Pascal proposed that you would get better outcomes from believing than not. God rewards believers with eternal happiness (Psalms 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”), while those who choose otherwise are destined for Hell, for which the end is a lake of fire (Revelations 20:14), and eternal suffering. The contrast is between infinitely good and terribly bad without end.
To which people have answered:
1. It is psychologically impossible to force oneself to believe. Andrew Klaven disproved this years ago with his 60-day experiment: “Every day for sixty days, take an hour to talk to God, out loud, by yourself. By the end, you will know that God is real, or your money back.” No takers on the money-back part.
2. Then, some say that God’s standards aren’t high enough for them. They want to believe for reasons that would make them look good, not because they would be better off, which strikes them as a lower-class reason, and they don’t want to be thought of as lower class. They are, in other words, fooling themselves about how rational and good they are.
3. Some say, “God’s side of this shows an infinite gain. What does that even mean? I can’t understand it.” This is called misstating the argument. They would all choose, and do choose daily to the extent they can, happiness, joy, and pleasure over pain. Saying that it is essential to understand the argument that it is infinite is merely lying about what the choice is and what they understand.
4. Then there is the hypothetical rejection: the people who say that there might be other Gods who would be equally offended at not being believed in. Once again, this is an argument from ignorance. Typically, one made by people who can neither argue the specifics of an existing religion that they prefer nor, in any other circumstances, do they give evidence that they are considering the problem, despite the heavy penalty and amazing reward.
5. Finally, we have those who say Christianity itself is too difficult to understand. This is the group to hand a Jack Chick pamphlet like “This Was Your Life.” A few pages of cartoons and all the specific instructions you need to become a Christian. Easy. But not flattering.
And that is the real problem.