Is religion a choice?

Inspired by…

Leaving aside the question of whether or not people labeled “Irish” by others are free to identify as ethnically Irish/non-Irish (in most countries yes they are) and whether or not Irish citizenship can be renounced (yes it can – just ask @Brianjones! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:), this got me thinking, well hang on, if you’re a Christian because God gave you a brain and the clues to figure out that Christianity is the One True Faith and that turning your back on God when you already know what’s up is a ticket to Hell, do you really have a “choice” in that?

Now if that argument – which could be phrase as no it’s not a choice – holds true for the intelligent Christian, is it any different for the intelligent adherent of any other salvation-vs.-brimstone type religion?

So, whether or not we care how intelligent the average human is, if we take into account the fact that religion is almost always assigned at birth and taught throughout childhood and in most societies can only be changed with social and legal and possibly financial difficulty if at all (strong resonance with gender identity there), then this whole line of thinking – which could be phrased as discriminating against Muslims is completely different from discriminating against people of X citizenship or Y ethnicity because Muslims choose to be what they are so when they get discriminated against they’re just getting what they deserve – means, well…

…somewhere in the world right now, there is a non-Christian saying it’s okay to discriminate against Christians because… :cactus: :roll:

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Approximately 80% of Christians had Christian parents, so that would suggest it generally isn’t a choice.

Religion is a choice to the extent that anyone has the capacity to make choices. It doesn’t seem logically coherent to assume the truth of beliefs in assessing whether there is a choice in having those beliefs.

I’m not sure how this informs a discussion about discrimination.

Yeah. One discriminates against a person because of their beliefs. Criticising their beliefs isn’t discrimination.

It’s why the word Islamophobia is regularly misconstrued as something racist - a fear of believers - when it’s actually a fear of the religion. A fear of a few of the believers who follow the belief system fundamentally is also part of it.

There are certain religious families/communities who will disown, ostracize, or at least regularly accost and make you feel uncomfortable for leaving the religion. I’ve heard it happen with Catholics, Mormons, Muslims. In those cases you might feel like you have no choice just because it’s such a difficult choice, but you could still do it if you wanted to badly enough.

Religion seems least like a choice when it is inextricable from your culture and identity. Abandoning it would mean abandoning a piece of yourself, as well. And rebuilding your sense of self is harder than building a new social network, IMO.

It’s also least like a choice when you might get killed for it. Talk about losing your sense of self…

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It’s a choice. It’s a no brainer.

Implying it’s not means, you cannot change or you cannot opt out to or you don’t have alternative option.


The responses so far seem to take a neutral or negative stance on adherence to a religion. My point is really, how does a believer answer the question about one’s own religion?

Most religions are theoretically the One True Faith. Iirc Bahaiism is an exception to that rule, and of course Christianity has its Unitarians… but in general the Supreme Being gives you a brain, a set of facts, and a puzzle. It’s like,

I’ve told you everything you need to know. Now I’m busy, and I won’t be back until probably Tuesday, but really it could be any day of next week or the week after or five seconds from now or any time at all, and if you haven’t solved the puzzle by the time I come back, you’re going to burn for 10,000 years or maybe eternity, so make sure you get it right, because if you choose the wrong answer you lose, and if you refuse to answer you also lose.

So you figure it out. You know you have the right answer because you’re smart. :nerd_face: Technically, you could choose to answer incorrectly, but is that a choice in a meaningful sense?

Or to put it another way, in a scientific worldview, can you choose the laws of physics? If not, why should we say that in a religious worldview you can choose the laws of God?

We’re gonna need some believers in here then…

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I’m guessing that approximately 100% of first generation atheists had religious parents.

Are these worldviews necessarily incompatible? People generally believe in gravity because they’ve observed its effects directly. A religious person could conceivably also argue that they’ve seen God’s grace through the actions of another person. If I said I believed the former but not the latter, they might think I’m as weird as I’d think someone who said they didn’t believe in gravity was, because their faith is as real to them as science.

Does that make sense? I need to eat…

That’s an interesting thought. My parents are Christians. My dad would scold me if I took the Lord’s name in vain. And I’m an atheist. I can’t stand organised religions, but I detest Islam the most.

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Religion is unquestionably a choice. The closest argument you could get are Jewish people, in which case you could be discussing either the ethnicity or the religious aspect. You’re not born into a religion. You are born to parents who believe in a certain religion. We should not discuss stories of “Muslim children” or “Christian children”. We should be more precise in our language and say something like “a child born to Muslim parents”.

Now, whether children are aware they are making that choice is another discussion.

well, you can still choose to go against the teachings of your parents. at some stage or another: teenage rebellion, middle age crisis, whatever.

Christianity is ALL ABOUT free choice.

There’s been research into this. MRI scans on brains of people raised with certain belief systems light up when they are shown images linked to those beliefs. I think it was Democrats respond positively to images of minority groups while Republicans to images of family or their flag.

The brain can be adapted during childhood. There’s a dopamine or endorphin rush, I guess. People who believe in free will are kidding themselves.

Just to expand on this, and unfortunately invoking Godwin’s law, during the Normandy breakout Allied Command knew that in any given fight with Axis forces they always lost if numbers were equal. Even though they usually had superior weapons and air superiority. Why? A lot of the enemy were Hitler youth.

What’s a choice?

Imagine you are an atheist and I give you enough evidences to convince you that there’s a God and that it’s worthy to worship Him. As a result, you start to believe in whatever religion I’ve convinced you to.

Was that your choice? In other words, do people choose to be convinced?

Being Irish is a choice, ask Lord Nelson or Jonathan Swift, Padhraic Pearse, James Connolly , Edmund Burke or Wolfetone. All had different opinions on the matter.:sunglasses:

Somewhat like Muslims, not being British wasn’t much of a choice for Irishmen back in the day. In fact it’s still a matter of serious debate in Northern Ireland.

I agree that I arrive at my beliefs through conviction, and they are not a choice. In my experience though, many people contend that belief is a choice.

I think you definitely have to take that into account. People don’t have complete freedom to announce their true beliefs because of many reasons. In such situations, true freedom of choice cannot be said to exist. Whatever else we may say about it, Islam is simply not a choice in most of the Islamic world.

I think you mean “born in a barn” Wellington, not Nelson.

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