Is belief a choice?

Listen it don’t really matter to me, baby

You believe what you want to believe

You see, you don’t have to live like a refugee

Is belief a choice? Mr. Petty would have us believe so, even if he leaves room for the possibility that it is an unconscious choice. Simon and Garfunkel take a similar tack: 

All lies and jest

Still a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest

Since we know pop lyrics are always true, we must be on to something here. Belief is a choice.

Or is it? Can I choose to believe that I am an orangutan? Or am I stuck believing that I am Dan T, just because because? If I can’t choose to believe I am an orangutan, maybe some other, more ambiguous subjects are still up for grabs?

My dad was fond of a quote from one of his professors–something along the lines of: Belief is whether you think the acrobat can push the wheelbarrow across the tightrope. Faith is whether you are willing to get into the wheelbarrow.


  1. Do you choose to believe or not believe in God, or are you simply stuck with what your mind tells you about the matter?
  2. If it is a choice, why have you made the choice you’ve made?
  3. Do you think other people choose to believe or not believe in God?
  4. Might you be making an unconscious choice to believe or not believe?
  5. Is there a difference between what you believe and what you have faith in?