Wednesday 31 October 2007

What does it mean to say 'I believe'?

Two brief insights into the nature of belief, and the unreliability of surveys that ask about people's faith. First, Stephen Pinker:

When people are asked a question, they don't just turn a flashlight into their data bank of beliefs and read out what they see. When people say, "Yes, I believe in God and the Bible," they're kind of saying, "I'm a moral person. I have solidarity with the community of churchgoers that I was brought up in and that I currently belong to."

(via Snarksmith)

Second, J.K.Rowling:

The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It's something I struggle with a lot. On any given moment if you asked me [if] I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes — that I do believe in life after death. [But] it's something that I wrestle with a lot.

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