Eric points out in his title that he could have told Julian that – “that” being, in Julian’s words,
They believe that Jesus is divine, not simply an exceptional human being; that his resurrection was a real, bodily one; that he performed miracles no human being ever could; that he needed to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven; and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. On many of these issues, a significant minority are uncertain but in all cases it is only a small minority who actively disagree, or even just tend to disagree. As for the main reason they go to church, it is not for reflection, spiritual guidance or to be part of a community, but overwhelmingly in order to worship God.
The obvious, in other words: most church-going Christians believe the tenets of Christianity; they’re not all closeted atheists who go for the music and the pretty windows.
…this is how, in my experience, most Christians understand faith. My own attempts to move away from this into more liberal, indeed, more radical revisions of faith in order to make sense of faith in the modern world, while to some degree successful, and actually more attractive to some people’s more radical understandings of faith, the place of the Bible in determining faith, and the obvious marginalisation of some “believers” because of their inability to accept orthodox ways of understanding both Bible and creed, was of central importance to the core membership of the parish in which I worked. One of these put it quite succinctly when she said that I would not be there forever, and she was prepared to tolerate my radical take on faith, but she knew what she believed, and was quite confident that the next Rector would be more on her side than on mine.
Ray Moscow commented at WEIT –
Good for him for finally talking to some actual religious people.
We former Christians, who know hundreds or thousands of believers and who have sat through hundreds of sermons and Bible classes could have saved him a lot of time, though. People are taught this crap, and they believe it.
Newman makes the same useful point –
Having been part of the evangelical community in Alabama for 24 years, “I could have told him that,” too. Four years later, I’m still trying to get used to people’s skepticism when I try to tell them that, yes, people actually DO believe all this stuff- and they honestly do believe it absolutely 100% wholeheartedly. I know, because I did too. Perhaps that concept can only be fully grasped by those like me who were completely “one of them” for a very long time.
The funny thing is, though, Julian was once “one of them” too. Russell Blackford reminds us –
I can’t resist plugging the fact that Julian Baggini tells his own story of how he came to be a non-believer in his essay in 50 Voices of Disbelief.
I’m not sure how surprised he really is by what he’s finding out, since he has a sort of evangelical religious background himself. He started out being raised as a Catholic and got involved in evangelical Methodism as a teenager.
Given that, his surprise is really rather odd. Maybe it was all just a bit of performance art, or staging, or framing – maybe he was playing a character, like Conrad’s Marlowe.