The following satirical video, “Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene”, pokes fun at the concept of a “gay gene” and religious opposition to homosexuality.
The proportion of people who believe that homosexuality is chosen is decreasing. That’s not to imply that homosexuality is the phenotype expressed by a “gay gene”. Just that whatever makes one gay – e.g., some range of interactions between genetic, hormonal, neurological and/or social/environmental factors – it’s not the sort of conscious deliberations a teenager makes when choosing which college to attend.
Part of what makes the video above funny is that it suggests that being Christian is not a choice. To me, this invites the question (ignoring the particular religion)
Is belief in God a choice?
Can you simply choose to believe or not believe? My inclination is to doubt that you can. I’m an agnostic atheist. As far as I can tell, in the absence of incredible new evidence, I would be unable to choose to genuinely believe in a God. I’ve come across several other non-believers who’ve said similar things. Likewise, I’ve met many believers who have indicated that their belief in God (or reincarnation, for that matter) are beyond their choosing.
Social scientists like Jonathan Haidt have pointed out that the minds of conservatives and liberals appear to operate differently in certain ways. Could this also be true of theists and atheists? Going more broadly,
Is a love for baseball and disdain for hockey a choice?
I love baseball and utterly despise hockey. Being Canadian, I’ve met countless people of the opposite position. I don’t think that I could just choose to like hockey. As a youth I tried. Never took.
Famed psychologist and one of the main figures of Behaviorism, BF Skinner, once defined free will as the ability to do what one wants. He then went onto say that we cannot choose what we want. I would add that we cannot choose what we like/dislike or believe/disbelieve. We can act so as to bias our predispositions – e.g., actively seeking out sources of information to validate a particular position. But at the end of the day, we’re either compelled or we’re not.
Going back to the initial question:
What do you think? Can we choose belief in God? If so – or not – what implications does this have for how we should act toward each other?
Feel free to also comment on our free will (or lack thereof) to choose other types of beliefs, tastes, etc.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays