“That’s what I choose to believe…”

                I saw Prometheus in 3D while I was in San Diego for a conference. The movie pretends to ask deep philosophical questions about the origin of humanity (aliens) and one phrase that comes up a couple times is “That’s what I choose to believe.” This is the protagonist’s (Elizabeth Shaw) retort to the android (David) when asked something about finding dangerous aliens who engineered humanity and blah blah blah (I can’t remember). Her reply is based on repeating what her dad said when she was a child asking him about whether or not deceased mommy was in heaven—or something like that. The point is that Shaw retains some sort of faith in God despite evidence to the contrary—as if her choice to believe something is virtuous and shows her optimism in the face of an existential crisis.

                Well, I’m sorry…that doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t matter what you choose to believe if what you believe isn’t true. Try that after these pronouncements: Texting and driving is safe (…”that’s what I choose to believe.”). We were created by aliens (“…that’s what I choose to believe.”). Everyone else is a figment of my imagination (“…that’s what I choose to believe.”). God is a flying spaghetti monster (“…that’s what I choose to believe.”). Not very satisfying. What is satisfying is to have rational beliefs chosen on the basis of supporting evidence.

This may seem obvious and trite—until you consider how often modern 21st century humans spout this nonsense. When asked about her faith someone recently told me “I try to be a good person. I think that’s what God wants.” I’ve heard it a lot—expressions of belief that take the form of “…I think this.” No evidence is given, and the assumption is that the belief is a fair and reasonable choice. Well, it doesn’t matter what you choose to believe if what you believe isn’t true. That is, what people think is not a fair and rational choice if they are making it up or choosing it blindly. People who say these things have almost never sincerely investigated evidence for the existence of God. In fact, it feels like a cop-out; a refusal to seriously consider the implications of any spiritual statements being factually true, and not just matters of personal opinion.

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