T. H. Luhrmann is surely correct when she argues, in her New York Times OpEd of the same title, that “Belief Is the Least Part of Faith”. Luhrmann, a Stanford anthropologist, notes, both in her editorial and in her broader work, that the popular vision of the Evangelical Christian who literally believes in God — a fantasy cultivated, largely, by the secular left — is but a fantasy, and that the normal folks at the Baptist service are there, rather, for a collective exercise in faith. They seek a community of fellow worshippers, Luhrmann argues, a group with which they can learn “how to be more aware of God’s presence.” 
Though the impetus to religion which Luhrmann describes is certainly empirically dominant, it might leave something to be desired. For one, the image of a group of people coming together for the worship of an entity in which they only tenuously believe has something of an air of dishonesty to it. “Please stand if you’re able” — a church service should perhaps unorthodoxically insist — “to pause for a moment, put your books down, step into the aisleways, and begin to actually discuss the difficult realities of your beliefs.”
Further, the sheer abstractness of these doctrines might leave one feeling empty. Patrons of the New York Philharmonic’s Lincoln Center love Beethoven and Brahms. In the New York Public Library, readers love Nabokov and Tolstoy. In New York’s Trinity Church, worshippers love, well, love. Is that all there is for me?
Deeper investigation will lead us, in time, to rationales for religion with more propensity to induce fulfillment. They’ll also lead us to religious practice’s most imposing problems, and also, I hope, to their eventual solutions. Continue reading