Conservative Christians - Just How Certain Are They?
Growing up in a fundamentlist Christian household, I heard a lot of sermons about the importance of an unwavering faith. Everyone seemed to agree, but does anyone really possess that kind of faith?
I know I never did. I did believe a lot of what I was taught, but I've always had doubt lingering in the back of my mind. I never evangelized much, and I think it was partly because I wasn't all that certain that I was right. Certainly not enough to go sell someone else on it.
All the folks I went to church with, though, seemed to make a point of declaring their faith. At the time, I naively accepted their statements at face value, but in retrospect, I really wonder what was going on in their heads. What degree of faith did they really have? Did they really believe the earth was 6000 years old and all that jazz? Or were they like me, talking themselves into it because they didn't know any better?
I can't prove this, but I suspect that a lot of the intolerance and dogmatism is just a result of trying too hard. People believe they need to vanquish doubt, and they do so by talking louder and blocking out ideas that don't confirm their existing beliefs. If you're less certain about truth, you'll be more open to new ideas and challenging the status quo.
The best way to really gauge a person's certainty in their beliefs is probably to compare how they act against how they should act if they really believed something. For example, Jesus instructed his disciples to sell their belongings, donate the proceeds to the poor, and devote their life to him, relying on faith that God will provide for the basic necessities of life.
How many Christians do you know that do that? I don't know any personally. I do know plenty of Christians who drive expensive European imports, own giant houses, and take exotic vacations. Would Jesus really drive an $80,000 BMW?
Admittedly, I spend money on luxuries instead of charity, but I also don't claim to be a disciple of Jesus. The real point is that Christians, like everyone else, don't have much problem fulfilling the easy requirements of their faith, but when it comes to the big sacrifices, most act like they don't truly believe what they say they do.
To put it another way, if you sincerely believed that you would be tortured for eternity for not obeying Jesus, and you truly believed that Jesus instructed his disciples to forgo earthly luxuries in order to serve him, why on earth would you risk eternal damnation for Rolling Stones tickets?
Because you don't really believe exactly what you claim you do. It's human nature, but it's glaringly obvious in Christian fundamentalists.