Can you choose to believe in something you don’t, erm, believe in?

1 Aug

Right, are you sitting down? Well-rested? You’re not hung-over are you? Good, because i’m gonna get all existentialist on you again, so it could get a bit rough. So if you can’t face it today, move on.

I always believed that people held their personal religious or spiritual beliefs either because they just instinctively believed them to be true, or they had come to their conclusions by weighing up all the alternatives, rationalising and negotiating. Either way, their faith was unwavering, unquestioned. It was just what they believed. End of.

But recently I have heard some spiritual ideas that i thought sounded really neat. That i would like to be true if i could choose my spiritual path on desire alone. Not because i believe in them one bit, but because i like the idea of them.

“You get the babies (male/female) that fit you and your family”.

“You are presented with your specific trials in life because you are are able to cope with them”.

“When we die our soul inhabits a new life that will need to learn from our knowledge to survive its own path”

In a world where nothing is known for certain, the sense that there is some kind of order really appeals to me. That things happen for a reason, have a natural resolution. I find that a very peaceful thing to contemplate.

So the question is, can you force yourself to believe in something just because it appeals to you. Things you would rather like to be true, but struggle to justify intellectually?

Wow, are you still with me? Crikey – that takes some doing on a Sunday teatime.

I’m over-elaborating a very subtle point i know.

You see I’m getting older. I have children. So i’m naturally starting to question more and more what life is about. And so part of me feels it would be quite nice to believe in something. After all, I’ve got to tell my children something when they ask, haven’t i?

Ok, i’m starting to bore myself now.

28 Responses to “Can you choose to believe in something you don’t, erm, believe in?”

  1. Susie August 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    I believe kids souls prior to birth choose their parents and their circumstances in life.

    And that’s only the beginning of my beliefs. May take a whole day to tell you more.

    My beliefs over the years have also evolved over the years after much searching.

  2. jfb57 August 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    You have to evolve your beliefs (as Susie says). Otherwise you would start by believing what someone else believes rather than what you believe! (Too many beliefs in there I think!) I’m not happy with indoctrination even if I end up believing it. It has to be found on your own! (Pass the asprin!)

    • marketingtomilk August 1, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

      hence why i have never, and will never be one for organised religion.

      • Susie August 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

        I am happy in my religion as long as I remind myself that at times the clergy can make mistakes because they are human. I also try to always keep in mind that religion in its essence is about love and any other answer to a situation is wrong.

  3. Rachael (Tales from the Village) August 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Like Susie (very like Susie, actually, I suspect) my views are not of one religion, but have evolved over the last 20 years. Before then I didn’t really give it a thought. Having children, and dealing with death, have forced the issue.

    • Susie August 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

      hmmm-maybe we should sit down for a cuppa Rachael.

      I just started running, so maybe one day I will get over to the UK to run a (half, 1/4) marathon and meet you.

  4. michelleblix August 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    If it appeals to you and is of benefit to your life I don’t see why you can’t choose to believe something. Everyone has beliefs of some type.

  5. keatsbabe August 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    I like existential blogs. My sis told me I was too philosophical and melancholy in mine so I blogged about cleaning the kitchen cupboards today – not very deep at all.

    I too think it would be nice to have something I could believe in without question, but I don’t think you can ever make yourself believe something just because it appeals to you. The CBT was wasted on me…

    • marketingtomilk August 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

      well you see most of what i’ve believed in my life has been based on evidence, you know, i like to be able to justify and rationalise things. But you can never empirically test and so “prove” spiritual beliefs can you? So it’s always been a bit lost on me how a logical, intellectual being could ever “know” that god, or re-incarnation, or whatever exists. So surely there must be a bit of choice based on what you like the sound of?
      ps CBT is never wasted ;<)

  6. Metajugglamum August 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    I was brought up in the church. My parents were devout Anglicans (at least my mother was) so most of our activities revolved around our local parish community. I enjoyed it I have to say and was in the Sunday School, then later church choir, youth clubs etc, but when it came to Confirmation, I almost bailed. I started to think seriously for myself and suddenly many of the things I had been taught started to fall apart in my mind as, at 12yrs old I couldn’t find the logic any more.
    Luckily for me, we had a tremendous vicar. He was also a family friend and began to notice my increasing reticence at confirmation classes. One day he took me on one side and asked what was wrong. I answered him honestly: I don’t want to go through with this. I don’t believe any more.

    What he said marked me for the rest of my life and has become my true philosophy: that Christianity (read: religion in general) is such a personal thing. Everyone is different and has a different approach to the ‘why’s and ‘wherefore’s of our existence and how we should live. The centre of our life is our soul and no-one yet has been able to define, nor put any parameters around what that is, what it means nor what it is capable of. It is therefore up to the individual to live with his/her soul and act accordingly, believing in whatever gives that soul sustenance and the ability to thrive throughout our lifetimes. It is what keeps us going. He said religion simply presents us with a set of guidelines to be interpreted by each individual in our own way. We can believe in as much or as little as we like, but the main thing is that we remain true to ourselves and live our lives the best we can.
    I will never forget this man. He changed my life and I went through with my confirmation …. on my own terms.


    • marketingtomilk August 1, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

      Thank you for sharing this. You see, religion is often presented (from outside?) as, not providing guidlines as such, but as something more formulaic than that. That is definitely offputting. But i like the idea of more generalised moral values that we interpret individually. But it still doesn’t answer the question, what next?!

      • Metajugglamum August 1, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

        Aha, now my luv, if I knew the answer to that, I would not be sitting couped up in my lounge translating other people’s rubbish into my own native language in order to shop!
        Some would say, however, ‘google the number 42’ … ?? ;-)

      • marketingtomilk August 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

        aargh. i just googled “the number 42”, read the first line in wikipedia, got bored and poured another glass of wine.

    • michelleblix August 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

      That sounds like something vicar dibley would say! lol It’s good to know that there are some vicars out there that have been enlightened by their faith.

      • Metajugglamum August 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

        He was actually almost radical in his beliefs, but, under close scrutiny, never ever went against Christianity in any way, other than to stretch the meaning of some of the doctrines…. logic? no, really, there is some there somewhere! I’m off now to drink more wine! Prost! x

  7. amodernmilitarymother August 1, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    I believe there is no meaning to life, other than existence itself. I am still exploring the answers but I believe, in kindness, community, support and helping each other. And that there energies we can’t explain. I love existentialism. Although, I am hungover, so I have to stop now! Keep it coming though. I am interested in your journey.

  8. Mwa August 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    (But Catholics seem to think you can – the idea is to go through the motions long enough until you finally end up believing it.)

  9. Knackered Mother August 1, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

    Very odd, I have been spending far too much time wondering/worrying/reading about this recently, brought on by someone making a comment about how anyone who believed must be a bit thick as clearly there is no such thing as creation. It left me feeling cross but I just wasn’t able to articulate why at the time. I like the fact that others can believe in whatever it is they believe in so completely (unless it dangerously radical of course). I’m still finding my way. I love the existential aspect of it all.

    • michelleblix August 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

      You should not be worrying about what another person may think, there are those that hold to extreme views on both sides Athiesm / Religion. You dont have to be on either side.

      I recall a monk asking buddha who will lead them when he is gone, his response “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”

      To me that means walk your own path believe what is acceptable to you so long as its beneficial for you and others and also its in our own power to do so..

  10. Simone August 2, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    Hey Henri, I haven’t read the other comments yet, so this is totally my own thoughts, just off the top of my head (or the depths of my soul, whatever!)

    I knida think there’s not much point believing something you don’t really believe in! BUT I do think that a couple of those things you said, are actually true, in a way.

    When you say you would like to believe there is some order or purpose to things, that is totally what i believe. You know I’m one of those churchy types, but my conclusions have been reached after years of soul-searching and stumbling along looking for answers. I DO beleive we get the children that will fit us/our family. When I was pregnant with my 3rd baby, I told this to my kids all the time. My eldest son really wanted a baby brother, and we didn’t find out the sex. I kept saying to him, you know, I think God will give us the baby we need to make our family complete, whether its a boy or a girl. And as it turned out our Scrag is just the icing on the cake. We all push each others buttons and bring out the best and worst in each other; I guess this helps us to grow, and face stuff, and have to mature, learn patience etc.

    In the same way, I think we do face the things in life we need to help us grow and become all we are meant to be. That’s a bible teaching actually; “no trial will come to you that is too much for you to bear.” And also that in the middle of the struggle God will “never leave us or forsake us.”

    That, to me, is the most comforting thing. We live in this crazy imperfect messed up world, but knowing there is a higher purpose and someone who watches over us and is there to turn to, to shine a light on solutions/help, that’s what goves me hope, and that’s why i am a Christian. And in the end I can say that the struggles I have been through HAVE helped make me a better person, and He really has seen me through it. We choose to get better or get bitter. I’m hoping in the end I’ll be better.

    That’s my thoughts.
    But how do you figure it all out henri? {whispering} try asking, “If you’re real can you show me somehow that you’re there??”

    Try it, I dare ya.

    • marketingtomilk August 2, 2010 at 6:37 am #

      I do love your responses Simone, they give me food for thought.
      i’m not sure about the whispering thing though, sounds a bit like the Candyman, if i turn round three times and whisper God, what will happen? ;<)


      • Simone August 3, 2010 at 10:13 am #

        Ha! No I meant, I WAS WHISPERING to YOU!!!
        As if!! No candyman here, mate! I meant just lay down the gauntlet, talk to the sky… say to the ceiling: “Right then Big Guy, if you’re there PROVE IT in some way that I know you’re real.”

        No formulas!!! No magic tricks! It’s not about jumping through hoops or saying the right words! What have you got to lose?? You might feel silly, but then WHAT IF… you got an answer back??? Hmmmmm… could be interesting.
        xx LOL.

  11. Chad Johnson June 20, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    You don’t choose to believe in anything. Things convince you to believe in other things, and you are not in control of those things. If I read a book which convinces me to believe in the Christian god, I read the book because–and only because–one or more things convince me to read the book. Then, my believing in the Christian god is a product my reading the book combined with my past experiences. Therefore, my believing in the Christian god is not a product of free will (ie. apart from external influences), but rather, it is a decision based on external influences. And likewise, if nothing convinces me to read the book, then my not doing so is also not a product of free will.

    It is entirely impossible to make a decision apart from external influences (eg. reading a book, being convinced to read a book; speaking with someone, being present to speak with the person, having been convinced to be present in order to be able to speak to said person…).

    With this, we can reason that free will is an illusion.

    • marketingtomilk June 21, 2011 at 4:48 am #

      Yes but that external influence can be the need for comfort, a drive to fill a gap, rather than actually beliving in a god, or the illusion that that book creates.

      • Chad Johnson June 21, 2011 at 4:56 am #

        True. The scope of an “external influence” is very broad. Point is, (I think) all choices are purely the result of external influences acting on us.

        Something I didn’t mention is genetics. I would argue that genetics predispose us to be more inclined to being influenced be external influences. I don’t think genes control our choices, but I do think they help alter them.

      • marketingtomilk June 21, 2011 at 5:02 am #

        For sure, if we are more vulnerable, more in need of comfort that make a big difference. If we have a laissez faire, live for today, think positively attitude our needs are very different, and we may be in less of spiritual aspect to our lives.


  1. A bit of a random one… « Burblingbee's Blog - August 1, 2010

    […] How odd, I write this, go read some other blogs, and find that MarketingToMilk has been thinking along the same religious lines! Something in the air perhaps!   […]

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