From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doxastic_voluntarism:

Doxastic voluntarism is a philosophical view that people elect their own beliefs.[1] That is, that subjects have a certain amount of control over what they believe, such that a subject may choose whether or not to believe a certain thing.[2] This philosophical view is derived from a branch of logic known as doxastic logic, however, as opposed to other philosophical views on belief, doxastic voluntarism claims each human agent as the author of one's own beliefs. Doxastic voluntarism falls under the branch of philosophy known as ethics of belief.

Philosophers argue that there are two types of doxastic voluntarism: direct doxastic voluntarism and indirect doxastic voluntarism. Direct doxastic voluntarism being that the person has control over some of their beliefs (e.g. an individual changes his belief from theism to atheism) and indirect doxastic voluntarism is that the person has unintended control, through voluntary intermediate actions, over some of their beliefs (e.g. researching and unintentionally evaluating the evidence).[1]

From https://iep.utm.edu/doxastic-voluntarism/:

Doxastic voluntarism is the philosophical doctrine according to which people have voluntary control over their beliefs. Philosophers in the debate about doxastic voluntarism distinguish between two kinds of voluntary control. The first is known as direct voluntary control and refers to acts which are such that if a person chooses to perform them, they happen immediately. For instance, a person has direct voluntary control over whether he or she is thinking about his or her favorite song at a given moment. The second is known as indirect voluntary control and refers to acts which are such that although a person lacks direct voluntary control over them, he or she can cause them to happen if he or she chooses to perform some number of other, intermediate actions. For instance, a person untrained in music has indirect voluntary control over whether he or she will play a melody on a violin. Corresponding to this distinction between two kinds of voluntary control, philosophers distinguish between two kinds of doxastic voluntarism. Direct doxastic voluntarism claims that people have direct voluntary control over at least some of their beliefs. Indirect doxastic voluntarism, however, supposes that people have indirect voluntary control over at least some of their beliefs, for example, by doing research and evaluating evidence.

3. Direct Doxastic Voluntarism
Is direct doxastic voluntarism true? On this issue, philosophers are divided. Many argue that it is not, but some argue that it is. To each position, however, there are important challenges. Let us consider the most influential arguments and counterarguments in some detail, beginning with arguments against direct doxastic voluntarism. [...]

In light of these definitions, if direct doxastic voluntarism is true, then in principle it should be possible for an atheist to simply choose to believe in God. However, most atheists would object that this is not the case, that they are incapable of "choosing" to believe in God, because they find the evidence unconvincing (e.g. Isn't it illogical for an atheist to go to hell?).


Are there any Christian groups or denominations that believe that direct doxastic voluntarism is true? If so, do these groups or denominations believe that an atheist should be able to override their skepticism and choose to believe that God exists at will (contrary to what atheist sites like this one affirm)?


  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 11:56
  • Sorry, meant to add a note for the mod hammer close. If you're asking an unqualified question of all Christians, I believe it is too broad. Some of your other questions at least limited (technically) to a specific subset
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 13:02
  • @PeterTurner - Question turned into a survey of denominations matching a given description. Hopefully it is on-topic now.
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 13:27
  • 1
    @spirit yeah, that's good - objectively answerable now
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 13:32
  • 1
    @MikeBorden - if direct doxastic voluntarism is true, sure :-)
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 7:17

1 Answer 1


I will offer the perspective of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My faith does not have an explicit position on the philosophical matter of direct doxastic voluntarism, but it does have teachings that are relevant to the matter at hand.

The Light of Christ

The Book of Mormon teaches:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; (Moroni 7:16)

("the Spirit of Christ" here refers to what is elsewhere described as "the light of Christ" or a conscience).

All humans are given the influence of the light of Christ, providing some innate degree of recognition between right & wrong (this doesn't mean that ignoring this conscience for a long period of time will have no effect). Thus, no one can claim to have been left entirely in the dark.


Choose to Believe

L. Whitney Clayton, at the time a General Authority of the church, gave a sermon in the church's April 2015 General Conference, entitled Choose to Believe.

I highly recommend the full sermon; here are a few notable excerpts:

Every day each of us faces a test. It is the test of our lifetimes: will we choose to believe in Him and allow the light of His gospel to grow within us, or will we refuse to believe and insist on traveling alone in the dark?

God does not force us to believe. Instead He invites us to believe by sending living prophets and apostles to teach us, by providing scriptures, and by beckoning to us through His Spirit. We are the ones who must choose to embrace those spiritual invitations

Belief and testimony and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us. Belief is something we choose—we hope for it, we work for it, and we sacrifice for it. We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior and His gospel any more than we will accidentally pray or pay tithing. We actively choose to believe, just like we choose to keep other commandments.


Moral Agency

Lehi taught:

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

3 Nephi 11:32 records the Savior's teaching:

I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

If we are given agency to act for ourselves, we are free to choose the course that leads to eternal life, and we are commanded to believe, then it must be possible for us to choose to believe.

  • Insightful answer, +1. I can't wait to see NotThatGuy's rebuttal though :-)
    – user50422
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 5:11
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator thanks. I admit I've never gotten the impression that he's all that interested in discussing theology. Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 5:47

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