A question about beliefs, volition, and rationality
Several years ago, I read J.P. Moreland's book, Scaling the Secular City, where he made an argument for substance dualism from the self-refuting nature of physicalism. Physicalism, in this context, is the view that all we are is the sum of our physical parts. We have no immaterial soul or spirit or anything like that. He argued that physicalism is self-refuting because it entails determinism, and determinism removes the necessary preconditions for rational thought. So it could never be rational to be a physicalist.
I don't want to get into that argument. I just wanted to explain the context of what I do want to get into. Moreland claimed that "If one is to be rational, one must be free to choose his beliefs based on reasons" (SSC, p. 95).
Some time after that, I listened to a lecture by Moreland that I think was called "Love Your God With All Your Mind." It was posted on line here but is no longer there. During his talk, he stated emphatically that our beliefs are not under the control of the will. To prove his point, he had the audience imagine that he would offer them a million dollars if they could choose right then and there to believe that there was a pink elephant flying around over their heads, and to actually think it was true. He said that even with a million dollar motivation, you couldn't choose to believe it. The reason is that our beliefs are not under the control of the will.
He went on to say that we can change our beliefs by choosing to read things and to expose ourselves to ideas, and that our beliefs will change as a result. But our beliefs are not under the direct control of the will such that we could simply choose to believe something.
To me that seemed inconsistent. I sent J.P. Moreland a letter at an address I found on the website to Talbot, but I never heard back from him. I've asked about this issue on a few message boards, and I even asked a question about it on Yahoo answers recently. But I've never gotten a satisfying answer. Most people I ask don't even seem to understand the question.
Recently, I got two J.P. Moreland tapes from Stand to Reason. One is called "The Invisible Man: A defense for the existence of the soul," and the other is called "Is non-sensory knowledge possible?" I don't remember which one it was, but in one of them Moreland repeated his whole thing about how our beliefs are not under the control of the will.
I had entertained the idea that maybe since Scaling the Secular City was written in the 80's that maybe Moreland has just changed his mind over the years. But then just a few minutes ago, I found where Moreland has posted a blog called "Atheism and the Empty Glass" where he said that "those who take the time to tell you that free will isn’t real are assuming that you have the free choice to listen to them and change your views accordingly!" Apparently, he hasn't changed his mind.
Since just about all the people who post on my blog seem to be pretty bright, I thought I'd get your thoughts on the subject. This is my question: Are our beliefs under the control of the will? If not, can we still be rational? And please don't just give yes or no answers. Give me your reasoning. Thanks.