1. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 16:201 edit
    Several people of an evangelical persuasion have told me that I am morally culpable for not believing that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

    They claim that, having witnessed to me, I now have the choice to believe them or not. And because I freely choose not to believe them, I am therefore morally culpable, and indeed running the risk of damnation.

    Well, I think that makes no sense. And I don't mean the dodgy metaphysics!

    My argument is simple. Belief is not a matter of conscious choice. Hence, I can't be held responsible for my beliefs.

    Choice is an activity in which I engage: it's something that I do.

    Belief, in contrast, is a passive process: it's something that happens to me.

    Suppose I consider some issue.

    If the arguments and evidence for it strike me convincing, then I have no choice but to believe it.

    If the arguments and evidence against it strike me convincing, then I have no choice but to disbelieve it.

    If the arguments and evidence for it strike me as inconclusive, then am unable either to believe or disbelieve it; I suspend judgment.

    At no point does the conscious choice enter the picture.

    At least, this is what happens most of the time, and/or in non-pathological cases. If conscious choice ever did enter the picture, in opposition to perceptions of convincingness, then rationality would be subverted. One would be believing, not because one had objective grounds for a belief, but because one was subjectively striving to believe. But that just seems like a form of mental violence--forcing oneself to accept or reject propositions regardless of their perceived convincingness.

    Should someone be held responsible, then, for not striving to believe something, if the grounds for believing it strike them as insufficient and passively give rise to their belief?

    This strikes me as a very odd belief to maintain. Maybe if I only tried harder to believe it...
  2. England
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    13 Aug '06 16:381 edit
    well your not alone, i do belive and remember that i should not judge others. jesus himself never condemed anyone to my knowledge but warned the people, so they by thier actions let themselves too or away from. that being the case. faithful do however need to tell of the glory of god and not the glory of themslves by using his words to raise thier own status. a fine line
  3. Donationrwingett
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    13 Aug '06 16:43
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Several people of an evangelical persuasion have told me that I am morally culpable for not believing that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

    They claim that, having witnessed to me, I now have the choice to believe them or not. And because I freely choose not to believe them, I am therefore morally culpable, and indeed running the risk of damnation.

    W ...[text shortened]... s strikes me as a very odd belief to maintain. Maybe if I only tried harder to believe it...
    I don't "believe" it's a simple matter of belief/non-belief. I think all beliefs are grounded in probabilities. If something is highly probable, then you say you strongly believe it. If something is highly improbable, then you would have little or no belief in it.
  4. Territories Unknown
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    13 Aug '06 16:56
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Several people of an evangelical persuasion have told me that I am morally culpable for not believing that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

    They claim that, having witnessed to me, I now have the choice to believe them or not. And because I freely choose not to believe them, I am therefore morally culpable, and indeed running the risk of damnation.

    W ...[text shortened]... s strikes me as a very odd belief to maintain. Maybe if I only tried harder to believe it...
    My argument is simple. Belief is not a matter of conscious choice. Hence, I can't be held responsible for my beliefs.
    Let's test your argument. Do you believe the individual should be free to decide for themselves issues regarding their life, or should the state make those decisions for them?

    Or, how about this one: do you hold abortion to be a fundamental right of the woman involved, or do you hold it to be a crime against humanity?

    Do you believe logic exists, or is it a construct of the human mind?
  5. Standard memberUmbrageOfSnow
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    13 Aug '06 17:231 edit
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    Several people of an evangelical persuasion have told me that I am morally culpable for not believing that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

    They claim that, having witnessed to me, I now have the choice to believe them or not. And because I freely choose not to believe them, I am therefore morally culpable, and indeed running the risk of damnation.

    W s strikes me as a very odd belief to maintain. Maybe if I only tried harder to believe it...
    Thats why you are morally culpable. If you were a good little zealot, you could add the option:

    "The evidence and arguments are overwhelming and convincing, but I'll choose not to acknowledge them or pretend something different was said and go on believing what I want regardless of evidence or logic."
  6. Upstate NY
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    13 Aug '06 20:05
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    If the arguments and evidence for it strike me convincing, then I have no choice but to believe it.

    If the arguments and evidence against it strike me convincing, then I have no choice but to disbelieve it.

    If the arguments and evidence for it strike me as inconclusive, then am unable either to believe or disbelieve it; I suspend judgment.

    At no point does the conscious choice enter the picture.
    Perhaps you can help clarify a point for me, so I can understand your position better:

    You describe choice as passive based on the stimuli of evidence either for or against. But when confronted with moral issues such as you have described (for that is what the scenario would seem to imply, i.e. the struggle with an allegedly moral choice), must not the mind of an individual choose to either accept or disregard evidence or make a judgement that the evidence is inconclusive? Is it your position that all moral and/or intellectual excercises are performed purely on instinctual insight and not on a conscious process of analysis? If so, could you explain how this process works?

    Please believe me, I'm not trying to be trite or ridiculous; I'm just interested in your response.

    Many thanks.
  7. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:29
    Originally posted by stoker
    well your not alone, i do belive and remember that i should not judge others. jesus himself never condemed anyone to my knowledge but warned the people, so they by thier actions let themselves too or away from. that being the case. faithful do however need to tell of the glory of god and not the glory of themslves by using his words to raise thier own status. a fine line
    That's interesting, but irrelevant to my argument.
  8. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:33
    Originally posted by rwingett
    I don't "believe" it's a simple matter of belief/non-belief. I think all beliefs are grounded in probabilities. If something is highly probable, then you say you strongly believe it. If something is highly improbable, then you would have little or no belief in it.
    You are correct. For brevity, I was just describing the extreme cases, and the maximally in-between case. There are of course degrees of personally felt certainty and uncertainty.

    But the point still holds: belief is something that is passively visited upon you, not something you actively decide to hold, if you are rational, which (perhaps I am being optimistic) most people are most of the time.
  9. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:331 edit
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    [b]My argument is simple. Belief is not a matter of conscious choice. Hence, I can't be held responsible for my beliefs.
    Let's test your argument. Do you believe the individual should be free to decide for themselves issues regarding their life, or should the state make those decisions for them?

    Or, how about this one: do you hold abortion to be a ...[text shortened]... rime against humanity?

    Do you believe logic exists, or is it a construct of the human mind?[/b]
    I don't see the relevance of these questions to my argument. Perhaps you could explain their relevance.
  10. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:341 edit
    Originally posted by UmbrageOfSnow
    Thats why you are morally culpable. If you were a good little zealot, you could add the option:

    "The evidence and arguments are overwhelming and convincing, but I'll choose not to acknowledge them or pretend something different was said and go on believing what I want regardless of evidence or logic."
    Actually, I think most zealots, even if they extol the virtues of faith, believe that their position is rationally well-justified.
  11. Territories Unknown
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    13 Aug '06 21:45
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    I don't see the relevance of these questions to my argument. Perhaps you could explain their relevance.
    In each of the scenarios named, our collective knowledge and/or revelations have not clarified the 'right' decision, and yet you have made a definitive choice for each quandry.
  12. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:45
    Originally posted by Ristar
    Perhaps you can help clarify a point for me, so I can understand your position better:

    You describe choice as passive based on the stimuli of evidence either for or against. But when confronted with moral issues such as you have described (for that is what the scenario would seem to imply, i.e. the struggle with an allegedly moral choice), must not the mi ...[text shortened]... 'm not trying to be trite or ridiculous; I'm just interested in your response.

    Many thanks.
    No, I think I see what you mean. I also think this is what FreakyKBH means.

    I am NOT saying that people should not think hard about difficult issues, and come to their own thought-out conclusions. I am NOT that they should not decide for themselves what to believe, and let other decide it for them. What *decide* means here, however, it NOT *exercise conscious will to arrive at a conclusion*. What is DOES mean is "rationally weigh up the pros and cons in good faith to the best of one's ability*. When one does this--when one evenhandedly considers the argument and evidence for and against a particular position--what happens is that a conclusion (for, against, undecided) then suggests itself to you, and your conscious volition plays no part in your accepting or rejecting this conclusion. That is, your acceptance or rejection follows spontaneously from the products of your previous cogitations. Thus, the conclusion you arrive at is not something you can be responsible for. (At least not directly. You might be responsible for it secondarily, if you culpably failed to consider arguments or evidence fairly earlier. But let's suppose you didn't.)
  13. DonationPawnokeyhole
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    13 Aug '06 21:46
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    In each of the scenarios named, our collective knowledge and/or revelations have not clarified the 'right' decision, and yet you have made a definitive choice for each quandry.
    "If the arguments and evidence for it strike me as inconclusive, then am unable either to believe or disbelieve it; I suspend judgment."

    How is this a definitive choice?
  14. Territories Unknown
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    13 Aug '06 22:06
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    "If the arguments and evidence for it strike me as inconclusive, then am unable either to believe or disbelieve it; I suspend judgment."

    How is this a definitive choice?
    Because in the scenarios I offered, you have made a decision.

    Backing up a tad, you are equating belief in the work of Christ on the cross with a belief in the Great Pumpkin. That is not the choice with respect to the Christ. The choice here is: do you accept the work done on your behalf? Too many people confuse the issue, intimating that a person's theology must be in line with God's in order for salvation to have its intended effect. That is clearlyl not the case. Either you accept His work or yours.
  15. Upstate NY
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    13 Aug '06 22:56
    Originally posted by Pawnokeyhole
    You might be responsible for it secondarily, if you culpably failed to consider arguments or evidence fairly earlier. But let's suppose you didn't.
    Ah, I see. I believe that the issue here is that Christianity asserts that mankind knows the truth in their hearts, i.e. the problem is not the lack of evidence for the validity of Christianity but rather the suppression of it in the conscience of each individual (a la Romans 1:21). Thus, the Christian claim is that sufficient evidence is present and the individual is thus directly culpable, not for evidence he failed to uncover, but the evidence he consciously supressed.

    Thoughts?
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