this is, essentially, Pascal's Wager. the wager, for those who've never heard it (so few you must be since i hear it so freakin often it's ridiculous lol) the wager goes as follows:
if i believe in god and he ends up not existing once i die then i've lost nothing.
but if i don't believe and he ends up existing then i've lost my everlasting soul.
so, why not believe since you have everything to lose in not believing and nothing to lose in believing.
now let's beat it with a stick, shall we?
1. nothing to lose?- the assertion is made that in believing and being wrong you have nothing to lose. is that true?
time spent at church, reading the bible, going door to door, condemning lifestyles that may be different than yours; money given to the church, a torturous life spent agonizing over the institutionalized guilt inherent in many religions, and what about all the time you wasted during your entire life persisting in a delusion? surely anyone can see that there is absolutely much to lose in believing in god when you're wrong. this is the only life that we have to live. every minute spent believing in unevidenced illogical unreasoned silliness born of bronze age ignorance is time wasted.
2. turn it around- what if you're wrong Mr. Theist? here's the thing... there are thousands of gods that have been invented by human beings. you've chosen one among the many thousands. all things being equal, and since there's no more evidence for one of these god's existence than any other all things ARE equal, you have a one in N chance, where N equals the total number of gods ever invented, of getting it right. plus, there are thousands of Christian sects each with their own prescriptions and interpretations. some of these separate interpretations are fundamental enough that, even though all Christians ostensibly worship the same god, they might not be worshiping correctly. so not only do you have to pick the right god but you have to worship said god in just the right way! get either the god wrong or the sect wrong and you're going to hell just like the Christians say the nonbelievers are! in fact, when you think about it, the odds make it almost a guarantee that the theists have chosen the wrong god and or the wrong interpretation! what if you're wrong indeed!
3. can you force yourself to believe something?- there's something more fundamentally wrong with the wager that, for some reason, isn't as plain to people as it seems to me it should be. can we force ourselves to believe in something? people believe things either based on evidence, on the trust of expert authority (for instance, most of us believe quantum physics is an accurate description of the micro world based solely on the trust we place in expert authority), or people believe things on faith. religion isn't an evidenced based belief so no one believes in on that basis. i suppose some people might begin believing based on the authority of "experts" like their parents and their pastor but they continue to believe because of faith. but you can't force yourself to believe in something you don't. the question is pointless since it suggests that you do something that we're simply not capable of doing.
4. cover your ass?- is the Christian god so vain and petty that all he really wants is subjugation and propitiation? is this god so interested in people believing in him that he's willing to accept forced calculated cover your ass style belief that exists in a person solely so that they can get a get-out-of-hell-free card?
the what if you're wrong question, Pascal's Wager, fails because there is much to risk in believing false things. it fails because the Christians, in choosing their god, have almost certainly chosen wrong and are going to the hell of Baal, Zeus, Wotan, Allah, or perhaps the hell of the Catholic god or the Protestant god. it fails because you can't force yourself to believe in something you don't. finally it fails because the Christians in urging you to believe to cover your ass admit that their god is a vain capricious petty bully who favors worship over honest skepticism in the absence of evidence.
what about the question or the way it was asked would indicate that it wasn't serious? *shrugs*
and for a less serious answer to the question, if someone asked me that question, i'd tell the person that in light of all the beautiful Christian girls i've given pleasure to, God will commute my sentence and send me to Heaven instead. lol.
"What if" is at the heart of everything and we all live our lives abiding by it's pervasive inquiry. As James says above, if there were a god he would see though any attempts at faking something so ethereal as belief anyway.
When I was one of the sheep, my constant struggle was with my belief, I knew in my head that it didn't make sense but I knew in my liver that I better just try harder.
You either believe or you don't, you can't fake believing in something. If only the fearful could see it in all it's simplicity, like gravity or evolution - the facts support the theory and results in logical choices which become knowledge.
The pressure to believe the unbelievable must be unbearable - that's why those Christians are so mean.
as much as the religious would like to deny that this is the case i have heard it from too many ex-religionist atheists for it not to at least be something that happens to a good percentage of people. professing belief while feeling that nagging pull from your reason and logic telling you that what you're professing belief in is just ludicrous. i've had people tell me that they would be arguing in defense of their faith and actually be taken aback by the words that had come out of their own mouths-- "did i really just say that?"
cognitive dissonance is a very powerful thing.
God most definitly knows our hearts, we will stand before Him and He will see our true motives. Those Christians attempting for the Get out of hell free card will be sadly dissipointed. Salvation is gained through faith.