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Kit Stolz

Great post. George Orwell got into a lot of trouble with a newspaper column during WWII making a similar point. He dared to suggest that people didn't really believe in hell, or at least, not in the same way they believed in another far-off land they'd never seen, such as Australia.

As I Please
14 April 1944

Attacking Mr. C. A. Smith and myself in the Malvern Torch for various remarks about the Christian religion, Mr. Sidney Dark grows very angry because I have suggested that the belief in personal immortality is decaying. "I would wager," he says, "that if a Gallup poll were taken seventy-five percent (of the British population) would confess to a vague belief in survival." Writing elsewhere during the same week, Mr. Dark puts it at eighty-five percent.

Now, I find it very rare to meet anyone, of whatever background, who admits to believing in personal immortality. Still, I think it quite likely that if you asked everyone the question and put pencil and paper in hands, a fairly large number (I am not so free with my percentages as Mr. Dark) would admit the possibility that after death there might be "something." The point Mr. Dark has missed is that the belief, such as it is, hasn't the actuality it had for our forefathers. Never, literally never in recent years, have I met anyone who gave me the impression of believing in the next world as firmly as he believed in the existence of, for instance, Australia. Belief in the next world does not influence conduct as it would if it were genuine. With that endless existence beyond death to look forward to, how trivial our lives here would seem! Most Christians profess to believe in Hell. Yet have you ever met a Christian who seemed as afraid of Hell as he was of cancer? Even very devout Christians will make jokes about Hell. They wouldn't make jokes about leprosy, or RAF pilots with their faces burnt away: the subject is too painful.

Shakespeare's Sister

As a Hoosier, I can certainly, if regretfully, confirm your findings.

Linkmeister

Regarding the poll, I seem to remember a standup comic's joke a long while back which had the punch line "Mr. and Mrs. Vark and their daughter Joana."

Of course there's also Cosby's famous "Noah" routine; one of the best lines is when God is defining the size of the Ark and says build it "X cubits by Y cubits," and Noah says, "Right. What's a cubit?"

I can imagine many of those surveyed saying "What's a Beatitude?"

allie

I'm from Indiana too and have learned to be skeptical of all these people who say they're bigtime Christians-- Indiana has a very high divorce rate and unwed birth rate. The two loudest "Christians" I know here are serial adulterers and claim that it's okay to sin because they're saved and Jesus doesn't consider anything they do a sin. I've given up trying to understand this but it's very common around here.

The Heretik

A Catholic whose faith is based on a personal, emotional encounter with Scripture is a heretic.

Heresy is rampant in the land because few people believe exactly what they are taught. That is the curse of learning and its salvation as well.

delagar

Favorite bumper sticker here in Arkansas:

Christians: We aren't perfect: Just Forgiven!

So, you know, it's OKAY for them to beat their kids and sleep around and be jerks, cause Jesus loves'em anyway!

Unlike us evil unsaved heathens who are going straight to hell.

alex

Living back here in the Hoosier state, I should say I'm not surprised to hear of such Biblical illiteracy. Every day I find myself incredulous when talking to people--otherwise educated to judge by the responsible jobs they hold--who don't know jack about shit. These are people who can recite in great detail the personal particulars of every Survivor cast member that ever was, but danged if they can find their own state on a map. Pray for the Rapture. Please do. Truly it will be cause for great uplift among those of us who remain.

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