Is being religious a choice? (A spin off discussion from the Creationist thread)

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:

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:

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? 

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Of course. We have a few resident Xtians that I think are still active. 

The trolls never last long, though. They pose a question they think is 'insightful' but when we actually have answers, they scram. 

The preachy ones never last long.

But a few engage in polite discussion, and those folks can be a wealth of knowledge. I really enjoy it when they contribute. 

Always be nice to theists, mate. 

Remember most of us were theists at one time or another. I think it's our social responsibility to consider a theist an atheist in diapers. For every one or two that come to be a dickhead, I'm sure there are a few that come because they have doubts of their own and want to learn. It's just hard letting go of the fear and anger and all the other lovely issues that come with being intellectually repressed. Sometimes they have genuine questions but really don't know how to properly discuss what they consider to be sacred. Makes em prickly. :)

I can partially agree, but I also feel it's our social responsibility to be honest and open if we find their ignorance socially unacceptable.  If they are here to learn something then fine - but in my experience they only come to boards like this to troll or fish.

Hi Misty,

Yes, there's all sorts of reasons why we have so many deluded people.  :-)  I think the biggest has to be childhood indoctrination.

The God Module is allegedly a region of the brain that produces spiritual experiences.  It's supposedly stimulated by seizures triggered by temporal lobe epilepsy . . . although you don't need to be epileptic to be affected by the God Module.  Apparently, some people have a more developed God Module than others.  If this relatively new notion is true, then there is a neuro-physiological reason that some people are predisposed to hyper-religiosity.

You've already covered the cultural and familial reasons for religiosity.  It might well be that the God Module is a genetic trait passed down the generations but I know of no data to support that conjecture.  Neither do I know if TLE is a genetic disorder.

It's interesting to note that many religious leaders were thought to suffer from TLE.  Muhammad is the most glaring example, but also Joan of Arc, Paul of Tarsus, Joseph Smith Jr., Ellen G. White, and at least 6 Catholic saints.

This is kind of random, but I was thinking the other day about how many schizophrenics become obsessed with religiosity, and it made me wonder about the brain's function in religion. 

I think I have a discussion or blog on that somewhere. 


Some people hear voices in their head and think it's a radio implanted in their brain by the government. 

Other people hear voices in their head and grow up to be preachers. (Unfortunately schizophrenia is one of those disorders that doesn't always leave you high functioning for very long) 

How many bat-shit crazy people are out there? Not just the guy at the park screaming at pigeons and telling you the end is near, but folks that for what ever reason are clinically crazy but have their symptoms masked as just being really devout? 

Count my mother as one of those bat-shit crazy people.  My last memories of her are of her running around the house screaming for the demons to get out while waving her bible as though to knock them out of the air like flies.  She never did get any meds, mostly because there were too many psychiatrists willing to pander to a religious community that didn't think her behavior was unacceptable.

Atheism is a conclusion, not a choice. So does that mean religion is, too?  

The God Module offers us a list of compulsive behaviors, but with comes sense of 'belonging' A promise of escape from death. Literal 'highs' from prayer/tongues/holy spirit/whatever.

 If it was a choice, religion could pretty easily seem more fun. Until you remember it's bullshit. So what is it about US...about atheists that raised in a religious environment ....that made the swallowing-of-bullshit less palpable than basic social comfort?
There is a reason most of the world believes in the supernatural. Not because it exists, but because natural selection says they should.

Greater atheists than I have proposed WHY evolution though it would be a good idea to predispose us towards idiocy. I won't go into that. Read a book or look it up online if you are new to atheism and need an explanation. :)

That leaves me with the question of why we exist at all.  

We can theorize why religion developed in the first place. The most basic answer to that is escapism. Escapism in the form of highs (If the charismatics can do it stone sober, imagine how much more fun it used to be when religious ceremonies encouraged drugs/herbs/alcohol.) Escapism in the form of "oh I wish he/she wasn't dead" escapism in the form of hope. (God can heal. Let's pray!) 

So why have a few of us..and then a few more..and then a few more...popped into existence and immediately dug in our heels and said 'this shit don't add up!' despite the fact that um, let's face it. For a lot of us, life would be better if we just smiled and nodded and kept our mouth shut. 

Why are we different?

How are we different?

What purpose will this serve in greater-evolution?

How much of this is really our choice instead of we were born? 


Evolution might have predisposed us to religiosity but evolution usually progresses orders of magnitude slower than civilization does.  It appears that the more we learn, the less tenable formal religion becomes.  That's why more and more atheists are popping up.  Religious folk combat this by using childhood indoctrination to condition their children to accept impossible things without a second thought and to trust faith more than knowledge.

Despite all the backpedaling on doctrines, religions still prosper.  Escapism is a big part of that, of course, but we can't really get rid of escapism until we get rid of human suffering.

Atheists list a full gamut of reasons for their atheism.  Some were never indoctrinated to a religion.  Others were actively raised as freethinkers.  But most of us come from a religious background -- because most of humanity claims one religion or another.  If it takes intelligence to overcome religious indoctrination, that trait wouldn't necessarily transfer to those who were never indoctrinated in the first place.  If a weak "God Module" predisposes people to atheism, then what about atheists who have had spiritual experiences?  They supposedly don't have a week God Module.

I don't know what the answer is.  But I think curiosity is the most common trait.
This is largely an offshoot of the predestination/freewill debate.  But, there are a couple of other things to consider.  One is the fact that were it not for childhood indoctrination there would be nothing to debate.  Only those with a very strong disposition toward magical thinking would be religious--if anyone was.  The second is that when we compare religion with other group memberships, such as "race", then it becomes clear that religion is much more of a choice.  Even if a person decided he or she didn't want to belong to a particular race anymore, there would be very little that could be done about it.

I agree, Mo Trauen,

. . . (For the sake of easy writing, I'm using the word "you" in its plural or collective form . . . I don't mean you personally) . . .

Faith and logic are antithetical. If religious adherents would admit that they believe for PERSONAL, rather than logical, reasons, THEN they would be honest about their "faith". But it's dishonest to claim faith on a logical, rational, basis - faith is a personal position, not a logical conclusion.

Faith and doubt always go hand in hand. Faith without doubt is BLIND faith. It takes a closed mind to sublimate doubt to the point of blind faith. Normal people leaven their faith with a little common sense. Doubt always nibbles at the edges of their faith. After all, without doubt, faith would have no context, no purpose, no meaning, no point. Would it?

Because there is no evidence for anything supernatural (including God), NOBODY can claim ANY knowledge of it. Anybody who does is lying or delusional. It takes suspension of disbelief to believe in the supernatural: one must convince oneself that the impossible is possible. That is what dogma is for. Dogma is the opposite of curiosity. You have one life, one quest: yet you choose to surrender it to something you can't possibly know anything about.

When people talk about faith, they're usually talking about the supernatural: God, angels, miracles, etc. There is, of course, lots of doubt involved because the supernatural is entirely outside the human (natural) realm. It's not so much that God or angels can't exist . . . the real point is that NOBODY has access to the supernatural and thus NOBODY knows ANYTHING about it. Anybody who claims to have faith in something he knows absolutely nothing about is actually confessing to placing his imagination before, and above, his intellect: this is known as fantasy.

Fantasy has its place . . . but not where life decisions are involved. Placing fantasy above intellect is surrendering your quest for meaning. You are surrendering the meaning of your life to your religion; to your version of God.

And that's fine. Just be honest about it. You made a leap of faith. Your faith is a personal position - not a valid logical conclusion. If all religious adherents would admit this, fundamentalist fervor would disappear. Therefor: war, persecution, retribution, retaliation, and other mindless acts of violence in the name of God would also disappear. Despots would have one less vehicle of control. If we all understand that we're just practicing personal preferences, there's nothing to fight about. 

It seems to me, that when a baby is born, it's born an atheist.  So then, religion or being religious is taught and learned. 


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