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Is Belief A Choice? Essay

883 words - 4 pages

Can One Chose to Believe?
Many followers of western religion find it hard to understand why others do not believe as they do.  Take, for instance, the argument of Pascal's wager (Pensees pg. 151-153). Why would a person not chose to accept and follow God when there is everything to gain and nothing to lose?  All one must do according to the Christian bible (NIV) is, "believe in the Lord Jesus, and be saved..." (Acts 16:31).  Western religion emphasizes the importance of choosing to believe in and embrace God, but there may be an underlying and critical flaw in this collective religious conviction; does one actually choose to believe something, or is it merely an involuntary outlook based on ...view middle of the document...

  One must take several independent "facts" into consideration in order to connect them and form a belief. 
Although it is not a highly explored philosophical idea, the question of whether or not belief is a choice has been periodically brought to light by philosophers.  As mentioned previously, Pascal's wager undoubtedly insinuates that a person's free will is all that is necessary in giving him/her a choice in their beliefs.  If belief were to be inherent in an individual, then Pascal's wager would mean nothing.  One would either believe or not believe just as people are born male or female, so the wager depends entirely upon personal choice.  
Even "the father of modern philosophy", René Descartes, had a solid view on the topic.  "…When one lacks adequate evidence one can choose to believe something and hence fall into error through the exercise of free will, and thereby absolve God of responsibility for the error" (Borchert). In Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes defends God from wrong doing by placing fault in human choice to sometimes believe something that is not true (Descartes). Descartes, much like Pascal, described belief as a choice corresponding to free will, but although both philosophers describe how belief can be a choice, neither philosopher addressed the question of whether it is always a choice. 
The role of free-will and choice in the function of western religion seems to have greatly influenced the philosophical views of both the previously mentioned philosophers who have attributed belief to personal choice.  Without a choice not all people have a chance for redemption and a main pillar of Christianity...

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