Is Religion a Choice? I mean, to a point we understand that things like addiction can have many underlying variables, some of which are actually physiological. Here's a good article: http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/10/3/318.short
You can't blame someone for the literal way they were born. That isn't a choice.
Other variables are environmental. A life that warrants repetitive escapism will lead a person towards coping mechanisms that become compulsive behaviors. That's an easy way to predict drug addiction. First thing social workers do is look at the home life. Ok, so what about physical dependency? What about medical injuries that requires a person who is already genetically predisposed towards addiction to rely on pain medicines for an extended amount of time. Even though we know some people are far more genetically predisposed towards addiction, it's not cost effective to screen for it before prescribing pain medicine. Is that simply a choice for them?
A lot of other variables are educational. If you aren't taught an alternative and the skills necessary and you come from a substance abuse home, chances are you will be an abuser, too. So we can safely say that addiction is a combination of shitty luck and genetics, right? At least the predisposition there of.
Ok. So what about non-chemically altered behaviors, but "self-harming" behaviors as well? One from the Xtian scrapbook, being gay. Right, well science is teaching us a little more every day that being gay isn't a choice and most of us here agree. I'll skip that one.
How about promiscuity? That's pretty universal. We are told over and over again not to have sex before marriage, not to do anything to earn the label 'slut' not to tarnish our reputation. In school we are told that's because promiscuity leads to lower self esteem and destructive behavior.
And yet we see just the opposite in males. Confidence is sexy. Women are attracted to confident men. Men become confident through sexual 'conquests' or whatever. More and more it's becoming acceptable for the modern woman to have not just premarital sex, but one night stands. Cougars? Sexy. A woman to have three sex partners a generation ago was considered loose. Now a days the actual number is pretty personal and subjective. The idea of promiscuity is evolving, and so is the science behind it, well, at least our understanding of it.
it's pretty obvious that we can identify folks genetically predisposed to risky behavior and compulsive behavior, (Which yeah, sums up every substance abuser that I've ever met.) So how about adding a link to religiously triggered euphoric states: http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/09/20/newberg
You have a person raised in a religious environment who would have a strong desire for escapism, who literally gets high when they pray? Have you ever watched a video of a 'charismatic' church? People rolling on the ground, speaking in tongues? These guys look like crack heads because neurologically..they actually are. On a physical level, a little boy abused by his alcoholic father and raised in an environment where alcohol is not just encouraged but inescapable has the same predisposition to become one himself as a little boy raised in a fundamentalist home becoming a fundamentalist, when he grows up.
One behavior we understand. The other....well,
Um.. we think we have a God gene:
But a lot of the hyperbole surrounding it is bullshit.
Still, it stands to reason that there is at least a physiological predisposition towards religious behavior. We already know there are for addictive behaviors, and add in the fact that some of these folks come straight off ye old compound where that kind of lifestyle is force fed to them since birth........
How much of a choice is religion, anyway?
theory of mind research says a lot about our evolved cognitive predisposition to religious thought.
Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained is fantastic on this
also, check out Valerie Tarico's essay in the John Loftus edited The Christian Delusion as a short primer.
This is a very interesting way to compare indoctrination to a more real-world scenario. In fact, I think it is one of the best ways I've seen.
Sure, there are always examples of individuals not stepping in their father's footsteps. If it were to be studied, I think we would see that there are more examples of those that do, than don't. Most people do follow the same religious paths as their mother & father, especially if both follow the same religious path.
This is a good (and long) video about the evolution of religion. Found it some time ago on the official Richard Dawkins youtube channel.
I haven't just seen videos of Pentecostals rolling around on the floor - I used to witness it first hand about every other Sunday. That church had a congregation of close to 300, and the dogma was definitely, "God created the earth in 6 days, just like it says in the bible." (Except it also speak of "the day that God created the heavens and the earth)
I was young then, and overheard a lot of conversations because people didn't think I really understood what they were saying. It was usually the same people who "spoke in tongues" and many people in the congregation knew those people were just seeking some attention. Even back then (the 70's) there were people rationalizing their creationism with ideas like "maybe time passed differently back then and a day was like thousands of years now." Why did they keep coming back to that fundamentalist church? For most of them, it was really fun.
There was almost always a part of the ceremony where people were 'lifted by the Holy Spirit'. Yes, some people 'spoke in tongues', but the majority got really uplifted by this angelic chant sort of ritual. We'ld wave our hands in the air and harmonize on this chant and it was really mesmerizing. It was never the same if you did it yourself, there was a real power to the 'group think' that made it seem much more uplifting. Even though everyone seemed to 'get off' on this, it didn't preclude their ability to realize that science was at conflict with a lot of the fundy dogma.
Now, 30 years later, most of the kids I attended that church with are not hard core 'creationists'. Admittedly most still believe in God, and one is even a missionary in Africa (literally), but hard core creationism isn't a requirement, even in some very charismatic congregations. I only bring this up as an extension of an idea rooted in another thread.
Anyway, you are correct in that many aspects of religion can be quite addictive. On the other hand, even the devoutly religious who have pulled their head out of the mud for a little while realize that their religion makes many irrational claims. Keeping your head in the mud, or ignoring this irrationality, is a conscious choice. Getting addicted to waving your arms around and feeling the rush of angelic chants, well, perhaps that is more compelling than most people can handle.
It's definitely a decision to think or not think. I was raised in a very religious home but I was always a "thinker". It took me a long time to figure out Christianity was BS, but I chose to think even when those I went to church told me I thought too much. In fact, their insistence I not think drove me to ask even more questions. I couldn't imagine that God would want me to turn off the analytical brain he'd given me.
Or maybe, since I was analytical, I didn't have a choice but to think. Hmmm? I wonder. I suppose some people are just inclined to deep thought, and others are repulsed by it. Who knows? All I know is that I made a conscious decision to keep thinking; decided I would follow the answers wherever they led before I ever read anything about the theory of argumentation. Of course, I thought God really would be the ultimate answer, so I was fearless in asking. Oops ;)
Thousands of people emancipated themselves out of the most fundamentalist upbringings. I think it's partly your personality. Some people are just not that easily led, no matter what.
That's an interesting way of phrasing it. I didn't choose to stop believing - I simply couldn't believe anymore. On the other hand I could have chosen to keep ignoring reality, chosen to stop reading, chosen to just plug my ears and rock back and forth pretending all the evidence wasn't blaring out at full volume. I believe this is what most fundamentalists do - at least the ones that I've known.