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April 17, 2006

Can Believers Be Believed?

Accusations of fraud are often leveled by practitioners of one religion against another. European missionaries were quick to see quacks and fakers amongst the wizards, shamans and medicine men they observed in preliterate societies.

Elmer_Gantry.jpgAn early 18th century text of uncertain provenance, entitled The Three Impostors, claimed that Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were all frauds.

I'm curious to what extent disbelievers today believe that believers are faking it -- that the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are -- Elmer Gantry-like -- frauds.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at April 17, 2006 3:10 PM


Speaking out my butt on this I think that the Falwells and Robertsons believe the basic tenets of their faith. But I also think they consider exaggeration and lying legitimate tools for their purposes. On the other hand some like Delay I think are playing the religious card to their own ends.

The larger question of theist in general is how many of them deep down really believe. The story I grew up with good in heaven, the evil in hell and the imperfect doing a stint in purgatory, a hell with a fixed time limit.

That is Catholicism. Most religions have a similar story. How many people actually live like that is true?

Posted by: Boelf at April 17, 2006 10:46 PM

Faith or Bad Faith? We often watch the people whose front stage and back stage behaviors are in the most conflict disintegrate.

We can only judge someone's true thinking by their actions. But that is why we call it acting.

We live in social realities that make who is real more important that what is real. Because who is real is harder to figure out--really.

Posted by: Jay Saul at April 18, 2006 12:09 AM

I think it's entirely possible that the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of this world are cynical greedy hucksters and at the same time sincerely believe that they have a special calling from their god. People have an amazing ability to compartmentalize their brains.

Posted by: No More Mr. Nice Guy! at April 18, 2006 12:20 AM

I can't help but think that televangelists are frauds. It is very hard to believe that a "true Christian" would act in such a way. It is much easier to believe that there is good money in preaching like that. I could certainly learn more about the bible and preach as an evangelist, although I am atheist. As stated above, that's why it's called acting.

Posted by: JustinOther at April 18, 2006 11:48 PM

As a now disbeliever who was once a believer I "believe" they are both sincere & hucksters at the same time.

I think it likely that they start out sincere.

Somewhere along the line, the power & control of it gets to them & they cross the line once which means it's easier to cross it again & again.

During a meeting with a senior pastor & a deacon/chairman of the board we inquired, "Is it okay for you to lie like this?" The senior pastor said that it was okay for him to lie if it "helped the cause of Christ."

When asked about his relationship with a woman (not his wife) he grinned & said, "well if it looks like that, we'll have to do something so it doesn't look like that." In other words, yes you are right, I have a relationship/affair & yikes, if you noticed then others may notice, so I'll do what I can so it's not so noticeable anymore.

See, Falwell & Robertson are (according to their belief system & the flock that follows) anointed of God & no one, but no one can touch them. So unless God strikes them dead (something they believe he'd surely do if they were ungodly hucksters) then they must be legit.

It starts out sincere, then in a subtle way over time becomes dressed in the illusion of their anointing & being God's chosen. Given enough time, enough of a following which brings the power one can deny anything & do anything for the beloved "kingdom" ... right?

No More Mr. Nice Guy! said: "People have an amazing ability to compartmentalize their brains."

I agree.

Posted by: Zoe at April 19, 2006 11:47 AM

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