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Is Belief A 'choice'?


andrewK
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Sorry about the first post. It wasnt't posting

 

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Hello people

 

 

 

I have came across what i see as a very good articleexplaining the topic of belief and how we come to believe in anything. whetherwe can choose to believe in god as evangelists claim.

 

 

 

It's a lengthy article (4 pages long) but i recommend everyoneread the whole thing. I have provided some snippets i see as most interesting.

 

http://atheism.about.com/od/philosophyepistemology/a/BeliefChoice.htm

 

 

 

 

....This indicates that there is a relationship betweenbelief anddesire. Thus, if we say that someone believes in a god because theywantto, that isn't true. Instead, it may be that they want it to be true that agodexists and this desire influences how they approach the evidence for oragainstthe existence of a god...

 

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When an evangelist tells us that we have chosen to beatheistsand that we are deliberately avoiding belief in a god, they are notentirelycorrect. It isn't true that one chooses to be an atheist. Atheism —especiallyif it is at all rational — is simply the inevitable conclusion fromavailableinformation. I no more "choose" to disbelieve in gods thanI"choose" to disbelieve in elves or than I "choose"tobelieve that there is a chair in my room. These beliefs and the absencethereofare not acts of will which I had to consciously take — they are,rather,conclusions which were necessary based upon the evidence at hand.

 

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Instead of focusing on the actual beliefs, which arenotthemselves choices, it can be more important and more productive tofocusinstead on how a person has arrived at their beliefs because that is theresultof willful choices. As a matter of fact, it is my experience that it isthemethod of belief formation which ultimately separates theist and atheistsmorethen the details of a person's theism.

 

Thisis why I have always said that the fact that a person isa theist is lessimportant than whether or not they are skeptical about claims —both their ownand others'. This is also one reason why I have said that it ismore importantto try and encourage skepticism and critical thinking in peoplerather than totry and simply "convert" them to atheism.

 

It isnot uncommon for a person to realize that they havesimply lost the ability tohave blind faith in the claims made by religioustradition and religiousleaders. They are no longer willing to shut away theirdoubts and questions. Ifthis person then fails to find any rational reasons tocontinue believing inreligious dogmas, those beliefs will simply fall away.Eventually, even thebelief in a god will fall away — rendering that person anatheist, not bychoice but instead simply because belief is no longer possible.

 

 

 

 

Thanks

 

 

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Guest I Love Dog

For me there was no choice. "Will I, won't, will I, won't I believe". Nup! The whole belief in a god thing is just too ridiculous for me. I didn't have to choose or decide. My intelligence and sense of logic will just not allow for any belief in such nonsense as invisible deities.

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Belief in god is a choice in the same sense that my rock solid faith in the tooth fairy is a choice. I have more evidence for the TF.

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Good article. I like the way he explains this: "One can be praised for acquiring beliefs through having gone to the trouble of studying, researching, and making a genuine attempt to gather as much information as possible. By the same token, one can be blamed for acquiring beliefs through deliberately ignoring evidence, arguments, and ideas which might tend to create doubt about long-held assumptions. "

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Guest Babylonian Dream

Belief in god is a choice in the same sense that my rock solid faith in the tooth fairy is a choice. I have more evidence for the TF.

Many of us do, we put a tooth under our pillow, and the tooth vanishes and gets replaced by (whatever our tradition says). In my case, my mother would throw in a dollar per tooth.

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If you had asked me that question a week ago, I would have said yes. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm logical by nature, so for me, I hear evidence, weigh the evidence, and come to a conclusion. That conclusion forms my belief. But is this true in all circumstances? I don't think so. Some ex-christians were brought up in it from the second they were born. When you never new that there was a choice, is your belief a choice? If you are a non-technical person, I told you that your car runs because of the flux capitor (assuming you never saw Back to the Future) you might take my word for it. Did you choose to believe me, or did you believe because it seemed sensible enough. I think that we become more critical and want more proof when belief requires more out of us or has a direct effect on us. Why should you care how your car works if you aren't ever going to fix it, and you have a mechanic that you trust?

 

I would have to lean toward belief being a conclusion based upon evidence. The amount and quality of the evidence required is directly proportional to what the belief will require of you.

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They say it's a choice. But the Bible says you go to Hell if you don't believe. So what kind of choice is it really?

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  • 2 months later...

I agree that there is no choice. You either believe in god, or you burn in hell for all of eternity. Would any rational person really call that a choice?

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Thank you for sharing the article. I think someone needed to edit the author! But the thesis was good. Also, it made me want to read through the looking glass!

 

I never knew this truth, about "choosing" to believe, until I "lost" my faith and had to defend myself to my husband. He wants me to "come back" to faith, and it was an epiphany to me when I told him that I cannot CHOOSE to believe. Not anymore- I have too much new information for that to happen.

 

I do think that in order to shed faith, you have to have a willingness to hear new information. To listen, absorb, analyze and correlated- rather than reject, refute and hide.

 

Fear is usually what stops people.

 

But anyway, there is evidence that our brains literally change with out belief systems.

 

I remember sitting at my computer one night, struggling with cognative dissonance....... and I searched Koran Apologetics. I found the same flimsy drivel associated with the BIble and in that moment it was like I threw a switch. Jumped tracks.....suddenly everything that I was thinking about, everything that bothered me made sense.

The Bible was not the word of God.

 

Wow.

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After endless debates on this board about this topic, I'd say that my view now is that it's a combination, a mix. You decide if you want to stick to a belief. You decide if you want to study information that is contrary to your belief. You also decide if you only read material supporting your belief. And you can decide who (what source) you rather trust over another. The input will result in a certain belief, so the belief comes from what you put in. But it's your choice to put in stuff.

 

An allegory would be like this: you don't choose to get a stomach ache, but you do choose the food you put in your mouth and where you buy it from.

 

But in some cases, we think we buy good food from a good source, yet it was spoiled and made us sick. Religion is a bit like that too.

 

It's complicated. :grin:

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Some of my beliefs are very firm. They cannot be dislodged by any effort. I believe that I exist for instance. I also firmly believe in the existence an objective world. But I have seen no ironclad proof against solipsism. Nevertheless solipsism seems absurd to me. Other beliefs are very flexible, and I can believe them or doubt them at will.

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It's complicated. :grin:

:3:

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I could no more choose to believe in Biblegod than in Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot.

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After endless debates on this board about this topic, I'd say that my view now is that it's a combination, a mix. You decide if you want to stick to a belief. You decide if you want to study information that is contrary to your belief. You also decide if you only read material supporting your belief. And you can decide who (what source) you rather trust over another. The input will result in a certain belief, so the belief comes from what you put in. But it's your choice to put in stuff.

 

An allegory would be like this: you don't choose to get a stomach ache, but you do choose the food you put in your mouth and where you buy it from.

 

But in some cases, we think we buy good food from a good source, yet it was spoiled and made us sick. Religion is a bit like that too.

 

It's complicated. :grin:

 

I see where you're coming from, but there is a point of no return.

 

I could choose to read nothing but apologetics for the rest of my life, and it would not cause me to believe again. I could not decide to trust the Bible over any other source. The best I could do I could "self-talk" that I have chosen to trust the bible. I cannot unlearn the contradictions and inaccuracies I have learned of. I could adopt the position that I have accepted apologetic arguments that all contradictions in the bible are merely "apparent contradictions," construct some sort of framework to justify the choice of which cherries I would pick, and I suppose I could return to the "Last Friday-ism" form of xianity I had once adopted in an attempt to explain away the obvious problems with the biblical account, but I can just not fathom that I could do these things and have them result in a return to a genuine belief apart from going through the motions and making a full time job of suppressing doubts, can you?

 

Looking at it from the perspective of the protected believer, it can be really difficult to choose to study information contrary to your belief, especially if you've been fully brainwashed to believe that it is a sin and by doing so you are risking your own salvation. That's a big reason why it's so hard for people who have been brainwashed in this manner to deconvert. In essence, it can become the same "choice" that most varieties xianity gives to those who believe the message is true: god gave us a "choice" to either follow him or burn in eternal torment.

 

As you say, it's complicated.

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i was born into christianity so here is my take on it

 

there is no choice when it comes to christianity it is simply a illusion of choice. through the twisting of words and propoganda you are led to belive you have the right to choose between rather to belive or not but in reality it is the total opposite. you are told that jesus loves you and that he wants to be with you yet on the same token your told if you dont accept him you go to hell. but people dont see it as simple as that becosue they cant their emotions crowd their judgment and logical thought procces through fear and the desire of aceptence. there is no such thing as choice for christianity it is belive or face damnation.

 

but of course for those who are educated logicaly enough to see through this at the moment or in the future you are able to break free of the death cycle that christianity pulls you into.

 

 

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Belief is a choice taught to you by someone else. To have religious beliefs, one must choose to accept the teachings on faith that they are true because no other support exists for religious beliefs except for the religious belief of faith. I know the sun is in the sky every day because proof the sun exists is in the sun being there every day. What some take as acceptance of fact, such as Jesus or Moses being real people, is because they have heard since childhood these people existed when in fact, there is no proof beyond religious instruction that these people existed at all. So there is an acceptance of someone's religious belief because they have heard it so many times to accept their version on faith that their history is true. But they decided to accept what they heard by faith because they did not take the time to research for themselves what was true. Faith and beliefs have to be taught. There is no god gene that makes one believe in a god. It takes instruction.

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I didn't choose to believe in Christianity, I was indoctrinated with it. I didn't choose to stop believing Christianity, I just learned too much to be able to maintain belief in something that is definitely false.

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All is chosen. So...yes.

 

That said. In re-reading American Facists by Chris Hedges, The conversion process makes it extremely hard for people to leave from evangelical movements. They become trapped in the jargon and the language. They can't rationally think about things because they are taught a simplistic and cliched speech to use. Use of such speech is a test of if you are a True Christian TM So, if you can't mentally discuss what it is you are feeling it becomes impossible to do so.

 

I remember being in the cult of Amway and facing the same thing. For a year every book I read or tape I listened to was only amway approved. It wasn't until my upline (who got me into it) got angery and said something like not every book has to have a point, that I realized what I had been doing. So I went and bought a book to read for pleasure. It still took about 6 months or so before I deconverted from that.

 

But the other allure to it is it conveniently puts the world into black and white. The gray of reality doesn't exsist. Just give us your money and when you die of starvation becuase you can't buy food you'll get into heaven and never be hungry again. That dichotomist view can be a releif to people who can deal with the complexities of life. That can be hard to break.

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Haven't been around Ex-C in a while, so hi everyone!

 

I have TRIED to believe, I don't. I WANT to believe, I don't. When I try to believe, I cannot. Yes, I want a Santa-god who hears my prayers and cares for me. What I have found, for myself, is that good things happen and not so great things happen, no matter what I believe. I wish that there was an obvious reason for 'why' I am here. I cannot see any obvious reason.

 

I don't believe in hell, not the Christian concept. So I don't need a savior.

 

Buddhism, as a source of comfort, has helped. I don't believe in an after-life or reincarnation.

 

Sometimes I feel 'tempted' to try religion again. Then I remember all the crappy beliefs, and I can't stand myself for even letting the thought cross my mind.

 

I am actually here to contribute, which I have not done in a couple of years.

 

I believe in this site as a source of comfort for the newly de-converted.

 

So even though I don't participate here anymore, I still recall how much it helped me, many years ago, now.

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