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Author Topic:   Choosing to believe
Woodsy
Member (Idle past 3401 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 1 of 90 (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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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 3401 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 5 of 90 (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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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 3401 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 13 of 90 (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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Woodsy
Member (Idle past 3401 days)
Posts: 301
From: Burlington, Canada
Joined: 08-30-2006


Message 21 of 90 (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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