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Author Topic:   Choosing to believe
Utopia
Junior Member (Idle past 3033 days)
Posts: 26
From: Boston, MA.
Joined: 09-19-2006


Message 16 of 70 (393326)
04-04-2007 12:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


Interesting question. I choose to believe about somethings that I know are not provable - but when I do so I try my best to make sure I state that what I'm saying is a statement of faith ONLY (cannot be proved right or wrong). For example... my faith that people are born "good" and mostly only diverge from the things we consider "good" due to fear and laziness. This cannot be proven but it is important for me as a basis from which I draw my conclusions about the world.

To apply it to your example about the moose, the belief would come NOT in the debate about whether it's actually standing in a marsh or not (this much should be obvious by all non-blind observers) BUT in the theory about HOW it got there in the first place. Maybe it's my faith , let's say, that moose are by nature attracted to moisture -so the "why" for me as to what this moose is doing in the marsh is already set for me.
I realize that this is a poor example because whether or not moose are attracted moisture can be tested and proven one way or the other. I'm just trying to illustrate HOW faith and belief come into play in real life situations.

Greg P.

Edited by Utopia, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 3849 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 17 of 70 (393327)
04-04-2007 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


Woodsy writes:

In this and other forums, when athiesm is discussed, theists often use the phrase "choose to believe" or "choose not to believe", usually with reference to their god.

To be fair, it is not only theists who do this. We theists are also accused of 'choosing to believe in a lie or falsehood' etc.

If there is such a thing as choosing to believe, none of us are exempt from the possibility that we are doing so.

Woodsy writes:

Suppose you are standing by a marsh, and you see a moose (it's hard to mistake a moose!). Could you disbelieve in the presence of the moose by any effort of will whatever?

That's not belief. That is knowledge.

Suppose you are sitting in a bar in town and your friend tells you there is a moose in that swamp right then. You know that neither you nor your friend have any way of knowing if a moose is there or not. How could you believe that either it is there, or not, by any effort of will?

You can't. You need something. Tracks, dung, a moosey noise.

Something one can decide to do is to profess a belief, regardless of whether one holds the belief or not. Do some religious people confuse holding a belief and professing one?

Absopositively! All the time. I daresay some atheists do as well. Maybe not here, but there are definitely folks who feel that atheism is the way to go simply because they have not put their beliefs into coherence yet, or have not found that the particular God of their upbringing speaks to them.

You CAN choose to believe to some extent.

If we both saw tracks and the evidence for the species which left them was inconclusive, we could both choose to believe that they were made by two different animals.

The situation with theists and atheists is similar. We are looking at tracks left by nature or by God, or by both. The more there are purely natural answers the more we feel all is by nature. We still have those who believe that nature and God are One and The Same. There are then, other factors that must be present for a person to believe in God. We obviously don't need to. The 'gaps' are getting smaller every day. Looking at two sets of tracks and having different asnwers is an intuitive process I suppose. The physical evidence is the same in both cases. The individual has to dig into their own memory to pull out 'clues'. Not scientific, no. Just belief. If you tell me your thoughts and I tell you mine, and we weigh them. I can still 'choose' to believe one or the other when the evidence for either is the same.

Edited by anastasia, : No reason given.


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 3849 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 18 of 70 (393336)
04-04-2007 1:18 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by Utopia
04-04-2007 12:51 PM


Utopia writes:

Maybe it's my faith , let's say, that moose are by nature attracted to moisture -so the "why" for me as to what this moose is doing in the marsh is already set for me.
I realize that this is a poor example because whether or not moose are attracted moisture can be tested and proven one way or the other. I'm just trying to illustrate HOW faith and belief come into play in real life situations.

Right. If someone tells you about a moose, and you believe, it is blind faith. If you know something about moose, about where they go, what they do, and that they have been seen in the marsh before, you can be willing to accept that moose are indeed there. The situation remains unproven, but has leapt suddenly to the probable rather than the extremely discordant. If I heard there was a moose in MY yard, or in the middle of Hawaii, I would choose not to believe based on the same lack of evidence for previous moose activity.

I guess that is why I feel that atheism is somewhat of a faith based thing. It is possible that a moose would somehow be in my yard. It is less likely one would be in Hawaii. I try to remind that when we talk about God we are not talking about something we know to be extremely implausible, but rather a thing that is more or less likely based on where one's 'backyard' is.


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Larni
Member
Posts: 3954
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 19 of 70 (393342)
04-04-2007 1:52 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by anastasia
04-04-2007 12:56 PM


ana writes:

If there is such a thing as choosing to believe, none of us are exempt from the possibility that we are doing so.

I would say that any one with a religious belief makes a conscious choice to believe. At one point you had no knowledge of your god, then the concept was presented to you by your immediate culture.

If it was presented as fact the choice to believe was greatly restricted for you; if it was presented as an idea that may have some merit and you embrace it you have done so through choice.

ana writes:

That's not belief. That is knowledge.

Not so. It could have been a hallucination, a pantomime moose, a life sized picture of a moose, a moose like object etc.

One infers that it is a moose based on the sensory evidence you aquire. One can very easily get it wrong.


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LinearAq
Member (Idle past 2572 days)
Posts: 598
From: Pocomoke City, MD
Joined: 11-03-2004


Message 20 of 70 (393350)
04-04-2007 2:26 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by anastasia
04-04-2007 12:56 PM


Choice? or not.
anastasia writes:

You CAN choose to believe to some extent.

If we both saw tracks and the evidence for the species which left them was inconclusive, we could both choose to believe that they were made by two different animals.

Is it really a choice or a conclusion based on your interpretation of the evidence?

The situation with theists and atheists is similar. We are looking at tracks left by nature or by God, or by both. The more there are purely natural answers the more we feel all is by nature. We still have those who believe that nature and God are One and The Same. There are then, other factors that must be present for a person to believe in God. We obviously don't need to. The 'gaps' are getting smaller every day. Looking at two sets of tracks and having different asnwers is an intuitive process I suppose. The physical evidence is the same in both cases. The individual has to dig into their own memory to pull out 'clues'. Not scientific, no. Just belief. If you tell me your thoughts and I tell you mine, and we weigh them. I can still 'choose' to believe one or the other when the evidence for either is the same.

That's the problem. These are merely examples of drawing conclusions from evidence, past experiences and what we already believe. If the "evidence" doesn't point to a particular conclusion in and of itself, then the "belief" doesn't happen.

If I had never seen moose tracks before (except the ice cream) and someone pointed to some large tracks and said they were moose tracks, I would be inclined to believe them.
That's because the outcome of believing her is unimportant. The most that could happen is I would look silly to a knowledgeable woodsman when I pointed to bear tracks and said a moose has gone by.
Secondly, we tend to be trusting people even when the outcome is relatively important. How else do con men pull off good cons?

You believe in a form of the Christian God. You didn't just decide one day to believe in him out of the blue. You had evidence. You may not have recognized it as evidence. Maybe it was your parents going to church with you. Bible reading at home. Rosary usage in times of stress. Stories told to you throughout your childhood. Lots of little things that colored your glasses to interpreting your experiences as God's influences.

From a Christian point of view, deciding whether to follow Christ (requiring a belief in the Christian God) is THE MOST IMPORTANT decision a person can make. Many, other than Christians, also recognize it as an important decision. They don't believe though, despite the importance or even their desire for it to be true. The evidence is weighed in their mind and it is not pointing to God.

Can you decide to believe even though your interpretation of the evidence contradicts what it is you are trying to believe? Can you even change your interpretation of the evidence without new evidence?

My position is that belief in God is not a choice. It is something of which you become convinced, just like everything else the you conclude is true.


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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 1270 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 21 of 70 (393363)
04-04-2007 3:47 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by LinearAq
04-04-2007 2:26 PM


Re: Choice? or not.
That's the problem. These are merely examples of drawing conclusions from evidence, past experiences and what we already believe. If the "evidence" doesn't point to a particular conclusion in and of itself, then the "belief" doesn't happen.

That's along the lines of what I was thinking, especially the "happen" part. If we encounter what seem like good reasons to believe something, belief happens. Deciding what we will count as good reasons, though, could involve choice, as someone has pointed out.

Forming a belief in the absence of convincing reasons seems to me to be impossible. The remote moose example was meant to illustrate that point. Neither participant could have information about the moose, so one could not form a belief about its presence or absence in the marsh.

One could decide to profess belief in something under just about any conditions whatever, though. I find I am leery of reported beliefs. I would rather see if actions seem to match them. I remember a sign in a fairly recent demonstration that read "Behead anyone who says that Islam is violent".


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Phat
Member
Posts: 11146
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 22 of 70 (393458)
04-05-2007 9:59 AM
Reply to: Message 15 by jar
04-04-2007 12:19 PM


Re: Too general
Jar writes:

At the other end of the spectrum are those things we can not know, is there life after death, is there a GOD or Gods. At that end we may well believe based on personal experience and what we consider sufficient evidence, but honestly, we must also admit that we could well be wrong.

I suppose that technically I could be wrong, but I look at it much the same as I look at my belief in you. I don't know for a fact that you are who you say you are.

Although I have talked to you and received answers, there is a small possibility that you never existed and that either an impostor or a sophisticated computer program really provided me with a dialogue. The chance is so small, however, that I don't consider it. Its the same way with God. How can I have a personal relationship with someone that I am unsure exists?


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 Message 15 by jar, posted 04-04-2007 12:19 PM jar has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by jar, posted 04-05-2007 10:29 AM Phat has acknowledged this reply
 Message 38 by nator, posted 04-26-2007 8:33 AM Phat has responded

  
jar
Member
Posts: 30846
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 23 of 70 (393469)
04-05-2007 10:29 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Phat
04-05-2007 9:59 AM


Re: Too general
I suppose that technically I could be wrong, but I look at it much the same as I look at my belief in you. I don't know for a fact that you are who you say you are.

Even if we met in person you could not know for a fact that I am who I say I am.

Although I have talked to you and received answers, there is a small possibility that you never existed and that either an impostor or a sophisticated computer program really provided me with a dialogue. The chance is so small, however, that I don't consider it. Its the same way with God.

Actually, no it isn't the same way with God, it is not even close.

Honestly compare the two scenarios.

While simply meeting me does not tell you for sure who I am, it is a good evidence that something exists. You can have other folk come to meet me and if they too experience the entity "me" it adds additional weight. You can take photos of "me" and videos, and record my voice, and weigh me and touch me.

Each of those adds weight to the question "is he real" but add little evidence related to the question "Is he who he says he is?"

Fortunately we have other tests that can be applied. Over our lives we constantly have contact with other people and so leave a history. In addition there are things like finger prints, DNA and legal documents and identifiers.

None of those tests apply to God. We can test both the fact of an existence called jar, and the fact that that existence called jar really is the entity jar.

That is not true for GOD.

How can I have a personal relationship with someone that I am unsure exists?

By continuing just as we do at EvC. You operate from a position of trust until you receive evidence that the entity you are dealing with is NOT who you think it is.

Edited by jar, : appalin spallin


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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rstrats
Member (Idle past 128 days)
Posts: 114
Joined: 04-08-2004


Message 24 of 70 (397343)
04-25-2007 3:06 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by jar
04-03-2007 5:26 PM


jar,

re: “Of course you can choose to believe... It is really easy.”

If you are implying that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things, perhaps you can help me. I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have and I would like to be able to do that - for example to effect a belief that it is possible for me to become a more compassionate person. Since you seem to be implying that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things, I wonder if you might explain how you do it. What do you do at the last moment to instantly change your one state of belief to another? What is it that you do that would allow you to say, “OK, at this moment I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ exists or is true, but I CHOOSE to believe that ‘x’ exists or is true and now instantly at this new moment I do believe that ‘x’ exists or is true?

Maybe you could use something like leprechauns to demonstrate your technique. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a leprechaun is “a fairy peculiar to Ireland, who appeared in the form of an old man of minute stature, wearing a cocked hat and a leather apron.” So, assuming that you don’t already have a belief in them, how about right now, while you are reading this, CHOOSE to believe - be convinced without a doubt - that they exist. Now that you believe in leprechauns, my question is, how did you do it? How did you make the instantaneous transition from lack of belief to belief?


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Replies to this message:
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jar
Member
Posts: 30846
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 25 of 70 (397361)
04-25-2007 4:16 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by rstrats
04-25-2007 3:06 PM


It is really very simple.
Did you read all of Message 9?

It doesn't appear so.

All that is necessary is to shut your eyes real tight and say, "I do believe.", "I do believe!", I do believe in Fairies!", "I really do believe in Fairies!" and if you really, really do believe in Fairies, Tinker will start to glow green and brite again.

Or, you can kill Tink.

It is up to you whether Tinker Belle lives or dies..


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
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rstrats
Member (Idle past 128 days)
Posts: 114
Joined: 04-08-2004


Message 26 of 70 (397370)
04-25-2007 5:08 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by jar
04-25-2007 4:16 PM


Re: It is really very simple.
jar,

re: “Did you read all of Message 9? ”

Indeed I did, at least 3 times. And it appeared to me that you were implying that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things. I don’t think that that is possible. I don’t think that a person can consciously do that. However, if it is possible, I would really like to see someone demonstrate that ability so that I could know that it can be done. To that end, I asked you to CHOOSE to believe that leprechauns exist, and to explain how you were able to be convinced without a doubt that they do. Apparently you were not able to do that.


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jar
Member
Posts: 30846
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 27 of 70 (397373)
04-25-2007 5:32 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by rstrats
04-25-2007 5:08 PM


Re: It is really very simple.
Of course I was able to do that and I even explained exactly how. I closed my eyes real tight and repeated "I do believe in Fairies!"

It really is that simple.

Are you saying that you are belief challenged? How sad. May I recommend a strong dose of Alice?

“There is no use trying", said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice", said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

AbE:

There are other such examples seen here at EvC regularly. We see people who will actually tell you they know they are saved, that they know God, that they believe there is no conflicts or contradictions in the Bible, that there is only one Creation story in the Bible and that it is factual, that there was a Flood or that there was an Exodus as described in the Bible or that the conquest of Canaan happened as described in Joshuah or that the Earth is Young.

These people have no problem simply choosing to believe things that are patently false and in many cases mutually exclusive. They even go so far as to call themselves Biblical Literalists even though if they were really literalists, they would have to admit that the Bible proves itself false in the first two chapters.

No, it appears that it is very easy and very common for folk to choose to believe.

Edited by jar, : add stuff


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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Phat
Member
Posts: 11146
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 28 of 70 (397382)
04-25-2007 6:47 PM
Reply to: Message 25 by jar
04-25-2007 4:16 PM


Re: It is really very simple.
Jar writes:

It is up to you whether Tinker Belle lives or dies..

Is it also up to me whether God lives or dies? If I threw Him away, would I cease to exist?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 25 by jar, posted 04-25-2007 4:16 PM jar has responded

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Quetzal
Member (Idle past 3768 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002


Message 29 of 70 (397385)
04-25-2007 7:04 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by jar
04-05-2007 10:29 AM


Re: Too general
Actually, old friend, I think phat may be right - although not in the way he obviously intended. He has captured the essence of why I consider atheism to be the rational "choice". You mentioned confidence levels several times. Those are at the heart of my stance. Given that we have evidence that humans have attempted to connect the real world with the spiritual for circa 40,000 years (call it the Upper Paleolithic - and if we assume Cro Magnon cave art actually represents something along those lines), I would think it reasonable that somewhere between then and now someone would have come up with something unambiguous. The fact that unambiguous evidence hasn't materialized in all that time, with literally billions of humans assiduously seeking it, indicates to me that functionally it doesn't exist. Obviously, I could be wrong. However, as phat puts it:

The chance is so small, however, that I don't consider it.

It is on that which I base my "choice" not to believe.

Edited by Quetzal, : No reason given.


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jar
Member
Posts: 30846
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 30 of 70 (397387)
04-25-2007 7:13 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by Phat
04-25-2007 6:47 PM


Re: It is really very simple.
Is it also up to me whether God lives or dies?

Certainly as much as with Tinker Belle.

If I threw Him away, would I cease to exist?

No.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by Phat, posted 04-25-2007 6:47 PM Phat has acknowledged this reply

  
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