Do Christians Have the Power to Believe Whatever They Want?

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I've long thought that Christians who tell atheists to "just believe" don't understand how belief works. I can't will myself into believing something I don't believe. But what if I've missed something obvious? The fact that belief doesn't work this way for me doesn't have to mean it doesn't work this way for them. Might Christians be able to believe whatever they desire?

If so, this could have an upside. Aren't there things we'd be happier believing even if they weren't true? Suppose I could believe that I am more attractive, intelligent, or capable than I am. Isn't it reasonable to think that this could make me happier? As long as I didn't cross over into the sort of arrogance that drove others away, it seems like it might.

There is some evidence that optimism is related to health and longevity. I've never been an optimistic person. What if I could change that? Is it so farfetched to think that doing so could benefit me?

I admit that I haven't thought about this much. What if Christians have a power that atheists lack? What if they can believe whatever suits them? This would explain why they keep telling us to believe in their preferred god as if it was as simple as wanting to do so.

If it turns out that Christians do have this power, then I suppose I'd envy it. I live in a place where being able to be a believing Christian comes with many benefits. If I could snap my fingers and transform myself, it would be awfully tempting. At least, it would be good to have the option.

Okay, but do Christians really have this power? Can they make themselves believe whatever they want? I doubt it. It seems more likely that something else is at work here. If they still believe what they've always believed, it may be tough to imagine anything else. That's different from being able to turn belief on and off at will.

Christians have a strong motivation to believe that religious belief is voluntary. If it wasn't, punishing those who did not share their beliefs would seem cruel. The existence of their hell would seem cruel. Their condemnation of non-believers in this life would seem cruel as well.

But the cruelty of punishment is only half the story. What about rewarding belief? What sense would it make to reward belief with heaven if belief was not under our control? What if religious belief was something other than a conscious choice? Wouldn't that make it would seem less virtuous than many Christians would like to claim?

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