A variation on Pascals Wager and logical conclusions thereof
(This admittedly avoids theists that have faiths that are not exclusionary and/or promises of good or punishing afterlives, though they are of course free to weigh in)
I'm sure this was brought up more than once before but I got into a discussion recently and wanted to see what others thought, and what theists might think about it. A basic question has to do with a slight variation on Pascals Wager, or at least how it's frequently used. The basic idea being of course that you should believe in a higher power and assent to its demands because if you're wrong, well there's no problem and if you're right there is a chance of reward. If you refuse to believe, then if you're wrong there is a great risk and there is no problem if you're right. What I find fascinating in this is that it is rarely applied outside the main religion or considered how it worked when used on similar principles by various pogroms instigated by protestant against catholic and catholic against protestant.
To put it another way, how do you know your religion is right, after all there are dozens of faiths out there, and there are statistically more people out of your faith than in it. What I mean in that is that most christians have denominations, baptist, lutheran, catholic, methodist, episcopal, etc. And the denominations might not seem like a huge deal but they were apparently distinct and different enough that it warranted various splits and theological changes and most people wouldn't happily jump to a different one if they were happy with theirs. Wo how can you know that yours is the right one? Do we go by which one is oldest? Which one has the largest number of converts? Perhaps study genetic makeup, intelligence, wealth and social placement among each group (after all if there is an omniscient all powerful being presumably those that please it most would have the best traits it could offer and show signs of its favor, see also the divine right of kings). Too simplistic or arbitrary? How about a genuine miracle-off. We set up a panel of judges and device a series of tests and opposing miracles, things that can be shown to genuinely work and not just be a random act of fate or blind luck nor be attributed to human action/intervention. Now let's also remember the other faiths, and we need to remember that whatever divinity we're trying to understand, if it cares, should have some good means of communication, after all if it cares about its creation it would need to be able to communicate clearly and provide information to its prophets that are correct and consistent. Maybe we study and compare religious texts, check them for internal consistency, consistency to the modern world, etc. It also has to be able to function in any translation, an all powerful being that genuinely cares wouldn't give us information that went haywire due to translation errors nor would it require a special scholar to decode it (though for dead languages it can be used for the purposes of clarification).
Now we go to the next question, if you truly believe as you do that yours is correct and that there is a great punishment awaiting those that are wrong, and that ignorance won't save anyone then why aren't you doing more? This goes beyond proselytizing, shouldn't you be forcing conversions at weaponpoint? Or at least arguing for it, after all their literal immortal essence is on the line, why aren't you arguing that maybe your faith should consider kidnapping, brainwashing, etc? I would deplore such activities but that's also because I don't believe this stuff. Shouldn't you be sharing the knowledge if its true by any means necessary? If it's against what your deity wants then why can't they be a bit more overt in showing their power and existence? Now this also could mean that there are many competing pantheons with limited powers, if so wouldn't showing off abilities and offering what they could for believers be a wiser role if they merely want more people in their particular house of worship? Or why not have your deity insurmountably prove itself, cause the sahara to bloom without scientific aid overnight, or get rid of a major problem for humanity as proof of its existence and benevolence?
And to ask it differently, how many theists really do believe? I mean if you think there is a risk shouldn't you be running around comparing doctrines with a critical eye. Be skeptical of ALL faiths since any one of them could be wrong and then go to whichever one stands up under scrutiny and has proper internal logic? If anything one would think that atheists would be sought out to argue and debunk the best arguments for each faith in order to find the right one, after all in the face of our harshest critics we often find our weaknesses and are able to grow stronger from them. Just a thought.