If there was a God who existed and was prepared to punish you for not believing in him, then if this God was fair, it seems that there would have to be some pretty good (obvious) reason why he could expect everyone to believe in him. Even if some of these difficult (for me) cosmological or ontological arguments are any good, then a fair God could hardly punish you for making an incorrect evaluation of such difficult arguments. So maybe there is another reason why God could expect someone to believe in him - could you maybe make a decent argument as to why someone should believe in God along these lines: It seems (obviously this is controversial) that there is something a bit more virtuous about believing in God than in not. What I mean by this is that belief in God seems very humbling, optimistic, honest and hopeful, whereas rejecting the existence of God seems a bit more cynical, easy and self-centered. In other words it is a better reflection on a person's character if they believe in God than if they don't. If we should act virtuously, then, it looks we should believe in God, because doing this would be acting virtuously. Even if this argument is any good, though, it doesn't seem to show that God exists, only that someone should believe in him. But if it is true that people should believe in God, then wouldn't it be very remarkable that this would be the case if there was in fact no God?

I think right at the end you hit the nail on the head as to why the argument is not particularly useful, since all it shows, if it shows anything at all, is that we are better off believing something rather than otherwise. As you say, that demonstrates nothing about whether the belief itself is true or otherwise, just that we ought to believe in it. It is a bit like those motivational "experts" who get people to think they are capable of doing all sorts of things through believing in the truth of particular facts, and that truth is actually irrelevant to the action, what is vital is just that it is believed to be true.

I don't think most religions would expect God to punish people who did not believe in him, although some do think that the idea of God not existing is so out of kilter with the facts that we would be reprehensible in taking such a line. You are right to question the idea that any sort of moral argument for the existence of God could be used to prove anything about his existence, something that Kant, for example, was very clear on.

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