But What If You’re Wrong?

I don’t typically spend a lot of time ruminating on song lyrics, but I’m going to make an exception tonight. A “thread”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=6258 was started on a particular “discussion forum”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com that I frequent (and moderate a section for) that touches on something I was thinking about earlier today. I don’t really need much of an excuse to write, so allow me to post the lyrics, and I will follow them up with a little commentary.

Nichole Nordeman – What If
From the album Brave

What if you’re right?
And he was just another nice guy
What if you’re right?
What if it’s true?
They say the cross will only make a fool of you
And what if it’s true?

What if he takes his place in history
With all the prophets and the kings
Who taught us love and came in peace
But then the story ends
What then?

(Chorus)
But what if you’re wrong?
What if there’s more?
What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?

What if you dig, What if you dig
Way down deeper than your simple-minded friends
What if you dig?
What if you find
A thousand more unanswered questions inside
That’s all you find

What if you pick apart the logic
And begin to poke the holes
What if the crown of thorns is no more
Then folklore that must be told and retold

(Chorus)

You’ve been running as fast as you can
You’ve been looking for a place you can land so long
But what if you’re wrong?

What if you jump?
And just close your eyes?
What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?

(Label: Sparrow Records)

“franky”:http://franksatheisticramblings.blogspot.com/ kind of got the “mental discussion”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/25 “rolling”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/23#comment-19.

Here’s the thing — atheists tend to devote a fair amount of time explaining why they believe God does not exist, in much the same way that Christians spend a lot of time explaining why _they_ think He _does_ exist. The question that runs through my head during this discussion is this — what if God really _does_ exist? What harm would it do to believe? If the atheist is right, then the worst that can happen is he departs into oblivion upon his death. But the worst that can happen if he is wrong is he is damned to a place of eternal torment. The options are exactly reversed for the Christian — being right means ending in a place of eternal bliss and being wrong means existence ceases at death. (There are, of course, lots of “different religious beliefs systems”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=103050#103050 to consider, but in all cases, the final conclusion is at least similar in terms of afterlife.) I wonder — do atheists argue so vehemently for their position because they hope that it is true? (Hint: this would be a good place to chime in.) Given the two options, it seems like it would be better to ‘play it safe’ and seek God, at least from a strictly rational perspective. I mean, what if you’re wrong?

6 thoughts on “But What If You’re Wrong?”

  1. Well, “playing it safe” would mean living a lie for *me* and working my entire life for something that I don’t believe exists.
    The whole idea of believing that what I do with my life will determine if I end up in a place of eternal bliss or eternal torment is just as silly as waiting for Santa Clause to drop down my chimney on December 24th after it flew around the *world* on a slep pulled by flying reindeer.
    As an atheist, I never really think, “what if I’m wrong.”
    Possibly ending up in hell never crosses my mind.
    If someone told you that you must believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and eat pasta every Friday or you would end up boiling for eternity in a pot of Ragu, would you stock up on spaghetti or take the risk?
    :-)

  2. That’s a good question. I think the main problem atheists face is the apparent humiliation of believing in something that might turn out to be false. It’s a pride issue.

    “The whole idea of believing that what I do with my life will determine if I end up in a place of eternal bliss or eternal torment is just as silly as waiting for Santa Clause to drop down my chimney on December 24th after it flew around the world on a slep pulled by flying reindeer.”

    As a christian, I feel the same way. Nothing I DO will ever get me any closer to God. It all has to do with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He gave that freely – it’s nothing I did. (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8-9)

  3. Jim,
    This is just Pascal’s wager. The major fallacy here is that there are several religions in the world so what if you and I are wrong about god, the afterlife, and etc. What if it’s really Muslims that are right? Or Hindus? Or Mormons? Or etc.
    How do we know? We don’t. On top of that, each religion makes extraordinary claims about the world with a significant lack of evidence. Plus, why don’t you play it safe as well? I mean, what if you are wrong Jim?

  4. Great article Jim. I heard the song last week when the single debuted on a Christian radio station in Atlanta. If I am wrong for trusting in Jesus then I guess that’s a risk I rather take.

    The benefits of operating in the Kingdom of God are not limited to the after life. Even if I need proof like Thomas did, God has already done enough for me during this lifetime for me to believe it’s worth it to live by faith in the Word of God.

    God bless you!

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