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Do Religious People Really Believe in Their Religion?


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If I believed that this present life were just a brief test to determine whether I would be admitted after death to another life of eternal bliss, it is inconceivable to me that I would ever commit a sin, since it would simply be foolish. Yet I hear Christians all the time say that they were 'weak' or 'tempted' on a given occasion to sin, and so did so, thus jeopardizing their own rational best interest in enjoying infinite bliss for the sake of a brief moment of trivial indiscretion. But since sane people are never tempted to bend down and touch the third rail of a subway because they are tempted by a piece of candy they spot lying there, I would assume that no sane Christian would ever be tempted to sin. Since they so often do sin, however, demonstrates that they don't really believe in the doctrine they profess.

 

Similarly, if I believed that my present life were just a brief test prior to a possibly infinite afterlife of heavenly bliss, nothing that goes wrong here could ever seriously bother me. If we were all at a giant garden party given by God, and he imposed a forfeit on someone and made him blind for the duration of the party prior to admission to Heaven at the end of the afternoon, that blindness would be no more distressing than being 'it' for a little while in a schoolyard game of tag. So the fact that Christians wail in despair when some serious but mundane tragedy ruins only this life for them makes me again suspect that they don't really believe what they profess.

 

I do imagine that Christians seriously think that they believe, but this is only because they have never seriously examined the incongruities of their behavior in the situations I have sketched above.

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There is something quite odd, and completely unique, with the whole epistemological attitude of believers towards their religion. Just as their everyday emotions and attitudes, such as the ease with

It is easier to die for your beliefs, than to actually live them day by day.

Marat, iNow: If we are arguing the morality of God, do we not need to assume the accuracy of the Bible in describing him? Much like we can discuss the morality of Robin Hood, but need to assume the ac

Self-control is hard. People do stuff that's definitely against their best interests all the time, such as procrastinate. But yes, I think that from the looks of it most people don't really believe their religion.

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It's very scary but i think a great many of them do "believe" they also believe that god will forgive them no matter what they do if they just ask. Even when they are doing something terrible, if they think they are doing it in the name of god they are going to be ok. it's very scary to me these people think that God forgives all and that anything done in the name of god is ok...

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That's a great video: It reminds me of the old song, "Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die." The inevitable question has to be, "Why not?"

 

Sometimes Christians say they sin because they are weak, but while people might step on the third rail of a subway by accident, they never do so out of weakness or lack of fortitude to act in their best interests, which is the supposed reason why believers threaten their admission into Heaven by sinning. No one is ever tempted to send the contents of his bank account to his worst enemy, or to drink Drano because of some irrational weakness, but somehow we are expected to believe that people endanger their admission to a realm of everlasting bliss because they are too weak to persist in seeking it.

 

Even those religions which promise the remission of sins usually do so with the proviso that their rituals create the possibility of God forgiving sins, but cannot compel him to forgive them with certainty, so people would still excruciatingly careful to avoid sinning.

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I'm reminded of a person I know, he claim to be a Christian, a strict Christan, but as soon as he is questioned or simple elements of the Christian belief system are raised to him he is mostly unaware of them...

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It's very scary but i think a great many of them do "believe" they also believe that god will forgive them no matter what they do if they just ask. Even when they are doing something terrible, if they think they are doing it in the name of god they are going to be ok. it's very scary to me these people think that God forgives all and that anything done in the name of god is ok...

Actaully, doing something terible in Gods name is one of the biggest sins (it breaks one of the 10 commandments). Doing somehting bad in Gods name is using his name in vain. It also applies to using Gods name for your own ends.

 

But I agree, it is scarry how people who believe that there is an absolute Morality handed down by a perfect being can justify atricities and then ask for forgivness and expect to get it.

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There is something quite odd, and completely unique, with the whole epistemological attitude of believers towards their religion. Just as their everyday emotions and attitudes, such as the ease with which they are tempted into sinning against their professed best interests to do everything possible to get into Heaven, would make no sense if they seriously thought about what their belief means, so too their willingness to believe the most extremely feeble 'proofs' of their religion makes no sense compared to their ordinary level of skepticism. People who would rangle with you for a week and a half, posing every conceivable and even a few inconceivable doubts about some very good real estate deal you were offering them, suddenly become profoundly gullible when they say that they know for certain that God exists and Jesus loves them because the Bible tells them so, as though the whole system could pull itself up by its own bootstraps.

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It is sad but true Marat, that you have exposed the hypocrisy of followers of the major world religions. However, this logically does not preclude the existence of 'gold standards' of morals, but the spiritual weakness of the followers. The believers believe they will be forgiven every sin and this eases the conscience somewhat. However, my own personal, independent, belief is that sins are only forgiven up to a point.

 

For example, you can maintain a facade of being a good believer whilst being severely envious of a work rival. In this example, you can deliberately and maliciously undermine your rival and then ask for forgiveness on the day that you attend your Church/Mosque/Synagogue. To my way of thinking, God may forgive the occasional straying of that person, as long as the person then returns to the correct behaviour delineated by his/her faith. Sticking to the example, if the person then decides to continue maliciously 'stitching up' their rival and asking for forgiveness, they are missing the point of contrition and returning to the correct behaviour.

 

My own logic cannot allow that the person who is malevolent to others whilst claiming to be a good believer will be continuously forgiven. It would mean that God is unjust in favouring a continually straying believer above a 'morally upright' non believer. God cannot be unjust, and IMHO, the believer will reach a point beyond which he/she cannot return back to the 'correct' path. At that point, they have gone astray.

 

I cannot subscribe to the belief that God became man out of love and then sacrificed His life to forgive all Christians of their sins for all time. It defies my sense of logic and forces me to consider a more spiritual-deistic hybrid explanation for the meaning of life and the purpose of humanity.

Edited by jimmydasaint
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When you start talking about what mental attitude a believer has to have to deserve divine forgiveness, you get into all sorts of Calvinist problems about how do you know for certain what your mental attitudes really are, and thus whether you are genuinely repentant or not, or whether you are really good or not, or just extremely clever at lying to yourself about what you really feel, think, and believe. But since you can't even access or know, and much less control, your subconscious motives and desires, you don't really 'own' your ultimate, bedrock mental states any more than you can consciously direct the clouds in the sky. In this sense many things 'in' you and playing a role in the formation of your thoughts and attitudes, which the Divinity holds you responsible for, are not even really yours!

 

Problems like this really make it look as though all this talk about God, sin, punishment, repentance, and regret as though these were simple counters we could position and value on a board in front of us, rather than subtle and inaccessible phenomena artificially simplified into purported entities by language and culture, is really just the product of the naivety of earlier eras of thought.

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Why is this restricted to 'religious' people? Presumably atheists also have a moral code that they 'believe' in, but still do things in violation of that code now and again. Does this then mean that they don't believe in their morality after all?

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When you start talking about what mental attitude a believer has to have to deserve divine forgiveness, you get into all sorts of Calvinist problems about how do you know for certain what your mental attitudes really are, and thus whether you are genuinely repentant or not, or whether you are really good or not, or just extremely clever at lying to yourself about what you really feel, think, and believe. But since you can't even access or know, and much less control, your subconscious motives and desires, you don't really 'own' your ultimate, bedrock mental states any more than you can consciously direct the clouds in the sky. In this sense many things 'in' you and playing a role in the formation of your thoughts and attitudes, which the Divinity holds you responsible for, are not even really yours!

 

 

 

I would not think that the Divinity punishes naughty thoughts. We are, after all, causative agents. You can think all day about what you could do to your friend's girlfriend but, IMHO, you cannot be punished until you take it to the physical stage. Severian has made an excellent point. If agnostic atheists ignore their own moral code, do they also not believe in it, or are they immune to the standards that they desire from believers?

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It is easier to die for your beliefs, than to actually live them day by day.

Clever, but no... Not really. We're all naturally predisposed to avoid situations which threaten death. It's FAR easier to live by ones beliefs than to make a conscious decision to die because of them, especially since we hold our beliefs by choice.

 

In short, evolution has prevented us from easily making decisions to die, but, despite my challenging of it's content, I like how your post was writ.

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Marat,

 

Great Post !!!!

This has always struck me as well. Thank you for putting it so well.

 

The question really comes down to where our "focus" is.

 

The more we examine the lives of the great saints too, the more we will see this sort of "other-worldly" focus. Not that they don't have temptations and troubles, but it is surely how they view and handle those troubles that mark a difference and make them worthy of emulation.

Edited by needimprovement
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Marat,

 

Great Post !!!!

This has always struck me as well. Thank you for putting it so well.

 

The question really comes down to where our "focus" is.

 

The more we examine the lives of the great saints too, the more we will see this sort of "other-worldly" focus. Not that they don't have temptations and troubles, but it is surely how they view and handle those troubles that mark a difference and make them worthy of emulation.

 

How odd needimprovement, i didn't even come close to getting that out of Marat's post, are you sure we read the same one? In fact i would say he said exactly the opposite of what you claim he did???

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How odd needimprovement, i didn't even come close to getting that out of Marat's post, are you sure we read the same one? In fact i would say he said exactly the opposite of what you claim he did???

While Marat has a point. We are all missing a different context in which sin takes place. This is the desire to be our own Gods and to have pleasure when we want it. Sin is irrational, and we are all spiritually wounded with a tendency towards sin, but not to the extent that we cannot do something about it. However; to simply say that we sin because we doubt Gods existence is to express a misunderstanding. Some people sin because at the time of that sin, the sin meant more to them than Gods will. Also, some people really do sin out of weakness such as when they have an addiction. To ignore the fact that influences can encourage us to make irrational choices really is playing blind-man to reality. While Marat's doo doo obviously doesn't stink, the most that he is able to prove is that human beings are unfaithful to God, like some men are unfaithful to their wife's or wifes to husbands. There is no guarantee that certain knowledge of God equals faithfulness to God. Yet God is continuously merciful in giving us the sacraments none-the-less. Being Christian doesn't necessarily mean that you love God either. We learn to love God. We acquire a spiritual taste for God the more we interact with God with honesty. A true saint has been given the grace to love God; they by themselves were not the cause of their sainthood. That is false interpretation of the catholic faith.

 

Those who think their good, are not good, and those who admit that they are sinners, are on the road to sainthood.

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While I do believe that most people do indeed believe in their religion you seem to assume only the ones who believe in your religion have valid beliefs. To define sin you must first decide whose belief is valid so talk of sin cannot figure into "really believing their religion"

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Human beings sin for the same reason they do other things that are harmful to them, be it in this life or the one to come.

 

They gorge on unhealthy food knowing that sooner rather than later their poor eating habits are going to catch up with them and affect their health.

 

They smoke. They drink way too much. They do other drugs. Also in the knowledge that these things are harmful.

 

They spend too much and incur too much debt again knowing that sooner rather than later it will catch up with them.

 

And they do other things that defy sense and logic. They buy lottery tickets knowing that the odds of winning are millions to one, bet on horses or sporting teams that have miniscule chances of winning, etc etc etc.

 

Humans are very bad for the most part at giving up short-term gains or rewards (such as the buzz of that chocolate hit or drink or the thrill of placing that bet) and focusing on long-term benefits (improved health or bank balance). This applies to spiritual benefits as much as material ones.

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Human beings sin for the same reason they do other things that are harmful to them, be it in this life or the one to come.

 

They gorge on unhealthy food knowing that sooner rather than later their poor eating habits are going to catch up with them and affect their health.

 

They smoke. They drink way too much. They do other drugs. Also in the knowledge that these things are harmful.

 

They spend too much and incur too much debt again knowing that sooner rather than later it will catch up with them.

 

And they do other things that defy sense and logic. They buy lottery tickets knowing that the odds of winning are millions to one, bet on horses or sporting teams that have miniscule chances of winning, etc etc etc.

 

Humans are very bad for the most part at giving up short-term gains or rewards (such as the buzz of that chocolate hit or drink or the thrill of placing that bet) and focusing on long-term benefits (improved health or bank balance). This applies to spiritual benefits as much as material ones.

 

 

What does this have to do with the op? Define sin, to do so means you have to define both god and religion something no one can really do with any more assurance than anyone else....

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If I believed that this present life were just a brief test to determine whether I would be admitted after death to another life of eternal bliss, it is inconceivable to me that I would ever commit a sin, since it would simply be foolish. Yet I hear Christians all the time say that they were 'weak' or 'tempted' on a given occasion to sin, and so did so, thus jeopardizing their own rational best interest in enjoying infinite bliss for the sake of a brief moment of trivial indiscretion. But since sane people are never tempted to bend down and touch the third rail of a subway because they are tempted by a piece of candy they spot lying there, I would assume that no sane Christian would ever be tempted to sin. Since they so often do sin, however, demonstrates that they don't really believe in the doctrine they profess.

 

Similarly, if I believed that my present life were just a brief test prior to a possibly infinite afterlife of heavenly bliss, nothing that goes wrong here could ever seriously bother me. If we were all at a giant garden party given by God, and he imposed a forfeit on someone and made him blind for the duration of the party prior to admission to Heaven at the end of the afternoon, that blindness would be no more distressing than being 'it' for a little while in a schoolyard game of tag. So the fact that Christians wail in despair when some serious but mundane tragedy ruins only this life for them makes me again suspect that they don't really believe what they profess.

 

I do imagine that Christians seriously think that they believe, but this is only because they have never seriously examined the incongruities of their behavior in the situations I have sketched above.

 

If I were to tell you that not all Christians or scholars of the Christian texts believed in complete spirituality, you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that the rules you follow in life are complete sin and destroy the 'eternal life' for everyone (humanity), you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that you're not an individual and by thinking that you are you admit that you are not human, you would think I'm a fool.

If I were to tell you that the current society is not 'reality' but a mere illusion, you would think I'm a fool.

 

Everything isn't as it seems -- the first step to being a true Christian is dividing the bible and interpreting it correctly; there are organisations that do this in secrecy, I'm one of the few that do it in public. To the government I would be considered a hate preacher, to science, a burden to advancement and to atheists I would be considered as as 'crazy schizophrenic'. It's not easy being a true Christian and it never has been since politics. What is life in these current times? I see none, I see death and destruction; and because I see that, I'm isolated as I hate it with all of my heart. I look around at my surroundings and I see nothing but profit for people who destroy the world, and nothing more than that -- so dark and dull, yet the only light I do see is Jesus.

"that my present life were just a brief test prior to a possibly infinite afterlife of heavenly bliss"

-If you believe in afterlife for purly yourself, you are being ignorant. We live between heaven and earth, and the "after-your-life" is for humanity. You may pass on, but you have the oppurtunity to save and preserve life for humanity and the world. So the breif test is for you to recognise this and you're failing miserably.

 

"So the fact that Christians wail in despair"

-Correct, I do wail in dispair, for humanity and not for myself. I dispise the current society and I hate the selfishness of individuals. A man went to the moon and it's an achievement for the whole of humanity -- I don't see it that way, I see it as an achievement for the individual who made it to the moon; it's doesn't relate to me in any way.

 

"But since sane people are never tempted to bend down and touch the third rail of a subway because they are tempted by a piece of candy they spot lying there, I would assume that no sane Christian would ever be tempted to sin"

-What would you consider sane? Only a sheep needs a shepard and the government is your shepard; so your sanity is completely controlled by their views. Getting into a car and polluting the air, tempting isn't it? Going to war in Iran to gain a hefty paycheck, tempting isn't it? To siphon the earth of the earths blood to earn billions, tempting isn't it?

 

There's a whole lot of sin in the world, you just need to notice it.

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One way to look at sin, is to compare will power to compulsion. A compulsion is easier to follow. It only amounts to pushing an unconscious button, and then letting the effect lower its own potential in the fastest way. Willpower often remains at higher mental potential longer.

 

For example, say we need a new computer. If we were animals we could steal it and lower the unconscious potential, quickly. With sin and will power, one can't just lower this energy potential quickly, with stealing, but will need to let the potential of the need, linger. We may sublimate that lingering mental energy, with a job and weeks of work to save up. We then lower the potential; buy the computer.

 

The analogy is we can let the water flow over the waterfall via the compulsion (natural), or set up a dam to generate mental electricity.

 

Religion builds more dams than the atheists. The atheist try to knock down the dams. This may make an atheist more calm and rational. The higher potential of the religious is often the source of mental energy that makes the atheist uneasy, since this potential can get too high and crack the dam; terrorists. But if it is done properly, using time test methods, it leads to a lot of useful mental energy. The Saints have their own dams, but also learned to harness the mental energy to do things way beyond themselves. If you even wondered where little Mother Teresa got her drive and energy...If she has lowered the mental potential using compulsions, she would have had much less energy to give. She may have only had energy for herself.

 

The "me" generation is also the generation that lost most of its dams. To keep the mental energy high, this takes constant external stimulus. We need to keep the flow over the waterfall high by feeding the river up stream. But fads are like temporary rain storms.

Edited by pioneer
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