Warm Southern Breeze

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“It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe,” and other dumb sayings.

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe.”

Today, I overheard someone make that remark.

It was made in reference to an  issue of faith, or religion, and was an adjunct, or follow-up comment – as if issuing an apology of sorts – to a rather benign and off-the-cuff utterance made by the same person, such as “God bless you,” or “the good LORD willing, and the creek don’t rise.”

Who made it, and where it was made is of no consequence.

What I’d like to focus upon is the remark itself.

“It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe.”

We’ll dissect the remark in the order of the appearance of the ideas suggested.

First, the clause “it may not be true…”

Truth is, and can be known. It is a truth, for example, that gravity exists. It is equally true that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and other American founding fathers lived – and none of them lived 150 years. There are many truths. It is equally true, for example, that I’m writing/composing this blog entry – and that you’re reading it.

It is not true, however, that the moon is made of green cheese, that pigs fly, that unicorns have ever existed, or that trees grow on the moon. How do we know those things? We know them because we have been able to experience them – and we have been able to share that experience with others. There is a standard to which we all agree upon, which also guides our research. Those standards are unequivocal. Those standards involve others. Truth is not held in isolation. It is held in community.

Next, is “but…”

The word “but” is a conjunction, and is properly used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. Logically, for one to acknowledge that one believes something that is not true, would infer that the one doing the believing believes a lie – and does so knowingly and willfully.

Thus, the speaker knows the truth, and willfully rejects it.

Finally, the clause “that’s the way I choose to believe.”

This final clause is perhaps the most important one, because it genuinely states a truth – that the speaker has made a decision, and is adhering to that conscious decision.

It’s not accidental that the word “choose” is used. Indeed, the clause “I choose to believe” is the final statement.

The ludicrousness of the statement is self-evident. To illustrate for example, the speaker could say, “George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were in the car with President Kennedy when he as assassinated,” and though we know that to be false, the speaker could follow up on that remark with the phrase, “that may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe,” and somehow, that would justify the statement – as if it were true, simply because the speaker chose to believe so.

That is precisely how the egregious error of delusion and self-interest sways our minds. It’s a type of “easy-believism,” which in effect says “it doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you believe something.” In which case – as we’ve heard before – I believe I’ll have another beer.

See? It’s silly.

Merely believing something to be true does not make it so.

That’s a critically important idea – so much so, that I’m going to repeat it: “Merely believing something to be true does not make it so.”

Where then, is the intersection of faith and religious belief?

First, belief is a noun, and is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” Thus, belief is truth.

Often, the word “belief” is confused with “opinion.”

“Opinion,” for example, is a noun, and is defined as “a personal view, attitude, or appraisal,” or a “view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge,” which is frequently subjective in nature, and therefore open to debate or interpretation.

Belief “presumes a subject (the believer) and an object of belief (the proposition). So, like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality.” Which, as I stated earlier, simply because someone believes a thing to be true does not make it so, “and is adhering to that conscious decision.”

And that the professor’s act may be witnessed by others is evidence of the truth to which they profess – that they are adhering to a decision. Not that the decision was good, right, just or rational, but rather that they are adhering to it no matter what. It’s akin to the remark made by G.K Chesterton – ““My country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying “My mother drunk or sober”” (quoted from ’Defense of Patriotism’ in The Defendant October, 1901).

Since we see that there is already an element of truth in the decision to adhere to a way of thinking, it would then be proper to examine the corresponding corollary, which is the age old question also once expressed by Pontius Pilate as he examined Jesus Christ, and asked Him, “What is truth?”

That then begs the question, “if it’s true for you, is it also, or can it be true for me?”

Are there separate truths, or is there a transcendent reality – an ultimate truth?

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3 Responses to ““It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe,” and other dumb sayings.”

  1. [...] an earlier entry entitled ““It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe,” and other dumb sayings,” I elucidated why belief itself is [...]

  2. [...] Needless to say, it was not an intellectually stimulating debate.   One side was trying to make factually accurate points; the other side simply argued their feelings and disregarded anything contradictory.  (BTW,  fellow blogger Warm Southern Breeze has a great post on the topic of willful ignorance) [...]

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