a “danger zone” by a nonprofit that had gleaned information from statistics reported by the Center for Disease Control.
The thread reminded me why I don’t do Facebook very often.
One of the claims made in the thread was that more people in the United Kingdom were dying from taking the vaccine than were dying from COVID itself. I pondered joining the thread to respond to that misinformation but thought, “what’s the use?” While misinformation like that is COVID’s greatest support system, people want to believe such misinformation and trying to convince them otherwise is an exercise in frustration.
In the last year or so, I’ve lost almost a dozen friends to COVID. As I type this, I have two friends in the hospital fighting for their lives with the help of a small army of medical professionals bravely battling to save their lives and the lives of many others.
The battle is not over. It is far from over. And those not taking the vaccine are extending the life of that battle.