Are We Pretending to Believe?

"Look," I said, "Four billion people believe in some sort of God and free will. They can't be all wrong."

"Very few people believe in God.", he replied.

I could not see how he could deny the obvious. "Of course they do. Billions of people believe in God."

The old man leaned toward me, resting a blanketed elbow on the arm of his rocker. "Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe." 

"If people believed in God, they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions."

"A belief in God would demand one hundred percent obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this belief on earth. But four billion so-called believers do not live their lives in that fashion, except for a few. The majority believe in the usefulness of their beliefs- an earthly and practical utility- but they do not believe in the underlying reality." 

I could not believe what I was hearing. "If you asked them, they'd say they believe."

"They say that they believe because pretending to believe is necessary to get the benefits of religion. They tell other people they believe and they do believer-like things, like praying and reading holy books. But they do not do the things that a true believer would do, the things true believer would have to do."

"If you believe a truck is coming toward you, you will jump out of the way.That is belief in the reality of the truck. If you tell people you fear the truck but do nothing to get out of the way, that is not belief in the truck. Likewise, it is not belief to say God exists and then continue sinning and hoarding your wealth while innocent people die of starvation. When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing."

- God's Debris; A Thought Experiment, Scott Adams

A belief is not merely an idea that the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind. - Robert Oxton Bolton

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