Is Belief a Choice?

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Who Knows
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Is Belief a Choice?

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Well, is it?
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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Who Knows wrote:Well, is it?


The apologists are right, there is a choice involved. It's the choice between faith and reason, or between acting and sacrificing a large part of yourself based on faith alone -- and not sacrificing yourself, because, aside from "faith" there's essentially a shortage of good reasons to act.

I choose to reject faith. Having done that, my beliefs about Mormonism and all other faith-based systems fall right into place. There's no more choosing to believe Joseph Smith or Ron Hubbard or someone else, unless they have some damn good evidence for their claims.

Other people choose to follow the principle of faith, but only in regards to their own religious system. For all competing systems they make additional choices to reject them, based on more stringent standards and special pleading about their chosen religion's specialness, but all of this is convincing only to the particular individuals and his/her children (who are themselves in training on how to follow the principle of faith). This seems like a dangerous path to me.

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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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The Dude wrote:The apologists are right, there is a choice involved. It's the choice between faith and reason, or between acting and sacrificing a large part of yourself based on faith alone -- and not sacrificing yourself, because, aside from "faith" there's essentially a shortage of good reasons to act.

I choose to reject faith. Having done that, my beliefs about Mormonism and all other faith-based systems fall right into place. There's no more choosing to believe Joseph Smith or Ron Hubbard or someone else, unless they have some damn good evidence for their claims.

Other people choose to follow the principle of faith, but only in regards to their own religious system. For all competing systems they make additional choices to reject them, based on more stringent standards and special pleading about their chosen religion's specialness, but all of this is convincing only to the particular individuals and his/her children (who are themselves in training on how to follow the principle of faith). This seems like a dangerous path to me.


Hmm. Good point. I've never heard it phrased that way before.

I still have difficulty accepting it though in practice. Back when i was in high school, we had a 'hypnotist' come and perform. My psychology teacher got to pick the people who were going to be hypnotized. He said how it would only work on those who 'believed' it. He gave some demonstrations and i was amazed. I believed it. So i volunteered for it, and was chosen to be one out of 12 total to be hypnotized. However, once the time came for me to be hypnotized, nothing happened. I really tried to believe it. I even played along with it, thinking that if i kept playing along, something would happen, and i would be hypnotized. But nothing. Nada. And because of that, I was basically forced to not believe it anymore.

Did I really 'choose' not to believe it? Or was that a 'conclusion' i came to after gathering evidence, testing it, etc.? I honestly feel that no matter how much self convincing i do, I can not believe in it. That's not a choice, it's just a fact.
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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Who Knows wrote:Hmm. Good point. I've never heard it phrased that way before.

I still have difficulty accepting it though in practice. Back when i was in high school, we had a 'hypnotist' come and perform. My psychology teacher got to pick the people who were going to be hypnotized. He said how it would only work on those who 'believed' it. He gave some demonstrations and i was amazed. I believed it. So i volunteered for it, and was chosen to be one out of 12 total to be hypnotized. However, once the time came for me to be hypnotized, nothing happened. I really tried to believe it. I even played along with it, thinking that if i kept playing along, something would happen, and i would be hypnotized. But nothing. Nada. And because of that, I was basically forced to not believe it anymore.


From your experience you cannot conclude that hypnotizm doesn't work -- just that it didn't work on you.

Isn't it possible that hypnotism just doesn't work for some people? Then, not only do you have to choose to believe it, but you also have to have the kind of mind that can be hypnotized.

Did I really 'choose' not to believe it? Or was that a 'conclusion' i came to after gathering evidence, testing it, etc.? I honestly feel that no matter how much self convincing i do, I can not believe in it. That's not a choice, it's just a fact.


I'm agreeing with the apologists that there is a choice. But the first choice, the one that separates me from them, is the one to use faith as a truth-finding tool. I think that's foolish. It's doomed to lead one into believing some falsehoods and probably into sacrificing part of one's life in the name of said falsehoods.

It may well be that some people can't use faith to get the promised results, just like you couldn't let yourself be hypnotized even though you wanted to. My father once suggested that maybe the faith-part of my spirit was broken. I don't see how he would know that, though, because I've firmly decided to not apply faith in the way his religion prescribes, nor to teach such foolishness to my children.

I think the "choice" element needs to be engaged by more critics, because it's actually one of the strongest arguments we've got: the choice to use faith or not. Surely you and I can articulate why we choose to reject faith. The question is, can they explain why the DO choose to use (mormon-specific) faith?

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Post by OUT OF MY MISERY »

I choose not to believe. So Yes I guess it is a choice. Then again what do I know I am just alittle kitten sleeping in my hammock not a care in the world....except food shelter and love...what more is there really
When I wake up I will be hungry....but this feels so good right now aaahhhhhh........

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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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The Dude wrote:From your experience you cannot conclude that hypnotizm doesn't work -- just that it didn't work on you.

Isn't it possible that hypnotism just doesn't work for some people? Then, not only do you have to choose to believe it, but you also have to have the kind of mind that can be hypnotized.


I wasn't saying (or didn't mean to say) anything about whether hypnotism works or not, only that I don't believe it does. In fact, I CAN'T believe it does - based on my experience with it. I never 'chose' to not believe it, it simply worked out that way - i tried it, it didn't work, therefore I conclude that it doesn't work - at least for me. I don't understand where the 'choice' is here.

Maybe you could say that I'm choosing to not keep investigating hypnotism to see if maybe it actually will work, but I don't think that is saying anything about my belief in it.

Maybe I'm just missing the boat here.
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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Who Knows wrote:I wasn't saying (or didn't mean to say) anything about whether hypnotism works or not, only that I don't believe it does. In fact, I CAN'T believe it does - based on my experience with it. I never 'chose' to not believe it, it simply worked out that way - i tried it, it didn't work, therefore I conclude that it doesn't work - at least for me. I don't understand where the 'choice' is here.

Maybe you could say that I'm choosing to not keep investigating hypnotism to see if maybe it actually will work, but I don't think that is saying anything about my belief in it.

Maybe I'm just missing the boat here.


But you CAN believe it does work, even based on your experience. What if it does work for other people. What if you weren't working with a skilled mesmerizer. These sorts of things are ways you could rationalize your bad experience with a belief (should you choose to accept it) that hypnotism works. I think you choose not to keep investigating to see if it does work. Why did you give up?

Maybe hypnotism isn't a good example -- why did you give up trying to believe in Mormonism?

(I'm not saying you shouldn't give up, just wondering what reason you would give.)

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Post by moksha »

There are so many beliefs out there and so many choice nuggets from each to choose from. It is up to us to get out our pick and shovel and mine our own beliefs. I suppose if one is a bit more intellectually lazy, you can settle for a set of beliefs right off the rack.

Unfortunately, there are millions of people ensconced in areas of the world where they have no choice of belief system. From the shores of Tripoli to the 38th parallel of North Korea. Too bad for them.
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Re: Is Belief a Choice?

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The Dude wrote:But you CAN believe it does work, even based on your experience.


But I'm saying that i can't! I mean, and this may be a poor example, but i can't force myself to believe the sky is red.

What if it does work for other people. What if you weren't working with a skilled mesmerizer. These sorts of things are ways you could rationalize your bad experience with a belief (should you choose to accept it) that hypnotism works.


But i don't really care what other people think. People believe all sorts of weird things. I can only say what I myself do and don't believe, and can or can't believe.

I think you choose not to keep investigating to see if it does work. Why did you give up?


Yes, i admitted as much. I gave up because i found that i didn't believe it was real, and didn't care to spend any more time on it.

Maybe hypnotism isn't a good example -- why did you give up trying to believe in Mormonism?


I was trying to use an example aside from Mormonism on purpose. But in reality, it's pretty similar to my experience with hypnotism. I tried it, and it didn't work. And the more i found out about it, the more implausible it all seemed, and the less likely it appeared to me that it indeed would work. Thus my ability to convince myself to believe in it went down, down, down, to where I find it impossible to just 'choose' to believe it all of a sudden.

I don't know. what about my example of believing the sky is red?
Last edited by Who Knows on Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Post by truth dancer »

It may be a choice for some but for me I do not see it as a choice, anymore that I can choose to believe the earth is flat or the sun is made of green jello.

I suppose there are those who can believe something other than their reality but I don't seem to have this ability.

:-)

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"The search for reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings for it destroys the world in which you live." Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Post by Polygamy Porter »

In relation to Mormonism, it is more of a choice for non member adults than it is for children born into it.

Nothing binds like family ties.

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Post by truth dancer »

OK... IF belief is a choice,

Someone please tell me how to believe there are no oceans, or my family is just in my imagination, or I don't really need to eat or drink to survive?

I seriously do not understand the idea that we can just choose to believe what we want.

I'm open to learning here.... seriously! :-)

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"The search for reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings for it destroys the world in which you live." Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Post by The Dude »

Believing isn't exactly something you choose to do. It's more like the end result of an endeavor that you choose to undertake, or not. That endeavor may involve rational truth seeking, like driving to the ocean and seeing if it's blood red. Or someone could teach you about irrational truth seeking: FAITH.

Irrational truth seeking says: "You don't need to drive to the ocean and see it, and seeking such a sign might actually lead you away from the truth. Just think about it and read what others have said, and pray a lot to know it's blood red. And if your eyes or other people try to tell you it's blue, don't worry about it, because that's just the plan of the evil one to lead you astray."

You may choose rational truth seeking -- or irrational truth seeking. You end up with beliefs.

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Why we worship

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In every culture in the world are found people worshiping a God of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple. God is withen all things. We are upheld and living because of him, as also our world is held in its orbit by his word and power.

D&C 88:11-13
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

All of us were there in the preexistence to witness the chooseing of Christ as the great redeemer, and we all stood and made the choice to accept the plan of salvation and come here to work out our salvation. This is ingrained in our very souls, and the reason behind why people from every culture choose to worship a supreme being.

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We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. - Plato

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Re: Why we worship

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Gazelam wrote:In every culture in the world are found people worshiping a God of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple. God is withen all things. We are upheld and living because of him, as also our world is held in its orbit by his word and power.

D&C 88:11-13
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

All of us were there in the preexistence to witness the chooseing of Christ as the great redeemer, and we all stood and made the choice to accept the plan of salvation and come here to work out our salvation. This is ingrained in our very souls, and the reason behind why people from every culture choose to worship a supreme being.

Gazelam
No. According to the story, the majority went with Jesus. If this were real and it was the other way around, you'd be defending your choice for Satan.

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Re: Why we worship

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Gazelam wrote:In every culture in the world are found people worshiping a God of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple....


Gazelam, I'm having a hard time seeing how your just-so-story engages the topic of this thread: Is belief a choice?

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Post by truth dancer »

Hey The Dude...

Believing isn't exactly something you choose to do. It's more like the end result of an endeavor that you choose to undertake, or not. That endeavor may involve rational truth seeking, like driving to the ocean and seeing if it's blood red. Or someone could teach you about irrational truth seeking: FAITH.

Irrational truth seeking says: "You don't need to drive to the ocean and see it, and seeking such a sign might actually lead you away from the truth. Just think about it and read what others have said, and pray a lot to know it's blood red. And if your eyes or other people try to tell you it's blue, don't worry about it, because that's just the plan of the evil one to lead you astray."

You may choose rational truth seeking -- or irrational truth seeking. You end up with beliefs.


This makes sense to me if one hasn't actually seen the blue ocean. If one has seen the blue ocean can they choose to truly believe the ocean is blood red?

In other words, I'll use the example Gazelam has given us of the pre-mortal existence. No one has a clue so anyone can say anything and believe whatever they want. One guess is as good as another.

BUT... if one sees the blue ocean, has experienced the blue ocean first hand, how does one choose to believe the ocean is really red.?

It just seems impossible for me, to make myself believe something that goes completely against what is my reality.

Is it that one just chooses to believe what they know to be true is not? Or that their experience is a trick of Satan?

How can one manage in this sort of world? How can one trust anything? It is like you must ignore your understanding and awareness and come up with some sort of fantasy world that doesn't make any sense at all.

I just really don't get this. :-)

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"The search for reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings for it destroys the world in which you live." Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Post by Who Knows »

The Dude wrote:Believing isn't exactly something you choose to do. It's more like the end result of an endeavor that you choose to undertake, or not. That endeavor may involve rational truth seeking, like driving to the ocean and seeing if it's blood red. Or someone could teach you about irrational truth seeking: FAITH.

Irrational truth seeking says: "You don't need to drive to the ocean and see it, and seeking such a sign might actually lead you away from the truth. Just think about it and read what others have said, and pray a lot to know it's blood red. And if your eyes or other people try to tell you it's blue, don't worry about it, because that's just the plan of the evil one to lead you astray."

You may choose rational truth seeking -- or irrational truth seeking. You end up with beliefs.


Well, that's kind of what i said in the beginning, that belief was "a conclusion" based on testing certain things.

Tell me this, after 'driving to the ocean and seeing if it's blood red', and seeing that it's actually blue, can you still choose to believe it's blood red?

In other words, after you have assessed the evidence, and arrived at a certain conclusion, can you 'choose' to believe otherwise?

I see what you're saying that choices put you on a certain path, ie., choosing faith vs. rational truth seeking. but once you're on that path, or at the end of that path, is your 'belief' still really a choice? I don't believe so.

Maybe it all comes down to probabilities. For example. I can choose to believe that if i flip a coin, it'll end up heads. However, i can't convince myself to 'choose' to believe that if i flip a coin, it'll be heads 10 times in a row. In other words, the less likely the probability of something, the less likely we are to be able to choose to believe something.
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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Post by Mephitus »

I think that this can also be equated a bit to hypnotism. Its basis is in making people follow a decision while at the same time bypassing their reasoning. If you talk to people that have been fully hypnotized and then ask them afterwards why they did something, invariably they will say "it made sense at the time". It was this specific subject that made me leave Mormonism. When i was studying hypnotism for alternative reasons, i found all the very small things that help to bypass the reasoning centers of the mind. I found many things that are very closely related to this within the methodology that Mormonism uses. As such, belief comes more from a misdirection of logical reasoning than that of choice.
Last edited by Mephitus on Thu Mar 01, 2007 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by The Dude »

Who Knows wrote:Well, that's kind of what i said in the beginning, that belief was "a conclusion" based on testing certain things.


So we agree. There are choices involved in the testing, so indirectly, you can choose a path that will leave to belief. But you cannot directly choose to believe something.

Look: I can't choose to be dead. I can choose to hang myself, or drink poison, and I will likely end up dead, but I cannot directly choose to change from a living person to a dead corpse. It's impossible to simple choose a state change like that. So with belief.

Tell me this, after 'driving to the ocean and seeing if it's blood red', and seeing that it's actually blue, can you still choose to believe it's blood red?

In other words, after you have assessed the evidence, and arrived at a certain conclusion, can you 'choose' to believe otherwise?


Well, I think you can choose several irrational resolutions that will indirectly bring you to believe this. When you say "No I can't" you are just choosing to sidestep the irrational resolutions offered by faith. It is more natural to you, as it is to me, to be consistent, objective, and rational. The consequences of choosing a set of irrational resolutions would be like what TD said:

"How can one manage in this sort of world? How can one trust anything? It is like you must ignore your understanding and awareness and come up with some sort of fantasy world that doesn't make any sense at all. "

I don't think you can manage in this sort of world all by yourself. You've got to have someone set boundaries for you, to tell you when your irrational resolutions are taking you off the deep end. You'd have to become dependent on a church or a leader to tell you, "trust your eyes about X" and "don't trust your eyes about Y".

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Post by Who Knows »

Ok. I see what you're saying.

I just have a problem when i see an apologist say "you chose your beliefs" or "you just chose not to believe". I think that's extremely misleading, it's HIGHLY oversimplifying things, and is said just to get a dig in at the critic/exmo.
WK: "Joseph Smith asserted that the Book of Mormon peoples were the original inhabitants of the americas"
Will Schryver: "No, he didn’t." 3/19/08
Still waiting for Will to back this up...

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