You're probably familiar with this. Pascal, mathematician and philosopher, believed that it is best to behave as if there is a God, since if you do not believe, you stand to lose everything should you not believe in God, and you gain everything if you believe. The favorable odds, for Pascal, was to believe.
Richard Dawkins, in "The God Delusion" makes interesting arguments against Pascal's conclusions.
1.Can you decide to believe something as a matter of policy? Hey, it "makes sense"?
If you happen to be Ayn Rand, or Ex-Android, it makes perfect sense not to believe in God. Any behavior on Ms Rand's part, therefore, could not be based on actual belief, but on a statistical probability that it is best in the long run to believe there is a God and behave accordingly.
2.If God is all knowing(omniscient), he's going to know whether or not you truly believe, or whether you're "covering your ass". He might not be happy if you truly do not believe.
3. What if you believe in the wrong God? After all, if we DO make a decision to believe in God, we're assuming that the God we choose is THE God, the one that counts, but what if we're wrong? Then we stand to lose everything by believing.
If we follow Pascal's reasoning, therefore, we must conclude that we are choosing the correct God to believe in, and that God is not concerned with the reasons for our believing, and that we can arrive at correct conclusions as to how we should organize socially in obedience to God.
Think about it. Every choice we make must be based on assumptions that we cannot prove, and since the whole process is based on a statistical probability, we would tend to conclude that "God" is represented by the largest number of people who organize according to a certain process.
Basically, by following Pascal's wager, we have based our entire faith on what is essentially a house of mirrors. "All these people can't be wrong".
But what if they are wrong? By believing, we still cover our bets. So what if there's over 38,000 versions of Christianity? The important thing is to BELIEVE!
See what Eric Hoffer says about this in "The True Believer":
"He who, like Pascal, finds precise reasons for the effectiveness of Christian doctrine has also found the reasons for the effectiveness of Communist, Nazi, and nationalist doctrine. However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing".
In other words, if belief is the only requirement and truth has no value, then it becomes possible to act in any fashion toward our neighbors, as long as we find justification in the rules that make us "special".
And what makes us "special"? Those who believe as we do. What we have done is to multiply ignorance based on statistical probability.
Hoffer refers to this as "estrangement from the self" or renouncing the self. We find our truth in the number of those who behave and believe as we do, and we find our truth from our ability to "convert" others. As Hoffer writes:
"When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom--freedom to hate, bully lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse....The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness.
"When we see the bloodshed, terror, and destruction born of such generous enthusiasms as the love of God, love of Christ, love of a nation, compassion for the oppressed and so on, we usually blame this shameful perversion on a cynical, power-hungry leadership. Actually, it is the unification set in motion by these enthusiasms, rather than the manipulations of a scheming leadership, that transmutes noble impulses into a reality of hatred and violence. The deindividualization which is a prerequisite for thorough integration and selfless dedication is also, to a considerable extent, a process of dehumanization. The torture chamber is a corporate institution".
Pascal's wager, by reducing everything to "covering your bets", places emphasis on group survival and even the necessity to sacrifice oneself for the "greater good", and with no proof that our sacrifice served any purpose other than a majority assumption based on ignorance.
The natural human tendency, when we believe in anything greater than ourselves, is to assume that that "greater" something must somehow be know by a process of organization, a process of thought that transcends us as individuals. If we believe our "salvation" lies in collective belief in Christianity, we will see it as our duty to either covert, condemn, or destroy those who believe otherwise. The same would follow for Naziism, Communism, or any form of nationalism.
The belief in truth actually demands what seems to be a contradiction to the normal process of reason. The belief in truth CANNOT be equivalent to "estrangement from self", but actually the acceptance of the self, as an individual, as a moral agent, as a person with the right to challenge the majority.
I pointed out earlier that if you can perfectly define "God", then that very definition can ultimately be programmed into a computer, so that there is no humanly definable difference between "God" and the computer we have programmed.
You might instantly object, "Of course there is a difference between God and a computer". Here's the problem: once you can define that difference, the difference itself can be programmed into the computer! But it is impossible to ever define all the differences between "God" and a computer, therefore, no computer can ever be the same as "God".
If that is true, then we must conclude the same thing for any religion, government, or any concept of humankind that attempts to represent God! The more you attempt to define God within any human concept, the more differences you will discover among your own selves!
You will logically end up with over 38,000 versions of Christianity, and the number increases every day!
Here is the point: whether you believe in God or don;t believe in God, you are merely choosing a concept in which to believe, and whatever concept you believe, however sharp or accurate, will STILL end up in an even greater number of ideas.
Even Ayn Rand was not invulnerable. her philosophy has branched into similar but disagreeing philosophies, with the Murray Rothbard branch, the "beltway libertarian" branch, the anarchist branch, the Christian libertarian branch, etc..
We are left, therefore, with the same conclusions as in Romans 8:7, Matthew 10:34-38, and 2 Peter 2:19, and of course Matthew 24:23.
In the search for truth, or for God, assuming God is truth(and why would you choose a God who is not truth?), there is one, AND ONLY ONE, correct choice you can ever make: be free from men. Follow no man, choose to accept all others as equal to you, and yourself as equal to all others.
Whether you believe in "God" or not, you have that one correct choice. All others are false.