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Belief a Choice?
12-06-2009, 09:56 AM
Post: #1
Belief a Choice?
A number of folks on these boards are saying or at least implying that they can consciously CHOOSE to believe things. If you are one of them perhaps one of you can help me. I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have and I would like to be able to do that - for example to effect a belief that it is possible for me to become a more compassionate person. Since you seem to be saying that you can consciously CHOOSE to believe things, I wonder if you might explain how you do it. What do you do at the last moment to instantly change your one state of belief to another? What is it that you do that would allow you to say, “OK, at this moment I have a lack of belief that ‘x’ exists or is true, but I CHOOSE to believe that ‘x’ exists or is true and now instantly at this new moment I do believe that ‘x’ exists or is true?

Maybe you could use something like leprechauns to demonstrate your technique. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a leprechaun is “a fairy peculiar to Ireland, who appeared in the form of an old man of minute stature, wearing a cocked hat and a leather apron.” So, assuming that you don’t already have a belief in them, how about right now, while you are reading this, CHOOSE to believe - be convinced without a doubt - that they exist. Now that you believe in leprechauns, my question is, how did you do it? How did you make the instantaneous transition from lack of belief to belief?
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12-06-2009, 01:03 PM
Post: #2
RE: Belief a Choice?
Well first of all, it's not instantaneous. You may as well choose to start a work-out regimen. Can you choose that? Yes, but it's hard work until you build it into a habit. Belief is all about training your mind to accept things.

This is why so many people are stuck in the beliefs of their childhood. They're raised with those beliefs, those mental habits, and they never learn to break free of them. When I became an atheist this was the hardest part of it. I was raised not only Christian, but strict, fundamentalist Christian. There were all sorts of rigid patterns in my brain. Everything from the Bible clearly supporting fundamentalist Baptist doctrine above all others, to long hair on guys being a sign of evil. It took me years to weed all that out. You do it by being self-aware, identifying thought patterns, and forcing them to conform to a new standard.

In my case, I forced them to conform to a standard of truth. I required a certain amount of logical backup to my thoughts that has served me well ever since. For someone moving to another religion truth isn't their standard, obviously, so their standard is whatever dogma that religion has.

Of course, the truth is that beliefs change constantly. Circumstances change them slowly through aggregate experience. You believe different things today than you did as a child because of this (adults, for instance, tend to be less idealistic than children because of their experiences with the realities of life.) This, however, is undirected. To deliberately change belief takes mental discipline.

I'm back baby! Thanks for everyone who sent me PMs asking what had happened to me.
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12-06-2009, 01:41 PM
Post: #3
RE: Belief a Choice?
GTseng3,

re: “Well first of all, it’s not instantaneous.”


It has to be instantaneous. You can’t believe that something doesn’t exist and at the same time believe that the same something DOES exist. There has to be an instant when the one state of mind changes to the other.


re: “To deliberately change belief takes mental discipline.”

So then you don’t think that beliefs can be engendered by simply consciously CHOOSING to have them. I’m looking for someone who thinks that they CAN consciously CHOOSE to believe things.
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12-09-2009, 12:42 AM
Post: #4
RE: Belief a Choice?
I do consciously choose to believe what I believe. I just believe it takes mental discipline to do so. It's not instantaneous.

For instance in my case, I was raised fundamentalist. It was a very long, hard process, because I would come across an argument, sometimes from someone else, sometimes from my own head, and suddenly my childhood training would scream, "That's not right! That goes contrary to the truth, you KNOW better!"

That's a bad habit. I had to train myself to think, "Wait a second, do I really know better, or was I just taught differently? Is this really truth, or just my prejudices?" It's not an easy process, and I was not (and still am not) always successful. I'm much better at it now than I was then, because through hard work I have change my beliefs and built new habits. But it's not easy to change a belief.

See, that's what no one in the church could ever tell me. They would say something like, "You have to really repent, and not want to do this bad thing anymore." And I would really repent, with the true sincerity of a child. If changing belief was instantaneous, then at that moment I would have changed my behavior as well, since my choices are based on belief. But of course anyone who has actually tried to improve their life can tell you things aren't that easy.

Physical actions are habits, and habits are hard to break. Thought patterns and beliefs are mental habits, and just as hard to break. To think otherwise makes me think you've never really changed your beliefs consciously in your life.

I'm back baby! Thanks for everyone who sent me PMs asking what had happened to me.
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12-09-2009, 08:16 AM
Post: #5
RE: Belief a Choice?
GTseng3,

re: “To think otherwise makes me think you've never really changed your beliefs consciously in your life. “

You apparently missed where I wrote in my OP that; “I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have...”


re: “It's not instantaneous.”

You also missed what I wrote in my post #3; “It has to be instantaneous. You can’t believe that something doesn’t exist and at the same time believe that the same something DOES exist. There has to be an instant when the one state of mind changes to the other”.
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12-09-2009, 08:22 AM (This post was last modified: 12-09-2009 08:23 AM by Clementine.)
Post: #6
RE: Belief a Choice?
(12-09-2009 08:16 AM)rstrats Wrote:  GTseng3,

re: “To think otherwise makes me think you've never really changed your beliefs consciously in your life. “

You apparently missed where I wrote in my OP that; “I have never been able to consciously CHOOSE any of the beliefs that I have...”


re: “It's not instantaneous.”

You also missed what I wrote in my post #3; “It has to be instantaneous. You can’t believe that something doesn’t exist and at the same time believe that the same something DOES exist. There has to be an instant when the one state of mind changes to the other”.


I disagree completely. You can absolutely have a change and a shift in belief that isn't instantaneous. I didn't go from devout cradle Catholic to devout Vodouisant in an instant. It takes time, you have to lok at and re-evaluate your beliefs, and see if the evidence brings you to the same conclusion, or the feeling brings you to the same belief.

Change of belief is not instantaneous. You can't make yourself believe something, not really, but you can't necessarily say that you can't have two beliefs.

For example, a person may re-evaluate their beliefs and after long consideration, feel that they believe God does not exist as a sentient deity, they may then say that they don't believe in God, which would be true -- that does not mean that they may not believe in an archetypak or deistic universal force sort of God.
And in fact, I've known people who DO in fact believe that god both does and does not exist, so yes, it is possible.
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12-09-2009, 09:14 AM
Post: #7
RE: Belief a Choice?
Clementine,

re: “...you can't necessarily say that you can't have two beliefs. For example, a person may re-evaluate their beliefs and after long consideration, feel that they believe God does not exist as a sentient deity, they may then say that they don't believe in God, which would be true -- that does not mean that they may not believe in an archetypak or deistic universal force sort of God.

That is not having two different beliefs about the exact same thing at the exact same time. One is a belief that there is not a sentient deity. The other is a belief in a non-sentient deity. Those are two completely different things.



re: “... I've known people who DO in fact believe that god both does and does not exist..”

You’re going to have to explain how that is possible. (Actually you don’t HAVE to, but it would be nice.)
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12-09-2009, 09:22 AM (This post was last modified: 12-09-2009 09:25 AM by Clementine.)
Post: #8
RE: Belief a Choice?
(12-09-2009 09:14 AM)rstrats Wrote:  Clementine,

re: “...you can't necessarily say that you can't have two beliefs. For example, a person may re-evaluate their beliefs and after long consideration, feel that they believe God does not exist as a sentient deity, they may then say that they don't believe in God, which would be true -- that does not mean that they may not believe in an archetypak or deistic universal force sort of God.

That is not having two different beliefs about the exact same thing at the exact same time. One is a belief that there is not a sentient deity. The other is a belief in a non-sentient deity. Those are two completely different things.



re: “... I've known people who DO in fact believe that god both does and does not exist..”

You’re going to have to explain how that is possible. (Actually you don’t HAVE to, but it would be nice.)

Well, it's not my belief, so I'm simply going on what I've been told, but the one I know best puts it this way -- she cannot believe that there is a God, but neither can she believe that there is not, so she believes both. She finds that this belief, and I quote: "the simultaneity of God existing and not existing, which though paradoxical is an absolute necessity in possibility when adhering to a belief in infinite potential."

She is a lot better at explaining it than me, since I just barely get it, but basically, if anything is possible in the universe, this means that contrditions existing simultaneously must be possible, especially in an M-theory construct of the universe.

As far as belief being instantaneous, again, not necessarily true. For me, belief cannot be an instantaneous thing. "I believe this and therefore I don't believe that." For example, when I first started my journey into Vodou, I believed in one God, but I believed in both Bondye and the Christian G-d, the moment I believed in Bondye and the Christian God, and yet, was still a monotheist, was a transition time. I didn't instantly not believe in the Christian God.
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12-09-2009, 12:17 PM
Post: #9
RE: Belief a Choice?
I know what you said about instantaneous belief shifts, and I'm telling you that you are wrong. Completely wrong. Not to sound like a jerk (really, I'm trying not to, but in text without vocal inflection it can be hard,) maybe you should listen to the people who have actually deliberately shifted their beliefs, rather than you, who by your own admission have not.

When you first start deliberately shifting your beliefs your mind enters a sort of flux state. You still believe in what you believed before, but there are doubts. Niggling doubts. Questions. A true fanatic has crushed those doubts so often that it becomes habit, and they no longer recognize the doubts anymore. I'm not sure if you are a true fanatic or not, but regardless the first step is to start listening to those doubts. Then let those doubts lead you to thinking things through. Possibly doing research. The doubts slowly begin to grow. Eventually they'll eat through one of the supports of your belief, but it probably won't destroy the belief entirely. For instance, "Okay, maybe the Bible is not the inerrant word of god, but Christianity is still true, and the Bible was written by holy men." That's a minor shift in your belief. Then you start exploring more, and gradually the state of flux your mind is in grows as well.

This is, I must admit, an uncomfortable experience. You may grow angry, at god, at your teachers, or at yourself (in my case, at myself). You may yo-yo between wanting to throw the whole religion out, and fearing that you have committed blasphemy and are going to hell. If you truly believed in the religion, this is natural. Cutting away part of your life hurts, but if that part of your life is wrong it needs to be cut away. I spent many nights in penitent tears, begging god's forgiveness for my doubt, certain my doubts were simply my human weakness. But then the next day I would go back to my research, again seeing the flaws in my old beliefs.

That's what I mean by non-instantaneous. Your mind has habits, ways of thinking. It's a painful process to change them. But eventually you do. And then you start to build new habits.

In my case, the habits I built were to look at everything rationally, and care about truth more than individual belief. If a belief seems true, I will accept it. If it does not seem true, I will reject it. But that's me. You'll build your own habits.

I'm back baby! Thanks for everyone who sent me PMs asking what had happened to me.
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12-11-2009, 07:18 AM
Post: #10
RE: Belief a Choice?
Clementine,

re: “...she cannot believe that there is a God, but neither can she believe that there is not, so she believes both.”

First you say that she does not believe and then you say that she does. That is contradictory. The reality is that she does not have a belief either way. She is undecided.


re: “ For me, belief cannot be an instantaneous thing. “

It has to be instantaneous until you can explain how you can believe - be convinced - that “x” exists and at the same time believe - be convinced - that that same “x” doesn’t exist.
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