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Fake Faith

God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense.


In a now famous experiment, two social psychologists at Princeton University in 1973 wanted to examine whether thinking religious thoughts would have any effect on helping people. They considered Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and how strange it is that it’s not the religious guys—the priest and the Levite—who helped the man in trouble. They passed by on the other side. They also wondered what effect hurry would have. Maybe those two guys were late for the Temple, while the Samaritan had no such rush going on.

So they set up an experiment for seminarians in training there and split them up into two groups who would all be sat down and asked to prepare a three to five minute talk. Half of the students were asked to prepare a talk on what kinds of jobs they thought ministers might do practically. The other half were also given the story of the Good Samaritan, and told they had to incorporate it into their talk. This was to get some people specifically thinking into issues related to God and helping people–shouldn’t that make them more likely to help someone if they see that need?

After they worked on their talk for a while, an assistant would come in and give them a map pointing them to a building across campus. Sometimes the assistant would say, “It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over.” In other words, no rush. Or to others the assistant would say, “Please go over now. They were expecting you a few minutes ago.” In other words, hurry up.

Along the way, the researchers had staged an “incident.” An actor was “sitting slumped in a doorway, head down, eyes closed, not moving.” ...

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Anthony Delaney is a Leader at Ivy Church in Manchester. He is also the leader for New Thing and the LAUNCH conference. He is an author and hosts the television show “Transforming Life.”

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