I assume I am not the only person who a religious person has told words to the effect of “I can’t make you believe, you have to choose to believe”. What does that mean? I cannot think of a single belief I hold about anything, big or small, that I have chosen to believe.
No, instead, ideas are things you become convinced of. The chances of you choosing—without reason—a true thing to believe in are very low indeed, even if you limit yourself to only coherent statements. Alternatively, if you choose to believe something for good reasons then it’s not sensible to say you “chose” to believe.
Did you choose to believe in gravity? Of course not, you were convinced against your will. Could you choose not to believe in gravity? You could say you don’t, but could you actually stop believing?
This must still be the case for the statement “a god exists”. Even if we ignore that I don’t think we have freewill, and that if God is real and omniscient He’d know whether I will ever believe and that dictates whether I believe—not my freewill—we still have a big issue.
Having only the arguments and the evidence that I have, can I choose to sincerely change my mind? Sincerity is important here, because insincere belief is actually not belief; instead it is you deluding yourself. Given that I don’t believe in God’s existence on the evidence that I have I cannot see that I should be able to simply choose to believe based on the same evidence and arguments.
Belief comes down to what you are actually convinced of. I cannot choose to believe something I do not believe. If I look at the arguments presented to me for God and don’t find them convincing—especially if I can put logical reasoning behind it—then how can I choose to sincerely believe; to lie to myself?
With that in mind, what does the following comment mean? “If someone were to make you [believe] then it wouldn’t be faith my friend”.
Exactly, if someone makes you believe—by providing convincing or meaningful evidence—then you don’t have faith. If you can be convinced of God’s existence—which some people unfairly are by being provided with personal revelations—then you believe in God, but that’s not faith; you have good reason to believe, you’ve been convinced.
Did Abraham and Moses and Job and Jacob and anyone else who spoke directly to God really have faith? Did they choose to believe without being incontrovertibly biased by nuisances like evidence? God spoke directly to them; what does it mean to say that they could have chosen to not believe in Him?