I think the people who really believe, hook line and sinker, are folks the rest of the world considers to be complete nutters: Moonies, hermits who live in caves, Hindu mystics who put hooks in themselves, barefoot black guys with matted dreads who sell incense on the subway for Jah, Filipinos who get nailed to crosses, Mexican women who pray to the Virgin Mary image they see on their tortillas, the 9/11 hijackers, Tom Cruise.
There's a guy around here who stands at a busy intersection wearing a sandwich board with bible verses on it. There's another guy who is always on the highway overpass holding a big sign that says JESUS. (As if nobody would know about the bible or Jesus if not for them and their signs...)There's yet another guy-- why is it always guys?-- who walks up and down the street dragging a gigantic wooden cross. I think they really believe.
I'll bet a lot of people are just pretending to believe, and the rest are trying hard to believe, but having a difficult time with the whole religion not making sense problem.
In total agreement with this...hence the big issue I always had with those few times in my life when I felt that I might
step off the deep edge into belief (as I mentioned a few posts back). The "truebelievers" really do tend to be a bunch of loonies, and the thought of being one of them scared me more than the idea of hellfire did, I guess.
Anyway, mostly responding here to the last sentence in the post. I think you really nailed it here. I'd say the vast majority of people out there DO either pretend to believe or try to talk themselves into belief with varying degrees of success. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes. Except that the Emperor in this case is omniscient, and will know if you are only offering lip service, so you'd damn well better SEE those clothes rather than just exclaim over their magnificence.
So between that and seeing everyone around us appear to hold a firm belief, it just becomes something so ingrained as normality that few even bother to examine their doubts. And if they do, it's easy to pass them off as the work of Satan or something, which then leads to more Bible Studies and other attempts to wrangle some sort of cohesiveness into the whole charade. The doubts must be squashed at all costs. But that doesn't mean that they are not still lurking in the subconscious.