Can a person 'choose' to believe?

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    Jul 20, 2008 11:13 AM GMT
    In religious threads, things I read and/or see on TV, it jumps out at me when folks say that they 'choose' to believe. I can no more 'choose' to believe something than I can 'choose' to know, say, the finer points of Biomedical Informatics.

    I believe what I believe because the facts present themselves to me in such a way that my 'belief' is the only thing I can conclude. I am always on the look out for more info that can inform my position but in the end, a belief for me is not a choice, it is the inevitable result of my understanding of the presented facts. I think there is a parallel to the idea that we 'choose' to be gay, but clearly that is not a choice and neither is belief.

    What do you think?
  • MikePhilPerez

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    Jul 20, 2008 12:46 PM GMT
    No you can not choose to believe. You either believe or you don't, it is not a choice.

    That is the problem with those religious threads. The religion bashes, seem to think it is a choice, and I think that is why they feel it is OK to insult us, and try and make us look stupid. It is no more a choice for me than being gay.

    Mike
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    Jul 20, 2008 5:42 PM GMT
    original714 said
    I believe what I believe because the facts present themselves to me in such a way that my 'belief' is the only thing I can conclude.
    What do you think?


    I think to an extent we do choose to believe. For instance, I come from a catholic background. It can be argued that catholics choose to believe in the immaculate conception, in the sacraments, etc.

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    Jul 20, 2008 5:54 PM GMT
    That's kind of an interesting question, although it would be really hard to find neutral language with which to discuss it, that wouldn't end up offending large numbers of people.

    Look at it the other way. Did you choose to be rational? Doesn't it take some training and discipline to achieve that? And maybe some third-party feedback? If so, it seems like there is some choice involved in there.

    On the other hand, let's make a hugely oversimplified thought experiment. What if there were a hypothetical gene that controlled the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality? What would be the advantage in regulating such a trait? One might argue that entertaining fantasies is necessary for an entity that contemplates and plans for the future, or other unknowns. Otherwise, we'd just be amoebas, reacting to the current stimulus. But we'd want some way to reign in the fantasy a bit, because otherwise we'd start believing that the air will support us when we walk off that cliff, or we can breathe under water. I think that it's not hard to imagine circumstances where having more or less of a "fanatasy gene" would be advantageous. So it's not unreasonable to think that people could at least theoretically be hardwired to "believe" to different extents.

    But if that were the case, wouldn't lots of people start believing random things, like... oh, yeah. Never mind.
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    Jul 20, 2008 6:10 PM GMT
    I think I know what you're saying. But your second sentence helps distinguish "believing" and "knowing".

    And the second paragraph reminded me of children's belief in Santa Clause. They accept what's been presented to them until they get more diverse information--from their older peers or from the media. The same can be true for religious beliefs. It's not a coincidence that religion is so much more prevalent in rural communities, because they're not exposed to more diverse thoughts and viewpoints.
    But being gay (or left-handed for that matter) is clearly not a choice, as you say. People who insist we choose to be gay get stumped when we ask them if they could chose to be gay.
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    Jul 20, 2008 6:48 PM GMT
    Consider the theorem in science or math or physics. While it cannot yet be proven or dis-proven, it is accepted. If you decide that you will make it your life's work as a scientist, that this can be proven (or dis-proven) and devote your life to this (as many of the great scientists, physicists, and theoretical mathematicians, have done in the past,) then you are making a choice.
    You can make a choice to believe or not believe in some sort of faith.

    People see things in black and white, or shades of gray, or in color. Whatever spectrum a person see's in tends to make them think that there is no other spectrum. Since they cannot conceive of it, it doesn't exist.

    Ideally, you choose what you are going to believe and then make sure you have an open mind to accept that it could be wrong.
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    Jul 20, 2008 7:03 PM GMT
    [quote][cite]MikePhil said[/cite]No you can not choose to believe. You either believe or you don't, it is not a choice.

    There in IS the choice! A belief is something YOU hold to be true, it doesn't have to be proven in any way, shape or form. Look at those who believe being gay is a choice and not genetic and use that to say it's wrong. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they still choose to believe it's wrong because of religious or family teachings or what have you.

    Accepting or not accepting something IS a choice, no matter what. Just like being in a situation that you see as hopeless or where you have "no choice", choosing not to do someone IS the choice you're making!

    You always have a choice no matter what. The universe is not set up to give absolutely no options!
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    Jul 20, 2008 7:09 PM GMT
    Or maybe it's just a matter of vernacular.
    "I choose to believe that..." could roll off the tongue a bit more freely than "I provisionally accept as an axiom that..." Unless, perhaps, you're drinking in a bar on Vulcan.
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    Jul 20, 2008 7:16 PM GMT
    I tend to agree with you Original. I am a Christian, but I don't believe in "blind" faith. How can you believe in something your not familiar with or in someone you do not know. Yet, the "religious" faction of Christianity think that "faith" without heart knowledge impresses God and makes them acceptable to God. However, when the going gets tough in their lives, it is not long before they substitute their "faith" in God with their own resources to get out of their problem. I see it over and over again. You cannot believe in something or in someone you do not trust.

    Trust comes through our day-to-day experience with people. We come to trust them because of their integrity, their faithfulness, often, their sacrifice to help us out. This trust increases until we find ourselves believing in their good intentions toward us. To me, to have trustworthy friends you can rely on is a wonderful thing in life. But, it comes out of having a relationship on some level with people from which we are able to observe their integrity and faithfulness as friends. We do not trust people we do not know, but as you observed, when we find people trustworthy, our belief in them naturally follows because we are persuaded they are for us and will stand with us when we need them. The gateway which guards our hearts opens to them and we relate to them differently than we do with just acquaintances.

    I have found this to be the same process in my relationship with God. When I became open to Christianity, I really did not know much about God. I was drawn to him when I felt my heart filled with a love that I had not experienced before. It was something that didn't involve me; it just happened. I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I was opened to pursue Him further. This is much different than people becoming Christians out of fear or guilt or bible bashing with threats of hell or bribes of heaven. When they pursue God out of fear and guilt, a destructive pattern begins which is then reinforced and established in their lives by a religious system which is founded upon and which operates out of that same destructive mindset. This is the perverted concept of God that they then present to others which often causes the same emotional pain and suffering that they themselves endure behind artificial smiles and declarations of "joy" -- thus, much of the bitterness and hostility that is directed at Chrisitians and Christianity ...and most sadly, against God himself.

    Through the years of my relationship with God, he has revealed himself to me through the scripture, through prayer and in the midst of all my life experiences, both good and difficult times. I have found him to be always for me, always there for me and best of all revealing the faithfulness of his love to me. It is through his grace, his care and his integrity toward me that I have developed a deep love for Him. As the apostle John said, 1John 4:19, We love him, because he first loved us. It's just as impossible to love God without first experiencing his love (just as we are). The "religious" also get this one wrong. "Loving" God out of their fear and distrust of him, they feel that God is then obligated to accept them.

    It is why I never try to convince people to become Christians. The mind cannot be persuaded that God exists ... only coerced by fear or by threat to satisfy a "religious" formula such as the sinner's prayer or whatever in order to be admitted to the club. The reality of God can only be known by the heart. When the heart is enlightened, the mind then follows with "Ahhhh ...Wow! So that's what it's about".

    Debate is mostly a waste of time. Minds are already set in their thinking on such matters. Lines have already been drawn. Even here, nothing changes from religious thread to religious thread. Sorry this is so long.
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    Jul 21, 2008 5:02 AM GMT
    I was raised Catholic and forced to "believe". Having said, that our lives tread on choosing.
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    Jul 22, 2008 10:23 PM GMT
    I choose to question and I demand answers.
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    Jul 22, 2008 10:29 PM GMT
    closetsinger saidFor instance, I come from a catholic background. It can be argued that catholics choose to believe in the immaculate conception, in the sacraments, etc.



    You're a kid and you've been taught that things are the way your parents or your teachers or your religious instructors portray them. If this happened at a young age, then you really "believe" in the immaculate conception, just as you "believe" that your father is your father and your mother is you mother.

    That's different than an adult "believing" in the immaculate conception. By that time you have lots of absolute proof that your dad is your dad and your mother is your mother. At that time you can go on "believing" (meaning, suppressing rational thought) that there was an immaculate conception, absent the proof for it.

    So I differentiate what a child "believes" from what an adult chooses to accept.
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    Jul 22, 2008 10:41 PM GMT
    nshapenfit said I really did not know much about God. I was drawn to him when I felt my heart filled with a love that I had not experienced before.


    Or it may just have been acid reflux.
  • MikePhilPerez

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    Jul 22, 2008 10:59 PM GMT
    jprichva said
    nshapenfit said I really did not know much about God. I was drawn to him when I felt my heart filled with a love that I had not experienced before.


    Or it may just have been acid reflux.



    Why...........Oh why...........do some people always have to try and make fun out of believers?

    It's a good thing I like you J icon_confused.gif
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    Jul 22, 2008 11:00 PM GMT
    I think it's like opening your eyes and seeing past what you've been taught to believe unquestionably as true. Yes you can close your eyes back, but your mind can't unsee what has been seen, and it'll be a struggle to force yourself to believe once again. The seeds of skepticism will ensure you'll never believe in the same way you did before, if you believe again at all.