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Unread 10-12-2009, 11:51 AM   #1
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Do we really choose religion?

Since I've come to live at university, one thing I've noticed is the huge increase in people handing out fliers to join christian groups, offering seminars for learning about christianity and even tucking christian messages away inside free magazines dealing with employment etc.

The thing is, I don't wake up every morning choosing not to worship a christian God. I just don't believe it. It isn't my choice.

I ask some christians why they converted to christianity and it normally involves some kind of feeling of emptiness, a painful life event or something similar for them to turn to religion. However, if there was a God, would he not give us all an equal chance of salvation?

I've never had that feeling. Sure I've felt sad, I've had people close to me pass away. But I've never felt empty, like I needed something more. Perhaps it's my way of dealing with things, but that isn't something I choose, it is inherent to me.

Anyone else have a similar view on the whole thing?

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Unread 10-12-2009, 11:57 AM   #2
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It was a choice, though, even if you choose not to see it that way :P There's no gene that codes for Buddhism, you know. It's not a nature vs nurture question in that sense.

But i get what you mean. Certain people just have their brains wired to see things logically and weigh evidence and other people just like to be told what to believe.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 12:17 PM   #3
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I thought I read somewhere relatively recently that they HAD come up with some kind of gene or genetic trait that made it a little clearer why some folks believe in organized religion. Like the poster above said, it was something in the wiring of their brains at a fundamental level that made it easier for them to adopt religious beliefs while others don't.

But I could be wrong... it's been known to happen from time to time.

Short of scientific evidence for how/why people believe, my view is that it's just easier for people to believe in something than to believe in nothing. It's easier to feel like somewhere, somehow, someONE is watching over our lives and guiding us in the "right" direction. Personally I think mankind is too young to have figured out what a true "God" might be like, so to me, organized religion is equivalent to The Matrix. A system of control... though not to turn humans into D sized batteries, but rather, just to control their actions through irrational fears of the unknown.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 01:21 PM   #4
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I think some people choose their religion out of an ignorance is bliss kind of standpoint so that they don't have to come to terms with their own mortality, and I think others choose it out of acceptance in social circles and then have it grow into a full blown faith, but otherwise no I don't think people consciously choose a religion and to do so is surely against the whole idea of being in it for belief and faith.

The whole feeling of emptiness/personal tragedy thing is crap though, I've been through awful loss, and subsequent feeling of emptiness, you know what I did? Learned to deal with it, and then subsequently got over it. Clutching onto make believe in the hope of feeling better is selfish and just pathetic in my opinion.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 01:26 PM   #5
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PeteyG: Nail > Head.

Religion is ignorance. If it helps people, great. If they believe in heaven and hell then that's fine with me. If they believe they have to save others from hell, not so great. If they actually go out of their way to trash rationalistic beliefs because it contradicts what they believe and base their life on then they need to harden the .... up and get on with their lives rather than waste time trying to convince people that will never, ever agree with them.

...and that's just Christianity, don't even get me started on Islam. Bigotry is not my favourite.

What happened to Jeff? Funny how he dropped off the radar now that the entire Western world disagrees with his right wing bullshit.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 01:51 PM   #6
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I believe it's a choice, yes.

I don't believe you'll find Buddhism hard wired into anyone's DNA codes, or Wicca, or Hinduism or Islam or Christianity, etc. I think a lot of what goes into the choice is certainly subconscious, but I don't believe it's something we're just born with.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:00 PM   #7
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Religion is a choice to many. But theres alot of "raised" christians, buddhists.. whatever. My family tried to raise me to be prodistant.. i just never found a reason to be religious. None of it makes any sense. Id rather believe that mankind is a damn aliens science project thats my choice, and it seems to be a more logical choice for me. I find comfort in things that religious people feel BAD FOR ME about. While i believe religion helps people be more secure with having a shitty life.. i believe it will NEVER help me. OH and that whole christian saying "believe in my religion or go to hell" REALLY a nice way to get someone to try to join your religion
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:16 PM   #8
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Religion is what people turn to in an effort to connect with their spirituallity. Spirituallity just is, and its as natural as.. well.. everything, because it could be said that everything is a spiritual experience. However, because people have an innate want to connect with their spiritual-side, sometimes they listen to somebody who seems to know what they're talking about, and the ramblings of said people seem logical when you throw pain and confusion into the mix. The problem is, religion doesn't help people, it helps people that meet a certain criteria, and so the followers of a particular religion strive to meet that criteria, simultaneously buying into the idea that they're somehow being helped.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:22 PM   #9
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I think the religions we choose to follow or don’t follow are dependant on a number of criteria, namely your cultural upbringing and your environment. Our environment often will dictate what we should and should not believe, and whether we like it or not, human beings are programmable. We are, in many instances, governed by our environments to like and dislike certain things, and to hold certain standpoints. For example, during the Communism reign in China, religion was heavily discouraged, and propaganda and numerous other mediums used in many ways changed the expectations and influenced the beliefs of the population.

Perhaps many of those in China feared for their lives and chose to renounce their faiths out of fear, but this leads to the second criteria: one’s upbringing. The way in which we are taught and the moral upbringing we receive from our parents will most certainly play a part in how deep-rooted the concept of religion is in many of our lives. I am Catholic, but was never raised on a religious basis. My family is definitely much more logical and isn’t very religious. If, however, I got to know my grandmother who died before I was born and was a very devout Greek Orthodox practitioner, I can almost guarantee that my religious standpoint would have been different. A constant stream of religious teaching at home is what I consider a factor in how we respond to religion in later life.

In terms of religion acting as a method of control, I can understand that view point. To offer another contrasting view, Buddhists are taught and encouraged to question the facets of their faiths. Whereas a lot of religions seem to be based on a variety of conflicting ideas that somehow we must believe, Buddhism to its practitioners is a faith that acts as a great inspiration, not a fear-producer, where you are encouraged to question and challenge what is being said.

@ PeteyG, it seems a few are taking religion in a very literal sense, in that it is designed as offering false hope for those who have experienced hardship. While I don’t pray to God to get me out of a tough spot which I acknowledge is not the most logical act, I DO however believe in the presence of a higher power that is bigger than everything you or I can ever imagine, not to inspire fear, but to act as a way of making myself a better person.

@ Scar Symmetry, I don’t believe that all religion is based on ignorance, and I think some people may be coming from the point of view that Christians are largely fanatics who try to impose religion and belief in others. I believe religion should a deeply personal decision made by each individual; a decision made by themselves and themselves only. Like the Bible says: “Pray with your door locked.” In other words, do not profess your faith and force your own personal beliefs on others. If you believe, then it must be your decision.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:24 PM   #10
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I think a person does choose to believe in a sense. That is, they can choose which pieces of evidence to accept and which ones to ignore. Confirmation bias is essential in overcoming cognitive dissonance. As you have probably guessed, I am no longer religious. I do, however, accept that there are other interpretations of religion besides my own and that I could be the one suffering from said bias. That being said, music has become my spirituality; I feel no need to be religious anymore. That may sound corny, but it's the only way I ever feel like I've truly connected with "something greater."

"Food to help some wolf that eats your ass generate enough sperm to impregnate their mate. Right there.... boom. Your energy was literally used to create a baby wolf...so in some way you are apart of the wolf.
Non of this 'ima come back as a mighty shark and rule the sea or some shit' just death as we know it. You and all your youness totally gone. But your death is totally required for the rest of existence to thrive."
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:43 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by vontetzianos View Post
@ Scar Symmetry, I don’t believe that all religion is based on ignorance, and I think some people may be coming from the point of view that Christians are largely fanatics who try to impose religion and belief in others. I believe religion should a deeply personal decision made by each individual; a decision made by themselves and themselves only. Like the Bible says: “Pray with your door locked.” In other words, do not profess your faith and force your own personal beliefs on others. If you believe, then it must be your decision.
I think you maybe misunderstood my point there. I was basically saying that if people choose to believe it then great, but as soon as they come preaching to me, that's when I have no patience and just think each one of them is an ignorant looney.

Take Ray Comfort. Nice guy? Yeah sure. Ignorant? As ignorant as a person can be. His trying to disprove the foundations of atheist beliefs are for lack of a better word, pathetic.

What happened to Jeff? Funny how he dropped off the radar now that the entire Western world disagrees with his right wing bullshit.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 02:57 PM   #12
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Down to a number of things, I'd think:

Upbringing: Parents, family
Education: religious, secular
Society: level of religiosity, rebel or conform (religion has been used as rebellion or reinforcing nationalism so works both ways, but often path depends on family/peer group)

This only scratches the surface.

Ultimately, yes, irrational belief (eg religion) is a choice. However, due to circumstances you may not be able to exercise this choice, or even be aware that the choice is available to you.

I am deliberately calling religion irrational belief - it tends to rely on argument from authority, belief in supernatural without evidence, and the disgarding/reinterpretation of evidence that contradicts dogma. If you have been educated to discard rational argument then the choice to embrace that fully is an option that you may not be aware of.

A lot of fair points above.

It's the cognative dissonance aspect that intrigues me the most. Fundies I 'get' - they ignore reality as long as it contradicts their beliefs, but they tend to be consistant about it because they're literalists. Moderates freak me out because of the compartmentalisation that is required to make their worldview make sense. Why is it only that one area that they suspend belief??

Now I suppose that im mixing 'religion' with 'supernatural belief'. They are, obviously, 2 different things however the first does tend to provide the lens that the second is viewed through.

I'm also amused by the paradoxical aspects to this. Most flavours (of which there are many) of christianity say that their god is both infinite and unknowable, but then go straight ahead and apply attributes to said being. Immediately that waves a flag to me... but I don't see how a person who's rational with everything else doesn't see it. I dunno....!

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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:00 PM   #13
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I think of myself as a Agnostic Atheist

What happened to Jeff? Funny how he dropped off the radar now that the entire Western world disagrees with his right wing bullshit.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scar Symmetry View Post
I think you maybe misunderstood my point there. I was basically saying that if people choose to believe it then great, but as soon as they come preaching to me, that's when I have no patience and just think each one of them is an ignorant looney.

Take Ray Comfort. Nice guy? Yeah sure. Ignorant? As ignorant as a person can be. His trying to disprove the foundations of atheist beliefs are for lack of a better word, pathetic.
Fair enough. I also don't particularly enjoy having religious ideas preached to me, mainly because it feels very "showy" and put on which to me feels unnatural. I really don't mind anyone else's faith, nor do I mind them telling me about it if they are respectful and sincere. When they begin to judge and criticise what I do, then it crosses the line and I shut it out.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:13 PM   #15
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@ Scar Symmetry, I don’t believe that all religion is based on ignorance, and I think some people may be coming from the point of view that Christians are largely fanatics who try to impose religion and belief in others. I believe religion should a deeply personal decision made by each individual; a decision made by themselves and themselves only. Like the Bible says: “Pray with your door locked.” In other words, do not profess your faith and force your own personal beliefs on others. If you believe, then it must be your decision.
Isn't it? I was pretty sure that the supernatural aspect of religious belief either explains (how) or gives meaning to (why) to the world around us. And as you're a Catholic I hope that you're aware of the rather dismal record the church has when it comes to dealing with science. Although, to be fair, a lot of protestant fundies are significantly more backward then the RC church. Oh dear.

Problem is that beliefs inform action. We've seen statements from the RC church that basically say that condoms will not protect from AIDS. This is dogma getting in the way of health issues, and have had a rather catastrophic affect in various parts of the world. Now, ignorance on the part of the affected believers is what allows (well, if they are strict, forces) the church to essentially kill it's followers. You'r almost more aware of this then I am if you're from SA.

Sorry, being a tad on the brutal side here, but it is absolutely ignorance that allows this sort of nonsense to happen.

Those who are kept ignorant cannot, I repeat cannot, make an informed 'choice'. And who's benefitting form the ignorance? I wonder.

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I think of myself as a Agnostic Atheist
Well I am, kind of, but ignostic apathist has a much better ring to it!

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Last edited by hairychris; 10-12-2009 at 03:15 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:15 PM   #16
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People choose religion because we feel the need to know every ....in' thing...

Nobody knows what happens when you die because no one has ever lived to tell about it so someone made up a bunch of shit and a bunch of rules to make your life easier in the afterlife...

It was probably also partially used for population control. People are less likely to engage in random acts of blatant douchebaggery if they think they might be "punished eternally" for it (I've seen some statistics to prove it based on some religions being more strict than others. It showed that Jews and Catholics tended to show lower numbers of suicide. They assumed it had something to do with the punishments associated with such an act in those religions. This is, of course, just speculation, but it helps prove my point so leave me alone, dammit! ). And of course there will always be those who don't give a .... and do what they want regardless of what they're told.

When people describe a god or gods they're describing the god or gods of their understanding (or the God that condones their behavior ) which is why you can get 30 different christians with 30 slightly different interpretations of what the "Word of God" is... Some I think associate the idea of God with the feeling they get from something they do that they feel is "right[eous]". It doesn't necessarily mean that they believe in some being that is watching and judging what they do. In my opinion if you're doing what you do because you want someone (or someTHING... I dunno who or wtf "God" is or if he/she/it even exists) else to be happy with you then you're doing it for the wrong reasons anyway...

To me, "God" all the things your parents taught you as a child. That voice in your head that tells you what you're doing is probably a bad idea... The being that judges you when you die... Imagine... You're seconds away from dying... And you think about all that you've been told about the afterlife... Now you're wondering if it's all true... Your life is flashing before your eyes. You see all the good things you've done as well as the bad... What do you think "God" (if he/she/it) exists thinks about you? BAM... You're dead.

That's what you are forever now...

That's just what I think God is...

Whatever the hell you make him/her/it...

(Long-winded ramble, I know... Sorry)



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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:43 PM   #17
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Many are the reasons why one should have a religious 'pointer' in their life. Some people just can't deal with the world the way it is, or went to something tragic or just need a god and a bunch of dogmas and beliefs to guide them through life. I'm not talking only about christian, but everybody who believe in one or more gods out there. I myself don't have a god of my own and I don't sympathize with most dogmas of the religions out there, but if people need them, then good for them. My problems do not lay upon those who are religious, most of my friends believe in God somehow, my problem is with people that want to impose their beliefs on other people. "You are crazy for not believe in God" or "You are stupid for believing in God." Religious orientation is something very personal and each of us suit it in the way we think is better for us. If you feel better for praying every night before sleep, great, if you feel better for not doing it, good for you too. I think people should stop paying so much attention on others beliefs and start doing something good for themselves.
I think that most of someone's religious orientation comes from its family. When I used to believe in the christian god I did because my mom and dad told me to do it, until someone asked me why I did believe in it and all the answers that I was trained to give just didn't feel like the truth to me. So I stopped believe in that god when I was about 12 and now I'm almost 27 and I still looking for it. So far I haven't find anything but I will not be someone that will deny it if someday, somehow I find it.
So if you ask me if there is a God I would say that if there is one so far I could not find it, so to me, no, there is no God.
But it was hard to get rid of the family's disappointment in the early years. I guess when you are a child , pressure is always bigger on you then when you are a grown up person. Well these are my on the subject

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Unread 10-12-2009, 03:59 PM   #18
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Unread 10-12-2009, 04:26 PM   #19
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I think Hairychris pretty much said everything i would have, though I tend to care less until they're in my doorway trying to shove a bible down my throat.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 04:29 PM   #20
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Yea I think most people can agree they don't like to be forced into a decision about something like religion... I've been asked before "Would you like to change your religion?" as if I couldn't do it w/o their assistance.



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Unread 10-12-2009, 04:45 PM   #21
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I think of myself as a Agnostic Atheist
ZOMG BAD GRAMMAR

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I think of myself as an Agnostic Atheist
Fixed

What happened to Jeff? Funny how he dropped off the radar now that the entire Western world disagrees with his right wing bullshit.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 05:03 PM   #22
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Yea I think most people can agree they don't like to be forced into a decision about something like religion... I've been asked before "Would you like to change your religion?" as if I couldn't do it w/o their assistance.
Yes!

See that is the one thing that shits me about it all, and it just happens to be a central part of Christian believers. I mean God damn (), if i wanted to change religion, i'd ....ing search myself.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 05:05 PM   #23
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I'll agree with what's already been said about a person's "religious identity" being largely dependent on their upbringing/culture. I am a deeply religious person and my choice to believe in God or to be a member of a Church has a lot to do with very personal experiences where I believe to have felt the influence of something greater than myself. I don't deny the abuses that religions have and continue to perpetuate on the world, nor do I condone how dogmatic views are often used to minimize the significance of science and rational thinking or to ignore real problems. Still, I think a lot of people turn to religion because there are things that we can't reason out or empirically test and evaluate. As someone with experience going door to door to talk with people about my faith, I totally understand the views expressed about not wanting someone else's beliefs shoved down. That said, I sincerely felt a desire to share what works for me with other people in the hopes that it might help them to be happier in their life and to feel comfort when problems arise. I've had experiences of being screamed at or door's slammed in my face, but I've also had experiences where someone really felt gratitude for my efforts to help them in their life. It's easy to rail on the abuses of religion in the past/present but I've also seen good things come from religion and people helped by a person's efforts to share their beliefs. In that sense, they are, at the very least, offering the person the chance to at least make the choice about what they will or won't believe.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 05:06 PM   #24
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Of course religion is a choice...despite what they tell you, no one is born that way. It's immoral, unnatural, disgusting, and worst of all it's a sin. If that's their lifestyle choice then so be it..I don't approve..


But seriously, I think it's just a factor of one's personality. Some people think a certain way, thus making religion work for them..for other people..it's something else. In my opinion everyone has SOMETHING that centers them, something that is in whether a minute or extreme sense a god..providing a need we as humans have.

For some people it's religion, for some people it's music, etc. For me music fills that need and it's the closest thing to an actual god I'll probably ever know. I consider myself a "practical misanthropic agnostic". I don't suppose that's a religion, more just a way of thought and practice.
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Unread 10-12-2009, 05:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Smooth55 View Post
I'll agree with what's already been said about a person's "religious identity" being largely dependent on their upbringing/culture. I am a deeply religious person and my choice to believe in God or to be a member of a Church has a lot to do with very personal experiences where I believe to have felt the influence of something greater than myself. I don't deny the abuses that religions have and continue to perpetuate on the world, nor do I condone how dogmatic views are often used to minimize the significance of science and rational thinking or to ignore real problems. Still, I think a lot of people turn to religion because there are things that we can't reason out or empirically test and evaluate. As someone with experience going door to door to talk with people about my faith, I totally understand the views expressed about not wanting someone else's beliefs shoved down. That said, I sincerely felt a desire to share what works for me with other people in the hopes that it might help them to be happier in their life and to feel comfort when problems arise. I've had experiences of being screamed at or door's slammed in my face, but I've also had experiences where someone really felt gratitude for my efforts to help them in their life. It's easy to rail on the abuses of religion in the past/present but I've also seen good things come from religion and people helped by a person's efforts to share their beliefs. In that sense, they are, at the very least, offering the person the chance to at least make the choice about what they will or won't believe.
Nice post there a refreshment from millions of dogmatic christians :P
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