I find that showing confidence when asked this question works best. For instance, answering with.. "well then I'm wrong, and I would accept the possible consequences of not believing rather than believe out of fear." I try not to be too aggressive when answering questions like this. Telling them that the question is logically invalid as an argument because the question can easily be inverted against themselves as well is a little harsh and would only show them my discontent with their faith. Its a good way to make a theist turtle up lol.
I agree that atheists cannot pretend that an argument is valid. It honestly depends on the situation. I consider debating a theist somewhat of a game. Dropping little subliminal attacks against his reasoning in most answers, while still letting him believe that he is not being cornered. Like how in my above post I implied that accepting consequences for not believing is better than believing out of fear. He does not feel threatened yet still is presented with a reasonable response. But your right, we shouldn't pretend and tuck our tails. Never =)
heh, its not meant to refute the question. It's meant to block it. It's an invalid question. Also, the response "I don't believe out of fear!" is not a refutation, merely a defensive statement. If a theist said that to me, I would only shrug and say that I don't believe out of fear either.. effectively solidifying that the question is logically invalid, and pointless.
Your argument can be expanded to, "what if you're wrong? Isn't it better to believe, just in case?" This is a common Christian Apologetic argument known as Pascal's Wager, popularized by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal. It goes something like this:
"If god does exist, and you believe in Him, then you're in Heaven, and all is good. If god does not exist, and you do believe in Him, then what have you lost?"
The main argument against this "wager", and where it falls apart, is when you consider ALL of the gods out there. Which god do I believe in? Yahweh? Krishna? Buddha? Vishnu? L. Ron Hubbard? Some other god that I haven't heard of? How can I be sure I am believing in the right god? The odds are that I will pick the wrong one, so Pascal's Wager falls apart when considering the odds alone, much less any other higher philosophical arguments.
Then I go to hell and burn for eternity for not kissing the butt of an intelligent 'loving' being that allows for all the horrors and depravities of the world to exist, including the ones committed against the good people that kiss his/her/its butt in the first place who also ask for help/guidance/love when these acts are committed against them, and even ask for forgiveness when it happens, even though they have no control over it happening to them, because of course the butt they kiss is perfect, so it must be all their fault. Also, the best this guy can do is say "hey, don't fight back. Don't defend yourselves. Love the guy who's brutally mutilating you. The meek will inherit the Earth someday, after all the bold and powerful somehow die off (conveniently leaving the meek untouched), so your pain and suffering won't be for naught!"
In the words of Richard B. Riddick: "Got it all wrong, holy man. I absolutely believe in God... And I absolutely hate the fucker."
---Or what Nelson said. Seriously, when did you get all the brains?