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To what degree are we actually able to choose our beliefs or lack thereof?
I've often been told that I should choose this religion or that faith or choose to believe in something rather than not, but I don't necessarily think beliefs are an active choice. You cannot choose to disbelieve gravity and suddenly are able to fly, so why would choosing a religious belief be somehow different?
I don't think it is possible to choose to believe, at least not long term. Assuming someone starts from a position of unbelief then in the absence of new evidence, to choose to believe implies not a reassessment of the evidence but believing in spite of the evidence. The brain cannot keep up this charade for long. Sooner or later if no new supporting evidence arises there will be a discord between logical deduction and a belief that is in place only by dint of an enforced will.
The question of what constitutes evidence will be subjective to the receiver. That is some people will require a black and white testable and repeatable evidence, whilst another will be happy with circumstantial evidence or will interpret opinion, hearsay, coincidence as evidence.
Good, DH. Ignoring reality leads to delusion. But faith is not belief. Faith is Truth at spirit. This is something you either feel or you are numb to. I have felt spirit for the last 63 years. I left my granddad's S.Baptist pastorship at age 9.
Unless we believe that we know everything, then we have to concede that the unknowable is out there. And some people will always attempt to give that unknowable thing some semblance of knowability (a form, a name, a collection of stories, etc.) so that they can then have a recognizable relationship with it. This essentially amounts to looking up into the sky, picking a star, and saying that that is the star God lives on. It doesn't make sense, it can't be proved or disproved, but it still could be a choice. One might pick it because it shines the brightest or they like its particular color of orange.
So, I would say it can be an active choice, just not one that is logical or rational. Of course, sometimes it isn't a choice at all. Often it is just because it is the first star they saw or they had no choice (e.g. accept this star as your God or I'll cut your head off).
Of course the problem with making God knowable is that we can only do so within our limited comprehension. And as our comprehension is always expanding, eventually it will catch up to God. Eventually, for instance, we will figure out that we are just advanced biological machines running complex software and the notion of a divine wind blowing a soul into us will seem as silly as lightning being an angry Zeus throwing thunderbolts.
But the unknowable will always be out there and I suspect that people will always be chasing God.
Put another way, it could be said that God is simply an imaginary definition of the space between what we know and don't know. And it is that rising boundary of what we know that has killed, and will continue to kill, many gods. It is no accident that people indebted to a particular god delusion fight so hard against people becoming educated. That rising tide is dangerous to a god who can not swim.
If a person must chase God, they fail to understand God. Ignorance exists in individuals when they proclaim that something does not exist because they cannot touch it. I cannot touch the moon, yet I know it is there even on stormy nights. So is God
I understand God perfectly. He is a giant flying purple elephant named Fluffybutt. I ride around on him in my dreams. We have good times.
I have actually considered this many times in search of truth. My problem is I have not believed for as long as I remember. It's like my brain had already decided there was no god long before I was an adult. So how can I choose my belief if the lack of belief is already so strong? Even if I did choose a faith/belief/religion in the back of my mind I would still always have those doubts that I have had my entire life.
So in reality you can't turn apples to oranges. You can try, you can paint that apple orange, but if it was ever really an apple you will never make it an orange.
I've always been atheist/agnostic. No matter how hard I try those thoughts will forever be in my brain.
I think we can choose our beliefs to some extent, but it is limited to the parameters of our knowledge and experience. For example, a theist could choose among several different religions that all believe in a god, in much the same way that an atheist could choose among beliefs that don't support a god. But, when we start opposing what our knowledge and experience tells us, then we're just lying. I could tell people that I'm a Christian. I could go to church and hang out with other Christians, but it wouldn't change my knowledge of science, or my experience without a god. Knowledge and experience can change, over time, but that doesn't mean our belief is a choice, it just means that it changes based on specific parameters.
I think when it comes to philosophical principles and ideals (such as religion) that there is no proven right or wrong answers to, I think there is a large scale degree in which one can choose what to believe (or not), but it doesn't fully manifest until one gets closer to adulthood. As children, our minds are underdeveloped and impressionable. As a result, our beliefs are more influenced (directly or indirectly) be our parents or any other adult that is around us during our formative years. I think of it like learning to ride a bicycle.. you are given training wheels to help guide you all the way until you get the hang of riding the bike then the training wheels are taken off. You may wobble at first, but eventually you get it for yourself. We are given a set of principles to guide us up until our understanding of the world around us begins to change then we are given the option of thinking for ourselves. We may wobble at first (and some will even go back to the training wheels) but as our understanding of the world increases then we become freer when choosing what it is that we believe.
The only inhibiting factors to choosing ones own religious path is the fear of disassociation from peers and society at large. Many people cannot do this because it is in human nature to belong, whether to a cause a group or a way of thinking.
The best way to choose is to educate yourself about a wide variety of beliefs. Study history to find the origins of those beliefs and determine to what degree they may apply to you. I have seen Japanese people claiming to be Jews. All it told me was that the human mind is feeble, pliable, and easy to indoctrinate. Our only defense is education.
It also depends on the society in which you live. In the west it is not so bad but in the middle east especially where the people are born into deep religious views your mind will be hard to disassociate religion from a secular existence. So I would say it depends on the society as well as each individuals willingness to seek understanding from a non religious point of view.
People believe what they have evidence to believe. The evidence they perceive as real and evidence they perceive as not real is subjective, so to an extent, we can choose what to believe. Everyone has evidence that gravity exists, so that is not a very good example.
Furthermore, most people reinforce their beliefs by only exposing themselves to what they already believe is the truth in the form of like-minded groups, tv shows/news, and books.
Wow! A thoughtful and thought-provoking question. Thanks!
This really depends on whether you assume a spiritual viewpoint or a physical one.
The Judeo-Christian Bible says that God created us in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), but it must be pointed out that He is not Homo sapiens.
Having spent much of my life viewing reality from the physical viewpoint, I understand your quandary. The laws of physical reality restrain us, so long as we remain physical. Ignoring reality is to suffer delusion.
But science studies the products of creation (reality). If you move to that spiritual viewpoint, then you have access to the reins of creation, either through prayer or one's own faith (perfection of confidence).
The real purpose of religion is the reawakening of the spiritual self. We were each made catatonic and dependent upon physical instrumentality in the Garden. It was our own selfish decision which did it. And, because of it, we cannot usually remember our own crime, or are not able to see without human eyes, or think without human brains.
Ego is the barrier. Humility is the antidote.
With utter humility, perfect confidence, 100% responsibility and unconditional love, we are able to create once again, just as our Father in Heaven has done. At that point, belief becomes inconsequential. You Know something and it is True. Belief is at effect (perception); Know is at cause (creation).
Whether you choose Christianity, Buddhism or Taoism, you need to choose that which leads you to the ultimate goal -- no ego, pure spirit. Too many teachers since the days of the original founders have muddied the lessons. So long as you keep the overarching lessons in mind, the details can make sense. Otherwise, interpretation becomes so much garbage, like Young Earth Creationism.
I think it depends on the person.
Personally, I am unable to believe in anything that I don't think is real. It seems likely to me that you are the same.
Since believers have asked or demanded that I choose to believe in Yahweh literally hundreds of times, I guess we have to assume that they genuinely think people can choose to believe in things they don't think are real. Whether they've done so themselves or not is hard to say.
I've never once gotten a straight answer as to how, exactly, one goes about choosing to believe something one believes to be false. The answer I have gotten again and again is that you just decide it's real because you want to, then you think it is. This suggests to me that I'm in some way "wired" differently from people who can decide what they think is real based on what they think is desirable or good rather than on what they think is real.
I think people who have the mental and emotional ability to think desirable things are real based on the strength of their desire can choose to believe in whatever they want. I don't know whether it's the software (upbringing, ways of thinking) or the hardware (the brain) that's different between people who can choose what they believe and people who can't, but I think there is some subtle, but profound difference. I don't think one is superior to the other, just different. I think that difference is what makes it so hard for people to understand each other when it comes to belief.
For me, anything in conflict with observable reality just isn't something I can choose to believe. I hate that many people I love just don't exist anymore, that suffering is an inevitable part of existing, and that horribly bad people can have wonderfully pleasant lives while they go around hurting people. I very strongly desire reality to be different, but I don't think that my desires affect the ultimate nature of reality in any way.
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