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Belief is not a choice, but only a result

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/15/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 817 times Debate No: 75322
Debate Rounds (5)
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Christianity's biggest weak point for me lays in the fact that it assumes we can make a choice to believe in and have faith in God. But I contend that belief is not a choice: it is a result. We can only take action to reach such a result, but that result is not guaranteed. Perhaps I can clarify what I mean by pointing out another example of a result we see in our experiences. Happiness, is a good example. Despite what we might think, we cannot just decide to be happy. We can only take some action to achieve it as a result. One such action might be working hard in school to get a good job we love, etc. By doing this action, we may achieve happiness, but it"s not until we take action that we get it as a result. It"s important to note that doing this action doesn"t guarantee the desired result. We might work hard in school, get a good degree, and find a terrible economy that prevents us from getting that job and thus fail to be fulfilled with happiness. Belief works in the same way. We cannot simply decide to believe in something, we can only take action with the intent on reaching belief. The result is not a choice. The result is also not a guarantee.

Therein lies the problem. In order for Christianity to have any possible basis, we must all have the ability to believe in it. And quite frankly not everyone has this ability. The only way to actually attain belief is to look at the evidence (take action) and hope that there"s enough to convince you enough to at least have faith. Remember, we're only talking about faith so PROOF is not required, but evidence is. For the most part, this consists of the Bible, scholarly research and interpretations from religious leaders. But this evidence must also be weighed with evidence from the null that goes against the credibility of Christianity (other religion lineages, contrary scientific evidence, etc.).

For me, I've tried intellectually finding enough evidence to force my mind to cross into belief but have been convinced of the null in the process. I cannot accept the evidence as convincing enough to facilitate the desired result of obtaining belief. If God were real, he would not set this up as a possibility because everyone is said to have the opportunity to follow God. This poses a problem that is fundamentally damning to Christianity"s veracity.

This is why belief/faith as a concept, poses a fatal flaw to veracity of Christianity.


Thanks to Pro for the debate. As this is my first debate on, I ask understanding and guidance in the event I make a mistake or do something incorrect.

There seem to be two distinct points mentioned in Pro's arguments:

1) Belief is not a choice, but only a result of our experiences
2) Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid

I disagree with both assertions and will lay out my case below.

Belief is not a choice, but only a result of our experiences - Disagree

Preface: I am going to assume that we are agreeing with the premise that free will exists, otherwise the entire debate is pretty much pointless.

I agree with Pro that our beliefs are shaped by our experiences. For example, someone who has never heard of Christ of Christianity certainly cannot believe in Christianity (more on that in my next point). However, within the realm of our experiences, our beliefs are not set in stone. To demonstrate this, I'd like to use Pro's good example of Happiness.

It certainly is possible to choose to be happy, and this choice is, in fact, a major part of cognitive-behavioral therapy. When people are feeling depressed or anxious, they are encouraged to choose to reframe how they are thinking about a situation to change their feelings on the situation. For example, if someone is feeling frustrated because they are stuck in traffic, they could reframe their thinking to appreciate the conversation they're having with their child, talking about things they might not have a chance to discuss later. By choosing to find something positive about the situation, they can change their emotional response and become happy.

To address Pro's point, this is certainly choosing to take action that achieves the result of happiness, it's not choosing to be happy itself. However, choosing to take an action that you know will result in happiness is effectively choosing to be happy.

Similar to happiness, it is possible to choose what you believe from a set of possibilities. If your teenager is late coming home at night, you can choose to believe that they're in serious trouble, or you can choose to believe that they just lost track of time. You don't have definite proof one way or the other (thus the concept of faith that Pro mentioned), and may not even have any evidence to back up your belief. But you choose what you believe by how you frame your outlook on the situation, and can change that believe by reframing your outlook.

Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid - Disagree

As we have yet to define Christianity for the purposes of our debate, I'm going to outline my definition here:

Christianity is the belief that, through studying and following the teachings of Jesus Christ, one can have a closer relationship with the Divine (a.k.a. God)

Please note that, although many Christians believe in religious exclusivity and that non-belief in Christianity will result in no relationship with the Divine, in the broadest sense, Christianity is not exclusive and does not deny other paths of approaching or understanding the Divine.

With that said, there is no contradiction between the existence of those who have never been exposed to Christianity and the faith itself. In fact, Jesus' Great Commission acknowledges the fact that the majority of people on earth have never heard of the faith, and He tells His faithful to spread the faith to those who haven't heard, so that they might have a closer relationship with the Divine as well. He doesn't condemn those who haven't heard, but instead simply states that He can offer a new way to understand the Divine.

As for those who have heard about Christianity, as there is no proof either way, it's a matter of choosing what to believe based on incomplete evidence (as laid out in my point above). To be Christian, you don't need to believe the entirety of the Bible, or that it happened literally how it is written out. In fact, to be Christian, you don't even need to believe that Jesus Christ is a deity. All you need to believe is that something in the story of Jesus Christ has some value to your life, and can help you to better understand the Divine. Other religious lineages and contrary scientific evidence are irrelevant to whether you believe you can find some personal value in the story of Jesus Christ.

If God is real, then there is no way any one human could fully and accurately understand the entirety of God's being. All we can do to understand the Divine is to try our best given our human limitations. We shape our beliefs based on our experiences, and on the experiences of others, both now and from days long past, and we can choose to change those beliefs whenever we choose to reframe our understanding of reality.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting SillyDebater, I think you got us off on a path where we might find truth after this is all said and done. I think you have done a great job in framing your comments and staying on point, but I ask you to think critically about where I find the holes in your response. I as well, will ask you to find mine as we get through this. For me, I"m seeking truth, not a victory. Let"s get to it.

Your two premises very closely summarize my main points. Really the only thing you mistook is the first premise. You stated it as: "Belief is not a choice, but only a result of our experiences."

Instead of experiences, if you were to use the word "evidence" you would be spot on. To say that we only develop belief from experience would be too selective. Experience is a subgroup of evidence. A quick example to make this clearer. We have no experience in traveling to dangerous lands such as Iraq, Nicaragua, etc. (unless you do then pooey me). But we certainly have evidence from other peoples experiences. We also get evidence from natural laws of physics, history, etc. Perhaps I"m getting nitpicky, but I want to make it clear that my personal experience is not an exclusive variable that shapes my belief. I have had near death experiences that I could easily chalk up to some divine intervention but my knowledge of other people who go through similar scenarios that both get away and don"t get away from a near death experience points more logically to my personal experience to be a simple statistic. I think I can stop there with the examples for this as I believe I made myself clear. Let me know if I have not.

Staying on my first premise, I"m still trying to wrap my head around your point with the cognitive-behavioral therapy example. You seem to have made my point, and admitted as much, but you view it as making a choice because the result is "effectively a given" (paraphrasing). I think we are basically agreed on this. I have no argument for this example. But, what I tried illustrating in my opening is that not all things are givens. You can agree with this right? Let"s leave the concept of happiness alone for now and focus on belief. Let"s think of something you and I both cannot believe in. No matter how hard we try. Hypothetically speaking, if we were to try to believe in Santa Claus, we would fail. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary. This is, of course, an extreme example but it fits the logic of one needing a baseline of supportive evidence to truly believe in anything. I certainly agree that Christianity has MORE supporting evidence than does Santa Claus, but for me it"s not enough for my mind to cross the bridge into belief.

As for my second premise, which you identified astutely "Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid"

I"ll get into your comments soon, but to transition from my first premise: I don"t discredit those believers who have analyzed the evidence for Christianity and have come to belief it"s true. I am no one to say they don"t believe or are malingering to any degree. But, I will say that if they truly do belief, it"s not because of any choice on their part. It"s because of the evidence they have analyzed. Yes, in many cases, people only count on their experiences and put the cart ahead of the horse, so to speak, and attribute everything that happens to them to God. Although this is super lazy of them, I don"t discredit that it can make them believe as a result. But let me ask you this: can a believer in God CHOOSE to not believe in Him? Maybe just for five minutes to prove their point? Unless I"m mistaken you haven"t disclosed your religious affiliation so I am not framing this directly at you, but I have found no Christian with this ability. Just like you cannot decide to believe that you can fly off a cliff, or beat up Mike Tyson (sober Mike Tyson at least), etc. Too much evidence bars such a belief even if desired.

For me, the evidence against Christianity does just this. It bars me from truly believing and even though I really wish I still could for all the reasons people claim to follow God, I am unable.

Now, let"s dive into your comments regarding premise two. I"ve always understood Christianity to believe that the only way to God was through faith that Jesus was the savior. The text in the Bible is pretty clear on that. Interpreting that Jesus is just some alternative route to understanding the divine is just not accurate to my knowledge. With that said, I do not profess to be a Bible verse memorizer, so if you can back up that portion of your comment I am happy to learn more about what you mean and perhaps that can help make your point clear for me.

This has been a worthwhile start, and I look forward to continuing on. To summarize where we are as concisely as I can, you seem to agree with me that we don't chose to be happy but can only take action that we know will effectively guarantee said happiness. I think what you don't realize is that not all results are a given as the happiness example. As for my second premise, you seem to think that Jesus is only a way to the divine, where I think Christianity is pretty clear that he is the only way.

I hope this helps us keep our focus. I cannot wait to get your well thought-out response in round two.


In response to your arguments, I'm happy to change the first premise to match your description, namely:

1. Belief is not a choice, but only a result of evidence

I disagree with you that belief is not a choice. I somewhat agree with the second half of the premise, though I would say that belief is a result of reasoning based on the evidence and emotions we have. The evidence itself doesn't create beliefs. It's our examination of that evidence, as well as the pull of our emotions, that determines our beliefs.

I agree with you that it's not always given that a certain action will result in a certain belief. And there are definitely some things that the evidence at hand makes it just too hard to believe. For example, it's just too much of a stretch for me to believe that instead of being a human sitting down at a computer, I'm actually an egg being cooked in a frying pan. No matter how hard I try, I can't convince myself that I'm being served sunny-side up. Similarly, there may just be too much evidence to the contrary in your life for you to believe in Christianity. That's fine and normal. There's nothing wrong with that.

However, just because there are some things that we can't believe in, doesn't prove that we are powerless to change any belief. Any belief which lacks definitive evidence to back it up, or in situations where there are multiple possible beliefs, all with similar amounts and quality of evidence, can be changed. And these can be changed by making a conscious effort to change how we view the evidence.

This is where the cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) comes into the picture. CBT has been shown to treat anxiety disorders with the same or better effectiveness as anti-anxiety medication. The way it does this is by teaching people how to change their beliefs, by changing their reasoning on the evidence and their emotions.

A good example would be a husband who gets really anxious whenever his wife arrives late for anything, which she often does. A therapist would work with the man to discover the belief behind the anxiety (e.g. "My wife doesn't love me. She doesn't care enough about me to be on time"). Then the therapist would provide the man with a series of steps he can go through in the situation to reframe his view of the evidence. Namely, whenever he is feeling anxious because his wife is late, he can remind himself of all the loving things she's done, and think of her in a more realistic light (e.g. "She gave me a back massage yesterday when I was really tired, and said how much she loves me just this morning. Her calendar is always messed up, and she never gets back to her emails. She loves me, she's just very disorganized")

By choosing to step back and take another look at the evidence at hand, the man in the example is able to change his beliefs, from ones that cause anxiety, to ones that are more reassuring. Making this change is a choice, and sufferers of anxiety know that, though it's not an easy choice, it's one that has great consequences.

To sum up, just because there are beliefs we can't choose, doesn't mean that there aren't beliefs we can choose. CBT is a proven method of doing just that, choosing to change our beliefs by changing our reasoning of the evidence at hand.

Before moving on, you mentioned a point under the next premise that I believe belongs under this one. Namely that those who believe in Christianity do not choose to do so, but instead come to that belief from having reasoned through the evidence at hand. I agree with you that the belief comes from analysis of evidence. However, I disagree that some can't choose to change their belief in God by choosing to change their reasoning of the evidence.

I'll give a personal example for this one. I am Christian. Years ago I visited the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. The horrific images and stories I saw there shook my belief in God to the core. For many years afterwards, I wrestled with the idea of the existence of God, and my belief wavered back and forth. Whenever I thought about the amazing wonders of the universe, and my own personal sense of a higher presence in my life, I was able to believe in the existence of a loving God. Whenever I thought about the horrific atrocities that humans do to each other, I couldn't believe in there being a loving God. I could literally choose what I believed based on what I chose to focus my mind on at the time.

2. Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid

Of the two, I believe this premise is the more important one.

You said "I've always understood Christianity to believe that the only way to God was through faith that Jesus was the savior. The text in the Bible is pretty clear on that."

The problem here is that Christianity is not one set of beliefs. Christianity is a huge umbrella under which are a myriad of different beliefs. There are Roman Catholics, Baptists, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Methodists, Mormons, United, Jehovah's Witnesses, Amish, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Messianic Jews, Adventists, Christian Scientists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Unitarians and more. And then there are the many thousands of churches that are non-denominational, as well as all the people who are Christian who don't belong to any religious community.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimated that there were 45,000 different Christian denominations world-wide in 2014 (link below). Each group has its own unique beliefs, on who God is, what is the meaning of Jesus' life or death, what is required of believers and what is moral or ethical. It is nearly impossible to say categorically that Christianity believes X. You can't even use the Bible as a reference, as many denominations have their own versions of the Bible, or have additional holy texts that they use as scripture. And of course, each interprets their Bible and texts in a different way.

If we are trying to look for a common thread between all denominations and believers, to be able to say definitively what is Christianity and what does it mean to be Christian, the one belief all of these people share is that they believe the story of Jesus will help them better understand, and thus will help them have a closer relationship with the Divine (a.k.a. God).

I offer a link below to a United church's website where they literally state that "Christians don’t have to believe that Christianity is the only valid path to God." If you dig deeper, you'll discover they're not alone in that belief.

Summary (a.k.a. TLDR)

Although I agree that our beliefs are formed by our reasoning over the evidence we have at hand, I argue that we can choose to change those beliefs by choosing to change our reasoning. Just because there are beliefs that we can't choose to change, doesn't mean there aren't beliefs we can choose to change, and I have personal experience believing and then not believing in God, based on how I chose to frame my reasoning.

Also, Christianity encompasses a huge range of different beliefs, and the only common denominator is that all Christians believe the story of Christ is spiritually valuable. Many Christians do not believe in religious exclusivity, and I have given an example of one of many churches that fall in this category.


# of Denominations
Also see:

Religious Exclusivity a Non-Requirement

P.S. I was considering debating the existence of Santa Claus, but didn't have enough room. Sounds like a fun topic for another debate here. :)
Debate Round No. 2


Con, I find it troublesome to include in your definition of belief the inclusion of "emotions". This cannot be true universally as there are many things we both believe in that do not require emotion to shape. We might believe that steaming water is hot, because of the scientific evidence we have. I can rest assured now that both you and I do not believe we are eggs in a frying pan. Emotion has nothing to do with any of this. Only factual evidence. You get my point. What you are really trying to say is that emotion perhaps CAN be used to shape beliefs " namely religious views. I reject this because emotion is not concerned with fact, it's concerned with desire or hope. You say you cannot believe in God when you think about the genocide of Jews? Since when was ignoring evidence the way to truth? You have to accept the evidence and find the truth in light of it. Perhaps you can still believe both in God and that such atrocities happened by rationing that God doesn"t intervene and it"s up to mankind to figure things out. However you rationalize it, you must consider all evidence in favor of and against a proposed truth.

Your example about the man and his late wife proves my point and perhaps can make it clearer. When the man feels his wife doesn"t love him, it"s because he is only focusing on the negative evidence (similar to you focusing on the holocaust). CBT, as you claim, aids him in focusing on the "positive evidence" hence "reframing" how he views the situation (like you focusing on a loving God, wonders of the universe). What we have here is a man who was evaluating the situation irresponsibly " and emotionally I might add " by focusing on one side of the evidence. So CBT is merely bringing to light further evidence, not disregarding unsupportive evidence.

I can further prove this by pointing out that once the man thinks about all the evidence that supports the notion that his wife loves him (back rubs, disorganization, etc.) he realizes this is stronger evidence for her love vs. against (her being late). You see, it"s not about reframing evidence; it"s about including better evidence. You have to take all evidence into account at least. If there wasn"t as much better evidence for the man to draw upon, he might not be able to alleviate his fear of her not loving him. Furthermore, now that he is considering such evidence that supports his wife loving him, not only would he likely realize she loves him, but he would have NO CHOICE but to believe it because the evidence strongly outweighs the null. CBT can certainly be useful in helping people think more accurately about the evidence, but you still can"t just decide what to believe, it is still the result of compared evidence.

If you really can change your belief based on what evidence you"re focused on, this is a sign of terribly irresponsible thinking and even deceptive manipulation. Let me provide a neutral example that a reader can identify with. Let"s say we are looking at a sweet pair of headphones on Amazon and we are looking at evidence to either support them being worth the buy or not. We know we can"t solely rely on a company description so we focus on the customer reviews. If we were like the man in your example, he might look at one bad review and make a quick assumption based off limited and inconclusive evidence, right? The same case can be made by looking at one positive review. But once you thoroughly analyze a sizable amount of reviews and look for trends can you start to formalize a belief. But let"s say we read all the reviews and there are 10 good and 10 bad. Now we have evidence to support either that they are or aren"t worth the buy. Whatever decision we make, we still don"t forget about the contrary evidence. No one in their right mind would look at a good review and decide the headphones are good and then look at a bad review and decide their bad and keep going back and forth. This is comparable to you thinking about the holocaust and deciding God isn't real and then thinking about the wonders of the universe and decided he is real, then going back and forth based on your "reframing". This is ridiculous and foolishly nonsensical.

2. Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid

I realize many denominations are more "liberal" about how they view Jesus, but as I understand, the historical first editions of the Bible are very clear that Jesus is the one and only way to God. I think it's wrong to say that "the one belief all of these people share is that they believe the story of Jesus will help them better understand, and thus will help them have a closer relationship with the Divine (a.k.a. God)." This statement implies that there are other routes to God, but many denominations do not hold this belief. Denominations that have manipulated the original texts have no basis for doing so. I"ll appeal to a more well versed historian on this premise, but I think the majority of the Christian world holds this belief. This is one of those things that makes a lot of sense, logically and realistically to us, but isn"t backed up historically. It"s just "convenient" for religious factions to manufacture. I wish it were so, but I cannot will truth.

In Summary (TLDR)

You agree with me that its possible for people to not have the ability to believe in God, but you still think that belief can be an action as opposed to a result. You demonstrate this with your personal holocaust story as well as the CBT example with the man and wife. I contend that these examples are not "reframing" or "changing how you view the evidence", but it"s really merely including better evidence into the pot. I then demonstrated that such evidence, based on whatever it is, doesn"t necessarily guarantee the desired result. Thus, belief is still a result.

I also touched briefly on the discrepancy between Christianity"s denominations and still contend that the earliest works of the Bible are unequivocal about Jesus being the only way to God. However, I would appeal to a qualified historian to confirm or rebuff this.

Last but not least, I would certainly entertain a debate about Santa Claus. I"ll take either side! :)


1. Belief is not a choice, but only a result of evidence

I starting writing a long response to this, and found that the more I wrote, the more it detracted from the crux of the issue. Though I'm not conceding this point, I want to defer the discussion of it for this round. In the end I don't think it's necessary for the end result, and I want to stay focused on the main point, namely that even if belief were not a choice, it doesn't affect the validity of Christianity.

2. Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid

I am going to distill my argument against this down into premise - conclusion form:

Premise: There exist Christian churches and individual Christians who do not believe in religious exclusivity, i.e., that Christianity is not the only way to an understanding and relationship with God.
Proof: Link to United church site provided in previous round

Conclusion: Either
a) You do not have to believe in religious exclusivity to be Christian
b) The churches and individuals mentioned in P1 are not truly Christians

The conclusion logically flows from the premise.

So, in order to argue that religious exclusivity is required by Christianity, you need to prove that the churches and individuals who are religiously inclusive are not real Christians. It's a bold and tall order to do.

It seems like you're attempting to argue for conclusion b by making an appeal back to the "first editions" of the Bible. Your argument seems to go like this:

Premise 1: The "first editions" of the Bible insist on religious exclusivity, i.e. that Jesus is the one and only way to God.
Premise 2: Those who do not follow the "first editions" of the Bible literally are not truly Christians
Conclusion: The churches and individuals who do not believe in religious exclusivity are not truly Christians

The argument is sound, but you still need to prove the truth of your premises (P1 and P2).

In regards to P1, there are no official "first editions" of the Bible. Originally, it was just a series of writings, handed down from generation to generation. What is now the 'Old Testament' came mainly from the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Jewish Torah. What is now the 'New Testament' was originally a set of Greek manuscripts, written by numerous different authors. Eventually, after centuries of these being handed down from generation to generation, Pope Damasus I commissioned a translation of all of these into Latin in 382 CE. This translation, the Latin Vulgate Bible (LVB), was copied and recopied for over a millennium, until in 1546, it was declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be the only authentic Bible.

There is no way to know how close the LVB is to the original texts, or what changes were made to the story in the fifteen centuries between Christ's death and the creation of the LVB. You could use the LVB itself as the "first editions" of the Bible, but then you'd be excluding many proclaimed Christians, including up to 300 million Orthodox Christians.

As for P2, I can't begin to think where you would find proof for this. Even if you ignore the "first editions" part, I can think of no evidence that would prove this point. It's true that there exist Christians that argue you must take the Bible literally. However, there are also Christians who argue that the Bible can be taken figuratively. Even if there are a majority of Christians that insist of a literal interpretation of the Bible, that still doesn't prove the premise. A premise is not a vote or popularity contest. It has to be proven with reason.

To state that multitudes of people who say they are Christian are really not Christian because they don't literally follow the "first editions" of the Bible is an outrageous claim. It denies the beliefs of millions of people without evidence or proof.


There are millions of Christians that believe in religious inclusively. This means that either Christianity is not at odds with non-belief, or that those who believe in inclusively are not really Christian. I assert the former. To argue the latter carries an impossible burden of proof, and denies the beliefs of millions of people.

In regards to religiously inclusive Christians, you said that "I wish it were so, but I cannot will truth". Well it is so. It is the truth. I have already provided a link proving it to be true. Unless, that is, you truly feel you have the authority to say that the people in the United church are not real Christians.
Debate Round No. 3


It"s interesting that you take greater interest in premise two 2. Christianity requires everyone to be able to believe in it to be valid, whereas I take greater interest in premise 1. Belief is not a choice, but only a result of evidence. I suppose my interest in premise 1 comes from the fact that every Church I have ever attended believes that Jesus is the only path to God (premise 2).

As far as premise 2, I did not imagine debating this premise when I crafted this debate because I believe those that view Christianity as abstract as you do are in a great minority. I suppose I"m not equipped to match your historical knowledge so I"ll take a more logically based approach. If you claim to be Christian and not require belief in Christ as the savior, what differentiates you from the Jewish faith? Also, by what standard are we to interpret the many versions of the Bible? Who is to know which one is accurate?

I don"t really want to go down the road and discuss the veracity of the religion per se, I"m really more interested in steering this debate to address if belief is a choice or a result. So, since you still say you disagree with me, let"s argue this with the point of view of those Christians who do believe Christ is the only way to God. I realize this is not your position but until I further research your stance on premise 2 I don"t think I can provide a valuable discussion for you.

Side note, I"m gone for the weekend so if you be so kind as to delay posting your response until close to when it ends I"d appreciate it.


Welcome back! I hope you had a good trip. :)

I'm happy to focus on whether belief is a choice, however before doing so, I'd like to tidy up the religious side first. In your opening arguments, you stated:

"In order for Christianity to have any possible basis, we must all have the ability to believe in it."
"belief/faith as a concept, poses a fatal flaw to veracity of Christianity."

After our discussion, it sounds like we can modify this to something we both can agree with, namely:

In order for religiously-exclusive Christianity to have any possible basis, we must all have the ability to believe in it.
Belief/faith as a concept, poses a fatal flaw to veracity of religiously-exclusive Christianity.

Finally, it seems we both can agree on the following statement:

The idea of belief as something we cannot choose does not impact the validity of Christianity that is not religiously-exclusive.



On to Belief as a Choice.

We've got little time left to discuss this, so I'll try and be as succinct as possible. I'm going to take the argument that belief is not a choice, and see what the consequences of that statement is.

Premise 1: We have no choice over our beliefs
- In this argument, I'm going to assume this to be true, and see what the fall-out of that assumption is

Premise 2: We have free will
- I am taking this as assumed for our discussion, because otherwise a discussion about belief as a choice is pointless. If choice doesn't exist, then there's no point in discussion whether belief is a choice. We want to discuss this, so the only way to do so is in the context of free will existing.

Premise 3: Our actions are dictated by our beliefs
- Any choice that we make is determined by our beliefs about the world around us. "Am I going to buy those headphones?" "No, because I believe I can get a better price a different store." "Am I going press down on the brake pedal?" "Yes, because I believe the red lights I'm seeing mean the car in front of me is slowing down, and I'll crash into it otherwise." Every choice we make is a direct result of what we believe to be the truth.

- Anytime we make a decision that seems to go against our beliefs, it's because there's another, stronger belief that is pulling us in a different direction. For example, "Walking through the park is the fastest way to school, but I'm feeling random today, so I'll take the less-direct route." The belief here is that I would feel more satisfied by taking an indirect route. Even if we flip a coin, we chose to do the flip because we believed that flipping was the best course of action.

Conclusion 1: We have no choice over our actions. We have no free will.
- This directly follows from Premise 1 and Premise 3. If we have no control over our beliefs, and our beliefs dictate our actions, then we have no control over our actions. This is the exact opposite of free will.

Conclusion 2: If we have free will, then we have choice over our beliefs
- Conclusion 1 is a contradicts premise 2. As I mentioned, we're assuming free will exists in order to have any basis of conversation, so something else has to give. Either P1 is wrong, or P3 is wrong. I can find no examples of a situation in which we make a conscious choice not dictated by our beliefs, so I am confident P3 is true. That means that P1 must be false, in other words, we do have choice over our beliefs.

In order to have free will, we need to be able to choose our actions. Since all our choices are dictated by our beliefs, then the only way to have free will is to be able to choose our beliefs. No choice of beliefs means no free will, which may be true, but in that case would make any discussion of beliefs being a choice trivial and not worth discussing.


In response to your arguments in Round 3:

You stated: "Since when was ignoring evidence the way to the truth? ... However you rationalize it, you must consider all evidence in favor of and against a proposed truth"

I agree that if we are searching for truth, considering all the evidence is vital to having a rounded understanding of the world in which we live. However, we are talking about beliefs, not truth, and we are talking about all humans, not just enlightened philosophers.

Many people create their beliefs without examining outside evidence. In fact, it is very easy, especially on the Internet, to find examples of people willfully ignoring evidence presented to them in order to maintain their beliefs. They are choosing to tune out contrary evidence because they want to keep believing what they believe. They are choosing to believe what they feel is right, and choosing not to believe anything else, even if there is strong evidence against them.

For the CBT example, whether you call it reframing, or including more evidence, the point remains the same. The man in the example is including more information because he wants to change his beliefs. He doesn't want to believe that his wife doesn't love him, so he looks for evidence for some other reason for her lateness. He is making a conscious choice to try and change his beliefs. If he simply had no choice over his beliefs, then he'd just be forced to believe what he believed, and he wouldn't be able to choose to change them. Moreover, if he knows the exact belief he wants to believe (e.g. "My wife loves me"), he can choose to focus solely on evidence supporting that belief, and ignore the rest, thus setting himself up to believe it.

Again, please note we're not talking about what is wise, prudent, or finding truth. This discussion is solely focused on the question "Can humans willfully manipulate their own beliefs?"

Finally, we change our beliefs based on the evidence we're focused on all the time. Anytime you've hemmed and hawed over a decision, stewing over what the best choice would be, you were changing your beliefs based on your focus. I'll use a similar example to yours about buying headphones on Amazon. Here's a realistic progression of thoughts and beliefs.

[Riding the bus home]
Thought: "SoundJammer headphones are great. I want them before schools starts tomorrow."
Belief: "I should buy these today"

[Gets home, and is about to turn on the computer]
Thought: "But I know Amazon is having a fall sale starting next week"
Belief: "I should not buy them today"

[After dinner]
Thought: "But these are a limited edition set. Amazon might sell out before next week"
Belief: "I should by them today"

[Surfing to Amazon]
Thought: "But Roger said I could try his EarBlasters tomorrow. He said they were a much better brand"
Belief: "I should not buy them today"

[Laying in bed]
Thought: "But these are a limited edition set. Amazon might sell out, even before tomorrow"
Belief: "I should by them today"

Throughout this scenario, no new information was learned at any point in time. The only thing that changed is what the person focused on. Their belief changed back and forth, as they weighed the pros and cons, and in the end even doubled back on a consideration a second time. It's human nature to change our beliefs, again and again, as we debate within ourselves. The same can apply to any belief, even a belief in God.

Debate Round No. 4


Thanks Con! I did have a good trip and thanks for delaying so I can take some time to deliberate for my response.

As far as tidying up the religious side, you concluded by asking if we could agree on the logic as follows: "The idea of belief as something we cannot choose does not impact the validity of Christianity that is not religiously-exclusive."

I have no choice but to say yes to this as the statement as written is logically sound. I HOPE that you are right and this statement is in fact truth, but I"m afraid I have no choice in the matter of believing (see what I did there?). I did ask earlier what makes one that doesn"t believe in Christ but calls themselves a Christian different that a Jew. I suppose there are subtle differences but wouldn"t that basically be what ones view is? Would they not be Jewish? I could be wrong here and it"s a bit off point but I"m just curious so your thoughts are welcomed.

One more thing on this topic because I can"t help myself. For those Christians whom do not take the resurrection as truth but by fabrication (the only other way to take it), how does a made up story by man in any way bring us closer to understanding the divine? The logic doesn"t follow there, unless I"m missing an angle. Would love to hear your view.

Let"s move on to your well thought-out viewpoint on belief as a choice and free will.

Is Belief a Choice or a Result?

First off, I applaud your logical-proof style of argument and your ability to articulate your points. This has been terribly fun. Obviously, your Conclusion 1 and Conclusion 2 are sound given your premises, but I"m afraid although I believe Premise 1 and 2 are accurate, Premise 3 misses the mark.

Premise 3: Our actions are dictated by our beliefs " False

This definition by its nature assumes all actions are dictated by our beliefs. You back this up as you stated, "Every choice we make is a direct result of what we believe to be the truth." I contend that our actions can also be dictated by our values. For example, we may believe we will be late for work but our values will dictate if we decide to speed down the road or not. Values are changeable (through free will), beliefs are not.

We have the choice over what values we wish to demonstrate and thus are able to have free will over our actions. Just because we don"t have control over our beliefs does not mean we do not have free will. There are many examples of values that you can control. Being financially conservative (plan for future) vs. spendthrift (live it up while I"m young). I"ve gone through periods of my life where I tended one way or the other. We might value expression of our ideas as you and I are doing now or we might value exclusivity of our thoughts to those close to us. I think you can agree on this one that you can make the choice to withhold your thoughts on belief or express it. I can"t really say I "believe" being a spendthrift will result in higher happiness or fulfillment, there"s not enough evidence and no realistic way to weigh the evidence for or against it. Another way to think of it is this: If I"m forced to call heads or tails, I might pick the side I like more than the other (value) because I do not have a belief that either side will show up. It"s a subtle difference, but I think it"s important. The point here is that in absence of significant evidence (either pro or con) we can make choices based on our values.

You mentioned that people can choose to focus on whatever evidence they want to in order to support their views, despite how unwise and imprudent their process is. I agree with this unequivocally. They do this because of the values they hold that coincide with such a belief. They choose to ignore opposing evidence. This is basic foolish human nature. We see it everywhere as you stated. 24 hour news stations thrive off it. What"s really going on here isn"t that they are choosing their beliefs, they are choosing their values. They think they believe and may profess as much, but they are ignorant and do not understand what belief actually is. They are picking tails because the eagle on the back of a quarter looks cooler than an old man"s head. This is a choice based off value - not belief.

As we conclude this debate, I think this might be the epicenter of our viewpoints. Here"s another example of what I mean as this is my last chance to prove my case: we"ve all heard stories of someone getting in trouble, maybe arrested, maybe committing serious crimes. Almost invariably, the parents of said troublemaker can"t believe their son/daughter could ever do such a thing. They value the person so much that they think they believe their son/daughter can do no wrong. Do you think this is true belief? Or is it really an expression of value? A parent will often refuse to even listen to whatever evidence corroborates the crime committed and they will often dismiss it " AKA "reframe" their thinking to all the reasons their son/daughter is innocent. It"s easy to see that the parent is not concerned with truth and therefore not concerned with belief, but is only concerned with value. When they say "I can"t believe my kid would ever do such a thing" they really mean "My values are being threatened so I choose to not search for truth".

This is but one example I have time to think of, but similar examples are ubiquitous. Religious followers value salvation so they "believe" in God. Democrats and Republicans value different constructs and thus focus on only the pros of their constructs and the cons of the others to form their "beliefs". You get the point. People are rarely in search of truth. Value is much more appealing.

I think this has been a great debate. Your responses have challenged me to further understand what is truth. Before making this post I considered that you might be right in that it is possible - for ignorant minds only - to manipulate themselves towards a belief. After much thought I think that I've made a case for such an instance to be merely an expression of value and not of true belief. A fraudulent belief I suppose. Perhaps there is still a case to be made there that it is still belief and I look forward to your response.

But what about those who are wise, who are prudent, who do search for truth? You agreed with me earlier that it is possible for some to be unable to believe in religion. But since you go against those who believe that Christ is the only way to the divine, I am unable to argue with you that those who do search for truth are often damned by discovering that they cannot actually believe that the religion is objectively true. This poses a fatal flaw to the veracity of "exclusive" Christianity, but it is evident that you and I would agree on this. So I will end with a similar logical argument as yours that both of us can agree upon and is the conclusion I was intending to draw all along:

"Belief as something we cannot necessarily choose impacts the validity of Christianity that is religiously-exclusive to believing Jesus is the only way to God."

Side note: I'd like to apologize for the pesky quote marks as apostrophes. I edit my responses in Word and the translation gets screwy when pasted back here. I'm new at this too.

Thanks for a provocative debate Con. Let's do it again soon.


During this debate we've discussed belief as non-choice and its impact on Christianity. I'll summarize and conclude each of these, starting with the latter.

Belief as Non-Choice and Christianity

Pro's opening argument made some very distinct comments about Christianity. The first paragraph begins with, "Christianity's biggest weak point for me lays in the fact that it assumes we can make a choice to believe in and have faith in God."

The following paragraph begins with, "In order for Christianity to have any possible basis, we must all have the ability to believe in it."

The third paragraph ends with, "This poses a problem that is fundamentally damning to Christianity"s veracity."

Finally, Pro concludes with, "This is why belief/faith as a concept, poses a fatal flaw to veracity of Christianity."

All throughout Pro's opening argument, my opponent relates choice as non-belief to Christianity. I submit that, though the topic title merely states, "Belief is not a choice, but only a result", the true matter of debate as presented in Pro's opening argument was whether belief as non-choice invalidates Christianity. I have thoroughly argued that it does not invalidate Christianity, and my opponent as conceded as much.

We have agreed upon statement that "The idea of belief as something we cannot choose does not impact the validity of Christianity that is not religiously-exclusive." As long as some Christianity is valid, then one cannot say that the entirety of the religion is invalidated.

Non-Religiously Exclusive Christians vs. Jews

To answer my opponent's questions, what makes non-religiously exclusive Christians different than Jews is that most Jewish faith sees Jesus as a prophet, equal to all the other Jewish prophets. Non-religiously exclusive Christians see Jesus either as part of God, or at least as an exemplar above and beyond other humans, and that, personally, there is some special value to be found in His story that is not as present in the stories of the other prophets.

Before answering the question "how does a made up story by man ... bring us closer to understanding the divine?", I want to point out that many non-religiously exclusive Christians still believe in the resurrection to be fact. They just believe that belief in that resurrection is not absolutely necessary to have a relationship with God.

As for the question, people who don't in the resurrection as literally true, still find meaning in the story. This may be because they believe it to be divinely inspired, or just because the story itself is something that speaks personally to them. Just as some people find certain art, music or poetry, or stories of charity and sacrifice spiritually moving, for some the story of Jesus is spiritually moving, even if they don't believe all the details literally.

Is Belief a Choice or a Result?

In Round 4, I gave the following argument:

Premise 1: We have no choice over our beliefs
Premise 2: We have free will
Premise 3: Our actions are dictated by our beliefs
Conclusion 1: We have no choice over our actions. We have no free will.
Conclusion 2: P2 contradicts C1. I argued P3 is true, so either P1 or P2 is false. In other words, if we have free will, then we have choice over our beliefs

My opponent in the final round has argued that it is actually P3 that is false. To argue this, Pro states that our actions are not solely dictated by our beliefs, but also by our values. Pro then makes the distinction between beliefs and values as follows:

Beliefs are what we think the truth is. We have no choice over our beliefs.
Values are what is important to us. We do have choice over our values.

Pro argues that this results in my third premise being false, thus making my argument unsound.

Though I could argue against the distinction between beliefs and values, and that values are dictated by beliefs, meaning if beliefs are unchosen, then values must be too. However, I will not argue that. Instead, I want to focus on the hole the idea of values has opened up in my opponent's argument.

My opponent said that "our actions can also be dictated by our values" instead of beliefs, and that "Values are changeable (through free will), beliefs are not." If this is true, then a funny thing happens:

Most religiously exclusive forms of Christianity insist that a commitment to Jesus as the one and only saviour. A commitment is an action, a choice. Since our actions can be dictated by our values, which are changeable, then lack of control over beliefs couldn't stop you from making that commitment. You could still make that commitment from your values, which you have control over. You can still choose to get baptized, you can choose to go through confirmation.

Also, most religiously exclusive churches state that as long as you've made that commitment to Christ, and are striving for a closer relationship with God (value), it doesn't matter if you 100% believe. The fact that you are committed to studying, learning about and living a Christ-centered life is sufficient. Belief is not necessary. Value will do. Value is driven by free will, so Christianity can be a choice.

As anyone can choose to be Christian through their values, belief being a non-choice is not a hindrance, even for religiously exclusive Christianity.


I want to thank Pro for a fun and engaging debate. I look forward to discussion more topics with Pro in the future.
Debate Round No. 5
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Furyan5 3 years ago
You ask a very relevant question, what is the meaning behind the crucification? The Holy Bible says, "For GOD (Hallowed be thypocritical name) so loved (the motivation) the World (us), that He gave His only begotten Son (JESUS(CHRIST)(Peace be upon him)). But the Holy Bible also teaches us that JESUS(CHRIST)(Peace be upon him) IS GOD(Thy kingdom come). So what it basically says is that GOD(Thy will be done) sacrificed Himself, for us.

Basic science, every action has a equal and opposite reaction. For Life to exist, Something has to die.

You won't find proof of GOD(Thy will be done). But his essence lives on, in each and every living thing. This is why we must treasure each life. To hhonour HIM who created us.

Posted by Furyan5 3 years ago
The problem here is you think you need proof to believe in God. God is not a objective being. Nobody can prove God exists. Its simply a matter of choice. Do you choose to give your life meaning? Do you choose to believe that a devine entity created you for a purpose? Or is life just a pointless fluke of nature and et nehlium inevitable?
Posted by Furyan5 3 years ago
Free will is an illusion. Choice is an illusion. Those who believe in God, do so because God wants them to. Likewise those who believe God does not exist, do so because God wants it so.
Posted by vi_spex 3 years ago
belief is not a choice, if you already accept beliefs as the right way
Posted by TruthTrumpsAll 3 years ago
OK should be good to accept now. Welcome!
Posted by theisticscuffles 3 years ago
I'd like to debate this proposition but it does not allow me. What are your criteria for debating?
Posted by TruthTrumpsAll 3 years ago
Posted it in forum as well, but wouldn't mind debating this here too.
Posted by TruthTrumpsAll 3 years ago
hmmmm. OK what the heck. I'll try.
Posted by Varrack 3 years ago
I think you should make this a forum post rather than a debate.
No votes have been placed for this debate.