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Can you choose your belief?

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I've been watching some videos by Ex-Christians and they say "No." 

 

I changed my belief, or at least added a layer of Christianity on top of my foundation of agnosticism for a number of years. I wouldnt say that you can snap your fingers and poof, become fully convinced about some belief system immediately. But over time you can adopt belief ... or non-belief and become stronger in that philosophy. Those who are in the throes of deconversion are choosing to adopt a different way of thinking/feeling and understanding the world. Some deconvert. Some reconvert. 

 

I also chose to let belief in Jesus go. I could have doubled down my resolve to live a Godly life, but I said fuck it. It was an annoyance to me. The Jesus belief didn't just disappear overnight either. It took a while. 

 

To say we are powerless over our beliefs to me feels somewhat disingenuous. Christianity is toxic from my current point of view, but I could still choose to believe in it again if I got a wild hair up my arse. Just flick the switch the other way, go to church and read the bible. 

 

Some people say "You have no control over what you believe." I disagree. (At least for myself) I think the field of psychology and psychologists help people to overcome certain beliefs. This is a matter of choice to make a change. 

 

The ability to move from one belief to another , or from belief to non-belief , kind of negates the idea that one can 'never go back.' 

 

But, we are all different. What's true for me is not true for all. I have no plans to return to Christianity ... but I never thought I'd see my Christianity hating parents switch to the dark side either. :) 

 

 

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I guess people are able to choose a narrative and even convince themselves of it to an extent, but I don't think that's a way of integrity. It's not actual belief. They just choose to ignore the fact that they don't really believe.

 

Perhaps the whole meme of Christianity has evolved to abuse that mechanism, with the cosmic reward&punishment incentivising it. Gotta just suppress those doubts and glorify the constant practice of self-deception as piety or something.

 

Therefore, no, you cannot choose what you believe. You might think your beliefs changed when you converted but that's just because you don't have a more accurate description of what really changed.

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I think it depends on what we're talking about. 

 

I believe I'm wearing a red shirt. I don't have any real choice there. I mean,  I could make an argument that I might not be able to fully trust my senses, so it's possible that my shirt isn't actually red,  but I don't believe that to be the case. It just seems red, and I don't have any real reason to think it isn't. So I believe it's red, without making a choice to believe it. 

 

I believe I'm wearing an ugly shirt. Well, fashion is subjective, and if I tried hard enough I could probably convince myself that I don't think my shirt is ugly. Tastes can be aquired as well. I didn't used to like very hoppy beers, and I didn't have much choice in the matter.  But I decided I wanted to learn to like them, and after drinking them for a while I acquired the taste. I honestly didn't like them, and now I honestly do. My beliefs about what beers do and do not taste good have changed, and they've changed as a result of my decision.

 

We can convince ourselves of many things if we try hard enough. And no, it isn't always wishful thinking to acquire belief in this way. So yes, there are ways in which we can choose some of our beliefs.  But I don't think we can choose all of our beliefs. There are some things that we just believe. Or don't,  as the case may be.

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I have relatives who admittedly choose to believe in the popular religious mythology regardless of evidence to the contrary that they are clearly aware of. Some of us can't just choose to believe something without evidence, but we are the minority apparently.

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This probably gets into the free will argument at it's deepest level, but generally no, I don't think the research thus far demonstrates you can choose your belief.

 

You can make believe, sure, you can go along with something, but you cannot believe what you don't believe. I tried that with religion - it doesn't work.

 

I think when people say they 'choose' to believe something, they are actually reflecting that they do believe something and they are happy with that. It makes them comfortable or whatever.

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     I think things influence your beliefs but that's a bit difference than actually choosing your beliefs.

 

     You can choose to explore all sorts of different things and those things can then influence what, or how, you believe but that's still not the same as choosing what you believe even though your beliefs may change as a result.  This is one reason people refuse to be exposed to anything that doesn't simply reinforce their beliefs because they're afraid it may cause them to change their beliefs but it's not so simple since the mind has lots of mechanisms to keep that from happening (ie. cognitive dissonance and so on).

 

          mwc

 

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1 minute ago, mwc said:

     I think things influence your beliefs but that's a bit difference than actually choosing your beliefs.

 

     You can choose to explore all sorts of different things and those things can then influence what, or how, you believe but that's still not the same as choosing what you believe even though your beliefs may change as a result.  This is one reason people refuse to be exposed to anything that doesn't simply reinforce their beliefs because they're afraid it may cause them to change their beliefs but it's not so simple since the mind has lots of mechanisms to keep that from happening (ie. cognitive dissonance and so on).

 

          mwc

 

 

Yes, this was a point I missed. So I explored my religion, other explanations etc for some time before de-converting, but I didn't 'choose' to not believe in God. It just happened, admittedly because of a result of the arguments and evidence I found convincing.

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I think beliefs can be chosen (or more often - maintained), at least indirectly.  Use of and reliance upon various detrimental tools such as (i) cognitive biases (e.g., confirmation, expectation, bandwagon and courtesy biases (among many others)), (ii) informal logical fallacies (another long list) and (iii) general intellectual laziness, lack of curiosity and intellectual dishonesty can all impact belief.  Since those behaviors are chosen, the resulting formation of a new belief or maintenance of a perviously held belief based on them arguably makes the belief itself a chosen belief.

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21 minutes ago, sdelsolray said:

Since those behaviors are chosen,

 

Wouldn't this only be true if a person was aware of the behaviours and critical thinking factors you mentioned and intentionally decided to ignore them?

 

For example my mother wouldn't be aware of any of those factors you mention and therefore isn't 'choosing' those behaviours.

 

I understand where you are coming from and largely agree that all these factors can impact belief, but the quote line I think is a difficult claim to back up for the general population.

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48 minutes ago, mwc said:

     I think things influence your beliefs but that's a bit difference than actually choosing your beliefs.

 

     You can choose to explore all sorts of different things and those things can then influence what, or how, you believe but that's still not the same as choosing what you believe even though your beliefs may change as a result. 

 

 

But you can choose certain behavious with the specific intention of changing your beliefs in certain ways. If you then later find that your beliefs have in fact changed in those ways, then you have succeeded in changing your beliefs in the way you wanted.  Roughly speaking,  this is choosing what to believe. See the example of what beers I believe taste good.

 

I don't think this is possible for all beliefs,   but it seems to be for some. 

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1 hour ago, disillusioned said:

 

But you can choose certain behavious with the specific intention of changing your beliefs in certain ways. If you then later find that your beliefs have in fact changed in those ways, then you have succeeded in changing your beliefs in the way you wanted.  Roughly speaking,  this is choosing what to believe. See the example of what beers I believe taste good.

 

I don't think this is possible for all beliefs,   but it seems to be for some. 

     Is a taste the same as a belief?

 

     I think I have read that you need to try foods multiple times (could be 10 or more times) to actually know if you'll like them or not but I don't think that holds true for ideas much less beliefs.  If this were the case simply being exposed to alternate ideas multiple times could easily sway people to those positions but that doesn't seem to happen.  Those who hold beliefs that global warming isn't true aren't swayed when exposed, time and again, to global warming arguments.  Those who are hold beliefs in one religion aren't converted to other religions even when exposed to the beliefs of other religions.  It seems that these things work a bit differently.

 

     Let me put it in a bit different way.  I, personally, don't drink.  I never acquired the taste.  So instead of telling me how you simply became more "faithful" (as I see it) how about changing your beliefs in deciding that all beer tastes terrible.  It should be just about as easy as what you did before, right?  But I'll wager it's really not.

 

          mwc

 

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3 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

This probably gets into the free will argument at it's deepest level, but generally no, I don't think the research thus far demonstrates you can choose your belief.

 

You can make believe, sure, you can go along with something, but you cannot believe what you don't believe. I tried that with religion - it doesn't work.

 

I think when people say they 'choose' to believe something, they are actually reflecting that they do believe something and they are happy with that. It makes them comfortable or whatever.

 

So what those Christians say really does hold true. You never really were a believer! Ya big faker. lol 

 

Which makes me wonder about all us (Ex) Christians. Maybe you're just pretending to be an atheist. Just going along with it. (haha) In reality you're a Christian, just afraid to admit it to yourself. 

 

(Dodges the atheist tomatoes)

 

I guess if someone can't really choose their belief then that means us agnostics are hopelessly wishy-washy.

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18 minutes ago, midniterider said:

 

So what those Christians say really does hold true. You never really were a believer! Ya big faker. lol 

 

Which makes me wonder about all us (Ex) Christians. Maybe you're just pretending to be an atheist. Just going along with it. (haha) In reality you're a Christian, just afraid to admit it to yourself. 

 

(Dodges the atheist tomatoes)

 

I guess if someone can't really choose their belief then that means us agnostics are hopelessly wishy-washy.

 

It certainly has theological implications. If I cannot directly control my beliefs', and in line with various commentators accept that we don't have free will in a libertarian sense, then we cannot be held accountable for our lack of belief and thus justly sent to hell. Sure you can be an arse wipe and send me there anyway, but you can't claim that I knew and truly believed yet still didn't believe therefore I should burn.

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7 hours ago, mwc said:

     Is a taste the same as a belief?

 

     I think I have read that you need to try foods multiple times (could be 10 or more times) to actually know if you'll like them or not but I don't think that holds true for ideas much less beliefs.  If this were the case simply being exposed to alternate ideas multiple times could easily sway people to those positions but that doesn't seem to happen.  Those who hold beliefs that global warming isn't true aren't swayed when exposed, time and again, to global warming arguments.  Those who are hold beliefs in one religion aren't converted to other religions even when exposed to the beliefs of other religions.  It seems that these things work a bit differently.

 

     Let me put it in a bit different way.  I, personally, don't drink.  I never acquired the taste.  So instead of telling me how you simply became more "faithful" (as I see it) how about changing your beliefs in deciding that all beer tastes terrible.  It should be just about as easy as what you did before, right?  But I'll wager it's really not.

 

          mwc

 

 

I see the point,  and I don't entirely disagree,  but a couple things. 

 

I don't think taste is exactly the same thing as belief,  but I do think we have beliefs about taste. As you say, there are some foods that you need to try multiple times if you are going to acquire the taste. When I think about tastes that I have acquired, it seems to me that what has changed isn't the way the thing tastes,  but rather my beliefs about whether or not I like that taste. I think that's a key difference. 

 

Does it work the other way? I think it does. I've acquired aversions to various foods that I used to enjoy. Sometimes temporary,  because of a bad experience, but sometimes not. There are things I used to eat when I was younger that I gave up when I changed my diet,  and now I honestly don't like them anymore. A few years back I decided to lose some weight,  and I stopped drinking soft drinks,  which I used to do everyday. Now there are only a few that I still like. Most of them I just find way too sweet. So it does work both ways. 

 

I agree that climate change and religion are a bit different. It's not true, though, that people can't eventually be convinced by persuasive arguments on these topics. I was a YEC, then I did a degree in physics. Part way through I realized "shit, I was wrong." Now, I didn't set out with the goal of changing my mind,  but it seems to me that I might have. Similarly, I lost faith after making a concerted effort for several years to learn more about secularism and other faiths. I didn't set out with the goal of losing my faith, but I could have done so, at least in principle. I agree that these kinds of beliefs are harder to change, though. But the fact that they can be changed,  and changing them requires effort, and we can choose to make that effort or not, seems to me to entail that we do have some choice in our beliefs. It isn't as simple as merely choosing "I believe x!", but choice of a kind does seem to be involved.

 

Now, this doesn't mean that all beliefs can be changed, or that we can choose to believe whatever we like. Some things seem so patently obvious that not believing them is basically not possible. The red shirt example comes to mind. I also can't believe water isn't wet, or that I'm not awake at the moment. We generally call such beliefs "knowledge". Some people think there's more to knowledge than that, but I'm not sure I believe them ;).

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15 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

 

Wouldn't this only be true if a person was aware of the behaviours and critical thinking factors you mentioned and intentionally decided to ignore them?

 

For example my mother wouldn't be aware of any of those factors you mention and therefore isn't 'choosing' those behaviours.

 

I understand where you are coming from and largely agree that all these factors can impact belief, but the quote line I think is a difficult claim to back up for the general population.

 

If "choosing belief" (or using cognitive biases or informal logical fallacies to facilitate belief) require a conscious decision, then yes.

 

If behavioral decisions can be made without being necessarily conscious of those decisions, then no.

 

The evidence shows humans often make unconscious decisions in their daily lives.  Put another way, folks do not have to know what confirmation bias is in order to use it.

 

And to pick up on a point @disillusioned made, use of and reliance upon various helpful/healthy tools such as (i) education, (ii) rational thinking and (iii) curiosity and intellectual honesty can all impact belief, again indirectly.

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What defines our label? How we think inside? Or how we live our lives? (Both, probably)

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

I see the point,  and I don't entirely disagree,  but a couple things. 

 

I don't think taste is exactly the same thing as belief,  but I do think we have beliefs about taste. As you say, there are some foods that you need to try multiple times if you are going to acquire the taste. When I think about tastes that I have acquired, it seems to me that what has changed isn't the way the thing tastes,  but rather my beliefs about whether or not I like that taste. I think that's a key difference. 

 

Does it work the other way? I think it does. I've acquired aversions to various foods that I used to enjoy. Sometimes temporary,  because of a bad experience, but sometimes not. There are things I used to eat when I was younger that I gave up when I changed my diet,  and now I honestly don't like them anymore. A few years back I decided to lose some weight,  and I stopped drinking soft drinks,  which I used to do everyday. Now there are only a few that I still like. Most of them I just find way too sweet. So it does work both ways. 

     So are they too sweet or do you simply believe they are too sweet?

 

     My dad lost his sense of smell so he doesn't know or care what most anything tastes like.  He basically eats whatever you put in front of him.  So what about him?  Is it all belief?  Or nothing about belief?  Or is taste kind of a bad example of belief?  Kind of like a homonym?  It's a soundalike but it's not really the same sort of thing.  The kind of belief we're talking about here isn't really that sort of belief we really mean when we talk of other beliefs.  It's more like "I think" as opposed to that other sort of belief that is connected to religions and whatnot.  Like "I believe (I think) it is going to be cold tomorrow."  This sort of belief is quite different since religious beliefs are essentially unpredictable and unfalsifiable.

 

11 hours ago, disillusioned said:

I agree that climate change and religion are a bit different. It's not true, though, that people can't eventually be convinced by persuasive arguments on these topics. I was a YEC, then I did a degree in physics. Part way through I realized "shit, I was wrong." Now, I didn't set out with the goal of changing my mind,  but it seems to me that I might have. Similarly, I lost faith after making a concerted effort for several years to learn more about secularism and other faiths. I didn't set out with the goal of losing my faith, but I could have done so, at least in principle. I agree that these kinds of beliefs are harder to change, though. But the fact that they can be changed,  and changing them requires effort, and we can choose to make that effort or not, seems to me to entail that we do have some choice in our beliefs. It isn't as simple as merely choosing "I believe x!", but choice of a kind does seem to be involved.

     But you didn't change your beliefs.  Your beliefs changed because of the things that influenced you.  These influences are what changed your beliefs.  Your beliefs changed indirectly not directly.  As I said in my original post I never said that beliefs cannot be changed (all of ours have) I just said they didn't just change because we willed them to change or that we changed them directly but instead they changed from other influences.  I believe (I think) that this is how beliefs are formed.  I believed to begin with because all my influences told me the whole thing was true.  I got other influences that told me otherwise and those won out.  My mind did the math and went with whatever made sense but it wasn't because I made a conscious decision one way or the other or to even way the evidence one way or the other.  It did the work behind the scenes and it eventually bubbled up and I was forced to accept my new reality (which I was very bothered by actually once I realized that was the case since, like many here, it resulted in bargaining and all that crap).

 

      Anyhow, this is difference from taste.  The only similarity may well be is you could be influenced to try something new, like a new sort of beer.  But influence is still not belief in and of itself.

 

11 hours ago, disillusioned said:

Now, this doesn't mean that all beliefs can be changed, or that we can choose to believe whatever we like. Some things seem so patently obvious that not believing them is basically not possible. The red shirt example comes to mind. I also can't believe water isn't wet, or that I'm not awake at the moment. We generally call such beliefs "knowledge". Some people think there's more to knowledge than that, but I'm not sure I believe them ;).

     I can imagine situations where we all might be able to be convinced water isn't wet but they're through extreme coercion techniques.  So never say never.  But probably not of your own accord unless some new research comes along that actually shows water really isn't wet though as you say that's knowledge not beliefs.

 

          mwc

 

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1 hour ago, mwc said:

I can imagine situations where we all might be able to be convinced water isn't wet but they're through extreme coercion techniques.  So never say never.  But probably not of your own accord unless some new research comes along that actually shows water really isn't wet though as you say that's knowledge not beliefs.

I believe ice is water and it is not wet.

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16 minutes ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

I believe ice is water and it is not wet.

     There's always one fucking heretic.

 

    😜

 

          mwc

 

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1 hour ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

I believe ice is water and it is not wet.

 

Ah, but is ice water? Ice is actually frozen water and thus it's properties have changed... although snow is also frozen water and snow can be wet.

 

I think I've confused myself.

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     Time for a Council of Iceseeya.

 

          mwc

 

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2 hours ago, mwc said:

     So are they too sweet or do you simply believe they are too sweet?

 

Two different questions. They're too sweet to be considered a healthy choice. I also personally believe that they taste too sweet, but I know lots of people who disagree. 

 

2 hours ago, mwc said:

     My dad lost his sense of smell so he doesn't know or care what most anything tastes like.  He basically eats whatever you put in front of him.  So what about him?

 

It seems you've answered your own question: he doesn't have beliefs about what tastes "good" or "bad".

 

2 hours ago, mwc said:

 Is it all belief?  Or nothing about belief?  Or is taste kind of a bad example of belief?  Kind of like a homonym?  It's a soundalike but it's not really the same sort of thing.  The kind of belief we're talking about here isn't really that sort of belief we really mean when we talk of other beliefs.  It's more like "I think" as opposed to that other sort of belief that is connected to religions and whatnot.  Like "I believe (I think) it is going to be cold tomorrow."  This sort of belief is quite different since religious beliefs are essentially unpredictable and unfalsifiable.

 

Yes, I agreee that these sorts of beliefs are different from religious beliefs, as I said in my previous post.

 

2 hours ago, mwc said:

     But you didn't change your beliefs.  Your beliefs changed because of the things that influenced you.  These influences are what changed your beliefs.  Your beliefs changed indirectly not directly.

 

Yes, this is more or less correct. I did choose to engage on activities which influenced me, though, and did so knowing that they might influence me. I could have done ao with the intention that my beliefs would change. This entails that I could choose to change my beliefs, but you're right,  if would happen indirectly in any case. 

 

I agree, mainly, with the rest.

 

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