A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Friday, September 14, 2007


A friend of mine, who'll be a future guest blogger for this site wrote a piece I've excerpted below:

What does it mean to "believe" in something? My academic background is in psychology. I know what it means to "think" something. But that has to be different from what it means to "believe" something, especially in a religious sense.

If to "believe" is to "think," we have some real problems. I have asked different people who say they "believe in God" or "believe in Christ" or "believe in salvation" or "believe in the virgin birth" or "believe in justice" what they think about these things, and they have produced more answers than there were respondents.

I've been told that Catholics "believe" one thing and Methodists another, but when I ask what they think, there is great variety within, and overlap between, those groups. Because two people use similar words for what they believe does not mean they think the same things but it does somehow indicate a shared.. something.

I'm hesitant to equate belief with thought because I know my thoughts change day to day, even minute to minute. But I still believe. Belief seems more active, more about the overall direction I'm facing, the life I'm living, the experience I'm having. It might incorporate some cognitive elements, but it seems far more behavioral and affective.


At 5:15 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Well, after some cogitation over the same issue myself, I'd prefer to say it has two elements: intellectual assent to something, and living by the assumption of its truth (cf taking something such as the strong nuclear force `for granted').

To be lacking the living lends itself to hypocrisy.

At 7:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If to "believe" is to "think," we have some real problems. - In a religious context this situation never arises. Religious belief is about the suspension of reason. It's about faith in the truth of religious doctrine even in the face of over whelming evidence to the contrary and absolutely no evidence in support.
It's about a belief that history can be influenced by praying to a deity to intervene on behalf of an individual. This has never happened in the history of mankind and it will never happen. I can say this categorically because there is no god. I will continue to deny the existence of any god and I will not be struck down by a bolt of thunder nor will my soul be condemed for eternity. This is reality. This will be the experience for everybody who denies the existence of god.

At 7:41 PM , Blogger Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Believe is to think and to trust - links to faithfulness. So it is to direct oneself in thoughts and actions consistent with the thinking. The thinking can be evidence based or story based. It is a kind of commitment of mind and body.


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