"Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

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"Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by dande48 » 15 Jun 2018, 11:37

I decided to run with an idea posted on another thread, and start a new discussion:
DancingCarrot wrote:
15 Jun 2018, 03:58
I always get squirmy when people talk about “choosing to believe,” or some other willed, conscious process as the explanation for why they are still in the Church while others are gone. We should collectively stop making that attribution error.
There are two primary ways someone can end up with a belief. Some beliefs arise based on the evidence presented. When better, more accurate information comes my way, you alter your beliefs. Other beliefs arise and persist, because those beliefs are "good" (comforting, meaningful, makes sense), and because the alternative beliefs are "bad" ( discomforting, painful, complicated, and/or undermines their sense of purpose). In both cases, belief is a result of perception and experience, not a choice.

On the other hand, "Choosing to believe" requires going against one or the other "reasons for belief" I listed. For example, someone can choose to believe their spouse is faithful, even after being presented with strong evidence of their infidelity, because believing their spouse is unfaithful is much more painful than believing everything is fine. Or the reverse can be true, such as with many of us going through an LDS faith crisis. We recognize that strong evidence goes against some of the fundamental claims of the LDS Church, and choose to believe it is not what we once thought it was, despite the fact that this is a very painful realization.

But when most people say "I choose to believe", it's inline with the first example. It is maintaining a belief that is comforting and feels good, despite strong evidence to the contrary. It is, in essence, rejecting truth. "Alternative Facts", as some people put it. The only time I feel it is noble and courageous to choose to believe, is when we change our beliefs according to new evidence, despite it causing us pain.


In other words, those who choose to stay and those who choose to leave, despite their choice being painful, are the only ones making a meaningful choice. Relating this back to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, they were in a paradisaical state, but one where they had no "meaningful choice". They could still "choose", I'm sure, to walk to one part of the garden or another. They could "choose" which of their animal friends to spend time with. But their choices were largely caused by whatever they happened to be feeling at the moment. "I want to eat an apple", "I want to see Adam", "I want to pet a goat". Their actions were largely caused by the circumstance God placed them in. Hence they were "with God".

But when Eve partook of the fruit, she knew it would bring her pain. Yet she did it in order to "gain knowledge", progress, and become like God (her own God, ultimately). She went from a creature dictated by the will of another, to, in effect, her own creator. In making a choice she knew would cause her pain, she shaped her own self apart from God, and hence became a "self-created" (a god-child, if you'd like). It was the first "meaningful choice" ever made, because she valued truth over comfort.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by DarkJedi » 15 Jun 2018, 11:59

I used to be bothered by the "choose to believe" idea until I recognized that for some things I am choosing to believe. I do not believe all (or even most) things Mormon. I believe in God because I believe that there must have been some "driving force" behind the universe, or in other words, I don't believe it all just happened on its own. God as a creator or at least a catalyst makes some sense to me and I can still believe the Big Bang and evolution are possibilities of how God did it. I still do not pretend to know why God did it. During my faith crisis the recognition that I believed God was the driving force led directly to my faith transition. I could then believe there is a God, but that doesn't explain the Savior. I still have no explanation for the Savior or why there needs to be one, and quite frankly I'm not sure I do believe we need one. BUT, I choose to believe in the Savior. There is no evidence in my mind one exists or needs to exist, but because of the hope He brings to me and countless others, even if that hope is only symbolic, I believe in Him. But I also only choose to believe in that part - I do not choose to believe the virgin birth, sinlessness, the literality of his sonship to God, etc.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by DancingCarrot » 15 Jun 2018, 14:41

I think what bothers me most about the use of that phrase is that people tend to use it to gain moral superiority. “I choose to believe in X, which keeps me in the church which then makes me a better person.” With the church activity ultimately being the moral choice, despite belief. Additionally, being defined as a Believer or Non-Believer is problematic because I dislike being characterized by things that I am not. I am not a physicist, teacher, CEO, godmother, etc etc, but I do not qualify myself as such.

I also thought the person’s part about everyone leaving and returning in some way was true; and if someone doesn’t leave in any way then they become the elder son in the prodigal son parable and therefore miss out on the abundance of God because they’re too focused on their own righteousness. It is freeing to not be anxiously engaged in worrying about all the things I have to do to be acceptable to God.

A little more tongue in cheek, if I’m not fully human then what was Jesus for and what is God left to do?

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Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. -Mumford & Sons

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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by Heber13 » 16 Jun 2018, 08:52

The church, and religion, and god have so many elements to these concepts and set of ideas, that choosing to believe is not black and white, all or nothing.

There is so much in the church that one can still choose to believe while accepting there are some falsehoods and machinations of humans which one can simultaneously choose to reject.

It is a paradox. And there is no proof one way or another. Simply opinions and beliefs. There may be mounting evidence for the jury...personal or a group...but no solid proof.

And as the scriptures suggest, we can choose to move forward walking with faith without having a pure knowledge of all things.
I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
It's truly a cafeteria with faith.

There is growth and value in faith and believing in good things that defy logic, the mystical, the fantastic, the inspirational that elevate us above this mortal world. Of course, within limits.

My experience is that I'm never 100% sure I see things clearly. So...choosing to believe sometimes surprises me how wrong I am at times on whether I can trust someone else or not, trust the church or not, trust God or not...and live a happy positive and loving life while being unsure of how trustworthy others truly are. But I make a choice.

As President Monson used to say
Choose your love; and love your choice.
Many times I find a vast difference between what I truly believe in my heart, and what I'm willing to believe to be part of a group with set of rules and standards. I think we learn special lessons trying to reconcile our beliefs to others'. It's more lessons and practice for us above just logically looking at facts and feelings individually. It requires love.

My last thought, dande...I like your Adam and Eve idea you brought into it. And...not just that Eve could see a need for a choice even if it introduces pain... but also our belief that God wanted the choice to reveal character, not just to take the easy path to stay and be obedient and not think for ourselves.

There is much there I can apply to my journey. Others may see reading nonLDS materials as a bad choice and call me Eve, but God may know it is exactly what I need to progress.

So while I may choose to see the temple, for example, as nothing more than a symbolic story made up by good people wanting to teach, I can also choose to believe God can work with those things and still teach me, like the brother of Jared and touch one mortal's idea and make them holy and filled with light...therefore making me having a temple recommend worthwhile. I choose to believe there is good in the church, and God in the church, well worth staying and practicing to walk by faith eyes wide open, fully aware of paradox and imperfections and opinions of others.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Jun 2018, 17:58

I choose to have faith in some things when there is no way I can know with certainty. I'm not choosing to believe those things, per se; I am choosing to hope for them. I am choosing not to dismiss them or not to disbelieve them. I'm choosing to accept uncertainty and simply hope, without belief or disbelief.

It has been a liberating, empowering thing for me not to have to believe or know but simply to hope.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by AmyJ » 18 Jun 2018, 05:56

It sounds funny, but my faith transition has taught me paradox as a solid operating principle.

There is the obvious one - a person being at church without a certainty of the existence of the Savior.

Finding happiness in "the lone and dreary wilderness".

Doing or saying all the traditional "right" things - for non-religious reasons. I don't drink alcoholic beverages not because it is a part of the Word of Wisdom - but because with my family history of 3 alcoholic grandparents, I don't feel that that road would be the risk of the consequences of addiction. I probably have the self-control to not go there and might be able to drink in moderation - but for me, a surer method of self-control is not to start down that path. I stay at church when the lessons are not inspiring and the toddler is seriously grumpy because we made it to church, we need the community connection, and there is nothing "trade-up worthy" for us at that specific time at home.

Accepting that the ability to be charitable and give meaningful service starts with self - a self inventory, a personal assessment of resources, and self-regulation.

"Haste makes waste" vs "He who hesitates is lost".

Accepting that criticism is equally or more for the other person's benefit it than it is about/for you (out of love). It arises out of a mirror of the other person's perception and concerns.

The more boastful a person is, the more insecure they are likely to be.

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Re: "Choosing to Believe" & "Meaningful Choice"

Post by Heber13 » 20 Jun 2018, 10:22

It sounds like wisdom, Amy... to be doing things for the right reasons. That's a deeper understanding of gospel principles. Obeying because the prophet said so may be a lower form of reasons to choose those things...but that only gets you so far until you must decide for yourself the real reasons to do things that will sustain you in your progress and journey.

For some reason...we seem to think "obey the prophet without questioning" is a higher form or faith. I believe it is the lower form. Still has some purpose for a time. But does not help us become who the Lord wants us to become.

Choosing to believe can be the meaningful choice we make.

All things in wisdom and order.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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