I always wonder if the guys at the top of the catholic church are in on the scam. Like they at least are well aware that long ago it stopped being about their god and is all about preserving the organization. When Benedict “abolished” limbo for sure he had to understand both the absurdity of the action and the need to do away with the viciousness of such beliefs that had been a part of catholic life for centuries and centuries.
Can a person who believes he holds the power to literally change bread and wine into the actual body and blood of jesus be so deluded that they believe signing a theological report eliminates a supernatural realm from existence? Or are their eyes wide open as they attempt to govern their little kingdom?
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I suspect church pastors are far more likely than their flock to assume a more skeptical view and perhaps secretly doubt their beliefs. They do tend to be more well-informed and have actually read their holy text. Whether they ever act on their doubts is another thing. After all, they probably do see themselves as fulfilling a leadership responsibility.
Anecdotal evidence here, but I grew up as a preacher’s kid, many of my family members are ministers in some capacity, and I’ve attended a private Christian university that had many Bible professors. In my experience with being close to ministers in various parts across the US, they definitely believed what they’re preaching. Blame it on cognitive dissonance or biases or whatever, but their level of certainty in their beliefs were about as strong as they could be. Sure, you could probably find examples here and there of ministers/priests that don’t believe but feel stuck in their career choice, but I think that’s the exception to the rule. The “study” of apologetics exists for a reason, and there’s thousands of years worth of literature that they can rely on to rationalize their way into maintaining their beliefs.
At a wedding I watched the pastor hold his hands over his liturgical book that he had placed the rings on and “bless” the rings with some magic words. I was dumbfounded that this adult man was standing in a room full of adults doing this with zero embarrassment.