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Belief is not a choice

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by Blindwatchmaker, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    It seems to me that a central principle of Christianity is that those who choose to accept Christ as their personal saviour gain access to Heaven whilst those that choose not to are punished or lose out in some way once their lives are over.

    But this is based on a notion of belief which we now know to be false.
    Believing a proposition is not a choice you make.
    It's something that happens to you, not by you.

    If you disagree, consider whether you are able right now, to believe that you have a diamond the size of a fridge buried in your garden. Or that your mother is a secret agent working for ISIS.

    You are simply not at liberty to believe this, no matter how much you may want to. The only way your brain would accept the truth of the proposition is if you saw the diamond or caught your mother relaying information back to her ISIS contacts.
    Then?....
    Then you would have no CHOICE but to believe it.

    Presented with compelling evidence we are forced to accept the truth of a claim and in the absence of it, we are unable to do so.

    Everything we know about neuroscience supports this idea. There are neurological correlates to belief in a given proposition. And they are not voluntary.

    With this in mind, it seems unreasonable for God to punish people who are simply not convinced of the claims of Christianity.

    I have an open mind but I just don't find Christianity any more convincing than any other religion. It's not because I hate God, or want to sin or anything like that.
    I have heard the claims and simply find myself unconvinced by them in exactly the same way as most people here are unconvinced by the claims of Scientology or Hinduism.

    That's not a choice you made. Your brains just didn't buy what they were selling.

    Given this understanding of the cognition of belief, what is the moral justification for punishing non-belief?
     
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  2. ChetSinger

    ChetSinger Well-Known Member

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    Hello and welcome to CF!

    Regarding the snippet above, I think people believe in all kinds of things in the absence of compelling evidence. For example, how many people believe in aliens?
     
  3. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    Thank you so much, Chet.
    Personally, I think that all the people who believe in aliens are mistaken as I don't think any of the evidence presented for aliens is convincing.
    But the point is that those people DO find it convincing. So they have no choice but to believe. If they were better educated and able to be more discerning in how they assess evidence and anecdote, then many of them would realise the evidence for aliens is weak to non-existent, and at that point, they would no longer be convinced.
    If that happened, their non-belief would also not be a choice.
    That's typically what happens with belief in Santa. Children start off believing (as their parents and other trusted adults have told them the lie). Then when they get older, they are able to realise how implausible Santa is and at the point, their lack of belief is not a choice but something that happens to them.

    An all-knowing God would know IN ADVANCE what evidence would convince any given person and so even before I was born (for example) God would know that someone would not be convinced by stories of his existence. It therefore seems immoral to punish that person for lack of belief.
     
  4. Old Lady

    Old Lady ...yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me Supporter

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    People didn't bring me out of Mormonism. God did. For one thing, not a single non-Mormon convinced me to leave.

    All people are sinners by being descendants of Adam. The new birth puts us on the path to acceptance of Christ and repentance from our sins. No one deserves the new birth. We can't earn salvation. It is only God's mercy that gives us salvation.
     
  5. Old Lady

    Old Lady ...yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me Supporter

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    God does know in advance who He will save. Many Christians don't tell children that Santa brings them gifts.
     
  6. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    But if God knows in advance who he will save, that means he also knows who he WONT save.
    This means he is creating people with the express purpose of condemning them to Hell.
    Why would a loving God do that?
     
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  7. Kenny'sID

    Kenny'sID Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Accepting a proposition IS a choice. And that is what we have to do with the proposition. Making your comment there faulty

    What makes you think he knows in advance? Or are you assuming he does so you can cite what you think is a fault of Gods?

    What you claim is so silly, common sense says God would not do that.
     
  8. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    How are you defining "compelling evidence" here? Enough to compel large swaths of people, or enough to compel any individual person?

    Because there is plenty of evidence out there that is compelling on a number of issues, but there are people who will choose to dismiss that evidence because they are emotionally attached to something contradictory. This is commonly known as the "sunk cost" fallacy.

    If that is your understanding of belief, then why does God need a moral justification? If the nature of belief itself denies the possibility of any choice, then the one who punishes sin would also have no choice in the matter, having been compelled by the information he has. If he has no choice, why is any moral justification needed? Or, let's take a more orthodox view of God, and say that he has a choice, whether or not we do. He's God, no one else is. He is the Judge, he reserves the sole right to revenge in Scripture (Romans 12:19). He has rights that no one else has. Why does the God who reserves the sole right to revenge need any justification outside of who he is by his nature to punish evildoers?
     
  9. Par5

    Par5 Well-Known Member

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    If he doesn't know in advance, then Christians cannot claim that their god is omniscient.
     
  10. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    Most believers claim that God has infinite knowledge.
    Are you saying he doesn't and that his knowledge is limited?
     
  11. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    If I understand it correctly, your reply makes two points:

    1) People are still choosing to dismiss the evidence because of the sunk cost fallacy and are therefore choosing their beliefs.

    2) God is the author of all rules and is therefore entitled to punish anyone as he sees fit.

    1) The sunk cost fallacy is a heuristic and people falling for it are still not choosing to be fooled by the fallacy. It may be a fault in their cognition but clearly if they believed they would act accordingly. It's still the case that the lack of belief is something that happens to them, not BY them.


    2) Yes if God is all-powerful he can make whatever rules he wants. My question is whether or not that is moral. If you say that anything God does is moral by definition, then you are surrendering your ability to assess ethics with an independent mind.
    'Might' does not make right.
    If God said we should kill all non virgin brides would that suddenly make it right?
    You may answer that God would not do that, in which case God would be adhering to some other moral code.

    To me, if there were an all-powerful being that chose to create me knowing I would not believe in him (due to lack of evidence and with God also knowing what evidence would be sufficient to convince me and choosing not to provide it) and then chose to punish me for eternity because I applied reason using the brain he gave me, then I would not worship or respect such a bully even if it turned out he did exist.
    I would take my punishment knowing that I was on the ethical side of the issue.
     
  12. Kenny'sID

    Kenny'sID Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oh, you are just assuming that is correct. Never made much sense to me, our perfectly intelegent God, putting us through all this to see who wins and who loses, when he already knows.
     
  13. Kenny'sID

    Kenny'sID Well-Known Member Supporter

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    See post 12.
     
  14. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    You're right Kenny.
    That makes no sense at all.

    It would be VERY cruel of God to create people knowing he was going to send them to Hell.

    The only way to avoid this is for the faith to cling to the idea that we have a choice in the matter.

    But firstly we don't, and secondly even if we DID, God would have known for an eternity before creating us, who would be convinced and who wouldn't.

    It gets worse as he would also know what it would take to convince someone but chooses not to provide it .
     
  15. Estrid

    Estrid Well-Known Member

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    The sunk cost fallacy applies to those who are invested
    in belief, generally having started as children.
    The dismissal of all contrary evidence is nicely
    summed / illustrated by a Dr. K Wise, PhD paleontology.

    "...even if all the evidence in the universe turned against yec
    I would still be yec, I would still be yec as that is what the
    Bible seems to say."
     
  16. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid ****CAUTION***** Life is lived in the shape of a ? Supporter

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    What notion of belief is it that you're referring to here, BWM? I have to ask since it's not clear and distinct to me which epistemological model or framework--along with asundry considerations--you have in mind here.

    Thanks. :cool:
     
  17. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    The notion of belief I'm referring to is that of holding that a proposition or claim comports with reality.

    The epistemological framework employed would be testing the claim against existing knowledge (or other beliefs held with a high degree of confidence) and using predominantly inductive reasoning to make an assessment on the likelihood of any claim being true.

    That is how most people process belief even if they don't know it or label it that way.

    And everything we know about the neural correlates of belief supports the notion that it isn't a choice.
     
  18. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid ****CAUTION***** Life is lived in the shape of a ? Supporter

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    Care to cite your sources for your assertions so that I might review them?

    But even if you don't, the problem here is that we have an epistemological quandry (more like an existential quagmire, really). On the one hand, we can each choose today to use and rely upon one of several epistemological models and (kind of) assume that when we use our chosen model correctly, we touch upon (or know that we don't touch upon) epistemic justification.

    Unfortunately for us here, on the other hand, the epistemic indices within the biblical writings just don't jive well with our current epistemological assumptions, nor with our scientific findings. So, we're kind of stuck, ain't we?
     
  19. Blindwatchmaker

    Blindwatchmaker Member

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    The problem with that is that it sounds like special pleading.

    If I understand you correctly, you're essentially saying that biblical claims should be subject to different rules concerning the assessment of their truth, to the ones everyone else has to play by.
    That's a big ask and made without justification.

    The problem is anyone could then do that.
    I could invent a bunch of religious claims which crumble under logical or empirical scrutiny and then claim immunity by invoking my own personal set of epistemic standards.
    But that would itself be a claim which needs justification.

    I know we're getting pretty 'meta' here. But the claims of your faith are huge, and if true, VERY consequential so they should stand up to reasonable scrutiny.
     
  20. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid ****CAUTION***** Life is lived in the shape of a ? Supporter

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    Oh, I'm sure it "sounds" like special pleading, but the extent to which that will actually be the case will depend upon which epistemological assumptions you import into your chosen mode of analysis. It might also depend on how open any of us might be as well to various reconsiderations among a host of assorted philosophers of Epistemology, or History, or Science, etc., etc.

    In what I've said previously, I'm not asking for special concessions in relation to your efforts to find the bible believable or not. Rather, in the same way that you're just pointing out that there are assertions some of us might take for granted about modern notions of belief in relation to Neuroscience, I'm simply pointing out that where belief is represented on a literary level within even just the pages of the New Testament alone, there is an espousal of an epistemological mode of thought, however piecemealed and hobbled together it is, that is not going to agree that belief is in total a "passive mental event." I suppose if Calvin was right, then maybe it is a passive event, but we can't be certain that Calvin's take on the epistemics in the N.T. are completely cogent either.

    Nope. I'm not making THAT claim. I'm Existentially inclined and more in line with some of the ideas we find in the Philosophical Hermeneuticist camp. But I am making the claim that the content of the Bible doesn't provide us with an epistemic collection of notions that jive with our Modern assumptions. In fact, it doesn't even fully jive with various Post-modern assumptions for that matter.

    Fortunately, I'm not making a bunch of religious claims which crumble under various logical constructs of analysis. No, I'm only making literary claims at the moment. And as far as I know, they're not really open to empirical scrutiny on the level of experimental science. They may be open to some measure of rational scrutiny, however.

    I'm not sure that at this point you'd indeed be justified in saying that the claims of 'my faith' are huge being that in my mind, the whole Christian edifice sits and soaks in an unusual metaphysical void. But yes, Christians have made some huge claims over the last few millennia, haven't they?
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
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