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Do religious people really believe what they say? In trying to answer this question I cast my mind back to my childhood, when I believed the religion I was raised in (Catholicism).That was a long time ago and, like most people,I tend to distort my recollections to reflect more credit on myself. My best guess is that, although I should have known better even then, I allowed myself to accept what adults told me and I can't help being ashamed of that in retrospect. But adults who believe that kind of nonsense in their grown up lives?? They can vote??? Drive cars? Operate machinery? I think there are different kinds of belief and a proposition such as "There is a god and it intervenes in human affairs" is not believed in the same way as the proposition "2+2=4".

Senex 5 Sep 3

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All believers aren't dumb. That's what is so mindboggling. I have a fellow Science teacher that doesn't believe in evolution. Actually, there are apparently lot's of science teachers that don't. I can't fathom that. I guess someone can teach evolution and not believe it, but not me.

I suppose it's really just what Orwell called "doublethink".

@Senex What the heck is doublethink, exactly. I am not sure I have it.

@Grecio It's the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time.

@Senex That sounds irrational to me. I'm sorry I just can't help it. God must have been a molecular biologist.


There's a good video on YouTube by Seth Andrews "Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things"

Thank you bbs. I Love me some Seth.
I liked Michael Shermer also...interview kept getting better

I have seen the video and it is quite good as you describe.


Some do, but it's a scale. Some literally believe the Bible and every word in it, on the other hand I know people who are very active in their church but privately admit that no, they don't believe in God or any supernatural nonsense. Hell, the church I sometimes go to openly welcomes atheists. I don't know what percentage of the congregation are atheists, but some are.

The fundamental church I grew up in taught that the Bible was almost 100% literal. The women in the church were encouraged to wear skirts or coulottes EVERYWHERE. Social media and public schools were frowned upon. Heaven forbid anyone end up in a secular college, (Gasp! the devil's playground). Anything outside what we believed in church was of the devil, pretty much.

@Biblebeltskeptic That sounds appalling, words fail me.

@Druvius, I Don't realize till later that it was all sort of a mind-control all on the basis of an infallible Bible which doesn't allow for any doubt.

@Biblebeltskeptic It definitely sounds cultish, I am leery of all extreme ideologies. They usually end badly. Makes me think I grew up benefiting from "religious privilege" in a way. Going to ponder this.

I think the Unitarian Universalists have a good idea. I think they believe that all faiths and non-faiths have something to contribute.

@Grecio There're numerous denominations of all faiths that are "live and let live" about religion. Sadly though in my lifetime there's been a big rise in extremism among the Abrahamaaic faiths. I regard this unpleasant development more as a symptom of underlying problems in our global civilization than a cause. It's not good in any case.


The same small mindedness that entrenched them in their beliefs because its easier to let others think for you, is the same as believing in it all. If they go to church, tithe and try to convert others then they're just mentally empty enough (whether emotionally, intellectually or other) to suck it all in like a vacuum cleaner.

Well put K9.


I suspect there are millions of professing believers who don't believe. It's a lot of trouble to come-out. Especially in the Bible belt. I live with it everyday. I hear and see religious crap every day but I can't fight every battle all day long, day after day.


duh? what part of brainwashed don't you get?


If there are gods they do not intervene in human affairs. Maybe if you are persistent and wear the right hat. They holding your breath and balancing on one leg.

I can't find the book, but I read where a guy wrote a book years ago explaining that if there is a God, then there is just as much evidence that he/she is evil as there is that he/she is good. Seems about right.


To my mind, they believe ONLY what suits them at the time and often discard anything that doesn't suit the time or occasion, etc.
Though having said that, there are those, Mormons ( Morons) for example, that are so entrenched in their beliefs and dogmas they, quite literally, can't see anything else.

I don't know any Mormons. Are they really any more dogmatic than other religions? Are they insane criminals like Scientologists?

@Senex Jeez Mate, you don't know ANY Mormons, you must live way out in donga, too far away for them pedal their pushbikes then....LOL.
Used have those bloody pests knocking on my door with tedious regularity for years and years, eventually they FINALLY took the hint and put me on their 'black list.'
But these days we don't even see them around town as much as we used, they are very dogmatic but not anywhere those Scientology Nut-cases though.
Mormons ( Morons) do, however, wear special underwear, will preach AT you until the cows come home, tell you their story of how Jeebus Crust left Jerusalem and when to America to preach to and convert the American Indians and tons of other absolute bullshit as well.
Becoming a Mormon means that YOU must pay your tithes every Sunday without fail, you CANNOT drink ANYTHING that may contain caffeine, fast every Sunday, are NOT permitted to drink alcohol, smoke or swear ( use foul language), abide by the words of their Elected Prophet ( how a person gets to ELECTED as a Prophet has got me buggered) and about a miilion other no-nos as well.

@Triphid The book of Morman is such an obvious copy of the Bible is really funny.

@Senex I am amazed how so many believers are positively 100% sure about something for which there is no evidence.


I have seldom seen a religious person who believes everything in his/her religion. There's always ritual and reinforcement. Bible study, etc. Continual brainwashing. But very few will ever express their doubts openly. They are conditioned to behave as if they believe everything, so we may never know.


I watch em close… The dumbest appear to ‘honestly believe’ about anything they’re fed by an authority figure ...and it helps when they’re hearing something that justifies their desires..

Those with average or above intelligence know better, but haven’t the courage to admit it - accept when they arrive here! The rest just double-down..

Seems every ‘discovery’ destroys a bit more of the foundation of religion. There appears to be a turning point when a society finally ‘gets it,’ as several advanced Europen nations are showing. But when it’s mixed with politics, becoming the justification for greed, aggression, destruction or neglect - it’s clung to tighter than ever.

But as pitiful as are the ‘true believers,’ those who know better, using it as a tool of manipulation, are equal to any description of their devil. And as someone recently stated on the forum - those preaching this garbage to children should be prosecuted for abuse.

Varn Level 8 Sep 4, 2019

A few perhaps believe in the real literal truth of it, some go though the motions because they think they gain something from it, some think it puts them in touch with something vague and spiritual, some fake it to con others, and everything in between. The one thing that I have learned about human beings over the years, is that whatever you can think of, there will be someone out there who is living it, and that you can therefore, never pin down single groups with clear idealogical boundaries.

Well said my friend.


I would like to relate an experience I had years after I abandoned religion. The bus company I worked for was to have the drivers vote on whether or not they would like to join the Teamsters. The union held a couple of meetings to encourage yes votes. They gave speeches with a huge picture of Jimmy Hoffa behind the speaker. After each meeting, they had everyone join hands in a huge circle for prayer. In the first meeting, I stayed out of the circle, of about 30 people or so, and just watched from outside. The second meeting was getting all the more rabblerousing. People stood up shouting out their dissatisfactions of their employer. Caught up in the emotion, I join the circle this time and joined the prayer. I still did not believe in their God. I just did not want to be left out. I believe that many, not all, do not believe in the God prayed to while they are standing so solemn in church.

MrDMC Level 7 Sep 4, 2019

I'm sure there are atheist priests who just continue to preach because that's 'what they do' and they see it as a job.

And they have no training for anything else and have lots invested in it.

Look up “The Clergy Project”. It was set up to help people in the clergy to get out and help them find new employment.


Personally, I think all intelligent people dump Christianity as soon as they stop believing in Santa Claus but they are also aware that they need to go along to get along. When little, they need their parents to care them and relatives to accept them, and when they are teenagers they often date friends from church, so play along with their particular religious paradigm.

After they are married, many nonbelievers are comfortable being married to a religious person, out of habit, especially if the spouse is a typical Christian that gradually tapers off in enthusiasm until they are only attending church on holidays. The spouse could still have strong religious opinions, but the husband knows how to avoid land mines.


Your question, “Do religious people really believe what they say?”, is too broad a brush to realistically answer. I’m guessing you knew that already, but just in case I’m wrong I’ll take it seriously.

We could create an amazing poll that attempts to ask the religious the same questions in different ways, in non-persuasive or neutral ways, in clear ways to avoid interpretation, and ask the population in high fidelity and we still couldn’t trust the results with any measure of certainty worth betting on? Why? You probably know why. Many or most would wrestle their thoughts in favor of positive faith when pressured with the cognitive dissonance caused by each question. In fact, depending on each person’s situation many or most would probably begin flippantly answering many of the questions just to avoid the irritation caused by such cognitive dissonance.

Well said.


Different areas of knowledge require different kinds of assent to their truthfulness, for different areas of knowledge require different kinds of proof. 2+2=4 is based on logic derived from mathematics. However, as Polyani writes of different kinds of assent, the belief one's spouse is faithful to us is based not on logic but experience of the person and their history. Similarly, believe in a religion and its dogmas is based on things like history, experience and traditional communal teachings.
I think Catholicism is nonsense, but I don't think it is 'dumb' for adults to assent to it. I would challenge it on many grounds, but with people who are often intelligent and thoughtful.
Protestantism traditionally relies on the historicity of Bible events and the reliability of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek new Testament as their final authority. So they use arguments drawn from history and employ reason to make their claims. These are all contestable, but those making the arguments are often highly intelligent.
We need to be very careful not to show our own ignorance in not, for example, understanding the different kinds of assent based on different kinds of proof for different areas of knowledge.

I'm afraid I can't see why the infantile beliefs of Catholics (and Protestants are even worse; bloody heretics!!) should be given a pass just because they are dressed up in some of the trappings of scholarship.

@Senex I don't want to give them a pass. I do want to ensure we refute their arguments fairly and without making errors of logic or conflating different warrants of proof


Why only "believe" 2+2=4 when it can be demonstrated as a fact?

Gods cannot be demonstrated nor is there credible evidence to support them.

The former is "knowledge" that latter is "belief". They shouldn't even be considered as comparable.

I think you're right. Perhaps I should have explained myself more fully. How about "They don't think the existence of a god is a fact of the same order of certainty as 2+2=4"?


I like and agree with what you stated, as I was raised Lutheran, yet you also need to understand all of the types of bias and the compartmentalization of them that are in the brain.

Well stated. The brain is probably the most complicated and least understood item on earth. Any living cell is also extremely complicated. Cells have chemical pumps that use motions and forces yet to be explained by anyone.


I really believe that more than a few "Christians" would like to disbelieve, but are totally frightened by the possibility of Hell as a penalty for their disbelief.

I agree yet don't think it is the 'hell' thing. I think they are scared of what their friends/family will do to them. Also, any application of culture to that. I am good friends with a colleague who doesn't believe and he has shared that and more with me.

I also think that the social consequences of leaving the church are probably stronger ( and more present) than the "after-life" Many religious people have all their social contacts in the church..and therefore would have no life without it

It's like Pascal's Wager. Better to believe in case it is really true. My Sunday School teacher once told me that as a reason to believe. If there was a God, I don't think he would encourage that reason.

@AmmaRE007 Hahahahahaha.... good one.

@AmmaRE007, @gsiamne It's tough at a birthday party of 15 relatives who are all highly religious. When they say the blessing they ask that God have mercy on anyone who doesn't believe. They all know I don't believe. Sometimes I just want to tell them all that they can just kiss my butt.


Never under estimate the power of brain washing.

And the power of peer pressure.

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