Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Formation of Belief MP3 Audio by Bruce Little

This lecture by philosopher Bruce Little discusses how beliefs are formed. He discusses the nature of beliefs, how they form and their relationship to truth, the notion of persuasion, and how beliefs might be changed. All of this is aimed at a better understanding of what is involved in Christian witnessing and apologetics, with examples from the Bible. Another great audio from

Full MP3 Audio here.


You may also want to check out other Bruce Little audio here and here.


Joshua Jung said...

This is an absolutely brilliant lecture.

I discovered most of this stuff on my own, dealing with an extreme number of spiritual experiences - including hearing demonic voices speaking to me in my head - forced me to explore my own mind and how it worked.

What I discovered was that I could make the voices go away as soon as I understood they were only in my head. Somehow the belief itself - that they were 'real' - caused them to continue. As soon as the belief was removed, the voices - and all associated emootinos - were removed as well.

At that point I began to seriously consider that perhaps *all* spiritual experiences I had ever had (feeling forgiven, being born again, dreams, visions, etc.) were due to the same effect. As I began exploring this possibility I discovered that my beliefs explained every spiritual emotion or experience I had ever had.

Now I hit this massive 'spiritual' wall. If up until that point my every experience could be explained through this mechanism, how would I ever know if any future spiritual experience was 'real' or not?

As you can imagine, I feel in quite a pickle. If I begin to believe the gospel again, I won't know whether all the experiences (feeling forgiven, feeling God's presence, etc.) are real or only due to the fact that I believe them.

How could I know? I don't trust any spiritual experiences anymore because of my discovery that I could control them by simply entertaining different potential beliefs. Heck, I was once experimenting with this by watching a lot of UFO videos and when I felt the presence of aliens in my room, I realized I had discovered something that put every faith experience in jeopardy. Certainly there were no aliens in my room, but the fact that I could bring myself to feel their presence made me curious if perhaps every single human experience of the presence of angels / demons etc. were simply produced from beliefs. At that point I knew I had to have a different method of determining truth than faith.

I also realized that witnessing, when this understanding of beliefs is employed, becomes a curious case of manipulation - like a magicians slight of hand. By controlling the information a person receives and tenderly manipulating a person's emotions you can get them to convert to just about anything. I felt guilty doing street evangelism after that.

Joshua Jung said...

Sorry to continue, but I think this is extremely important.

Can someone please explain to me how we know that 'hell' was not simply an invention / evolutionary development of men to manipulate the emotions of others into forming social groups? I mean, the concept of "hell" was used as a tool for copyrighting books... if it was used for that, jeez, it could be used for anything. I'm just curious how we can know that is not the case - especially when from reading the Bible (and other books like The Book of Enoch) myself I see a steady progression in the complexity of man's understanding regarding the afterlife and angelic interaction with the world.

Per this lecture:

I certainly do not want to be duped into feeling a sense of condemnation just because I believe something someone tells me. Right? Sure, the emotion is very, very real (I nearly committed suicide over it)... that feeling of guilt / condemnation and sense that the Holy Spirit is convicting you. But is it really real or just real in our minds?

How can we know?

(That is a serious question, btw)

Joshua Jung said...

It amuses me at this point when I converse with Christians.

They suddenly go "oh my gosh" and conclude:

a) I have a demon
b) I am mentally ill
c) I don't understand

And they say something like "Josh, you are extremely lost, I will pray for you."

The irony, to me, is that they cannot entertain (d)

d) I am right.

Because it scares them half to death.

After all, if you explore the evangelism messages of the most famous evangelists (D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, and especially Jonathan Wesley - "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" anyone?) you soon discover that they were employing all the necessary tools to manipulate the emotions and beliefs of their hearers. So how can we know whether any of their conversions were due to the Holy Spirit or to a simple psychological effect - like the placebo effect?

A man who believes the sugar pill will work feels it working. A man who believes he is forgiven by God will also feel it working. Right?

How can you know whether you are actually forgiven or simply succumbing to the placebo effect? I certainly would want to know. After all, I would hate to believe I was saved and discover myself in hell and have God say "well buddy, you should have had a better understanding of the placebo effect". That would suck.

Brian said...


You certainly raise some fascinating points in your comments.

However, the length of your comments could serve as their own blog posts by themselves. This is not a forum for personal rants, nor is it appropriate to raise more issues than can possibly be dealt with realistically in blog comments.

I suggest that if you have such lengthy commentary (such that you need to amend comment after comment) you should write blog posts on your own blog and use trackbacks linking to this resource, as is a common blog courtesy. As you are new to the blog, see my comment policy for how I run the blog.


Joshua Jung said...

Absolutely :) I will probably not be back. I've said my piece and made my points.

It is my deepest hope that someday the tiniest thought pokes into your mind that perhaps I have the answers... and you do not - even if it scares you half to death to think so. After all, that seems to be your intention toward me, and it takes two to fulfill the Golden Rule.

Be curious, Brian!

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive