... another food for thought post here, because I love a good, intelligent debate. Just as long as we all keep our claws sheathed, I think this could be an interesting question.
I'll go first. For me, being religious is not a choice. In fact, if I can choose a metaphor, I would compare it to the Alfred Kinsey scale. For those not in the know, Kinsey wrote about human sexuality during the 1940s and 1950s. His theory was that sexuality was not a series of discrete points, but more of a continuum. One was born a certain way, one's upbringing and social experiences could shift one a few (ie, one or two) points along the scale either way, and one could shift one or two points either way through sheer force of will. However, one could not change one's orientation from one side of the spectrum to the other. It was simply not possible. This broadly sums up my own experience of religion. I really do believe that you are born with a certain openness to belief. Whether that openness is shifted towards, for example, Hinduism, or Methodism, depends a lot on your environment. But just as someone who is born with an absolute tendancy towards atheism will never be anything more than an indifferent or "lip-service" believer, someone who is born with a tendancy towards religosity will never be much more than an agnostic who feels a bit guilty whenever they say they're not religious.
The reason I was thinking this was because it has implications for the concept of religious freedom. But I'm interested in your thoughts, feelings, and debates, regardless.
Naturally, that doesn't mean I promise not to argue back... I love a good debate, just as long as it isn't personal!
I would say it is a choice. Lots of people go to church as children but then shift their views as adults to atheists or other religions or just not caring at all.
Hmm, that's an interesting analogy. I think you're right that people may be hard-wired to be or not be. I've always been a very rational person who likes to see evidence for things before believing them - and also likes to challenge authority when it makes no sense... that got me into trouble as a kid. I turned out to be a scientist and an atheist, and I think that's my basic "setting". I'm not totally dead-set that there is not a God in the traditional sense, but I have yet to experience any evidence that would lead me to that belief and it seems extremely unlikely. (Especially as we learn more and more about astrophysics, etc.) I suspect that even if I grew up in a religious family, which I didn't (although we did attend church on occasion), I would have grown out of being religious.
@Pinkmoon: I think she means "a choice" in the sense of it being a nature vs. nuture deal. Are you more or less hard-wired to be religious, or not? I think I'm hard-wired to be not, for the reasons above...
I dont know. It is my choice not to go to church or to have a religion, my mom and other family members do not approve but whatever... I started off as agnostic and starting to lean more to atheism despite my very religious upbringing.
Of course it's a choice, one that regardless of upbringing or ilk, you make based on your own set of experiences and ideals....the concept of being shot down a cattle shoot of religiousness just because your folks were makin it happen every Sunday does not add up....and looking at today's society, is not a valid argument if results are based in reality.
I do believe, it is 100% a choice.
@Rachel631: I think it's a choice. I agree we are predisposed to either believe or not (like I am agnostic while my family is atheist), but to actually be religious i.e. attend church, subscribe to a particular religion, that's a choice.
It is absolutely a choice. Indoctrination is something that starts when you are young. You are raised to think "it always is/was/will be."
I was born and raised a Catholic. My mother indoctrinated me and after some life moving events in my life, at 11 (Yeah, that young) I shed my faith and questioned everything.
Faith is not about answers. It is simply accepting [a] God's will. I can't accept that, and so I don't.
I chose to be an Atheist. It is very much a choice to have a faith, just as much as someone can choose not to have a faith. Sexuality is hard wired into your brain. Something you are born with. It's the way your body works. Faith is given by man, not by genetics.
Oops double unfinished post
I've wondered this myself, but wasn't familiar with Kinsey. I grew up in the evangelical world and could never get on board with believing that those who didn't believe were "lost". I went on to study religious studies as my major, which just made me more confused about it, quite frankly.
I like this idea by Kinsey that we're more suseptible to a certain shift, it helps to make sense of things and how people come to conclusions about their religion when applied to this question you pose. My fiance says he was a self proclaimed athiest at age 7. I have relatives who have always had a strong connection to their faith even as children. I have always questioned it, even as a child...I've always been on the verge of agnostic.
I do not think it affects religious freedom, maybe free will a bit? If we're naturally born some type of way then our will to be another way has been tampered with. On the other hand, if you are a pendulum and can swing a different way then you have the will...you just might doubt your decision because of your predisposition to believe or not believe, or somewhere in between.
This is a good food for thought. Thank you.
@lolot: Yah I would be like you then. I didn't grow up in a religious family either, and I'm not religious now. I still think it is more of a choice though since the way you grow up usually influences you in a lot of areas.
@lolot: Yes, I'm sort of thinking the same thing you are. Because I was raised religious, but wasn't able to fully accept it, I've grown out of it. Perfectly put.
@lolot: See, this is the thing... I think true religious belief is where you look in the mirror, as an adult, and you think "you know what, I actually believe this. I don't feel compelled. I don't feel that this is somehow something which gives me certainty, or all the answers. I can't tell you why I believe. I just do."
This is why they call it the "mystery of faith". I think it's very personal. But I certainly don't feel that it's a conscious choice. it's simply a part of me, like my hair and eye colour. I also don't think that this means that you don't question. Of course you question, and of course you challenge authority, including established religious practise. But I'm talkiing about the intrinsic belief... that spark.
I can't help but wonder if the majority of people on this thread believe that it is a choice because they don't have it, perhaps?
@Hyperventilate: We're really not so sure about that though, in terms of the genetics. We are still understanding genetics. I mean, on the one hand I have learned that personality is not driven by genes, but what about neural activity? For example, those who have regular, vivid dreams have a more active amygdala at night...what if we found the "religion lobe"? The OP is suggesting that we would be hard wired to either be more likey to think one way, or more likely to think another way. Sure, you could say "faith" is a choice, but what about someone's propensity to believe in the supernatural or not to believe? That is the question...and we don't know yet why some people find it very easy to believe and others question it or outright deny it, like yourself for example.
I definitely think being religious is a choice. Maybe some people are more inclined to believe and some people might need religion more, but it's not a given. I am Catholic and I grew up Catholic and, after seiours thought and contimplation, I have made a conscious choice to stay Catholic.
Also, I'm not sure your metephor is a good one. Sexuality has a lot more to do with hormones and body chemistry and cannot really be altered by meditation. You cannot simply think your way into being a homo- or hetrosexual. However, the degree that you are religious is usually based on study and reflection. When you are young, you might not have a choice and you are stuck going where you parents take you, but as you grow older and learn about the ways of the world, other religions, your current religion (or lack of), history, science, philosophy, etc., you start to form an idea of what you do and do not believe.
Now I can get on board with people being predisposed to believe, but I think that has more to do with their mental and emotional capability. I think that some people need to believe in a higher being; something that has control over their lives and is looking out for them. So when bad sh*t happens, it's easier to deal with because you aren't alone and that it's happening for a reason. Other people can handle the bad sh*t better and don't need the comfort of a higher being. Of course not all people believe for this reason, but I definitely think it's one reason.
@Rachel631: You know, I agree with you. I was baptized and raised into the Methodist church, but I never enjoyed or believed in it. I was always questioning things in Sunday school from a very young age, but I had no choice in whether or not I had to be there.
@Rachel631: I think this is the sticky part...that internal fire that makes a person who they are, know what they know and believe what they believe, can be called so many things...and be careful not to confuse religion with morality, they are in fact, quite separate things. I've met self professed religious people that were more crooked than a willow in a windstorm, and selfless givers who remained unaffiliated, and were very admirable in their kindness, wisdom and life code.
I have unshakable confidence in myself, my ability to do what must be done, to succeed and be who I feel, is a good person.
Religion, to me, is really a man made, tradition of books, and idols, and buildings and rituals...be it Catholicism, Toasim, Wicca...whatever, everyone has a handbook, filled with stories, information, songs, chants, rituals...break it down to basic components and they're all pretty much the same, just pick the diety of your choice, buy the starter kit and off you go! To me it's the same as Ford, Chevy, Toyota...everybody's got a brand...
So while I don't put a whole lot of stock into the hocus pocus of any of them, I certainly maintain a healthy amount of respect for ANY person, who seeks to be the BEST version of themselves possible, whatever the means of that journey happen to be.
Okay, I just want to interject that religion and faith are not synonyms. Religion describes the human activity surrounding a specific set of beliefs while faith is about a person's inner beliefs. Going to mass and observing Ramadan are part of religion. Believing in your heart that Jesus Christ was crucified and died for our sins is faith.
So...are we talking about religion or faith?
@vorpalette: I was raised URC/Methodist! I also questioned... I questioned all the way. I can remember my youth group leader saying that I was a "devil child" (she was the world's biggest witch with a b though). I still don't blindly accept a lot of established religious practise... BUT I still believe. Go figure.
@RunsWithBears: "I think that some people need to believe in a higher being; something that has control over their lives and is looking out for them. So when bad sh*t happens, it's easier to deal with because you aren't alone and that it's happening for a reason. Other people can handle the bad sh*t better and don't need the comfort of a higher being." I don't think you NEED to believe in anything, really. I think you either do or you don't, which is why I posed the initial question! I'm also not so sure that God really does have total control over my life. Maybe some people do feel this way, but I'm not so sure that I would call that faith... I would refer to that as a type of certainty which they are almost forcing themselves to accept for comfort reasons. Not so sure that that is the same thing.
@HisMoon: An excellent question. My apologies. I would say "faith" in response to your question.
I think like any psychological phenomenon it's always a mix of nature and nurture, never one or the other. You also have to account for dramatic or traumatic life events that could shift a person either towards religion or away from it.
@babe_bamboo: Well, exactly. Which is why I thought the Kinsey metaphor was so appropriate.
I'm not totally convinced it's a choice. I would love to be a religious person w/ faith because I think religion/faith can provide a healthy outlook on life. However, I need proof to believe anything, so religion is something that's hard for me to understand and subscribe to......
I also think the degree to which one is religous or has faith is influenced by the degree to which one has an internal vs. external locus of control.
Religion is absolutely a choice. If you are truely following your religion, then you need to make choices that allow you to follow that religion.
@ladeeeda: Well, equally... for me it's the reverse. I honestly think that not having faith would have made my life so much easier within the society which I live in. That said, I'm not at all sure that I would opt to be free of it, if I had the option. But that's another debate.
@JoolyBee: Well, exactly. We understand so little about genetics and how they work in practise. When we mapped the genome, we thought we had all the answers... but all we found were more questions!
@Hyperventilate: But... I don't feel that I chose to have faith. If it was a choice, I might well have chosen to be without it... I feel my life would have been much simpler! All I can say is that it is something which is THERE. I don't choose to feed it or starve it. It doesn't change my ability to question or to challenge. It is simply present. It exists. Now, whether I choose to express it by heading down to the Methodist church or to Cathollic Mass... that is arguably a choice. But I don't think that faith itself is a choice in the same way.
@Rachel631: But... I don't feel that I chose to have faith. If it was a choice, I might well have chosen to be without it... I feel my life would have been much simpler! All I can say is that it is something which is THERE.
Interesting. I feel the same way, except about lack of faith :) I always just felt that laws of nature (although we can't begin to understand them yet) were responsible for what a lot of other people attribute to faith or divine intervention. Even as a very young child, the idea of God and Heaven and Hell and all that seemed utterly ludicrous to me...
Sometimes I wish I had faith too like ladeeeda. It does seem lovely to know that there in a divine being looking out for you, and that all your good choices and suffering in the moment will be rewarded in the afterlife. Instead, I think a lot of life is very random, that our outlook and choices dictate the rest of what happens to us, and that when we die we are just food for the decomposers.
@Rachel631: But... I don't feel that I chose to have faith. If it was a choice, I might well have chosen to be without it... I feel my life would have been much simpler! All I can say is that it is something which is THERE. I don't choose to feed it or starve it. It doesn't change my ability to question or to challenge. It is simply present. It exists. Now, whether I choose to express it by heading down to the Methodist church or to Cathollic Mass... that is arguably a choice. But I don't think that faith itself is a choice in the same way.
I'm with you on that. For me, faith is there regardless of what I do. But it has developed over my life due to difficult circumstances.
@ladeeeda: that's the whole point of having faith. You believe in something without "proof."
@lolot: The thing is, I would say that I have faith in God. I would go further and describe myself as a Christian. But I don't have faith in heaven or hell necessarily. I don't believe in celestial "Brownie points" for following the rules. You should do things because they're right, not because you think you'll get the spiritual equivalent of a cookie (using an example from my own faith... Jesus didn't do things just because he wanted to keep the status quo. He did things because he believed - there's that word again - believe- that they were right). I do, however, believe that God knows more than you know, as a human being, and that he/her/it will ensure that it all works out for the best in the end... even if the best isn't what you envision right now. Is that comforting to me? Er... yes and no. I never really thought about it in terms of comfort or discomfort. Just in terms of being or not being. As far as I'm concerned, I'll worry about the afterlife once I get there. Until then. I'll concentrate on being the best human being I can be during this life.
The Bible says "my ways are not your ways". Who is to say that an afterlife (if it exists... which I would say that I believe it does, in some form) will be anything like we expect? I think that if you think your choices will win you the afterlife you expect, you're going to be deeply disappointed!
Anyway, I think we're kind of on the same wavelength... I don't feel that having faith is a choice. I think I've always had it, and I don't think I could rid myself of it even if I wanted to.
@BlondeMissMolly: Which is exactly my point...some people's brains may not be wired that way
I think being religious is a combination of nature and nurture. Some people are predisposed to rule following and take comfort in the ritual of it all. However, that doesn't always speak specifically to religion. Religion just gives folks a place to fill those needs. Psychological studies on scrupulosity (a form of OCD specific to religious rituals) strongly suggests that connection since it's not the religion triggering the OCD but the OCD being expressed through religion. I think the nurture part of it comes from the religion in which one is brought up and the dominant religion and religious practices in society.
Faith and the ability to believe is way more personal, as many PP have displayed. It seems to be more about a person's nature. That's just my opinion though.
Personally, I find it so easy to have faith but am skeptical and sometimes outright dismissive of religion. Usually faith is what the part that people struggle with, so again to me it seems to be more of a nature thing. Choice? In the end, yes it is a choice. As someone else said, comparing it to sexuality isn't really accurate since one is governed mostly by intellect while the other by hormones.
@ladeeeda: ah I see, sorry I misunderstood. But I do agree with you!
Yes and no. I believe religion is a choice. I believe faith is not.
I say this because I was raised in a religious household and I was a devout church goer as a teen, and I was all into it. Then when I went to college and was removed from that community, suddenly all the questions I had ignored for many years came up, and I began to doubt. Then one day I woke up and I didn't believe anymore. I tried my hardest to believe. I wanted to believe with every fiber of my being - but I simply couldn't.
Could I still go to church and continue to go through the religious motions and call myself a Christian? Yes. I could choose to do that, and I did for about a year. Yet to fully believe in a god? Not at all a choice. I wanted to, but I couldn't. I didn't have it in me.
Personally, I believe that religion is a choice, coupled with an innate desire to believe in a higher power.
Evolution has hardwired the human brain to be as aware as possible of social structures and hierarchy - humans evolved as social animals - so I would imagine that, in a lot of people, there is that "need" to know who/what is higher in the hierarchy than you, your president, the queen, etc. Add to that our ability to conceptualise beyond what we can see/hear/feel, etc. and you've got a recipe for a biological desire for faith and belief in a higher power.
Having said that, though, I think that people generally make a choice to believe what they believe. Parents, churches and schools choose to indoctrinate their children in their beliefs so, technically most children don't get a choice, but with all the information available to people in this day and age, I think a lot of people make a conscious choice to disregard alternative views.
As for me, I was raised learning about different religions as if they were equal. For me, the Greek and Viking gods were just as real as the Christian god. Which, I daresay, is why I ended up an atheist!
It's not a choice, in the sense that you are usually born into a family that has their set religion and you usually follow along.
It IS a choice when you become old enough to start learing more about religion and forming your own opinions.
Religion is not an innate characteristic, such as sexuality.
I'm very thankful for my faith. Most important thing in my life. I guess the choice for me was....do I ignore the yearning in my heart for more and go about living my life for ME or do I seek Him and begin living my life for Him?
I think ultimately it is a choice, but the choice may be easier or harder based on your predisposition to question authority, to want to fit in, to seek out education, and obviously where and to what family you were born.
I think that there is a reason that high levels of education are inversely correlated with organized religion. Knowledge of facts makes it a lot harder to swallow doctrine. For example, I took a course in the history of christianity that covered the actual history of the uprise of the religion and after learning how exactly the bible came to be, how the church was established, and how our holy dates were chosen, I found it extremely nonsensical to consider church doctrine as accurrate.
Which doesn't mean I don't believe in God, because my own study does convince me that SOMETHING exists out there greater than us. But it does mean I have a much harder time with religion as an organized set of rules because I know how those rules were made.
Kind of like how they say if you want to eat sausage you shouldn't see how it is made... I think if you want to be religious you probably shouldn't study how it came to be (for Christians at least, I know far less about other religions).
@JoolyBee: Finding a "religious lobe" would be illogical. Religion was created by man, not science. Why would your brain evolve to include something completely hypothetical? Personalities are not like religions. They are not complex -- they are hormones. Ever met an aggressive person? Likely they'd test higher for testosterone. That's why most women are maternal -- estrogen.
A religion is not hormonal. One could argue that some faiths release Dopamine, the "pleasure hormone", but that is an effect rather than a cause.
Edited for spelling.
Religion is not a choice. I was forced to go to Sunday school every week until high school and questioned alot of things because logically, it did not make sense to me. Ie: Jesus turned water into wine? He walked on water? Why no mention of dinosaurs in the bible? I guess that is where the faith part comes in. I really did try though, but I just could not "get" it.
You must log in to post.
Sorry, there are no users yet.
Shop Now »