A Faulty Assumption

One does not choose one’s religious beliefs. Indeed, no beliefs whatsoever are ever chosen. You can choose your entre¢e for dinner or your choice of ice cream flavor, but you cannot choose your beliefs. I sometimes attempt to establish this point by offering a hundred dollar bill to anyone who can sincerely adopt a patently false belief, such as that there is a large green-striped elephant standing in the front of my classroom. Many students would be delighted to have the money, but cannot sincerely report that they hold the required belief. Beliefs are acquired by being caused. Media, mainstream or social, can certainly be a cause, but such causation is not achieved by an act of will. Religious education is usually something taught by parents or teachers, but the beliefs thus acquired are not something chosen. One can choose to stop praying, but cannot choose to stop believing.

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