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Is belief a choice?

#18: Jan. - Mar. 2005 (Non-Fiction)
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Mr. P

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Is belief a choice?

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I just had a discussion with a devout Christian at my workplace. The jist was this:She states that I CHOSE to not believe in god. I explained that it was not a choice, but an understanding of the truth. That after experienceing life, along with 18 years of being raised in a religious family, 12 years in Catholic school and other experiences, I just did not believe in god. Not a choice, but an awareness.I even tried to be fair and asked her that if she wanted to, could she STOP believing in god. SHe said she did not know, because she always believed.My problem is that she is making it a "choice" on my (or atheists) part...precluding that god does indeed exist and that it is my "choice" not to believe. Does anyone feel that our atheism or theism is a conscious choice? Or is it simply what we know/believe to be true? Can we change what we honestly accept as truth?To me, this reminded me of the mythos mindset as opposed to the logos mindset. It may not be a good example, but that is what it brought to mind.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of PainHEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. PI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: Is belief a choice?

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I completely believe that no one chooses whether or not they believe in a god or gods. I don't think anyone lays out all supporting facts for and against in this matter, takes a good look at them, and then decides that they believe one side or the other. When I believed in a god, no arguments against his existence would have changed my mind. When I quit believing in deities, it was affected by all the things I had learned throughout my life to that point, but it wasn't following a specific new argument that swung the balance in my mind. It was a sudden rearrangement in my mind of how I felt about things I knew. I went through a long period of doubt before this happened. I doubted both sides. The thing is, I didn't decide to choose one side and stick to it. It was like my mind rearranged the information it had into a different order and told me that I no longer believed in any gods whatsoever. I haven't doubted the non-existence of gods ever since, but I didn't consciously choose to not believe.
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Re: Is belief a choice?

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Scrum:This was basically my take. It just is...it is not a choice.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of PainHEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. PI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Of course I would have to disagree, BUT I will state that I believe there are very, very few of those like myself, that have studied and sought out the facts of the cosmos, physics, chemistry, evolution, etc. and after all of the facts are laid out, CHOOSES to believe in divinity and the both theology and the sciences can indeed be a parallel world.I think that the choice that one chooses is that choice of proof versus belief, although those that choose proof cannot be blindly led. This is where the problem lies and heated debates and accusations begin. Most "believers" are only followers of a tradition that has been handed down to them. Mr. P, you state that you are from a Catholic background; Was it not your choice to rebel and accept only scientific proof/theories instead of following the tradition handed to you? It has been my findings that most of the atheists that I have personally known or read above, came from a Catholic background. I believe that this stems from all of the excessive dogma, restrictions, and ultimately guilt that is experienced by Catholics; But this can also be said about other Protestant sects as well as Judaism and probably the most restrictive, Islam.So Yes I do think it is a choice; some people choose to accept teachings without questioning; some people choose to reject those teachings all together; some people choose to accept some teachings while rejecting other teachings because they are continually questioning the whole process.
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I think it's possible for people to choose whether or not to accept the teachings of a religion, but really think about what you call a choice to believe in a god, Yello. What is the main reason you believe in a god (or whatever you call what you believe in, I don't mean to put words in your mouth)? When someone asks you why you believe, how do you explain it to them?
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Quote:Was it not your choice to rebel and accept only scientific proof/theories instead of following the tradition handed to you?Nope. I look back and see that I have always doubted the existence of a god and the teachings of my, and now other, religions. They are all lies.But I did not 'choose' to go against anything. I remember the final straw clearly. I was sitting in my High School (Catholic school, yes) cafeteria in my senior year and just thought: This is all bullshit, there is no god and religion is just a means to control, the 'opiate of the masses'. It was at that moment that my non-belief was solidified. I was not looking for nor did I effectuate a change.Quote:those that choose proof cannot be blindly led.Quote:some people choose to accept teachings without questioningUh...your kidding right? This is like a pot calling the pot a pot.Those of us who rely on proof do not make any absolute claims of truth, so it is hard to be mis-led or blindly led. Science is about accepting what knowledge and research has shown us, but also about being prepared to modify our understanding as a result of our research. This is done freely. This is called progress. Religion changes by tooth and nail battles with reality; those that accept on faith not having the capacity to cope with change. And this is what makes people who follow religion and submit with blind faith dangerous and counter-productive to the growth of our species, IMHO.Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of PainHEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. PI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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Re: Is belief a choice?

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This is a profound question. The legitimacy of religion, especially Christianity, hinges on this! If you are a Christian, one of your dogmas has to be on the acceptance of choice and pure free will, otherwise, your religion will seem cruel and arbitrary.The evidence is abundant that what you believe is, in the largest degree, a matter of where you were born. Few will argue that we choose our place of conception. To a lesser degree, we do not choose our genetic makeup of our personality that in most cases unquestionably slants toward accepting anything that slides in our brain at an early age, and then is cemented in place (like the curing of concrete) and is essentially unalterable regardless of life experience.But then some of us, without choice, are born with a genetic make-up of always asking questions, and remain curious to our last dying breath. These individuals do change their mind frequently based upon life experiences and will either become skeptics, invent or alter their religious beliefs to be in tune with their life experiences, or choose a pre-existing faith that is closest to their living observations.The evidence is clear that the Christian tenant on the existence of choices is clearly false in what one believes. It is not an equal opportunity religion, nor does it explore the quality of persons "making it into heaven" compared to the rest that don't. Identical twins separated at birth and then raised in different parts of the world would demonstrate that a set of genes would pass into heaven if born in a Christian nation, and to hell if born in an Islamic or Hindustan nation. This would indicate the test is bogus and does not isolate for any real difference of quality except for one; no skeptic would ever get to heaven! That is the only thing that would ever get weeded out!But when you think of it, if you are seeking power, you want your underdogs to accept what you are saying, obey, and not to question your authority. The power of a story to survive and flourish (Memeplexes) is to have the ability to sweep aside skepticism and critical inquiry, and to create a society that loathes, punishes, & silences dissent. So religion naturally is attracted to political power and the strong drive to expose young minds.My view is the necessity of belief for ascension into heaven is an evil concept that denies humanity the unaltered 'pursuit of happiness'. It takes the advantage of our need to find meaning in our existence and our struggle through life.Monty VonnMeme Wars!editor and treasurer of Humanist of North Puget SoundVisit our group's web page at: www.humanistsnps.com
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Re: Is belief a choice?

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Quote:This is a profound question. The legitimacy of religion, especially Christianity, hinges on this! If you are a Christian, one of your dogmas has to be on the acceptance of choice and pure free will, otherwise, your religion will seem cruel and arbitrary.I had this discussion with the same person at my office. I asked how there could be free will if her god was all knowing. (Classic debate I know). There really was no answer from her. The whole Christian religion is a contradiction to itself.Quote:My view is the necessity of belief for ascension into heaven is an evil concept that denies humanity the unaltered 'pursuit of happiness'. It takes the advantage of our need to find meaning in our existence and our struggle through life.So then why has this meme survived and why does it seem to be so resilient to our species?Mr. P. The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.I came to get down, I came to get down. So get out ya seat and jump around - House of PainHEY! Is that a ball in your court? - Mr. PI came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper
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I agree, P, that "choosing to believe" is a peculiar concept. How do you do it? Let's assume that I figure out that I would be a lot happier if I believe that my wife is not having an affair with the butcher boy. So how do I go about changing my belief. I could repeat to myself every half hour "My wife is not having an affair with the butcher boy". Would that help? It does seem to be kind of like trying to spend one minute without thinking about 'hippopotamus'. The harder you try the less successful you are going to be.This is what happens if you try consciously to change your beliefs, and it seems to me that something of the sort must be involved in the Christian dogma that you get rewarded (by salvation, for chrissakes!) if you believe one thing, and punished if you believe something else. This has always struck me as one of the most dishonest and shameful doctrines in any religion. Because belief is not something you should ever try to produce in yourself - it fatally compromises your commitment to finding the truth.There is, however, something else that people may be thinking of when they say that 'you choose to believe....'. This is the case where people's beliefs are affected by their wishes not to give up a cherished position. It seems very clear that this happens. It is no coincidence that people who have a commitment to Biblical Inerrancy have great difficulty evaluating the evidence for Darwinian Evolution. I think what happens is that any particular argument or piece of evidence simply triggers in them a search for the weakness in the point being made. They never get to the point of trying to figure out whether they might be wrong and the biologists right. They just go into a mode of finding a way to undermine the point, or find a way to stop it having the ramifications being claimed for it.Is this 'choosing to believe'? Well, no. But from a distance it doesn't look that different. I want to believe something (it would be distressing to me to abandon this belief) and I end up believing it. And based on the frequency that this happens, I think we'd have to say that the desire to believe has a causative relationship to the belief we end up with. Choosing? No. But very close.
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Re: Is belief a choice?

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I asked how there could be free will if her god was all knowing.Because knowing is not guiding, and the Judeo-Christian God is external to time. Boethius gives the classical answer to the problem, and in light of his answer I really can't see the delimma as more than a diversion.
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