Thursday, 2 January 2014
Religion, Sexuality and Choice
I’m quite happy to admit that I mostly read the comments on the BBC News website to annoy myself (and renew my faith in my own ability to use written English). It’s an absolute certainty that whenever a story comes up with any religious bearing or involvement whatsoever, a tide of antitheistic bile and mockery will flood the comments.
I tend to be a very reactive sort of a person. I might want to do a thing, but if you try and make me do it, especially if you badger and hector me to do it, I will absolutely refuse to do it under any circumstances. This may or may not be a character flaw; I haven’t decided yet (and don’t try and force me to!) Anyway, because of this, my faith is never stronger than when I’m reading derisive comments about ‘sad people who believe in sky fairies and magic’, and how ‘all religion should be banned’ or ‘religion is a mental illness’. Purely out of reaction, they make me feel extra religious. This is probably not really a Good Thing.
What this is leading up to is a recent story on the re-criminalisation of homosexuality in India, which the article (probably entirely accurately) attributed largely, although not exclusively, to pressure from religious groups within the country. Cue the usual flood of anti-religious bigotry (whilst decrying the stances they oppose as bigotry, naturally). Within this though were the few reasonable people trying to have a sensible debate around and between the antitheist fanatics and the equally fanatical anti-gay posters.
A point was raised which I’ve seen several times before, that while religion is a choice, sexuality is not. I didn’t bother joining in the debate, but I simply don’t agree. Not about sexuality that is. I don’t know whether sexuality is a choice or not, although I suspect not, like most aspects of a person’s psychological make-up. I certainly never chose to be heterosexual and I think the most you can do, if you feel that it’s necessary, is to choose to try and ignore that aspect of yourself as much as possible, although it doesn’t strike me as being wholly healthy to do so.
What I was thinking about though was religion. Now I was brought up Christian, in a Christian household. I was brought up believing, and although as I grew up I questioned and researched, and my actual beliefs underwent significant changes, adjustments and readjustments as I pondered, debated and read, I have emerged a Christian. You could therefore argue that I didn’t choose to believe in God any more than I chose to speakEnglish or learn to walk. It was just a part of my upbringing, as a result of factors beyond my control and fixed before my birth. But then, I could have chosen to reject it I suppose. I could have chosen to learn French, and never spoken a word of English again, but I can’t think why I would. I could now choose to eschew walking, and crawl around everywhere, but it wouldn’t get me very far, both figuratively and literally.
Ultimately. I believe in God, because it makes sense to me, on a rational level, and borne out by personal experience. It means that I don’t really have a choice about whether or not I believe in God, any more than I can choose to believe that planes fly, or that grass is green. I could choose to claim that I don’t believe these things, but I would be fooling no-one else, and I certainly wouldn’t be fooling myself.
In the words of that great theologian, philosopher and thinker Meatloaf:
“I can’t deny what I believe; I can’t be what I’m not.”