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Atheist Community of San Jose Message Board › Is belief a choice?

Is belief a choice?

Invisible Pink U.
user 39389902
Morgan Hill, CA
Post #: 77
The question of whether one can freely choose to believe or not believe something has come up in many discussions I've had with other freethinkers. According to Matt Dillahunty, Russell Glasser, Jen Peeples and Don Baker of The Atheist Experience, it is not a choice. See http://www.youtube.co...­ and http://www.youtube.co...­

There is also a very good piece by Niclas Berggren at infidels.org on whether or not belief is a choice. http://www.infidels.o...­

I'm curious what other atheists think about this. Can one freely choose to believe or not believe something?

Let's try not to get hostile or contentious in this discussion. Let's keep it civil.
Don B.
Don-B
Campbell, CA
Post #: 6
I do not think “belief” is the right word. I did not choose to no longer believe in a god; I realized a god does not exist. How can I believe in something that does not exist?
Honestly, if one could choose what to believe I would choose to still believe in Santa Claus.
Larry G.
user 21521611
Campbell, CA
Post #: 16
One can feign belief, rather than admit disbelief. But I don't think one can choose to believe something. One either does or does not believe.
Invisible Pink U.
user 39389902
Morgan Hill, CA
Post #: 78
@Don - it would be pretty fun if we could actually choose to believe something. Just as you could choose to believe Santa Clause exists, I could choose to believe that there are thousands of purple & beige fire breathing dragons roaming around in Golden Gate Park right now. I could also choose to believe that Donald Trump is really just a fictional character who appeared in some obscure Hawaii-50 episode back in the late sixties. I could also choose to believe that George Washington came back to life as an ant and is now crawling on the floor of my garage. See how much fun this can be!
Invisible Pink U.
user 39389902
Morgan Hill, CA
Post #: 79
It just dawned on me that if belief is a choice, I could believe that 2 plus 2 is equal to 35.
A former member
Post #: 8
Belief is a process. It starts with information in. This may come in the form of something someone has told us, something we read, etc. We initially react in one way and form a quick opinion. That is a reaction that is not a choice. Then as we think about it, bounce it around in our minds, our own thought processes send the belief one way or the other.

I don't think, "Is believe a choice?" may be an accurate question. Belief may be a reaction, or it may be responsive and take time.

I suspect beliefs and opinions come about similarly. They are not always concrete, and may change depending on further info. I don't think belief is a choice if you have a tight mind that just reacts and sticks stubbornly with that reaction. For people who don't react so quickly but always hold off for more info, there may be more choice there, or may just appear to be more choice.

I suspect also it depends on the persons thought processes.

For myself, I try not to form beliefs without a lot of information. Take String theory. There is not enough evidence for me to say if I believe it or not. I'm holding off until there is more information and evidence. Is that a choice? Well, this is the way I respond to things, and the way I respond to things has come about because of my history. I didn't choose to be that way, but that is how I matured.

Does it matter if belief is a choice? We do know people can change their minds and their beliefs, but whether or not that is really freewill is hard to say. That doesn't mean we should give up on causes. If we keep putting information out there, eventually some people will start losing their grip on their belief, whether it is by choice or not, and can completely change their mind at some point, whether by choice or not.
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