An argument often used by religious people is that they have nothing to lose by believing in God and that Atheists are risking eternity in Hell for no gain. This is known as Pascal’s Wager. On the face of it, it is quite convincing but it falls apart once you seriously examine it.
The argument basically is you have 2 choices. Either believe in God or don’t. There are only 2 results. Either God exists or he/it doesn’t.
If you believe and God exists, you gain eternal reward.
If you don’t believe and God does exist, you face eternal torment.
If you believe and God does not exist, then you had wasted your time going to church etc.
If you don’t believe and God does not exist, then you have saved yourself time and effort.
The conclusion usually is that the risks of not believing outweigh the benefits and it’s safer to believe in God.
However, there are several problems. First of all, this wager does not in itself prove God exists. It merely says it is safer to presume he/it does. Secondly, it presumes you can force yourself to believe something you believe to be false. I fail to see how living a lie is the preferable option. Surely God could see through this dishonesty (and possibly punish you for it). A similar criticism is that if we are all designed by God, we are therefore designed so as not to believe in God. Atheists can hardly be blamed for being what God designed them.
Also, which God should we worship? There are thousands of religions each with their own God. What if we choose the wrong one? After all each religion believes that only its members are rewarded in the afterlife. Imagine if a Christian dies but is greeted by Muhammad (or Zeus or Odin etc) in the afterlife. Despite being very religious they are condemned to Hell because they choose the wrong religion. What if a Catholic dies and finds that the Presbyterians were right. Or a Baptist dies and finds the Mormons were right. The laws of probability say we have only one in several thousand chance of guessing the correct religion. Maybe God would forgive you for not choosing the right religion, but if he/it would do that surely he/it would forgive you for having no religion at all?
Instead let me replace this with what is known as the Atheist’s Wager. This states that you should live a good life and be a nice person, but leave religion alone. If God is loving and kind, he will forgive you for not believing in him and reward you in the afterlife. If God punishes you despite having been a good person all your life then god is unjust and you shouldn’t worship him.