Post # 1
… 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!
Post # 3
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.
Post # 4
- Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA
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…
Post # 5
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.
Post # 6
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.
Post # 7
I do believe, it is 100% a choice.
Post # 8
@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.
Post # 9
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.
Post # 10
Oops double unfinished post
Post # 11
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.
Post # 12
@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.
Post # 13
@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.
Post # 14
@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?
Post # 15
@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.
Post # 16
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.