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Featured Do We Choose Our Beliefs?

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Left Coast, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    Several times recently in conversations with theists, they have said things about choosing what we believe. It's almost as though in their minds beliefs are like clothes in the closet. I go to the closet, and I could pick the red t shirt or the green t shirt, so I'll pick the red. Or perhaps, I know my significant other likes the red more than the green, so I'll pick the red one to please him.

    In my experience, this is not how belief works at all. If to believe means to be convinced something is true or real, then we don't choose our beliefs at all. We are presented with evidence and whatever interpretation of that evidence is most convincing to us is what we believe. We can't stop believing that until something intervenes - we see new evidence, or we realize our thought process was illogical before, etc. I can't simply wake up and choose a different belief this morning. I am genuinely convinced of what I believe (and don't).

    What do you think? Do we choose our beliefs?
     
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  2. Curious George

    Curious George Veteran Member

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    No i do not see how we have any direct choice in our beliefs. However, i do see indirect control over belief. That is, our reason and conscious activity seems to play a substantial role in the formation of belief and even observation.
     
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  3. Rival

    Rival Unicorn Noahide
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    We choose our beliefs in the sense that we choose what makes most sense to us from the evidence given.
     
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  4. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    ..sorta..

    But mostly, our 'beliefs' choose us. That is, they are the result of influences in our lives.

    Facts and empirical evidence play a small part in anyone's beliefs.

    There are no empirical facts to justify belief.. it is a conclusion based on life factors:

    1. Education/Indoctrination
    2. Upbringing
    3. Peers/freinds/family
    4. Personal experience
    5. Choice

    Many factors combine to mold a worldview in a person. 'Absolute Facts', are seldom factors in that list.

    Usually, at some point in our lives, we pause and question whether the things we believe are valid.. some may be driven to question everything, while others skate by on their Indoctrination or opinions of those they admire (or hate, as an opposing belief!).
     
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  5. Rival

    Rival Unicorn Noahide
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    I agree it's a holistic set of things that influences us, but I think what will influence one person a lot may influence another person to a much lesser degree, for example.
     
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  6. We Never Know

    We Never Know Well-Known Member

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    IMO we choose what we believe in a similar manner as we choose our favorite color, favorite food, etc.

    In short, In the end it's all processed in our brain and we make choices by what appeals to us, what we think we understand, and what we ultimately want.
     
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  7. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    We do? I don't choose what makes most sense to me at all, it spontaneously becomes apparent as I evaluate and learn about an idea whether it makes sense to me.
     
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  8. Rival

    Rival Unicorn Noahide
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    With abstract concepts like God, I think there is a lot of choice involved indeed, and the older we become the less sense anything seems to make the more we experience. Reality is really stranger than fiction and I've stopped taking anything for granted anymore. Things that were once obvious now no longer are.
     
  9. icehorse

    icehorse Well-Known Member
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    Ah, interesting. I'd say some beliefs work this way, e.g., through hard experience and evidence we come to believe that when a stove is turned on, we shouldn't put our hands on it. But, given that this is a religious forum, I think most of us were thinking about beliefs with weak or no evidence, like believing in heaven and hell.
     
  10. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    ..those are the unseen factors at work.. the beliefs gelling from the multiple influences in our lives.

    The results can be:

    1. Truth. You got lucky and guessed right. ;)
    2. Partial Truth. You're on the right path, just need some tweaks.
    3. Deception. Your influences caused a flawed conclusion, about the most important question in the universe.

    I don't know if anyone is with #1.. maybe some.. :shrug:

    The rest of us are floundering in the #2 & 3 category..

    Understanding is a Divine Gift, imo. We can pursue it, but without Divine intervention, we will likely go astray..
     
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  11. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    A choice is made when assigning value to supporting evidence.
     
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  12. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    I agree with most of this, except that "there are no empirical facts to justify belief." There are very much empirical facts to justify believing the earth is round. There are very much not empirical facts to justify believing the earth is flat.

    I also still don't know how #5 the list, choice, fits in. I simply do not choose what I believe. Do you mean life choices that expose us to different ideas, perhaps?
     
  13. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Not as a rule, no. At least in the sense of consciously deciding, "Now I'm going to believe in X."

    For the most part beliefs arise from new information, past experience and reflection. This isn't necessarily a conscious process either. You might see a tree ahead of you, automatically believe it exists as a physical object and walk around it rather than into it. That's a process of going through beliefs (the tree is there, it exists, I'll hurt myself if I walk into it) that takes an instant and isn't thought about.
    You may of course decide later that you're going to ponder existential philosophy and wonder if the tree really was there. Even so, you would have a hard time convincing yourself the tree doesn't exist when you're about to walk into it.

    I said we don't choose our beliefs as a rule which of course means there are exceptions. This is usually where the reflection part of it comes in. If somebody tells me something about their life, my automatic response will generally be to believe or disbelieve them. For example, I'd probably automatically believe somebody if they said they had eggs for breakfast and disbelieve them if they told me they had giraffe eggs. If however they told me something believable but past experience tells me they're untrustworthy, I might well reflect on what they said and make a conscious decision to believe in the statement's truth or falsehood.

    There is another form of consciously choosing belief which I think might be more in line with the OP. Certain occult practices have a sort of deliberate self deception component to them. With a combination of meditation and ritual it is possible to make yourself believe (temporarily) that something you know to be fictional actually exists outside of fiction.
    In chaos magic for example it's not unheard of for people to perform a ritual dedicated to a fictional god or spirit. Cthulhu and the other Lovecraftian entities are popular choices since they already have an inbuilt mythology and incantations. The chants, ritual objects and so forth are usually there to help people get into the right frame of mind.
     
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  14. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    "Choosing to believe" is nothing but self deception.

    It is not a very clever trick, esp as the easiest person
    there is to fool is yourself.
     
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  15. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    That is not what I would call "choosing".

    "I choose to think it will rain soon", say.
     
  16. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Many people choose their belief, not so much in India. The broad expanse of Hinduism can take in everything.
     
  17. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    The title of the thread is about beliefs, in a 'religious' forum. I assumed that philosophy, not science, was the context of the question. ;)

    That said, there are a lot of alleged 'scientific' beliefs that are really just philosophical.. no absolute evidence, just belief.
     
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  18. shmogie

    shmogie Well-Known Member
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    You pose an interesting question.

    Before I address the the theological ramifications of it, I would like to take the question of choosing a belief and explore it.

    I have seen juries choose to believe, in spite of overwhelming evidence denying it, a farcical theory. The OJ Simpson case is a classic example of this.

    So, yes for the most part evidence is given strong consideration and influence, but there are other factors that may have weight as well.

    Perhaps the message of a religious belief structure speaks to a particular need. Order and control in the face of chaos, a lifestyle that is seen as extremely positive in the face of rampant materialism, the denial of raw selfishness, the ultimate equality and value of every human being, etc.

    From the above to deciding God offers these things may be a logical conclusion.

    Further, with some study one will learn that the natural explanation for everything is itself based in beliefs not grounded in evidence, but supposition. Did the universe create itself, are there multiverses, is the universe an eternal self replicating entity, on and on it goes.

    So yes, one may choose to believe, or more accurately will to believe.
     
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  19. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    Well then God needs to get his a** on the ball and get me some understanding.

    I don't think things are as hopeless as that. We have tools (namely, reason) to help us discern whether our beliefs conform to reality, without needing any help from above.
     
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  20. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    There is an element of will, in any belief. I include non belief in that choice parameter. A rejection of a possibility is a decision about belief. Actively believing in one thing, or actively disbelieving something else is still a 'belief', that is shaped by our influences.
     
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