Why not choose to believe?
I come to a belief by a mental awareness that I accept some proposition as being true. But why do I accept that proposition as being true? Is it because I want the proposition to be true? Is it because I have consciously chosen to find the proposition to be true? Or perhaps instead I have made a series of indirect choices to achieve the same?
It seems that I have evaluated evidence, and I feel that the evidence points one way or another.
But why is it that I accept some evidence and not others? Why is it that some evidence is more persuasive to me than others? Yet…for others, different sets of evidence may be persuasive.
Once again, is it because I want the evidence to be compelling? Is it because I have consciously chosen to find the evidence compelling? Is it even because of an indirect process?
For me, it doesn’t seem as if I’ve chosen any of this. Some tell me that if I just choose which evidences to look at, then I can influence my beliefs. If I stop reading “anti” sources and instead reading “uplifting” or “confirming” sources, then I’ll be more likely to believe.
But still, this doesn’t seem realistic. Even without countering evidence, some evidence may seem uncompelling and some evidence may seem compelling. So it’s not as if I’m disbelieving as a result of being “spoiled” by anti evidence…
Other people feel differently, and it baffles me. They say that they chose to believe what they believe. They choose to have faith over doubt (or maybe they choose to have doubt over faith). I can’t even comprehend! What do they mean by “choose.” When they talk, I hear the language of non-choice — because I don’t see how they ever chose to find one thing more compelling or persuasive to them. When I see their choices, it seems like they are talking about actions. A choice to continue reading x over y, to continuing doing a over b. But “believe” doesn’t seem to be a voluntary action.
I used to liken belief to something like sexuality…and most people get it in that analogy. One doesn’t choose to whom they are attracted, but one can choose whether or not they will pursue or refrain, whether they will embrace or repress. But the refraining or repressing doesn’t equate to a choice against one’s feelings, as so many learn.
Andrew, you’re still missing a critical component. Attractions are not consciously changeable except for the people for whom they ARE consciously changeable.
And since then, I’ve been combing through a site he linked to me, Queer by Choice, by people who actually do believe attractions are consciously changeable. As Alan later noted, what’s jarring to me about this site is the extent to which they take their experiences and try to apply them to everyone…but ultimately, that’s what people who talk about a consciously unchangeable orientation are doing too.
Sometimes, I just want to feel like I’m not totally abnormal. I want to feel like deep down, we are all similar in some ways. Yet, we aren’t.
The site has a few arguments that seem a bit…off…to me, but maybe because I’m viewing through through the lens of choosing beliefs as well. For example, their page about whether they could choose heterosexuality, their page about whether feelings can be chosen at all, their clarification on choice, and distinction between direct and indirect choice. There was an interview about the process of choosing, whose final lines were interesting:
- QBC 101: people should not fuss over whether they are officially willing to call themselves “attracted” or not
- QBC 101: “attraction” is not some mysterious THING that people have to “discover” before they can allow themselves to have sex with someone. it is only a question of “do you choose to enjoy this moment being sexual with this person or not?”
- QBC 101: they should just relax and enjoy the moment and not WORRY about some mysterious THING called “attraction” or “non-attraction” or “gay” or “straight” because their mysterious THING that they believe in does not even matter. enjoyment is all that matters
- QBC 101: because until you get beyond all this fear and worry you will always be foreclosing your own choices by being too anxious and unable to trust in the existence of multiple options
- QBC 101: relaxing and enjoying the moment is what most people are so very BAD at doing.
I’m wondering how exactly I could rewrite this entire site as an apologetic tract for the church.