Author Topic: Do they really believe?  (Read 21736 times)

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Offline Dante

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Do they really believe?
« on: October 15, 2010, 12:59:56 PM »
Does the average Christian really believe?

Sure, they say they believe, but their actions rarely jibe with their beliefs, their biblical "rules". Is it that they have the "forgiveness" loophole, which they use constantly to justify their "sinful" nature? Or do they only try to believe, say they believe, fearful of Pascal's Wager?

I, for one, am not sure they really believe. It seems impossible to me that any being with any kind of sense and intellectual honesty could believe, truly believe in the fairy tale and mythology of an unsubstantiated, hidden god.

As a life-long doubter, I've never had the personal experience. I look forward to hearing from the converted and the de-converted.
Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

Offline Agga

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2010, 01:06:09 PM »
Does the average Christian really believe?
In my opinion most of them want to believe that they believe, for a host of reasons that are personal to them.

Whether they truly adhere to their beliefs, and live them as their religion instructs them to, is another matter altogether.  I'd say that very few at all do that, if any.  In fact, even the bible tells them that they'll always fall short.
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Offline Dante

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2010, 01:12:18 PM »
Whether they truly adhere to their beliefs, and live them as their religion instructs them to, is another matter altogether.  I'd say that very few at all do that, if any.  In fact, even the bible tells them that they'll always fall short.

Ah. Another loophole. They dont have to, because they cant if they tried. How convenient.

If they were to truly believe the things they tell us about "eternal afterlife", you'd think they'd try a LOT harder to attain those sky-mansions.
Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

Offline velkyn

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2010, 01:14:07 PM »
I was raised a Christian, Prebyterian in particular.  I believed because I trusted my parents. They wouldnt' lie to me would they?  ;) Well, yes, but not maliciously. They beleived becasue they trusted their parents or some other authority figure and on back it goes.  They didn't want to know any better and I wouldn't have either or started on the path to atheism if I hadn't watched my church tear itself apart.  It's a very attractive thing, to believe that there is indeed a purpose to the universe and that you are so very special that an all-powerful being is concerned for you and only you. Most Christians haven't a clue what their bible says.  They get the "behave or you're going to hell, ask forgivness and everything will be alright" and that's about it.  I think this is an expected and perhaps even an acceptable excuse for most people, they just do what they are told sadly enough. It's when supposed leaders of the church use the same ignorance to do whatever they want that really gets me annoyed.  I can't believe that abusive priests, embezzling ministers, etc, really believe.  If they did, they'd at least try to stop what they are doing and they don't.  

It was only when I watched the church come apart, watched "good Christians' act like total asses that I decided to take my case to God himself.  You know, "let the children come unto me"?  I was in my teens then, so not so much a child but good enough I thought.  I prayed, read the bible, etc. and got bupkis. I tried a few other religions after that but they were the same, no answer.  So, I delved deeper and deeper and ended up the happy atheist you see today. :)

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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2010, 01:20:52 PM »
Having been mercifully free of Christians, the few that I have seen say they believe but, when questioned, have no idea what they believe in. Few will admit that the end purpose of Christianity is Armageddon and the 2nd Coming when 1/3rd of the world (2.3 Billion souls) will die and be cast into Hell.

I also suggest looking up SPAG - http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/SPAG . this seems to describe most Christians.

Thus I think the word “believe” is incorrect; “imagine”, “self-justify”, are probably better.
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline Agga

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2010, 01:21:57 PM »
Ah. Another loophole. They dont have to, because they cant if they tried. How convenient.
Christianity = LoopholesRus.TM

Quote
If they were to truly believe the things they tell us about "eternal afterlife", you'd think they'd try a LOT harder to attain those sky-mansions.
Yeah, and they'd also never go to the doctor, either. 
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Offline Agga

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2010, 01:27:46 PM »
So, I delved deeper and deeper and ended up the happy atheist you see today. :)
And pretty.
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Offline velkyn

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2010, 01:39:36 PM »
flatterer :D
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Offline Dante

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2010, 01:41:32 PM »
I was raised a Christian, Prebyterian in particular.  I believed because I trusted my parents. <snip>

Thanks for sharing, velkyn. As usual, you make perfect sense. It's easy to see how children, and even young adults, could come to believe. I don't doubt their sincerity at all.

 I can't believe that abusive priests, embezzling ministers, etc, really believe.  If they did, they'd at least try to stop what they are doing and they don't.  

^But this, this is the real meat of the discussion. And it's not only applicable for the clergy, but for any mature, thinking adult.
Actually it doesn't. One could conceivably be all-powerful but not exceptionally intelligent.

Offline velkyn

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2010, 02:18:02 PM »
I agree. I think that some adults, having wrapped up so much of their self-worth in this delusion will do *anything* to save it. It's not a pleasant process, to lose one's faith.  You feel like you are doing something WRONG and that you must be the only person in the world God is not talking too.  Heck, I recall feeling that since God didnt' want to talk to me I must be *the* anti-christ.  Per that BS in various end times books, I'd be about the right age at the "right" time.  What a horrible thing to make anyone think.  Of course, I'm sure that some of our theists here would say I was *an* anti-christ, but I want to know when i get those magic powers they promise.

Then you realize that God's talking to nobody and you feel quite a bit better. :)
"There is no use in arguing with a man who can multiply anything by the square root of minus 1" - Pirates of Venus, ERB

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Offline dloubet

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2010, 04:48:08 PM »
Maybe they're role-playing their lives. They have a character they're trying to play, and they're thinking "This is what I would do if I really believed".

Maybe Christianity is one big Mega-LARP! You play the character of the benighted pious hero until such time as it becomes inconvenient, and then you rationalize your failing as, well, it's just a LARP. Heck, Fantasy LARPers are allowed to wear sneakers, right?

Thus it's the perfect lazy-man's moral structure. "Arr, it's more of a guideline..."

This dovetails nicely into the theory that the bible is a bunch of fan-fic.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2010, 04:49:44 PM by dloubet »
Denis Loubet

Offline Ashe

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2010, 05:41:05 PM »
 So, I delved deeper and deeper

I N C E P T I O N


OP, I really don't know. Part of me has always suspected that few people "really" believe, but it's possible that it's nothing but self-projection on my part. I don't see how they could actually believe. It would seem to me that they pay it lip service, but for all practical purposes - if they really, really were honest - they don't. I mean, if I said to a believer, "God can do anything. Jump off that cliff and ask him to save you," I know they wouldn't jump.

Maybe, like me, they say they believe because that's what you're supposed to do, and then you're never supposed to think about it in too much depth again. It's possible that the only difference between those believers and myself is that I never had a religious enough upbringing to keep me sticking to my "belief." I got lucky. I could easily see myself on the opposite side of this whole debate if I'd only had the upbringing for it.
2 miles!
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Offline Historicity

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2010, 06:31:31 PM »
The answer is to use the scientific method.

Turn to some of your religious channels.  (This will be a sacrifice in the name of science.  Not as bad as torturing small animals but a sacrifice.)

Note the themes of the sermons.  What is the preacher urging the congregation to do?

1) Evangelize.
2) Abstain from some sort of sin
3) Pseudoscience including pseudohistory like George Washington's last will and testament or his speeches that called upon the "healing blood of Jesus Christ".
4) Send money.
5) Exaltation, elation and general incoherence.
6) Politics
7) Faith.

You can do this while channel surfing.  A couple minutes away from the commercials during a show you really want to watch should do.  Keep a record of Faith vs non-Faith.

Note that if a preacher is urging faith then he knows the audience/congregation's faith is wavering.  It needs reinforcement. 

According to statistical rule of thumb (derived from Student's T-test) you should not report a sample smaller than 30. 

The next step in the scientific method is to publish your findings.  We will all be interested.




Offline Tealeaf

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2010, 03:21:21 PM »
What they really believe depends on who's asking. I've experimented with this myself. If you let on that you're an atheist, they tend to back into the corner and start grasping frantically at whatever they've be conditioned to believe. If you let on the other way, they're more liekly to process skepticism. I think it's mostly because it's 'cool' to be an opposing force.

So to me, it comes down to the taking a toy from a toddler scenario. Whichever way you swing it, they'll lean towards the other. If they aren't 'using' their religion, they'll still fall back to defend it when someone makes a move on it.

This is just what irks me about the question of whether they really believe or not. It's not so much about the content of anyones thoughts. It's more about presentation and who's asking.

Offline OnePerson

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2010, 03:41:16 PM »
So now it's "There's no Christians in foxholes". 

Offline cheezisgoooood

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2010, 03:50:15 PM »
Last night I was on facebook and I made a joke about how "I think we should evolve a little bit more because we're all still a little bit herp derp durr"

and he reiterated somethign he's said to me often and that's that "he won't change his mind on creationism"

I said that was too bad because science doesn't care what anyone's opinion is.

He went on to say stuff like "some people need religion to help them live"

And I responded that "a comforting lie is still a lie."

He asked me why I want to tear his beliefs apart, because he went through a depression and became happier when he accepted God and all that and I told him that I don't think that's a very good way to deal with depression, considering he is hinting at the fact that his beliefs are fragile and could collapse again at any moment.

He kept asking me to just try to make him stop believing while at the same time repeating that I was being a jerk trying to take people's beliefs away from them.  I told him religion causes too many problems in this world for me to stand by and say it's okay.

It seems to me that even Christians are aware at this point that just one conversation with an atheist could flip their worldview on its head.

Offline penfold

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2010, 04:37:04 PM »

And I responded that "a comforting lie is still a lie."

He asked me why I want to tear his beliefs apart, because he went through a depression and became happier when he accepted God and all that and I told him that I don't think that's a very good way to deal with depression, considering he is hinting at the fact that his beliefs are fragile and could collapse again at any moment.

He kept asking me to just try to make him stop believing while at the same time repeating that I was being a jerk trying to take people's beliefs away from them.  I told him religion causes too many problems in this world for me to stand by and say it's okay.

This kind of position seems increasingly common amongst atheists. There is a certain attraction to it.

However, I am not sure how helpful it is. I have an old friend who suffers from very severe bi-polar disorder, he has spent several years of his life in institutions. He is also a devout Catholic. His faith has been an incredible support for him and gives him a much needed centre. He is no idiot either: a King's Scholar, a history degree from Durham and a qualified lawyer (an especially hard get given his personal situation).

As his friend I would count it as an exceptional act of cruelty to challenge his faith. A comforting lie is still comforting.

Actually I would extend this principle; any adult with the advantage of an impartial secular education should be allowed to come to their own view of the cosmos. I strongly believe we should ensure government is secular (in particular that education is secular). However in terms of what people chose to believe, I think we should give them the same intellectual space we expect them to give us.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 04:40:49 PM by penfold »
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2010, 04:54:14 PM »
A touching story – could it not be that cricket or steam trains, studying insects, collecting stamps, pro bono work, or any other pastime could be substituted for Catholicism and thus escape the gilt and superstition? Did he, at some time in the past commit himself to the pope and is now unwilling to leave for fear of losing his investment?

What would happen if he lost his faith overnight? I’ve seen it happen. Losing an interest in insects is nowhere near so damaging.

“The comforting lie” – a nice phrase. You will know the Wilfred Owen poem, (http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html) that ends:

Quote
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

Your friend has been given the old lie – should we not stop the lies before more people get into his position of being dependent upon them?
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline cheezisgoooood

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2010, 04:57:45 PM »
@ penfold

The point we were discussing was evolution, and then it somehow spiraled out of control into a sort of conversation about our respective depressions.  We were both depressed at one point and came out with different conclusions.  I haven't ever had a conversation about religion with him, I just found it interesting he got so defensive about his religion when all we were talking about was evolution.


[modbreak]Pointless reposting removed[/modbreak]
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 04:59:51 PM by Moderator 11 »

Offline monkeymind

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2010, 05:08:02 PM »
I don't know about bipolar disorder,  but these guys seem to think that religion and spirituality as "ongoing tools for social support"  can make things worse for patients with schizophrenia.

Siddle R, Haddock G, Tarrier N, Faragher EB. Religious delusions in patients admitted to hospital with schizophrenia. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2002;37:130-8.

At least according to:

http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=51361
Truthfinder:the birds adapt and change through million of years in order to survive ,is that science, then cats should evolve also wings to better catch the birds
Mailbag:On a side note, back in college before my conversion, I actually saw a demon sitting next to me in critical thinking class.

Offline pamindfw

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2010, 05:14:49 PM »
@Graybeard,
Riveting poem.  Thanks for its posting.


He kept asking me to just try to make him stop believing while at the same time repeating that I was being a jerk trying to take people's beliefs away from them.  I told him religion causes too many problems in this world for me to stand by and say it's okay.

When I read this my thoughts went to the number of jerks I've experienced who insist on imposing their own self righteous religious beliefs on others.  I don't think you were being a jerk.



Everyone is godless.

Offline penfold

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2010, 05:19:15 PM »
I don't want to derail this thread with a discussion of my friend. However he was never really 'sold' Catholicism. His father is C of E and his mum is an atheist.  

He has other strong interests (boardgames of all things) and does do a lot of pro bono immigration work, however none of them are as central to him as God. I don't think we rationally chose how to get through the days, and for some that process is tougher than others. Myself I find a combination of meditation and weed helps – not that I'm advocating either.

If he needs the salvation offered by Catholicism to do that then fine by me. It seems to benefit him and does me no harm.

@ greybeard, Nice Owen quote. But to be fair to Catholics their lie does not require them to die wrapped in mud.


@ monkeymind, interesting link.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline cheezisgoooood

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2010, 05:26:12 PM »
@ pamindfw


You can say that, but also I don't even really "try to take people's beliefs away."  That whole concept is completely mind-boggling.  How can I take someone's beliefs away from them?  All I do is ask them THOUGHT-PROVOKING QUESTIONS.  If this offends him and makes him think that I'm "trying to take people's beliefs away" then this exposes a truly disturbing aspect of belief: it is self-aware delusion.

My question to him was why he thinks just words can coax him out of his beliefs.

[modbreak]Pointless reposting removed[/modbreak]
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 05:49:21 PM by Moderator 11 »

Offline penfold

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2010, 05:26:27 PM »
I just found it interesting he got so defensive about his religion when all we were talking about was evolution.

I think this is quite astute.

We all (not just theists) conflate our opinions with our ego. So when someone undermines our opinions we sometimes mistake that as undermining us.

In neurological terms what is happening is that people often respond to a critique of their opinions with the limbic system rather than the rational areas of the brain. In this sense a 'frontal attack' on someone's views often has the reverse effect from that intended. By attacking people's faith we make them engage their emotional centres, such as the amygdala and this feeds into the centre of personality, the pre-frontal lobes. This means that by attacking someone's faith we actually start a neurological process that reinforces their association of faith with identity, entrenching their beleifs. It's stupid but that's how we are wired.

Hence, while being undoubtedly very clever, Richard Dawkins is one of life's great fools.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 05:28:47 PM by penfold »
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline monkeymind

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #24 on: October 24, 2010, 05:27:24 PM »
I also found this on Google Answer, hope it is of help:
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=115131

A whole thread on individuals who have suffered from religious
delusions(some of them bipolar) can be found here:
http://forums.about.com/ab-bipolar/messages?lgnF=y&msg=3376.1

As there is at present no objective diagnostic for either
schizophrenia or bipolar it is useful to look at symptoms of both
groups.


Many bipolars seem to suffer with some form of Christ-like delusion:
http://www.healandgrow.org/what_are_depression_bipolar_disorder_manic_depression.htm

Naturally, the "born-again" aspect of the illness is culturally linked
as this particular trait would not be found in predominantly
non-western cultures such as Japan where 'religious' paranoia would
take on a different culturally specific form.

Since the birth of modern psychiatry Christ and many other religious
leaders besides have been labelled mentally ill:
http://www.cchr.org/religion/page47.htm

Christ in particular I find to be a strongly bipolar prophet as mood
disorders in particular are linked to creativity:
http://www.talentdevelop.com/Page91.html
Poetic creativity is especially strongly correlated.  The sermon on
the mount shows his profound poetic gifts.  He displayed a
manic/psychotic episode when throwing over the money changers tables
in the temple followed by a sullen, mute depression afterwards when on
trial before Pontius Pilate.

Perhaps it is appropriate to ask whether Christ suffered from "born
again" delusions and religious fundamentalist tendencies?

My conclusion from all this is that mental illness and mood disorders
in particular predispose an individual to the certain aspects of
religious thinking(in the West here this would be especially Christian
fundamentalism)
which will vary depending on the culture.  It would be easy to lay the
blame on the religion for the sufferings of those afflicted but it is
clear from the wide range of delusional worlds constructed by the
mentally ill that almost any compatible system of fundamentalist
thinking can be substituted for the Christian beliefs which fill the
minds of so many of the mentally ill.
Truthfinder:the birds adapt and change through million of years in order to survive ,is that science, then cats should evolve also wings to better catch the birds
Mailbag:On a side note, back in college before my conversion, I actually saw a demon sitting next to me in critical thinking class.

Offline Operator_011

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2010, 05:30:38 PM »
cheezisgooood,

When you pay attention to the modbreaks in your posts across the forum, and stop reposting material unnecessarily, I'll return your last post back to this thread.



Edit: I've put it back for you now. Please take more care and ask yourself whether or not you need to use the quote function.

Penfold & pamindfw have set a great example in this thread on how to do it.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2010, 05:51:24 PM by Moderator 11 »
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #26 on: October 24, 2010, 05:53:25 PM »
Getting back to the OP, I do not think that most religious people, specifically Christians, really believe.

If I truly believed that the most powerful being in the Universe was watching me all the time and wanted me to do something, then I would do it, come hell or high water. I would never commit a sin, because the greatest of all was watching me all the time!

If it wanted me to give away all my belongings and stand on a street corner preaching the word, I would do it. If it wanted me to kill homosexuals or people who work on the Sabbath, I would do it. I would not be making mealy-mouthed excuses about how that was then and this is now, or how maybe it was a metaphor. I would be too terrifed to disobey with the almightiest of almightiest watching all the time!

Nobody speeds or shoplifts with an ordinary human cop watching. Nobody cheats on a test with the teacher looking right at them. But all these devout Christians disobey god all the time. They do not really believe. Except the crazy ones, as has been already discussed. :P
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Gnu Ordure

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #27 on: October 24, 2010, 06:09:53 PM »
^^^

And how would you have sex, with an old man watching your every move?




I don't even like the cat watching me... he always looks bored, which disturbs me, but I think it'd be worse if he looked interested.

Offline monkeymind

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Re: Do they really believe?
« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2010, 06:15:48 PM »
Funny, how all this came up with a relative of mine this week. When I said she didn't really believe the bible (and I used the you don't stone your children when they are disobedient bit) she said that was old covenant. I was going to show how she also didn't obey New Testament teachings, but got sidetracked debating that the new covenant did not replace Old Testament laws....and it only devolved from there, with me being accused of attacking her personally. At that point I ended on the defensive explaining what Penfold just did about the limbic system.

So how does one proceed with this idea that a Christian doesn't really believe, without letting it get sidetracked as it did for me and as t did with this thread?

And...how does one separate the believer from their belief, and the belief that they believe?
Truthfinder:the birds adapt and change through million of years in order to survive ,is that science, then cats should evolve also wings to better catch the birds
Mailbag:On a side note, back in college before my conversion, I actually saw a demon sitting next to me in critical thinking class.