Many years ago, when I was an atheist, I can remember being annoyed at Christians. All their talk about salvation and eternal life in Heaven really bugged me. This is what I thought back then: “You Christians are gonna feel so foolish after you die and find out you’ve been wrong all these years!”
Now, if you understand what atheists actually believe, you’ll know that I was the one being foolish. If my atheistic view was correct, then when a Christian dies, he is not going to feel foolish; he will feel nothing, because he will have ceased to exist.
The only one who had a chance to feel foolish after death was me, the atheist. If I was wrong about atheism, and then died and discovered there was indeed a final judgment before God, and after that either Heaven or Hell for all eternity, I would feel very foolish. Well, actually, foolishness would be the least of my worries at that moment. It would be more like despair and horror and total agony.
My thoughts back in those days were very similar to Pascal’s Wager, and I was betting on the wrong horse.
Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, and he offered a gambling analogy for religious faith. Imagine you must place a bet. If you choose option A and it turns out you are correct, you win nothing. But if you are incorrect, you lose everything. If you choose option B and it turns out you are correct, you win everything. But if you are incorrect, you lose nothing.
If those are the rules of the game, then it makes no sense ever to bet on option A, right? You can’t win anything but you can lose everything. Option B is the only logical choice, as you might win everything but can never lose anything.
Option A is atheism. If you decide atheism is true, and you are correct, you win nothing, since at the moment of death you will cease to exist. But if you are incorrect about atheism, at the moment of death you are going to be in a very uncomfortable situation, with the aforementioned despair and horror and agony the most prominent sensations.
Option B is faith in God. If you decide God is real and put your faith in Him, and it turns out you are correct, you win everything: eternal life in the paradise of Heaven. But if you are incorrect, and it turns out God is not real, you lose nothing, since you, like all human beings, will cease to exist at the moment of death.
Now, I fully agree that deciding whether to believe in God should not be based on a gambling scenario and a “What’s in it for me?” attitude. People should put their faith in God because they sincerely believe He is real and they want to express their gratitude and love toward Him for all the blessings He has bestowed on us, especially the gift of life.
But you know what? God loves us so much that He is perfectly OK if our faith initially has less than noble motives. If we tentatively draw near to God because we conclude it’s the logical gambling choice, He doesn’t mind. Of course, over time, gratitude and love should become our main motivation, but God so desperately wants to be in a relationship with us, He is more than willing to have us begin the journey of faith for selfish reasons.
Back when I was an atheist, I never heard of Pascal’s Wager. All I knew was that I did not want to worship anyone or anything except myself. Thank God that God finally got my attention, and I realized putting my faith in Him was not only in my best interest, it was the Truth.
Now, many decades later, I can look back and see that atheism was not the logical choice, not even close. Please don’t gamble on eternity. Make the right choice.