Jump to content

The Idea That We "choose" Not To Believe


Recommended Posts

I recently had a few encounters with some Christian friends regarding this idea of a "choice" that I supposedly made to turn away from God/Jesus.  I have a very close friend who pastors a small rural church.  I hadn't been to a church in probably over a year, and I was visiting him and decided to stay for his church service.  During his sermon, he made reference multiple times to people (like me) who "choose" to not follow Jesus.  I think most of us on this forum remember countless sermons where we were basically told that people who didn't believe in God made a conscious choice to turn away from God.  When I was a believer, I used to agree with this, but I do admit I never gave the concept much thought or talked to any non-Christians about it. 

 

I also recently received an email from a family member and they also spoke of my choice not to believe that Jesus is the only way.  The email referenced this "choice" many times how I choose not to follow Jesus.

 

This past weekend, I had coffee with another close friend of mine who is also a Christian.  I was explaining my frustration to him about how Christians think I made some sort of choice about God, as if I had some sort of control on the matter.  While I consider this friend to be much less extreme than my other friends, he also thought I had made a choice in rejecting Jesus.  I tried the old Santa Clause analogy with him, by asking him if he could ever choose to believe in Santa Clause as an adult.  He said he couldn't believe in Santa Clause, but claimed it was still a choice, even though the evidence of Santa Clauses' non-existence was overwhelming.  I then thought that maybe the issue here was simply one of semantics or grammar.  Maybe I did make a choice in some sense of the word, and maybe I am simply being offended at the way people use the word choice.  But, I don't think so.

 

I bring up this topic because I think there is a large misconception that Christians have about people like me who no longer believe in God.  I have never felt more mis-understood about anything in my life than I do when it comes to the way my Christian friends and family think about me since I de-converted.  It's extremely frustrating.  Yet, I keep trying to bridge these gaps of misunderstanding and I cannot seem to make any difference in their minds.  I'd like to know what other ex-Christians think about this topic in particular.  Have any of you made any headway with Christians in trying to explain that we had no choice in the matter?  I had no choice in my disbelief, as the evidence simply changed my mind.  I could no longer choose to believe in God than I could to believe in Santa Clause or Zeus or the tooth fairy.  It is really out of my control.

 

Isn't a choice something you make when you have two options?  If Santa Clause isn't real, how is it an option to believe that he exists?  I don't think we have a choice in the matter.  Unless we are small children with parents who claim that Santa clause exists, we can't believe in him.  The evidence of his non-existence simply flies in the face of reality.  As for me (and probably most other people on this forum), belief in God is the same exact thing.  I cannot choose to believe in God...my mind won't allow for that choice because I don't see any evidence.  How then can I be accused of making a choice?

 

This notion of choice is often accompanied by the idea that I still know deep in my heart the reality of God/Jesus' existence.  As if I willfully and knowingly reject him.  That would imply I think God is real.  I do not think this, but Christians are convinced that this is the case for everyone who doesn't believe. 

 

This misunderstanding might be a key to trying to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers.  I haven't made any headway with my Christian friends and family, but I would love to hear from others about their thoughts and experiences with this particular issue.

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 71
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

I recently had a few encounters with some Christian friends regarding this idea of a "choice" that I supposedly made to turn away from God/Jesus.  I have a very close friend who pastors a small rural

A believer can choose to practice Christianity or not. In fact, a non-believer can choose whether to practice Christianity or not. That is not the same thing as choosing to believe or choosing not to.

We didn't choose -- we realized.

My spontaneous take on it (as I've never been in that situation, fortunately :) ):

 

Well I guess those morontheists are, in theory, right... inasmuch as "of course" you can always choose to assume something is a certain way even though you are aware of the enormous mountain of evidence that it's not. The bigger the mountain though the more effort it takes to consciously "choose" to assume something against that evidence.

 

I think what the morontheists try, whether consciously or not, is to divide the entire spectrum of belief or disbelief into three states - 100 % true, 100 % false, and 'undetermined so anything goes'. With the evidence we're aware of, the most reasonable choice out of these three is, of course, to say that the jebus cult is 100 % bullshit. Of course they will claim to have just as much evidence supporting jehoover as we have rejecting that concept... if we totally want to follow all this to the very source then I guess it's a "battle" of scientific vs intuitive evidence. Both can seem totally real... but intuitive evidence is by its very definition personal. No one has a right to argue on that level. The unreliability of intuitive evidence is why humans have finally developed the scientific method - to have a common frame of reference that produces results that are most likely correct.

 

Yeah I know... seeing it that way makes it a quite complicated thing. :)

 

I guess the bottom line is this: They (want to) imply that you can "choose" to believe (again, in your case) with a level of effort that's not crushing. Maybe they should indeed ask themselves how much effort it would take them to believe in, say, moohamit, or Zeus, or Odin, or Lugh, or whatever other deity. If they say "no, that'd be much too absurd"... why then do they think you can do it if they admit they can't?

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

They figure, since he CHOSE that path, then fuck him. We don't have to concern ourselves any further. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't "choose" to leave God/Jesus; He "chose" to leave me multiple times, until I finally got the hint. 

 

I mean, really, some of these things they claim are "choice" (like homosexuality, or depression) are such bullshit: if it was actually a CHOICE, why would people willingly choose that?! 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
[...] I tried the old Santa Clause analogy with him, by asking him if he could ever choose to believe in Santa Clause as an adult.  He said he couldn't believe in Santa Clause, but claimed it was still a choice, even though the evidence of Santa Clauses' non-existence was overwhelming. [...]

 

I bring up this topic because I think there is a large misconception that Christians have about people like me who no longer believe in God.  I have never felt more mis-understood about anything in my life than I do when it comes to the way my Christian friends and family think about me since I de-converted.  It's extremely frustrating.  Yet, I keep trying to bridge these gaps of misunderstanding and I cannot seem to make any difference in their minds.  I'd like to know what other ex-Christians think about this topic in particular.  Have any of you made any headway with Christians in trying to explain that we had no choice in the matter?  I had no choice in my disbelief, as the evidence simply changed my mind.  I could no longer choose to believe in God than I could to believe in Santa Clause or Zeus or the tooth fairy.  It is really out of my control.

 

Isn't a choice something you make when you have two options?  If Santa Clause isn't real, how is it an option to believe that he exists?  I don't think we have a choice in the matter.  Unless we are small children with parents who claim that Santa clause exists, we can't believe in him.  The evidence of his non-existence simply flies in the face of reality.  As for me (and probably most other people on this forum), belief in God is the same exact thing.  I cannot choose to believe in God...my mind won't allow for that choice because I don't see any evidence.  How then can I be accused of making a choice?

 

     The problem is you've seen the evidence of Santa Claus then determined he did not exist so you could not choose to continue to believe in him.  However, someone else looked at the same exact evidence of Santa Claus, determined he did or simply *could* exist and *is* able to choose to believe in him.  If what you've said about your friend is true the evidence for Santa allows for just this to happen.

 

     So why not God (with a capital "G")?  If you choose to look at the evidence and allow that just maybe it could perhaps exist then you *do* have a choice to go ahead and believe in it if you want.  But if the evidence tells you "nope" then there's just nothing there.  The choice collapses to basically nothing and you can choose between nothing and lying to yourself and others about the evidence so you appear to be "reasonable" or "open minded" about whatever they think the evidence says.

 

          mwc

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

After years of studying and researching the creation and evolution of Christianity and the bible, from the historical critical perspective, I choose to believe the evidence is factually accurate.  And then I chose to reject Christianity because the evidence indicated it was a man made religion that was based on the superstitious beliefs of several ancient cultures. So, I suppose, based on the complete lack of any valid opposing evidence to the contrary, I eventually did choose not to believe.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Super Moderator

One can choose to pretend to believe something they know is false, but one can not actually believe in what he has concluded to be unbelievable. The Christian perspective is very warped and incomplete when it comes to reality. They are forced by their faith to mischaracterize and even demonize non-believers lest they develop cracks in their own foundation.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A believer can choose to practice Christianity or not. In fact, a non-believer can choose whether to practice Christianity or not. That is not the same thing as choosing to believe or choosing not to.

 

A person who is aware that the Christian religion is based on a mythical god cannot choose to believe in that god.

 

I can say that the sun is green, but I can't believe it. I can say that the Earth is prism shaped, but I can't believe it.

 

A non-believer can choose is to pretend it's real. A non-believer can choose to go along with Christianity to avoid making waves.

 

But a non-believer cannot choose to believe a myth once they know that it is a myth.

 

My guess is that they can't fathom the idea that a person would truly not believe. They think you're choosing simply not to be a Christian, even though you believe it's real.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

One can choose to pretend to believe something they know is false, but one can not actually believe in what he has concluded to be unbelievable. The Christian perspective is very warped and incomplete when it comes to reality. They are forced by their faith to mischaracterize and even demonize non-believers lest they develop cracks in their own foundation.

 

+1

Link to post
Share on other sites

From one perspective, it is a choice to not adhere to Christian dogma.  It is a choice based on rational inquiry, research, honest evaluation and internal integrity.  Those that chose to believe in Christian dogma have not yet done this.  However, their "choice" to believe is better understood as usually being a result of childhood indoctrination, peer pressure, unaddressed fears and/or intellectual laziness.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

We didn't choose -- we realized.

That's probably a better description than "choose".

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Realized" is just the right word. To "choose" would be intellectually dishonest for me, at least.  bill

Even once I realize something, I still choose whether to adhere to that realization or whether to ignore it.  Choice is still operative, but realization is a more fundamental event in the process.  Accordingly, choosing is not intellectually dishonest, although a particular choice might be so and another would not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

"Realized" is just the right word. To "choose" would be intellectually dishonest for me, at least.  bill

 

Even once I realize something, I still choose whether to adhere to that realization or whether to ignore it.  Choice is still operative, but realization is a more fundamental event in the process.  Accordingly, choosing is not intellectually dishonest, although a particular choice might be so and another would not.

But are you saying you can choose to not believe something that you know for a fact is true, or that you can choose to believe something that you know is false? Or are you saying that you can choose live as if you didn't know? Choosing to live as if you didn't know is not the same thing as choosing to believe one way or the other.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

"Realized" is just the right word. To "choose" would be intellectually dishonest for me, at least.  bill

Even once I realize something, I still choose whether to adhere to that realization or whether to ignore it.  Choice is still operative, but realization is a more fundamental event in the process.  Accordingly, choosing is not intellectually dishonest, although a particular choice might be so and another would not.

But are you saying you can choose to not believe something that you know for a fact is true, or that you can choose to believe something that you know is false? Or are you saying that you can choose live as if you didn't know? Choosing to live as if you didn't know is not the same thing as choosing to believe one way or the other.

 

Oh you can, it is called denial. But the doubt will always linger even if it is ignored.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

"Realized" is just the right word. To "choose" would be intellectually dishonest for me, at least.  bill

Even once I realize something, I still choose whether to adhere to that realization or whether to ignore it.  Choice is still operative, but realization is a more fundamental event in the process.  Accordingly, choosing is not intellectually dishonest, although a particular choice might be so and another would not.

But are you saying you can choose to not believe something that you know for a fact is true, or that you can choose to believe something that you know is false? Or are you saying that you can choose live as if you didn't know? Choosing to live as if you didn't know is not the same thing as choosing to believe one way or the other.

 

I don't know from personal experience.  I have always leaned towards rational thinking.  I have observed others who choose (for lack of a better word) to believe in things that are demonstrably false, and, despite unambiguous demonstration of that falsity, these people choose (again, for lack of a better word) to believe the falsehood.  Your ignorance inquiry is interesting.  I certainly would not know whether someone is truly ignorant or whether they are infected with willful ignorance.

 

I fail to see a difference, other than a semantic difference, in your following statement:

 

"Choosing to live as if you didn't know is not the same thing as choosing to believe one way or the other."

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can certainly see why there is a strong element of choice in anyone's belief and practice.  People sometimes ask me how I believe in the supernatural, in spite of my fairly extensive scientific training.  In matters of religion the question for me has never been "what's true?" but rather "what works?"  Because that's what matters at the end of the day, doesn't it?  Don't get me wrong, I don't believe in subjective reality or solipsism; I certainly contend that there is objective truth that we interact with through our senses.  But at the end of the day, all that truth is irrelevant if it doesn't affect our lives in some way or another.  Usually, people need to know that their belief is objectively true, and I think this is where "the truth" factors in.  But it's not the only consideration.  I once chose to believe in Christianity because I found it fulfilling in many ways.  My belief didn't stem from reading somre ridiculous argument by Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel on the truth of the resurrection, or still poorer arguments by Ray Comfort on young earth creationism.  And in that sense I actively chose to believe in Jesus (which is quite ironic since I very quickly became a Calvinist).  Some time later when I found that this belief was doing me and those around me a good deal of harm and very little good, I actively chose to give it up.

 

Personally I have no problem with people accusing me of choosing to reject Jesus.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

The way I see it Christianity works for some people and doesn't work for other people. The people that aren't getting what they need from Christianity must choose to keep trying or give up.

 

EDIT: Of course giving up isn't a necessarily a sad thing. If you are a rat in a dead-end in a maze then you need to give up and stop banging your head on the wall if you are ever going to get out. That's how I look at it. smile.png

Link to post
Share on other sites
This notion of choice is often accompanied by the idea that I still know deep in my heart the reality of God/Jesus' existence.  As if I willfully and knowingly reject him.  That would imply I think God is real.  I do not think this, but Christians are convinced that this is the case for everyone who doesn't believe.

 

I think that's the root of the problem. I knew I had problems with christianity for a long time, but having been grown up in it, I'd never entertained the idea of no-god. They back up this idea with the verses about general revelation in Romans (never, of course, realizing just how circular that reasoning is). I considered myself a struggling christian, or maybe some other sort of theist, until I finally managed to grasp the idea one day of god not existing. It was really hard to do though, and took a lot of work. And I was still going into assuming that god exists and that christianity is right, and I just wanted to start from the null hypothesis and reason my way back to fundamentalism so I could be a stronger christian. When that's been one of your assumptions about reality, and the reality that everyone around you holds on to, it can be really hard to comprehend any other way of thinking.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, I think I understand where some of you are coming from here. Initially I was saying that knowing that the Christian god is not real, I cannot choose to believe in it, I can only choose to practice some for of Christianity despite my disbelief.

 

But based on what some of you are saying, I can see how I might be aware that this particular deity is unlikely based on everything I know about its invention, yet because I see that the religion helps somebody in some particular way, I may choose to believe it based on some other standard. Something like "it doesn't make sense, but that person's life certainly got better, so maybe I don't have enough evidence to really say it's bogus. I'm going to give it a try." In doing so, I may have chosen to believe in a sense.

 

Well, no, I take that back! I would NOT have chosen to believe, I would have become convinced that it was true based on some sort of evidence. I did not choose to become convinced, but rather, some set of circumstances led me to believe.

 

Someone mentioned "willful ignorance". I guess that goes along with cognitive dissonance. Now there is a case where someone might choose to believe a lie. "I know the bible version of creation is a myth, I know heaven and hell came from another religion and that Christianity is really a derivative of something besides Judaism, but there are some things in life I can't explain so I'm going to grant all of the weight in my reasoning to the part I don't know, and choose this religion over all of the other ones even though none of them explain the parts I don't understand."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a thread I started on the topic a while back.

 

We don't have full control over what we believe.  The data clearly supports that.  Most democrats come from democratic parents.  The same is true of Republicans.  The same is true for Baptists, Lutherans and the Amish.  Other factors are geography.  Born in the US, likely Christian. Born in the Middle East likely Muslim, Born in Asia, likely some form of Eastern religion. 

 

All of these are perfect examples that we don't believe what we WANT to believe.  We're really just products of our environment and the myriad of variables that environment presents us.

 

Circumstances influence us and steer us far more than the free will-believing Christian will ever understand or admit to.

 

EDIT: Also, I think it's best said that our beliefs are largely involuntary.   A product of our life's experiences.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I recently had a few encounters with some Christian friends regarding this idea of a "choice" that I supposedly made to turn away from God/Jesus.  I have a very close friend who pastors a small rural church.  I hadn't been to a church in probably over a year, and I was visiting him and decided to stay for his church service.  During his sermon, he made reference multiple times to people (like me) who "choose" to not follow Jesus.  I think most of us on this forum remember countless sermons where we were basically told that people who didn't believe in God made a conscious choice to turn away from God.  When I was a believer, I used to agree with this, but I do admit I never gave the concept much thought or talked to any non-Christians about it. 

 

I also recently received an email from a family member and they also spoke of my choice not to believe that Jesus is the only way.  The email referenced this "choice" many times how I choose not to follow Jesus.

 

This past weekend, I had coffee with another close friend of mine who is also a Christian.  I was explaining my frustration to him about how Christians think I made some sort of choice about God, as if I had some sort of control on the matter.  While I consider this friend to be much less extreme than my other friends, he also thought I had made a choice in rejecting Jesus.  I tried the old Santa Clause analogy with him, by asking him if he could ever choose to believe in Santa Clause as an adult.  He said he couldn't believe in Santa Clause, but claimed it was still a choice, even though the evidence of Santa Clauses' non-existence was overwhelming.  I then thought that maybe the issue here was simply one of semantics or grammar.  Maybe I did make a choice in some sense of the word, and maybe I am simply being offended at the way people use the word choice.  But, I don't think so.

 

I bring up this topic because I think there is a large misconception that Christians have about people like me who no longer believe in God.  I have never felt more mis-understood about anything in my life than I do when it comes to the way my Christian friends and family think about me since I de-converted.  It's extremely frustrating.  Yet, I keep trying to bridge these gaps of misunderstanding and I cannot seem to make any difference in their minds.  I'd like to know what other ex-Christians think about this topic in particular.  Have any of you made any headway with Christians in trying to explain that we had no choice in the matter?  I had no choice in my disbelief, as the evidence simply changed my mind.  I could no longer choose to believe in God than I could to believe in Santa Clause or Zeus or the tooth fairy.  It is really out of my control.

 

Isn't a choice something you make when you have two options?  If Santa Clause isn't real, how is it an option to believe that he exists?  I don't think we have a choice in the matter.  Unless we are small children with parents who claim that Santa clause exists, we can't believe in him.  The evidence of his non-existence simply flies in the face of reality.  As for me (and probably most other people on this forum), belief in God is the same exact thing.  I cannot choose to believe in God...my mind won't allow for that choice because I don't see any evidence.  How then can I be accused of making a choice?

 

This notion of choice is often accompanied by the idea that I still know deep in my heart the reality of God/Jesus' existence.  As if I willfully and knowingly reject him.  That would imply I think God is real.  I do not think this, but Christians are convinced that this is the case for everyone who doesn't believe. 

 

This misunderstanding might be a key to trying to bridge the gap between believers and non-believers.  I haven't made any headway with my Christian friends and family, but I would love to hear from others about their thoughts and experiences with this particular issue.

 

I did not and will not be reading this thread.

 

The only logical way to look at this is that indecision or inaction is still a choice.

 

If someone believes in god that is a choice. If someone doesn't that also is a choice.

 

Nothing and I mean nothing about either side can be 100% proved with empiracal accepted evidence. Period.

 

I disagree that I make a choice not to believe in a god that is there personally. I make a choice to accept reality that he never was there in the first place, that is my reality and I will not push that on others anymore than I want them pushing their belief in god onto me. However that sentiment is generally not shared by those on that side and I still get preached to by idiots thinking that actually are gonna win one for "their" home team. Good luck is all I say to them. Short of god slapping my in the face and calling me retard personally I am making the choice to go with the most logical view which is without proof of a claim that is made I will not accept it. I could care less how many people are making this claim, it does not make it valid. I can claim all day long the word is floating in cheese sauce but do you think anyone would agree with me outside the nut jobs?

Link to post
Share on other sites

all is chosen.   

 

Yes you choose not to believe.  Just like you choose to not drink alcohol or soda or water.  Just like you choose to pursue a relationship with a new person, knowing you could fall in love and get your heart stomped on ...again.

 

We make choices in life.  That is why we are here.   Those choice has consequences.   Some pleasant some not.  We learn from this to be able to make better choices. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

all is chosen.

 

Slavery disagrees with you.  

 

 

 

 

Yes you choose not to believe.  Just like you choose to not drink alcohol or soda or water.  Just like you choose to pursue a relationship with a new person, knowing you could fall in love and get your heart stomped on ...again.

 

 

I don't see how you could have read much of this thread or the link to the thread I posted and still believe that.

 

 

 

We make choices in life.  That is why we are here.   Those choice has consequences.   Some pleasant some not.  We learn from this to be able to make better choices.

 

 

Yes, we make choices in life and each one of them if influenced by an internal or external source. If there is any pressure from anywhere you do not have free will. This is why free will is a myth. It doesn't exist. Not for humanity. It never has and never will. Sam Harris has a great YouTube video on the subject.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.