Here are some thoughts that have come across my mind more than once. What if there isn’t a God, Jesus wasn’t sent to save my soul, and atheism as a worldview is in fact true? These are doubts I think pretty much every theist faces at some point. I am a Christian and often have them myself. What would be the consequences of me having these false beliefs?
On one level there is the intellectual doubt of God’s existence, but then on another level there seems to be a fear of the atheistic worldview – a deep emotional and/or psychological fear that we have no purpose in this life and will perish without any significance or impact made upon the world – that can sometimes be a motivation for someone to believe in God. While I believe the intellectual doubts are legitimate, I think the fear of the truth of atheism and its consequences, namely, that death is the cessation of a person’s existence, is irrational.
I believe in God and in an afterlife. I admit that I could be wrong, but that prospect does not frighten me. If there is no afterlife and I simply cease to exist, what is there to fear? I will never know I was wrong, and I will never feel any regret or remorse about how I lived my life (which probably wouldn’t be much different if I didn’t believe in an afterlife). Remember those billions of years before you were born? Yeah, me neither. Well, the rest of eternity will be like that. I don’t look back on that time with disgust, so why should I look ahead to a time of permanent unconsciousness with disgust? For a great resource on the rationality of fearing the end of your existence, see John Martin Fischer’s The Metaphysics of Death.
As it is, I do believe in God. This belief came through a combination of factors, but ultimately my research into the most important questions about His existence did not result in concluding it was impossible. Nor did I find it was even improbable. At this point in my life, philosophical arguments seem to at moist point the belief in God as not an irrational one. It is the combination of the most convincing arguments (that are never proofs, more like “clues,” as Timothy Keller puts it in The Reason for God) and the historicity of the New Testament that have grounded my belief on the intellectual level, while experience and intuition have only reinforced it. I truly believe in an omnipresent, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. If I’m wrong, I’ll never know.