Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
romansh

How We Form Beliefs

Recommended Posts

Just curious ... how do we come to form beliefs?

My personal opinion (based on evidence¬†ūüėÄ) is that we are physical beings and that we are strongly influenced by our environment and that our substrate (matter, molecules, atoms, fields, fundamental forces, etc) does the rest. For me consciousness does not hold primacy.¬†

For example ... I suspect most here at one point or another held a literal belief (perhaps still do) that Jesus was born of a virgin. How did we come to this belief and how did we lose it, if we did? Personally I don't recall ever believing this. I personally can't give a mechanism for not believing this, but I sure can confabulate one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we form our beliefs not only influenced by environmental influences and genetics but also by our own individual experiences. The primary direction of our beliefs seems to follow our subjective perceptions of reality which in my view are highly slanted by our own emotional desires  and changing social values both passed down and learned which are all illusory at best. It is my view that our beliefs can progress by exposing that which is false through study, reasoning and logic but only to a degree. The end result coming to to a point where reason, logic and intelligence will take us no further in our belief system and enough falsehoods have been exposed to allow that which has always been present for existence to exist to be exposed or reveal itself. In essence God.

In my experience there is then no further need for a religious belief system. Yes, it may have been a tenet of a religious teaching system that helped one to this point but it was the shedding of beliefs that exposed that which can be experienced but not proved. To me, it is evident that all one can actually see in the world are differences and preferences and that it is the result of a dualistic perception. An illusion that has held one captive and reduced God to a concept or label  in a world filled with imaginary opposites that reveal themselves as mere arbitrary mentations. To me, There is nothing wrong with the world. It merely is what it is at this instant. 

Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Certainly on the surface we appear to form our beliefs through our perceptions of what's going on and our experiences (what we read, what we're told, what we see and feel, etc).  But I would be interested to know deep down what makes our brain work like that.  Like you've discussed before Rom, concerning our lack of free will, I do wonder if we have lack of free will in determining our beliefs.  We like to think we come to our own conclusions, but I can't help thinking that we have no control over what we believe, so what actually does make us do that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Paul, Perhaps we do have control , howbeit, limited control at least until we surrender them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps we do Joseph, I'm just not convinced.  Then again, maybe being convinced is out of my control? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the replies Guys ... I was thinking of a bit more detail ... sure our experiences (aka environment) help form our beliefs. 

eg take some simple/neutral example like the Earth is a spheroid ... may be we can extend it to more controversial aspects like an afterlife later?

I am away for a few days ... you can ponder in peace should you wish ... rom free.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rom,

i probably won't be much help on the more controversial aspect you mention. In my experience there is just Life. No beforelife or afterlife to debate or believe in.

Paul,

I think we both agree that our choices are limited by a myriad of factors so that it would be difficult to prove we have total control over choices or even what we believe. We like to think we do but reason, logic and experience seems to point otherwise.

As far as choosing our beliefs go, I would not  try to convince you either way but I would say , it seems to me if you truly believed you had no choice at all in what you believe, you probably wouldn't have a problem with shedding your belief system. And the paradox in my view to that is if you do shed it, guilt would not be able to arise and there would be no more question or concern of what to believe or not or whether we really choose our beliefs or not. :D:blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, PaulS said:

Certainly on the surface we appear to form our beliefs through our perceptions of what's going on and our experiences (what we read, what we're told, what we see and feel, etc).  But I would be interested to know deep down what makes our brain work like that.

A simple answer would be to say that the brain functions on detecting differences and preferences. When we strongly identify with it as me, it no longer becomes just a tool but rather an entity of its own that we identify as me and begins forming perceptions based on its survival, pleasures and desires given to it by others and its experiences. Of course that would make no sense to one who identifies as such as once it takes on a life of its own it fights for its survival which we can see is sentenced to death anyway.

That is why most major religions teach some sort of dying to self to realize ones true identity. And since it is seldom realized, some religions decide to go another route and teach an afterlife to satisfy the ego rather than its extinguishment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JosephM said:

As far as choosing our beliefs go, I would not  try to convince you either way but I would say , it seems to me if you truly believed you had no choice at all in what you believe, you probably wouldn't have a problem with shedding your belief system. And the paradox in my view to that is if you do shed it, guilt would not be able to arise and there would be no more question or concern of what to believe or not or whether we really choose our beliefs or not. :D:blink:

In this instance, it's simply my curiosity questioning 'why' we think we are choosing beliefs, when it would seem to me that we don't have a choice.  How does that work?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, PaulS said:

In this instance, it's simply my curiosity questioning 'why' we think we are choosing beliefs, when it would seem to me that we don't have a choice.  How does that work?

It seems obvious from appearances that we do not choose our initial religious belief system.  We are usually born into it. However as we progress/ evolve using reasoning, logic, experience and study we have the opportunity to discard old belief systems and try out new ones. Of course , as you know, not all are able to break free of old teachings since it can be a painful experience to leave the 'herd'. Yet the choice for those who are interested in progression is there. Unfortunately some of us value acceptance among peers more than change or entering new territory. So in my view, choice is always there even though limited by our individual  situations, needs and desires.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are born into both our formal (example religion) and informal beliefs and it most likely could not be otherwise. Parents have beliefs (and values) that they pass on to their kids. Most grow up in their religious systems, some disregard it when they go off to college (or life) and many of those same people bring it back, perhaps as a default position when they have children (I have often heard, "you gotta bring them up in something, in some religion and this is the one I know").

Others, as indicated above (cf. Joseph), with study, with input from different sources (history, science, literature, etc,), with life experiences and with reasoning, slowly begin to carve out a new (updated and/or different) understanding and (sometimes) a new belief system. There are situations and circumstances that are factors in where one ends up but, I agree, there is also choice.

Obviously, there will continue to be debate on the reality and role of free choice and on different belief systems that people eventually adopt - but going forward, the decision or choice to engage rests with the individual.

 

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, JosephM said:

It seems obvious from appearances that we do not choose our initial religious belief system.  We are usually born into it. However as we progress/ evolve using reasoning, logic, experience and study we have the opportunity to discard old belief systems and try out new ones. Of course , as you know, not all are able to break free of old teachings since it can be a painful experience to leave the 'herd'. Yet the choice for those who are interested in progression is there. Unfortunately some of us value acceptance among peers more than change or entering new territory. So in my view, choice is always there even though limited by our individual  situations, needs and desires.

Yet, I couldn't choose to believe what I used to, even if I wanted to, so is that choice?  I don't know if I can take credit for choosing not to believe - I simply couldn't believe any longer.  Perhaps I did choose to investigate and challenge, but the beliefs I ended up with are just what came as a consequence.  I don't think that's a choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, PaulS said:

Yet, I couldn't choose to believe what I used to, even if I wanted to, so is that choice?  I don't know if I can take credit for choosing not to believe - I simply couldn't believe any longer.  Perhaps I did choose to investigate and challenge, but the beliefs I ended up with are just what came as a consequence.  I don't think that's a choice.

(Me neither) But isn't that your choice: not to believe? 

I guess, with my choice to investigate and challenge, the consequence was against the former belief and for the present belief. To me, that is a choice - not a solitary decision but in concert with and influenced by those who assisted along the way of my investigation, but I was the constant, it was (is) my life and I decided. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, thormas said:

(Me neither) But isn't that your choice: not to believe? 

I guess, with my choice to investigate and challenge, the consequence was against the former belief and for the present belief. To me, that is a choice - not a solitary decision but in concert with and influenced by those who assisted along the way of my investigation, but I was the constant, it was (is) my life and I decided. 

I don’t see it as a choice.  For instance, do you really think you could believe in Santa now?  I don’t think you could, so I don’t see how it’s choice.  

Now choosing to follow a line of thought, research, going against the grain - they all may be choices, and those choices may help lead you to new beliefs, but I don’t see you choosing those beliefs, rather they just come about as a result of your experience.  To really have choice would be to knowingly choose not to believe what you know is true, to believe in what you know is not true.  How can that work?  To me, there is no choice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, PaulS said:

I don’t see it as a choice.  For instance, do you really think you could believe in Santa now?  I don’t think you could, so I don’t see how it’s choice.  

Now choosing to follow a line of thought, research, going against the grain - they all may be choices, and those choices may help lead you to new beliefs, but I don’t see you choosing those beliefs, rather they just come about as a result of your experience.  To really have choice would be to knowingly choose not to believe what you know is true, to believe in what you know is not true.  How can that work?  To me, there is no choice.

I see where you are coming from. You already made your choice not to believe in Santa . You can't force yourself otherwise so you don't see it as a choice now so you choose not to change it. Choice is choice . I agree it is limited and not free but you seem to be redefining the word choice.

Joseph

PS Unless you are finally coming to the realization that there is no one there  (self - Paul) to be making a choice. In which case,  i would say you are correct. Choice is an illusion as is Paul and everything is just happening / evolution.

Edited by JosephM
PS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, PaulS said:

I don’t see it as a choice.  For instance, do you really think you could believe in Santa now?  I don’t think you could, so I don’t see how it’s choice.  

Now choosing to follow a line of thought, research, going against the grain - they all may be choices, and those choices may help lead you to new beliefs, but I don’t see you choosing those beliefs, rather they just come about as a result of your experience.  To really have choice would be to knowingly choose not to believe what you know is true, to believe in what you know is not true.  How can that work?  To me, there is no choice.

But I don't believe in Santa because, as noted above, my initial belief was challenged, I investigated (even as a kid, I asked questions and regarding the big guy in red, a lot of questions) and challenge the new information,  accepted that the consequence of that effort was against the former belief and for the present belief (i.e. no Santa).  However, as also noted, it was not a solitary decision but in concert with and influenced by those who assisted, i.e. my parents.

I believed 'A' then received new information, investigated, questioned, wrestled with the new info, accepted it and now belief 'B.' I could/would not go back because there is no new information that would warrant a new investigation that would result in a newfound belief in 'A.'

We're talking about informed decisions that lead to new beliefs not opting for something that the information now points against. So, no I couldn't believe in Santa again because I already made that choice and continue to agree with it. Choice isn't done in a vacuum and once made, if one is comfortable they move forward. 

It gets more complicated with religious belief: I no longer believe much of what I previously believed, and based on investigation, study, experience, weighing possibilities, have moved to a new belief (which also includes updates and translations of the old, making them new perhaps) but I realize there is more (for me) to investigate and the final decision, the final choice is a work in progress. But to go back to my belief as a child is not warranted so I choose not to by the fact that I continually choose where I am (or one could say, I live with my present choice that began ages ago). 

I was the one who, when prompted by circumstances (be it Santa or religious belief) choose to do the work and go where it lead me and what I decided made sense. Where I ended is where my work got me and I was the one 'in charge.'  To knowingly choose not to believe what you know(believe) is true is absurd because it goes against your belief!?? This, to me, seems like a head game (not meant to be pejorative or demeaning, but pointing out it is an intellectual exercise that doesn't reflect the reality) that separates choice from that which goes into or supports any real human choice. Choice is not made in a void.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JosephM said:

Unless you are finally coming to the realization that there is no one there  (self - Paul) to be making a choice. In which case,  i would say you are correct. Choice is an illusion as is Paul and everything is just happening / evolution.

Yet it remains interesting that (the) "I" is that which/who says there is no I:everything is just happening, at least according to "I."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, JosephM said:

I agree it is limited and not free but you seem to be redefining the word choice.

To the contrary, I don't think the word choice applies to beliefs, so I don't think I'm redifining it.

Choice is to choose.  I don't think one chooses to believe in something or not, but rather their conclusions make up their mind for them.  You don't actively choose is my assertion.  I didn't choose not to believe in Santa, I just stopped believing when I concluded he wasn't true.  By referring to that as choice you are suggesting I could believe in Santa if I so wanted to.  But I don't think that is possible.  I 'know' the truth and so I have no choice other than to not believe in Santa.  If evidence to the contrary convinced me otherwise, again I'd have no choice but to believe my new belief.  Where is the choice?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, thormas said:

But I don't believe in Santa because, as noted above, my initial belief was challenged, I investigated (even as a kid, I asked questions and regarding the big guy in red, a lot of questions) and challenge the new information,  accepted that the consequence of that effort was against the former belief and for the present belief (i.e. no Santa).  However, as also noted, it was not a solitary decision but in concert with and influenced by those who assisted, i.e. my parents.

I believed 'A' then received new information, investigated, questioned, wrestled with the new info, accepted it and now belief 'B.' I could/would not go back because there is no new information that would warrant a new investigation that would result in a newfound belief in 'A.'

Do you notice in the above Thormas, that you didn't 'choose' not to believe in Santa, but that just happened as a consequence of your actions and experience.  You say you 'accepted' the consequences of your effort as against your previous belief, but what choice did you really have?  The evidence spoke for itself so to speak, and thus you were left with no choice other than to accept what you now believed to be true (which was different to what you used to believe was true).  Not being able to go back without new evidence clearly demonstrates you can't 'choose'.  To freely choose would mean you could go back without new evidence - it's a choice!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good try Paul,

Your point is well taken that you can't force yourself to choose otherwise but ......

CHois/
noun
noun: choice; plural noun: choices
  1. 1. 
    an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
    "the choice between good and evil"
     
    Choice is sometimes limited but you at one time made a choice to follow the evidence rather than custom. For you if the evidence changes you will make a different choice. Yes, your choices are biased towards evidence just as others may be biased towards tradition but the mind makes a choice based on your predisposition and a myriad of other factors. Still  your mind makes a choice / decision between the 2 or more possibilities no matter  whether you believe you have choice or not. Now when you put the word free before the noun that makes it a whole different ball game.
    Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JosephM said:

Good try Paul,

Your point is well taken that you can't force yourself to choose otherwise but ......

CHois/
noun
noun: choice; plural noun: choices
  1. 1. 
    an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
    "the choice between good and evil"
     
    Choice is sometimes limited but you at one time made a choice to follow the evidence rather than custom. For you if the evidence changes you will make a different choice. Yes, your choices are biased towards evidence just as others may be biased towards tradition but the mind makes a choice based on your predisposition and a myriad of other factors. Still  your mind makes a choice / decision between the 2 or more possibilities no matter  whether you believe you have choice or not. Now when you put the word free before the noun that makes it a whole different ball game.
    Joseph

So when you say 'your mind makes a choice' are you saying that 'you' make the choice or are you saying that your mind is separate from you somehow when it decides as such?  I think this is what Rom is alluding too - what makes us believe what we believe?  Clearly, even though confronted with the same evidence, people still frame different beliefs.  Why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Paul

I think Rom believes we have choice just not free choice.

It seems to me, The mind makes the choice. I have a mind but I am not the mind. It is a tool and when i do identify with it it is the small i or ego. I have a story and a mind but i know it isn't I. The I is bigger than my story or mind and not subject to decay. It is in dualistic terms eternal. The conundrum is that the mind is created but not separate from the I.

Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, PaulS said:

Do you notice in the above Thormas, that you didn't 'choose' not to believe in Santa, but that just happened as a consequence of your actions and experience.  You say you 'accepted' the consequences of your effort as against your previous belief, but what choice did you really have?  The evidence spoke for itself so to speak, and thus you were left with no choice other than to accept what you now believed to be true (which was different to what you used to believe was true).  Not being able to go back without new evidence clearly demonstrates you can't 'choose'.  To freely choose would mean you could go back without new evidence - it's a choice!

I disagree: challenge to belief, consideration, weighing information, decision for new belief. The new belief is a piece with the previous decisions (choices) and actions. 

However, Santa is not the best example, so take virgin birth of Jesus. Now I believed that, and with my choice to read, study, consider, question, I arrived at and decided on a different belief. Unlike Santa (which is typically the experience of a little kid, unless you're really sheltered), if asked "what choice did you really have" the response would a lot and there seems to be three possible choices: a choice to move from 'certain' belief to an agnostic stance (don't know what to believe), continued belief (stay with the original position) or a completely different belief, that is in opposition to the former belief. Many, with the same challenge, information, debate and study, choose to continue, to this day, to believe in virgin birth. 

However, this is not a mechanical process, with separate and distinct steps (such as challenge - and then the decision/choice to considerate different possibilities, gather information, study, reflect, etc.) and, then, a final, step where a person announces that, "I now have a different belief." It is, instead, a very human decision making process that is all a piece including or resulting in a new belief.  

It is a bit odd (to me) that you value and give credence to all that goes into decision making and see this as choice but not the result of that work. Again, it is one, continual process. And, to ask an adult, who does not believe in Santa, to instead choose to believe in him again - is not the way choice comes about in real life. This is a lab experiment, not life. The latter involves choice, the former is a game.

Therefore, my actions, questioning and experience result in choosing to believe there is choice :+} 

But, does that mean any guy who accepts your position would have to say to his 'significant other' that "I really didn't choose you, I really didn't have a choice, the evidence just indicated that I had to go with you, so, here we are. But I love you, honey."  No, my friend, to my dying day, let the truth be known, especially to my wife. I choose (rather than saying "I was left with no choice.")! 

Edited by thormas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, thormas said:

I disagree: challenge to belief, consideration, weighing information, decision for new belief. The new belief is a piece with the previous decisions (choices) and actions. 

But belief isn't a decision, it's a recognition of what you now think is the truth.

Quote

However, Santa is not the best example, so take virgin birth of Jesus. Now I believed that, and with my choice to read, study, consider, question, I arrived at and decided on a different belief. Unlike Santa (which is typically the experience of a little kid, unless you're really sheltered), if asked "what choice did you really have" the response would a lot and there seems to be three possible choices: a choice to move from 'certain' belief to an agnostic stance (don't know what to believe), continued belief (stay with the original position) or a completely different belief, that is in opposition to the former belief. Many, with the same challenge, information, debate and study, choose to continue, to this day, to believe in virgin birth. 

Again, I challenge this and ask you "can you, right now, believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?  Are you able to choose that belief now, knowing what you do?  No.  Of course if something was introduced that change your mind, you may believe once again, but not by choice IMO.

Quote

It is a bit odd (to me) that you value and give credence to all that goes into decision making and see this as choice but not the result of that work. Again, it is one, continual process. And, to ask an adult, who does not believe in Santa, to instead choose to believe in him again - is not the way choice comes about in real life. This is a lab experiment, not life. The latter involves choice, the former is a game.

I just tried to keep it simple by using Santa.  But let's use real life.  I believe that I cannot fly.  Can I choose to believe I can fly?  Of course not, because I 'know' the truth.  Now if new experiences/observations convinced me otherwise, my belief might change.  Yet not by choice, but simply by conclusion of the new information.

Quote

But, does that mean any guy who accepts your position would have to say to his 'significant other' that "I really didn't choose you, I really didn't have a choice, the evidence just indicated that I had to go with you, so, here we are. But I love you, honey."  No, my friend, to my dying day, let the truth be known, especially to my wife. I choose (rather than saying "I was left with no choice.")! 

I presume you 'believe' your wife was a suitable life partner and hence why you selected her as your wife.  You didn't have a choice, your experience told you that she was the one for you.  Now if you believed that there were two women whom you identically thought either could be your life partners, then you'd have a choice to make.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×