Faith and Choice

Normally, I do the weekly UPC Gravitational Pull Up on my own site, but since I’m filling in for Goose, and at 9 at night, it’s about the only thing I can come up with to make sure something gets posted today (big thanks to Zencomix for helping me keep up).

Here’s the question:

Is the religion or belief structure that you practice, or try to follow, a matter of personal choice?

There is a simple answer, and a not so simple answer to this.

First I want to say that lately Jesus has been kinda pissing me off. I mean, I could live with the guitarist from Korn finding Jesus because Korn hasn’t put out a decent CD since Follow The Leader, but Maynard, the lead singer for Perfect Circle and Tool? Come on, that just isn’t very fair.

Okay, simple answer first. Of course the religion and belief structure we practice is a choice. Even in countries where it is mandated that thou shalt follow a particular religion, it’s still a choice. The only alternative may be decapitation, but still, it’s a choice.

Following religious doctrine is a matter of behavior. Conforming to particular ideals of behavior may be more difficult for some than for others, but it’s always a matter of making a conscious choice to act a certain way, and then at least attempting to follow through.

That was the easy answer. The problem is that when it comes to religion, there really aren’t any easy answers. And where the answer becomes really complicated is when it becomes a matter of faith. True belief. And is anything that we believe really a matter of personal choice?

We are, at the heart of things, logical creatures. Even the most dimwitted thugs are, at least to some effect, slaves to matters of logic. Take the sleezebag drug dealer, for instance.

The drug dealer start off wanting to live a better life. This is because he has deemed his own life unpleasant because he doesn’t have the things he wants, doesn’t always get the food he needs, etc. The logic that leads him from where he starts to dealing drugs goes something like this. If he deals drugs, he’ll have more money. If he has more money, he’ll be able to do more things such as pay bills, buy food, and purchase amenities. If he is able to pay bills, buy food, and purchase amenities, than he will have a more pleasant life. Therefore, if he deals drugs, than he will lead a more pleasant life.

While the logic is flawed because it doesn’t take into account a life of violence, incarceration, and OD possibilities, it is a logic. And logic, flawed or not, is part of the motivator behind anything we do.

Part of being logical creatures is understanding. We seek to understand that around us because it enhances our logic, and it decreases our level of fear. We fear that which is unknown, and so it is natural for us to make that which is unknown known.

It is this principle of understand that gave birth to religion in the first place. Man first looked at the stars, and seeing as he couldn’t reach them, he was forced to ask, and find an answer as to what they were.

Look at, for instance, Apollo. The Ancient Greeks looked at the sun and asked what it was, and why it did why it did. Now I’m no expert, but there is, at least, what I believe to be a reasonable explanation.

The characteristics that the Ancient Greeks could undoubtedly use to describe the Sun were that it was round, it traveled, it was very bright, and it was warm. Well, wheels were round and they traveled, but they didn’t often travel on their own. On the other hand, if the wheel were attached to a chariot, then you have something. But since man couldn’t travel up that high, it couldn’t be a man, but only men were capable of driving chariots. So there is the invention of a God to drive the chariot.

Voila! Insta-God.

But as technology has advanced, and learning has increased, religion’s place in explaining phenomena has decreased. We now know exactly what the sun is, don’t we? And over the eons the emphasis has changed from religion being a proof, to religion being a belief that should be held despite proof.

Even the bible tells us to put our faith in the knowledge of God above the knowledge created by men.

So, for many, it’s a question of which knowledge prevails? Even worse, do these bases of knowledge cancel each other out?

What can we, and do we believe?

Ultimately, as we are creatures of logic, than it is our logic that dictates what we believe. But what we believe is in no way indicative of our mental capacities, nor of our upbringing, or anything else.

I think it’s the close your eyes test. When you go to bed at night, and you have no one to settle with but yourself, what do you believe. This revelation that I had made years ago had ultimately led me to give up Christianity. Not all of it, I do believe that there is something, but much of it, I found I could not believe.

And the fact of the matter was that I realized that I had no choice in the matter. Yes the ultimate conclusion was a probably the result of an understandable logos, but there were two things that make me say that what you believe is not a choice. The first is that this logic is not as simple as, “I have proof God does or does not exist,” but instead it is a complex maze of plusses and minuses that have been constructed over the span of my life. The second is that all the rationalizations, causes, whatever you want to call them, have all become so deeply embedded within me that they go beyond conscious thought.

So, while you can choose what you do, choosing what you believe is a different matter completely.

M

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