Disbelief cannot be intentional.
Either a person believes in something or they don't.
An equivalent scenario is like a person who grew up believing the Earth is flat.
Then he decides to study science and learns that the Earth is a globe and it explains night and day as well as the seasons, far better than the Flat Earth Theory.
Now he is reasonably certain that the Earth is a globe.
The Flat Earth school mates call him a heretic and no longer accept him into their friendship.
He becomes lonely and wishes he could believe in a Flat Earth again, so he pretends to, hoping to regain his once held belief.
But, this is impossible, because he has serious doubts concerning the Flat Earth Theory, which he finds cannot explain days, and seasons adequately.
So he feels out of place in his old companionship.
So he finds a group in a university which considers the Earth as global, and moves into their fold.
He now has friends, and finally resigns himself to forever being taunted and called a heretic by his previous friends.
This is like my own experience when studying the Bible, led me to disbelief in it and the god within.
I never chose to disbelieve, as I was trying to be a better believer.
Disbelief just happened, and it was almost overnight, while re-reading Leviticus, but doubts arose from the start of Genesis and they were well confirmed by the time I reached Leviticus, I awoke the next morning a disbeliever and no matter how hard I tried, I could never get it back.
In spite of the attempts of those around me to tell and convince me that god is indeed real.
I'm certain many being helped by 'The Clergy Project' have had a similar experience and the discomfort of preaching what they no longer believe, must alarm them greatly.
I'm certain many of them wish they could get their belief and confidence in their position/job back.
But, such is life.
No atheist ever chose their disbelief.
They either never believed from birth like my brother, or lost belief due to rational thought as I did.
Nobody should ever be condemned for something that was never in their control.
No atheist made a choice to not believe, they simply were never given enough evidence for god to create a genuine reason to believe.
My investigation into neuroscience and psychology has led me to believe in some form of personal predestination.
If you made choice X successfully as a child, chances are you will make the same X choice again when presented it later.
So, some of our choices and the way we choose are predestined by choices in our early childhood.
So you have belief y, which making a choice X could be detrimental to, but you chose choice X, because of childhood experience, then belief y will be threatened, and if lost, it will be gone.
But if as a child, your parents made the experience of choice X laborious or a failure, then later when faced with belief y and the opportunity/need to make choice X, you will avoid making that choice. Thus saving belief y.
This is a product of childhood indoctrination, to make as many possible choices that will lead to threatening belief y, as difficult or distasteful as possible (using aversion therapy) to the child, thus making it less likely you will make such choices in the future.
So, we may not choose to become atheists consciously, it so often just happens.
If it appears that the choices we do make led to this, then likely those choices were predestined in our childhood experiences.
If we subconsciously avoid making choices that could lead to disbelief, then there is a possibility of indoctrination by aversion or no experience with making such choices as a child.
This is the way I see it at the moment.
Though my views may change at any moment.
I suppose if we don't choose unbelief, then others, by definition did not choose belief.
Your discussion is interesting because of the concept of choice. Some atheists, notably Jerry Coyne (Whyevolutionistrue) strongly disbelieve in any form of 'free will'--since we are electro chemical machines, we will do whatever our internal structure and environmental influences scheme to make us do. Coyne has had numerous vigorous discussions of this over on his site. To summarizne his position (from my perspective, I don't speak for him) there is no room in a deterministic physical system for such a concept--he feels free will is more a product of religious philosophy.
I've moved away from that point, though I don't know if it would even be possible to test for (or define) free will. How would you determine whether a system had 'free will' or was simply a deterministic system with a randomizer component.
Nonetheless, I have drifted away from Coyne's position; there is no current deterministic model for consciousness, yet there can be little doubt that consciousness exists. Free will, if it exists at all, would likely be closely allied to consciousness.
I'm more on Daniel Dennett's side when it comes to defining consciousness.
Free will is actually an illusion.
Most (if not all) of our decisions are pre-determined by our childhood development and experiences and are a product of out own internal evolution.
We develop our own set of likes. dislikes, attractants and aversions and most of our lives is spent attending to those.
My daughter in her medical profession has patients with nonsensical aversions to things like pain, where they don't understand the actual necessity and usefulness of pain. It is the social phenomenon of pain killers and the advertising that pain is bad, as well as parents throwing these drugs at them whenever they mention the word pain.
Thus they haven't learned that pain is a natural part of the body's defence system and it is useful for informing the person of where and how significant a problem is. If it is continually masked by chemicals, the person cannot tell whether they are making the right movements nor making a recovery.
People need to learn to understand what messages the pain is telling them and not cover it up with a cocktail of chemicals.
Pain is a part of consciousness, and losing the sense of pain is reducing one's sensation/awareness of the world around them, and themselves, thus reducing their consciousness.
We are a product of our own personal evolution from birth to death with the first 18 years of our development defining most of our decision making for the rest of our lives.
Our free will is pretty much set in concrete by the age of 18, as we learned to navigate our hormone based sexual urges which started at puberty. Though most of our other cognitive reactions/decisions or the way we approach problems, are already defined by the age of 12.
We develop our own set of likes. dislikes, attractants and aversions and....
We develop our own set of likes. dislikes, perversions and aversions and...?
DD, I like the rhyme.
Ha Ha, true, nice rhyming variation!
Should use it in a song, aye!
Just finished reading Alan Moorehead's "Darwin and the Beagle".
It is a great read.
Both Darwin and FitzRoy (Beagle's Captain) started the voyage as creationists and both had a determination to use the evidence they would find to prove the Bible correct.
Though Darwin first noticed that the natives of many countries around the colonies of Christian settlers were peaceful and moral people, yet the Settlers enslaved them and treated them extremely poor, this I think started him questioning the morality of Christianity.
Yet, it was the geological evidence he found that started him questioning and eventually criticizing the global flood myth, he and FitzRoy started arguing about this.
He didn't have the full concept of Evolution when he parted company with FitzRoy and the Beagle, but they left as strangers who could not agree.
FitzRoy would not let go of his creationist delusion, regardless of the evidence Darwin discovered.
Darwin went with the most practical explanations for the evidence.
FitzRoy continually produced irrational rationalizations for that evidence.
Darwin showed what an incredible scientist he was.
He spent the last 40+ years in chronic pain, yet he had a family, was an incredible father to his children and never showed any bitterness towards others, nor regretted a second of his life. While pursuing his interest and investigation into nature with vigour and determination.
FitzRoy, on the other hand grew distant and bitter and took his own life in a fit of severe depression, Darwin's opposing ideas becoming popular only made the situation worse for FitzRoy.
The book may be old, but it was extremely interesting.
It also has some fantastic drawings by the Beagle's artists and Gould.
My wife and I both really enjoyed it.
It's not often that I enjoy a book that much
But, it fits this thread very well, it shows the questioning of Darwin's adventure and discoveries that gradually and eventually, after 5 years, led to his going from a Biblical creationist to an atheist.
Daniel, as usual, your writings interest me, mobilize me, and inspire me.
I especially like in this piece your powerful statements
"I finally knew: Not only is there no Jesus, and no Jehovah, and no Mary or Joseph, no David or Solomon or Moses or Jonah or Judas. And that expressing belief for them is not only deluded, but is a bad thing to do. Did I chose those conclusions? I think yes. With eyes wide open and mind fully engaged."
"It's up to you."
I look up tags if I think they will help me understand a statement. I don't look up, "to" or "be", or even "never"
"to" or "be", or even "never"
I think I chose unbelief when I was first exposed to free thinking via a Playboy interview with Madelyn Murray. What the minister and Sunday school teachers taught me seemed like a fantasy, and what Murray said was logical and supported with evidence. The argument, not the source, is what matters to good thinkers. My friends thought I was crazy not to believe in god because, well, you know, ah, he's god, right? I doubt that the adults around me then had any clear idea of what the Bible says or what their particular beliefs were, but it didn't matter because they were already indoctrinated. Believers tend not to be good critical thinkers.
As for predestination, I just read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called "Outliers," in which he argues that no one succeeds alone, that self-made men and women receive plenty of help along the way and sometimes get lucky. Bill Gates, for example, went to one of the few high schools with access to computers in the early 70s and spent thousands of hours programming computers before the rest of us had even seen one. Gladwell gives many examples of successful people who were talented and hard working, but who were also in the right place at the right time.
Another book I'm reading right now is called "The Myth of Persecution," by Candida Moss, a professor of religion at Notre Dame, who argues that the Christian belief that their sect has always been persecuted arises from the fact that early Christian literature was heavily influenced by Greek stories of the martyrdom of philosophers, by the epic Greek literature showing warriors as scornful of life but eager for the immortality of glory earned in battle, and by the early Greek adventure/romance novels. Moss claims that aside from a few sporadic and local outbreaks of persecution, early Christians simply invented the vast majority of Christian martyr accounts.
Who would swallow these preposterous tales? Who would believe in the talking snake, or the bronze snake erected by Moses to cure the snake bites of all who merely looked at it? Poorly educated (most likely illiterate), superstitious, desperate people who needed to believe that there was something better in the next life because the lives they were living were little better than the lives of cattle and because they were terrified of death.
When we consider the amount of incredible tales that have to be swallowed, it makes one wonder how anyone could possibly be religious. At least of the historical organised type.
Gerald, you need only remember that the distribution of mental ability in the population approximately follows the Normal Curve.
There is some skew in the Curve because we are sociable creatures and friendships influence some religious behavior, if not religious belief.
I missed out on the whole Madelyn O'Hare saga, only read and heard about it much later.
I'm just finishing "God Is Not Great", though much of what Hitch writes about, I already knew about, as I have been an atheist for 30 years now and my run-ins with the Catholic church and reading the Koran in the 70s, led me to understand many similarities between early Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
He goes into each in more depth than I had bothered to do, which made it quite interesting.
I'm about to read Stephen Fry's autobiography, which I picked up for 20c at our public library's annual book sale.
Imagine the people who were present at the baptism of Jesus and they heard the voice from the sky and saw the dove crap light upon him.
Then we have his 40 days and nights in the desert and then the high mountain event with the Devil. Did the news team follow him with cameras rolling or did somebody interview him later? How did we get these facts?
Oh, I forgot. The Bible is speaking here so it's like God himself is telling the story. We don't need any evidence. We have faith.