Author Topic: Belief in God is not a choice  (Read 220 times)

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Offline Lectus

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Belief in God is not a choice
« on: October 28, 2013, 03:24:55 PM »
That's why no amount of logical arguments will convince theists.

They have some kind of emotional background supporting those beliefs.

That's why they also don't understand that insisting will only piss off atheists.

IT'S NOT A CONSCIOUS CHOICE. You you either believe or you don't.

It's like when you feel attraction for a person. You either do or you don't. Some people will tell you "she's ugly", but in your mind you're attracted.

That's the same way a belief in God happens. Even if the given God is a murderer and evil in their holy book. They NEED this belief that they're willing to see only what they want to see.

What do you think about this examination of the nature of belief?
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.

Offline Truth OT

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2013, 04:06:58 PM »
Belief in a god power is an ingrained thing that is more about personal value and comfort than anything else. Parents instill god belief in their kids by telling them things like "don't be afraid because God loves you, will protect you, and is always in your heart." God then becomes imbeded in the mind of kids as an all powerful protector, confidant, who has their best interests at heart. As the child grows, the idea of God grows with them and God becomes an embodiment of that persons ideals as it relates to how to behavior in interpersonal relationships, right and wrong, etc. To these now grown people, God is very real as they have inadvertantly had a part in God growing with them and the God concept has become a part of who they are as it relates to self perception. 

Offline penfold

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2013, 03:40:17 AM »
That's why no amount of logical arguments will convince theists.

They have some kind of emotional background supporting those beliefs.

That's why they also don't understand that insisting will only piss off atheists.

IT'S NOT A CONSCIOUS CHOICE. You you either believe or you don't.

There was some interesting psychological research done by Dr Edwin Starbuck (a pupil of the inestimable William James); published  in 1911 in his book The Psychology of Religion (e-text here: https://archive.org/details/psychologyofreli00star). This is a particularly interesting book as it is written by a devout Christian who is genuinely trying to empirically examine his own faith.

The primary focus of his research is 'conversion' experience. He makes a number of interesting observations. He notes that very few (between 8 - 10%) are a result of "teaching" (ie argument).

He also points out that most conversions occur to people during their teenage years, between 12 and 19 - the years when the individual is going through a period of profound emotional development.

He records that the conversion is usually preceded by highly emotional states: 33% report an overwhelming "sense of sin"; 24% "feelings of estrangement"; and a staggering 70% report "depression/sadness/pensiveness". Conversely, only 9% report that conversion was preceded by "doubts/questioning"!

Starbuck's research is clear - people convert to religions because of emotional factors, not intellectual ones. Your conclusions that "no amount of logical argument will convince theists" is undoubtedly correct for many, if not most, theists.

Having said that, as people get older they probably find that the initial emotional solace provided by religion wanes. Once that emotional aspect fades then people might start to question and doubt their own faith. It is as this point that argument may work. I have a couple of friends who were devout teenagers who grew up into atheist adults. Exposing the intellectual absurdity of their belief was an important part of their journey, but it came at the end, not the beginning.

Interesting OP  :)
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away." - P.K.D.

Offline RubyLeo

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2013, 08:56:38 AM »
That's why no amount of logical arguments will convince theists.

They have some kind of emotional background supporting those beliefs.

That's why they also don't understand that insisting will only piss off atheists.

IT'S NOT A CONSCIOUS CHOICE. You you either believe or you don't.

It's like when you feel attraction for a person. You either do or you don't. Some people will tell you "she's ugly", but in your mind you're attracted.

That's the same way a belief in God happens. Even if the given God is a murderer and evil in their holy book. They NEED this belief that they're willing to see only what they want to see.

What do you think about this examination of the nature of belief?

I wholeheartedly agree, and I would add that they "need the belief" in part due to fear - speaking from a personal viewpoint, it was very frightening for me to contemplate that god might not be real.  It just went without saying my entire life - it was inconceivable to me that he did not exist - he just DID. 

Back to the fear aspect. It is downright scary for a believer to question the status quo. To question what has always been just taken for granted.  Add to that the fact that the majority of the time, the believer has grown up with, and is surrounded by, other believers who ALSO just take it for granted that there is a god. A mindset of: how could all these people I know and love be.....wrong? "Herd Mentality" comes to mind.

So yes, they "need" to believe, to keep their inner world comfortable and intact.

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”  ~ Bertrand Russell, "Unpopular Essays"
"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true. "
~ Thomas Paine

Offline Anfauglir

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2013, 09:56:33 AM »
IT'S NOT A CONSCIOUS CHOICE. You you either believe or you don't.

It's like when you feel attraction for a person. You either do or you don't. Some people will tell you "she's ugly", but in your mind you're attracted.

I'm going to play Devil's advocate here.....

I used to agree.  But now I wonder.  Because if we are saying that belief is something we have no control over, then ALL manner of belief - including racism, homophobia, misogeny, as well as positive beliefs such as patriotism for example, are also uncontrollable and we should amend our thinking accordingly (heh - except of course we CAN'T change our beliefs!).

Clearly though, as you said, beliefs CAN be formed and changed by environment.  Attraction, for example, is at least partially a product of environment, one only has to compare paintings of Ruebens to today's ideal of beauty to see that, or look at different types of attraction from different countries.

Looking at racism, for example - if a racist spent a significant amount of time living and working and socialising with a bunch of great guys of another race, would his beliefs change?  I'm going to say yes - not immediately, but certainly over time.

So if environment will change belief, can we say that if we deliberately change our environment, we will by doing so change our beliefs?  Again, I'm going to say yes - if you want to be a more successful dieter, you stop walking past McD's on the way home, to pick one example.

And so, if all atheists decided "okay - I'm going to go to church every day, and pray, and sing, and really try to understnad this god guy", is it guaranteed that not a single one would see the light?  Or would it be the case that a significant number of them would turn Christian, more than would have done so if they had NO immersed themselves in the environment, and "tried"?

Unless we want to throw away a whole load of evidence on how human beings tick, I think we have to accept that we'd see a lot of converts.  Which, unfortunately, means that in many ways the believers are right - we COULD be believers, if only we'd just TRY.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

Offline Jag

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 01:16:24 PM »
^^^Excellent post Anfauglir you make several very good points. The only "flaw" I can see is about consequences. What is the consequence of realizing that racism is based on ignorance of the people of the race you dislike? The difference that I see with religion is the stakes involved - eternal damnation in hell is considerably different than having to acknowledge, if only to yourself that you were, in fact, a racist for no good reason.

But honestly, I don't disagree with the overall point you are making. Everyone has a story if they deconverted, and some atheists are no more thoughtful about their reasoning than the typical theist we love to make fun of. Some certainly would go back.
My tolerance for BS is limited, and I use up most of it IRL.

Online Nam

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2013, 04:51:07 PM »
I don't make fun of people Jag...wait...

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Offline Jag

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2013, 04:56:06 PM »
^^^I do. Arguing with theists arriving here on a mission is therapeutic for me. I get out all my nasty feelings and it makes me nicer to people in the real world. I rarely start it, but as soon as they act like an idiot, well, it's therapy time.
My tolerance for BS is limited, and I use up most of it IRL.

Offline Lectus

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Re: Belief in God is not a choice
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2013, 07:59:31 PM »
^^^I do. Arguing with theists arriving here on a mission is therapeutic for me. I get out all my nasty feelings and it makes me nicer to people in the real world. I rarely start it, but as soon as they act like an idiot, well, it's therapy time.

LOL I do the same.
Religion: The belief that an all powerful God or gods created the entire universe so that we tiny humans can be happy. And we also make war about it.