Nominal belief and true belief

When I say something like “Christianity is immoral” (although it can be applied to any form of collectivism), it is easy to misinterpret. I obviously do not mean that all those who profess to be Christians are immoral. I mean that belief in Christianity is an immoral decision and leads to more immorality.

But most people who profess to believe in Christianity, do not really believe in it. They are what I call nominal Christians: people who self-identify as Christian but do not believe. How do we make the difference? Well, one good way to determine the presence of belief is to look at the impact of that belief in people’s actions. In short, the moral impact.

When you actually believe something, you act on the basis of that belief. If you profess to love someone but do not manifest it in any way, we would be justified in doubting your claim. On the other hand, if you profess not to love someone but manifest affection, tell that person about your love, and support said person in times of trouble, we would also be justified in doubting your claim. People can be mistaken or lie, but their actions indicate where their real values lie.

If we look at behaviour, we can observe three general groups of people: anti-theists, seculars and Christian believers. Anti-theists are a small proportion of atheists which actively fights against the influence of religion. Seculars are the vast majority of people, who live with little regard to religion. Christian believers are people who hold religious beliefs and act on their basis.

But what does it mean to act like a Christian? We must right away cut ourselves off from the idea that Christian believers are all upright citizens who can do no wrong. We know for a fact that this is not the case. Neither should we assume that Christian believers are pure evil. We should not start from any such premise before we look at the data.

The reason why I chose religion as the basis for this discussion, and not politics, is because we already have a good source of such data when it comes to Christianity: Barna Research, a business which dedicates itself to accurate surveys of religion in the “United States,” to be used by Christian churches.

First, what percentage of people are really believers? How do we even measure this? Well, we have to look at people’s self-professed moral principles. For instance, 13% to 16% of people claim to make moral decisions based on the Bible (born-against making up approximately one-fifth of this percentage, despite being only 5% of the population). This is a pretty good indicator of the percentage of believers. Given that approximately 85% of people profess to be Christian, this would indicate that definitely less than 20% of self-professed Christians are believers in the moral sense. Furthermore, only 7% of people state that their goal in life is spiritual development.

The concrete difference is that believers are less likely to be tolerant of people’s choices. Their faith in the Bible makes them worse social agents, because it makes them believe that their interpretation of the Bible gives them the right to ostracize people on the basis of all sorts of voluntary actions which do not fit the Christian moral of relationships and society. With their emphasis on moral submission and hatred of those who refuse to submit, belief systems like Christianity create dysfunctional societies (ostensibly with the goal of making society more functional, but only in the sense of propagating the belief system).

Therefore, when I say that Christianity is immoral, I am primarily talking about the effects of Christianity, as a collectivist belief system, on the whole of society. I am not implying that all Christian believers, as I defined them, do immoral things, but that they generally do.

There is no theoretical reason to expect anything different on the statist side. For instance, though most people profess belief in “the law,” I think that few people use it for moral guidance or as a moral standard. I would say that, if presented with a situation where they must choose between obeying the law and doing something they consider moral, they would most likely choose the latter, unless the threat of force or lawsuit was present.

So what about the remaining 80%? We should simply call them seculars. They profess belief, may go to church, but do not let their religion become concrete in their lives. Most people are branded with a religion and political ideology from birth, and stay in them out of indoctrination and inertia.

These seculars mostly use religion as a form of social cohesion. They don’t care about the Bible except as a tool of social cohesion, they certainly don’t believe in Heaven (let alone Hell), they don’t believe in Jesus (except as a symbol), and they definitely don’t believe in God.

If only 20% of self-professed Christians really believe, then why is Christianity so dangerous? Mainly because the seculars give credibility and support to the Christians. By echoing the shrill voice of fundamentalism and reiterating the need for religion, we can say that the seculars are fundamentalism-enablers.

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