December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957
If you studied even a little bit of philosophy, you are aware of Pascal's Wager. The theory, as proposed by Blaise Pascal (Not a Jew) states that man has nothing to lose by believing in G-d. Pascal reasoned that if afterlife does exist, one would lose a chance at it without believing. And if there is no afterlife, well, you are no better off whether you believe or not. So, go to Sunday school, kids. Praise the Lord. Etc.
Which brings us to John von Neumann. Born in Hungary in a Jewish family, von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician. His contributions are too numerous to mention, but he was a key member of the Manhattan Project and a computing pioneer. And, just like many of his ingenious brethren, he was somewhat on the eccentric side, once riding a mule down the Grand Canyon while wearing a three-piece suit. Etc.
In 1955, von Neumann was diagnosed with cancer. And then, the lifetime agnostic (he actually converted to Catholicism for his wife, but didn't practice) had an epiphany. Pascal, he reasoned, was right. So von Neumann called a priest, who administered the last sacraments to him. Von Neumann died soon after.
Good for him, we guess. He had nothing to lose, after all. But seriously... couldn't he have called a rabbi instead?
Verdict: Borderline Jew.
July 28, 2011