One of the biggest questions asked of us who have publicly announced that we are non-believers is "What if your wrong?" Here's my theory: The story goes that god forgives those that ask for it right? Or if we are truly sorry then we will be forgiven and won't go to hell. If that's the case and we're wrong, will we be forgiven by christian and catholic logic? It makes no sense to me because I can ask a "believer" the exact same question and they will dance around it or just plainly say "I'm not wrong, GOD is real and your going to hell" (Kinda rude but ok lol)... Just trying to pick a few brains here.
P.S. I was asked this question 2 days ago and thought i'd get a few opinions.
Shavante, of course we are wrong ... sometimes, and we are right until and unless we get more information that demonstrates that we are wrong and why. I can't count the many times I have made a statement that was in error and my friends on Atheist Nexus quickly address the issues. In most cases, they make their point and on reconsideration I can gratefully accept my error and restate what I believe. The power of the written word, as opposed to the spoken one, is there is a visual concrete statement that can be challenged or defended. I welcome being challenged. It is a gift of a friend.
This is Pascal's Wager: there is more to be gained from believing than not believing. Best answer might be that since you believe consciousness begins at birth and ends at death, whether you were right about your non-belief or you were wrong, that there really is a God, you will never know it. It is a circular argument in that it comes back to whether there is a heaven and/or hell. Who can say? Rely on what can be known. I see that in many ways, your question goes to the very heart of the argument.
Personally I think choosing to remain ignorant rather than seeking knowledge is too much to loose. Pascal's wager is really just the whole "Better safe than sorry, argument." But the way I see it, you can't really choose to believe something. Either you do or you don't. You can choose to act like you believe. But if there really were a god, and it is the one described by Christians, then I don't see how pretending would do any good.
If we are wrong then the results vary depending on what religion we were wrong about.
Religions are pretty straight forward about where nonbelievers go and what becomes of them rendering that question arbitrary.
What they really mean by forming that particular set of words and spouting them at you is
"..you aren't going to lose anything by getting christian but if you don't get christian you lose everything.." (christian was just an example)
but the truth is if you are religious and you are wrong you lose a lifetime to ignorance and internal dissatisfaction that can never be satiated.
redhands, I would add, "if you are religious and you are wrong you lose a lifetime" free of fear of not being good enough, or not doing enough, or not believing enough, or not belonging, or not being able to do a difficult task, and not praying enough. You also lose a lifetime free of anxiety, depression, confusion, and hate for other religions, or hatred of other races, hatred of sexual orientation.
Being free of fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hatred, sadness, and guilt is a pretty good deal to me.
"What if?" is one of the most carelessly misused expressions in the language. As a premise for fiction, it's wonderfully productive. In discussions of religion and reality, it leads nowhere. Please tell me exactly the conditions under which I would be wrong, then we'll discuss it.
If a burning bush starts talking to me (or better yet, a great booming voice from the sky), and I can find no scientific reason for it and no reason to question my perception...then we'll deal with the what-if. Otherwise, I agree 100% with Jonathan.
Pass the french fries please.
And the catsup/ketchup.
If I am wrong, then whatever deity that happens to be the "true" god for sure must appreciate that I was wrong due to the lack of evidence of its existence, and that at least I was honest. This is a similar position to that at some point stated by Bertrand Russell.
I love it when I am asked that question. I'll assume the questioner is a Christian. I have two responses, the first is a bit more diplomatic than the second and the attitude of the questioner is the determining factor as to which one they get.
First: "I appreciate your concern as this matter is very important to you or so it seems. I've been asked this question by Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc., and they all answer exactly the same as you, GOD is real and I am going to whatever torture chamber that particular religion has in store. It appears that I will suffer the same fate as those who believe in a different god than the one you believe in. So, whether or not I believe in god is irrelevant; the important thing is that believe in what YOU say. Those who believe in other gods are no better off than I am according to you so this question has nothing to do with unbelief in god."
Second: "I'm not wrong and I know I'm not because I've watched you and other believers and you don't believe that nonsense either. You go to the doctor and the dentist, you believe the world is round, not flat and you don't give all your money poor for starters. The only difference I see between you and I is that I am honest about what I believe and you aren't. Wearing t-shirts with witty sayings, putting bumper stickers on your car and a weekly visit to St. Hypocrite's Church means nothing. When a loved one complains about chest pains and shortness of breath do you call 911 or the elders of your church? Yeah, I thought so. You don't believe that shit either. You have some fucking nerve going around telling people their unbelief is going to send them to hell when you are as much an unbeliever as they are and dishonest about it to boot!"
Richard...Your first answer is diplomatic: The religious believer denies a thousand other gods...why should he/she mind if I deny 1,001? The other answer is the one I'd give: turn it around and say, "What if you REALLY believed in God?"
My ultimate goal is to get the questioner to think about the bill of goods they are trying to sell (response 1) or to get the bystanders thinking about it (response 2). It has been my experience that when you go after the inconsistency of the believer in terms of his/her words versus their actions they have a very hard time dealing with it. Expect an extreme emotional response and be sure you are ready for whatever. I've had a few turn quite red and take some swings at me. :)