I recently came upon a poster in an email list, who recommended that we adopt Pascal's Wager. I can't quote the passage that moved me to write, due to the posting rules for the list in question, but the summary is that we must choose whether or not to believe in god. If we disbelieve and there is a god, we are held responsible for disbelieving; but if there is no god, we get no punishment or reward whatever we believed; so, the argument goes, it is better to wager that there is a god.
IMHO, Pascal's wager is a very, very poor argument. Consider: Suppose the real god is actually someone who hates the Christian/Moslem/Baha'i/you-name-it conception of god. He actually punishes with the most fearsome vengeance those who believe in that god, but doesn't care much if you don't believe in him.
If you think that is unlikely, here is a more likely version: God cares whether one assesses the evidence to the best of one's ability, and follows the path of intellectual honesty. He is highly offended by people who believe simply in the hope of getting a reward. Such a god will clearly punish those who choose belief from being convinced by Pascal's wager.
Or perhaps God rewards people for the good they do relative to the motivation they had for doing it - He rewards believers very little, because they expect payment (heaven) for doing good, but He rewards atheists a lot, because they did good without any expectation of payback.
If there is any argument that brings discredit upon religious believers, Pascal's wager is it. It isn't philosophy, it says nothing about the truth or otherwise of beliefs about god, it is purely a conniving for personal advantage in eternity.
Philosophically it has another key fault: belief isn't a choice. Belief is being convinced by the preponderance of evidence, or perhaps choosing what you find likely in cases where there is little or no evidence. But you don't choose to believe in the same way you choose to buy a new television. I agree there is self-delusion, and that can be brought about by deliberate choices in drumming certain evidence into one's mind over and over whilst carefully ignoring other evidence, so that eventually the only evidence that ever comes to mind is that which points in a certain direction, and then you 'honestly' believe that option because, hey, all the evidence points to it. Yes, I agree that kind of self-deluded belief isn't a choice. But surely no one could consider it a legitimate philosophical strategy for pursuing truth?
I can understand why atheists find the argument unconvincing, but more than that, I feel that everyone should find it unworthy. But we have a problem: we don't have perfect truth-seeking minds. In short, no one is a perfect philosopher. The process of self delusion I described above can be pursued entirely without our conscious minds ever noticing that we are doing it. The same deficiency is likely why, once people have been convinced by an ideology (a religious or political belief, for example) their thinking then strays ever further from its original connection with the facts of the world around us: zealots steadily go insane, in effect.
This is even more of a problem because it may well be that the materialist conception of the universe isn't right: there might indeed be a realm of mind and spirit that is either apart from, or underlies, the material universe. There might indeed be key insights that need to be kept in mind, much as believers keep an ideology in mind, but which should be remembered because they are true and therefore helpful. How do we tell these various cases apart?
I don't pretend to have the answer to this question. The framers of the U.S. Constitution kept it in mind and tried their best, not to make people perfect or to falsely convince themselves that people are already perfect, but instead to design a system that would work to an acceptable degree even though people are not perfect. Perhaps we need to find philosophical and religious equivalents of the U.S. Constitution?