I know that most atheists are simply sick of this argument, but I need to address it briefly in my book so that the pseudo-debate can be quickly discarded with the rest of the rubbish. I'm trying to put my own personal spin on it here, so let me know what you think (any feedback is appreciated).
Belief as a Safety Net
A popular argument among Christians is that it's better to believe in god "just in case" such a character exists. If you believe & you’re wrong, there's no real harm done. Perhaps you've missed out on a few Earthly pleasures, but so be it. If you believe & you're right, you get to embrace the glory of heaven. However, if you don't believe in god & you’re wrong, a terrible fate awaits you for all eternity. So why not just believe in god to be safe? This argument was first introduced by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal & is commonly known as Pascal's wager. The argument seems logical on the surface, but if we scratch that surface just a bit, a world of non-reason is revealed.
The first thing I'll address is the fear of hell. If hell is believed to be an actual place of eternal torment, then logically we should all believe in whatever religion speaks of the scariest possible scenario. The Muslim hell seems much more horrific than the Christian hell, so according to Pascal all Christians should convert to Islam "just in case they're right." That is of course, unless we later come across a religion with a scarier version of eternal suffering, in which case we should all convert to whatever that may be. Naturally, the horrors of hell are only limited to what a human mind can create &/or perceive, so according to Pascal, we should all do whatever the most frightening storyteller on the scene tells us to. Something to keep in mind here is that according to someone’s belief somewhere, every single person on the planet is damned to a hell of some kind (Muslims go to Christian hells, Christians go to Muslim hells, Jews & atheists go to everyone’s hell, etc).
Another thing that Pascal asserts in his claim is that belief is something that one can flip on & off like a switch. This simply isn't the case. If it were, then we would all be able to wake up tomorrow believing in Bigfoot. The reason that some people believe in the Sasquatch & others do not is because there are some people who are convinced that certain "evidence" holds water, where others do not find this same "evidence" convincing. Although many people find it amusing to entertain the idea of Bigfoot, rational people can't simply dive into the pool of absolute belief simply because a Bigfoot enthusiast explains how his pursuit of the monster gives his life some great meaning. To most of us, a blurry photo or enlarged footprint isn't convincing enough evidence to alter our world view. A rational person would say something like "That's an interesting idea. Give me a call when you capture this Bigfoot fellow & I'll be impressed." I'm sure you can see where the metaphor is going from here.
Although we cannot make ourselves believe in anything by force of will, we can certainly pay lip service to an idea. I could (& many do) go to church, sing some hymns, put money in the collection plate, & socialize merrily with the congregation about how strong my faith is. I can even tell the tale of how god has made himself present in my life (i.e. he made it stop raining when I walked outside, he told me where to find my wallet, reminded me where I parked my car, etc). I can certainly go through all the motions of a devout believer score for score, but I cannot alter my perception of reality simply by conscious choice. The chair that I sit in is a solid object regardless of how much I try to believe it's made of gasses or liquids. This being said, we'd have to assume that Pascal's god doesn’t possess the popular godly attribute of omniscience. If god were to know my true thoughts, he'd know that my "belief" in him was false. Any omniscient god, it would seem, wouldn't have had much to say to Blaise Pascal upon his assenting up to heaven, except maybe "see you in hell."
Pascal's wager also declares that there is nothing to lose with having faith in god. This is an inversion of reality. When human beings wrap themselves in the spiritual blankets of afterlives, cosmic fathers, & super-natural history, they lose their greatest evolutionary possession; their humanity. I’m presenting a bold statement here, requiring much elaboration. The following section will serve as a logical & definitive explanation of this thesis.
---Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave any pos/neg feedback---