What’s the harm? again
Sorry for this obsession with Pascal’s wager, but I must say there is considerable harm in trying to be a Christian — lots of unnecessary stress, wasted time and inner conflict — if the Christian god is not real.
The three activities that are pitched as fundamental to living a good Christian life — praying (with a Christian mindset), reading the Bible and attending church — are arguably the most counterproductive things you can do with your time if the Christian god is not real.
Christians do these things to counterbalance the ‘natural’ way that they think, feel and operate.
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” — Proverbs 14:12 (and 16:25)
Christians are urged to ask, as the basis for every decision, “What does God want me to do?” or to ask God “What shall I do?” The ‘right’ question in Christianity is not “What is the most practical thing to do?” or “What is the most utilitarian thing to do?” or even “What is the most moral thing to do?” but, in essence, “What illogical or counter-intuitive thing does God want me to do instead of what I would have done just thinking for myself?”
Pondering decisions analytically is constructive, but the Bible discourages analysis and instead encourages tapping into God’s wisdom.
And although studying the Bible can be viewed as an analytical activity, the Bible really doesn’t say ‘how to do life’ as much as it says ‘how to deal with God.’ It is an anthology of how various people and groups have fared in trying to please (or just deal with) a god whose rules, judgments and actions are utterly unpredictable. If this god doesn’t exist, the Bible tells you virtually nothing useful — and even if he does exist, it still provides only vague clues, since we are clearly living in a ‘dispensation’ in which God does not interact with people as he did even 2,000 years ago.