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Author Topic:   Choosing to believe
Woodsy
Member (Idle past 1328 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 1 of 70 (392355)
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


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.

I find these phrases puzzling. I would suppose that one believes a proposition (or not) when one encounters satisfactory evidence for its truth (or falsity). How can one choose to believe something, or to disbelieve it? Can one choose to believe something one knows is false?

An example:

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?

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?

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?

Edited by Woodsy, : grammar correction


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Message 2 of 70 (393132)
04-03-2007 4:29 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6528
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 3 of 70 (393139)
04-03-2007 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


The problem for Christians is that they can't believe that a good and just god would just dump people in Hell for something that isn't under their control. So they believe (and must believe if they want to keep their Christian theology consistent with their 21st century Enlightenment moral beliefs) that atheists really, secretly, do believe that God exists, but deliberately pretend that they don't believe so they can continue to live their debauched lives.

Calvinists are a bit less illogical. They don't think that there is any choice whatsoever on the part of the person. All people are damned and deserve to go to Hell, but God, for whatever reason he has, has decided that a few will be saved. The few that will be saved will be moved by the Holy Spirit (and this will be irresistable) to become saved.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine
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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 70 (393141)
04-03-2007 4:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


How can one choose to believe something, or to disbelieve it? Can one choose to believe something one knows is false?

Tough question...

I asked a christian friend if they chose to believe in god and they replied with a suprised "yeah" :rolleyes:, "Duh!", like, how could I imply that they didn't choose. I too, feel like I choose to believe in god.

How?, you ask... I have no idea.

Maybe belief is made up of multiple layers. Perhaps, the very bottom layer, the most basic thoughts on god's existence, cannot be chosen, but as we climb up the layers and get more into the beliefs, they do become choices we have to make, especially when dealing with things that are not evident.

You know what I mean?

Your examples are matters of fact. When talking about god though, they don't apply as well.

Change your question from being about mooses to being about god and answer them for me.

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

Isn't it easier to say "yes" when the subject is god and not a moose. If you could say yes, then wouldn't you be choosing to believe if you did believe.


Science fails to recognize the single most potent element of human existence.
Letting the reigns go to the unfolding is faith, faith, faith, faith.
Science has failed our world.
Science has failed our Mother Earth.
-System of a Down, "Science"

He who makes a beast out of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man.
-Avenged Sevenfold, "Bat Country"


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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 1328 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 5 of 70 (393143)
04-03-2007 4:54 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by New Cat's Eye
04-03-2007 4:43 PM


It would depend on whether it really was hard to mistake GOD! If it was hard, I do not see how one could avoid believing, in the presence of evidence.

Perhaps this is where one brings in the idea of degrees of certainty.

How are facts about moose any different from facts about gods?

How can one deal with things that are not evident? If there is no evidence, we are ignorant of them, and in no position to form a belief.


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16056
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 6 of 70 (393148)
04-03-2007 5:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


The first time I came across this, it was an evangelist who assured me, in response to my incredulous questions, that yes, he could believe in Santa Claus by a mere effort of will.

He was a dreadful liar in both senses of the word "dreadful".


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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 70 (393149)
04-03-2007 5:04 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Woodsy
04-03-2007 4:54 PM


I do not see how one could avoid believing, in the presence of evidence.

The common atheist answer is that you can't distinuish between the supernatural and sufficiently advanced technology. So, you could just (¿choose to?) believe that it was not god and that it was aliens or something.


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6528
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 8 of 70 (393154)
04-03-2007 5:22 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Dr Adequate
04-03-2007 5:03 PM


It might be possible for some people to choose what to believe. More to the point, maybe it is possible for some people to choose to believe in god or not. I would hate to rule something like this impossible just because I can't imagine it.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine
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jar
Member
Posts: 30934
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 9 of 70 (393155)
04-03-2007 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


Of course you can choose to believe.

Can one choose to believe something one knows is false?

Of course. It is really easy. The key point is your use of the phrase "knows is false". That in and of itself is an opening.

The question is, if someone simply refuses to accept any of the evidence against some issue, do they know that it is false?

We see this all the time with Young Earth Creationists and Biblical Literalists. They simply refuse to acknowledge reality of either the world they live in or the book they claim to follow.

They choose to believe that they are right even though all of the evidence shows that they are wrong scientifically and theologically.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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Stile
Member
Posts: 3258
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 10 of 70 (393166)
04-03-2007 6:14 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


Learning to believe
Woodsy writes:

How can one choose to believe something, or to disbelieve it? Can one choose to believe something one knows is false?

I agree with your intuition, here. Although, I'm only agreeing with my own intuition :) Personally, I believe things that I have learnt have a high possibility of being true. Of course, I find myself in disbelief sometimes when these same things still turn out to be false every now and then...

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?

I found this illustrated itself easiest if I thought about different friends telling me this story. Some friends (whom I trust), I would believe. Other friends (known to, well... embellish stories), I would be rather sceptical of.

This seems to me to indicate that what we believe comes from what we learn. If we learn that someone is to be trusted, we will believe them. If we learn that someone is usually wrong, we will not believe them.


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Larni
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Posts: 3964
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 11 of 70 (393262)
04-04-2007 3:52 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


Would love to believe
Dude, I would love to believe that there really was a avuncular patriarchial god who would reunite me with lost loved ones if I towed the party line.

But I just can't see it.

I don't have any choice. To believe in xian god would be to lie to myself.


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macaroniandcheese 
Suspended Member (Idle past 1881 days)
Posts: 4258
Joined: 05-24-2004


Message 12 of 70 (393264)
04-04-2007 4:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Woodsy
03-30-2007 1:57 PM


i have no idea.
in my opinion (i could be wittgensteinianly mistaken) i did not choose to believe in god. in do not choose to continue to believe in god. if i had a choice, i would not. but this is not the same "not choosing" that you're talking about. not having a choice and accepting evidence are very different ideas.

lucky for me, i was raised a calvinist as someone mentioned, so this at least makes sense to me a little. i am compelled. maybe it's actually god, maybe it's crazy wiring that we evolved to help promote social controls to protect offspring. either way works for me.

i don't think atheists choose not to believe. i think they may choose to stop asking questions when the questions regarding god don't produce any results for them. is that the same thing? no, because the religious tend to not like people who ask questions.


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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 1328 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 13 of 70 (393282)
04-04-2007 8:16 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by jar
04-03-2007 5:26 PM


They choose to believe that they are right even though all of the evidence shows that they are wrong scientifically and theologically.

This is an interesting point. I have recently read Robert Altemyer's on-line book "The Authoritarians". He found that fundamentalist types often have very compartmentalized minds. They can evidently believe something in connection with one topic that they disbelieve in connection with some other topic. Amazing!

Personally, I wonder how much is really believing and how much is professing (claiming to believe) for social and political reasons, to placate authority figures, and to maintain in-group/out-group feelings.

I guess this makes things symmetrical. Theists find it hard to believe that athiests really do not believe in gods, and athiests suspect that theists do not really believe in them.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3258
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 14 of 70 (393290)
04-04-2007 8:58 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Woodsy
04-04-2007 8:16 AM


Woodsy writes:

Theists find it hard to believe that athiests really do not believe in gods, and athiests suspect that theists do not really believe in them.

I'm not too sure how deep this goes. I'm sure you could find people from both camps who think this way. But I'm also sure you could easily find people from both areas who think that people believe what they say they believe.

I'm an atheist, and I think that anyone who professes to believe does actually believe in the existance of their God(s).


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jar
Member
Posts: 30934
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 15 of 70 (393320)
04-04-2007 12:19 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Woodsy
04-04-2007 8:16 AM


Too general
I guess this makes things symmetrical. Theists find it hard to believe that athiests really do not believe in gods, and athiests suspect that theists do not really believe in them.

As a Christian Theist I personally have no problem either believing that Atheists really do not believe in Gods or even in understanding why that point of view would be rational.

When we talk about things we know, we are looking at a broad spectrum. There are things we can know with surety, those things which are proven such as found in mathematics. 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.

In between those two extremes we find the vast body of knowledge where we can actually assign some level of confidence. I feel comfortable saying that if I drop and object it will fall. In fact, on that item I would say that I KNOW that if I drop an object it will fall.

But all of that is a reflection of the world of logic and science. There is yet another world though, one driven by emotion, and there rationality often plays a small part.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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