This is a question that's been going through my mind a lot in the years since I became an agnostic atheist. So many people, even if they don't attend church/synagogue/mosque/whatever claim to be a member of a religion, in the U.S., mostly of the Christian religion. Even the ones that do make me wonder...do these people REALLY believe in God? I look at the actions of so many, the selfishness, greed, hatred, just the generally crappy way that people treat others and the things they do, especially when they think no one's looking and I think to myself, "If I REALLY believed in God, especially the Abrahamic God/Jesus, there's NO WAY I'd risk going to hell and do those things!" Of course there's the belief in "forgiveness" to consider. Do they really believe and use the "forgiveness clause", as I call it, as a sort of "get out of jail free" card, or do they really deep down not believe or at least have major doubts and just say they are a certain religion so that they fit in, or because of family tradition or something along those lines? It just boggles my mind that if people really, truly believed in God that they would act the way they do and risk eternal punishment. Even if they believe in the forgiveness clause, wouldn't they consider the possibility that they could die suddenly like in a car accident or of a heart attack and not be able to ask for that forgiveness before death?
I just know that if it were me, if I really believed in God and heaven and hell, I personally wouldn't risk it. I guess it kind of irks me too that I DON'T believe in it and yet I try my best to treat people like I'd like to be treated and to be a good person, even to those that I don't particularly like. I have no fear of punishment after death for anything I do in this world, yet I still try to be a good person while so many people supposedly believe in punishment and don't seem to put much effort into avoiding it. The only thing I can come up with is that deep down, these people don't really believe but due to indoctrination/habit and the fear of loss of respect, being an outsider, etc. they continue to parrot what their religious leaders tell them is true.