Thanks for the reply! More to think about, which is always welcomed. I’m afraid I can’t reply without addressing a few more things. Probably at length again…
I’m afraid I seem to have misled you somewhat. My intention was not to establish that one must believe in God, or in any specific belief. I personally don’t believe in God. My point was just that one can alter one’s beliefs by a choice, and that they are not “inherent” to who we are.
I completely agree that a change of belief cannot be brought about instantly by choice.
Hoever, when you say that one could bring oneself to believe something that one initially *knew* to be true, that statement slightly misses my point (I think). If one actually knew something to be true then one would indeed be irrational to bring about one’s belief in the opposite (or really, negation, I’m a maths student) of that thing. But the point is that I am talking about changing a belief, a thing one holds true through faith, and not a rationally “known” idea at all. For example if one currently believes in God, but for some reason wishes to change that belief, my contention is that this is possible, by a process that begins with a choice. Since I am not talking about holding a view which is supported by rational thought, it cannot be irrational to alter that view through choice.
Perhaps we have differing interpretations of what exactly beliefs and faith constitute. My position is, as suggested above, that a belief is an idea that is held, irrespective of any rational arguments against it. It’s not fixed in stone though, like any of this.
I like your example about the long-lost King of Prussia. That made me smile. But, I’m going to have to object to that as well. Sorry!
I don’t accept that, if forcing yourself to believe you are the King of Prussia will make you happy, doing so makes no sense, or is irrational. It seems quite straightforward to me that making oneself happy is a rational action. Or perhaps the notion of rationality doesn’t apply to such complex ideas as happiness. Rationality is very straightforward in plenty of circumstances, but hopelessly convoluted in plenty of others. Perhaps this is one.
All in all, though, I agree with you’re most general point that there is no rational argument to convince anyone that God exists, and I would never make such a claim. I apologise if that didn’t come across. I’m in agreement with you about a lot of things, but thought I’d take the opportunity to start a discussion about one particular point. Thank you for the opportunity!
I think our only real point of disagreement here is that, even if one can alter one’s feelings, one must first make a decision to do so, and I have trouble seeing how a rational atheist could be convinced to change their own beliefs about religion in this way.
You are right that making yourself happy is a rational action. But is intentionally deluding yourself to make yourself happy a rational action? Even if you could argue that it was, I think that such self delusion could easily lead to an inability to trust your own thoughts, and in that there is a minefield of potential difficulties.