Pascal also exposes the pose of the atheist who fancies himself as a brave and lonely man facing the abyss. We admire a man who is steadfast in the face of unavoidable adversity. If we knew we were alone in the universe and that death was the end, then there is no alternative but to stand tough in our mortal skins and curse the darkness. But what would we think of a man who stands ready to face a horrible fate that he has a chance to avert? If you are trapped in the den with a hungry lion, and there is a door that may offer a way out, what sane person would refuse to jump through the door? Viewed this way, the atheist position becomes a kind of intransigence, a reckless man’s decision to play Russian roulette with his soul.Atheists sometimes express their bafflement over why God would not make His presence more obvious. Carl Sagan helpfully suggests that in order to dispel all doubts about His existence, “God could have engraved the Ten Commandments on the moon.” Pascal supplies a plausible reason for what he calls the hiddenness of God. Perhaps, he writes, God wants to hide Himself from those who have no desire to encounter Him while revealing Himself to those whose hearts are open to Him. If God were declare Himself beyond our ability to reject Him, then He would be forcing Himself on us. Pascal remarks that perhaps God wants to be known not by everyone but only by the creatures who seek Him.

Atheists are aware of the power of Pascal’s wager. Christopher Hitchens can do no better than to launch an ad hominem attack on Pascal as a “hypocrite” and a “fraud.” Richard Dawkins proclaims Pascal’s argument “distinctly odd.” And why? Because “believing is not something you can decide to do as a matter of policy. At least, it is not something I can decide to do as an act of will.” Dawkins is right about this, of course, but the real issue is whether he wants to believe and whether he is open to the call of faith. As we will see in a later chapter, there are powerful psychological motives for resisting this call.