Is religious belief a choice?

In the ongoing discussion of sexual identity therapy, some have asserted that sexual orientation is not a choice but religion is (“The bottom line is your sexual orientation cannot change and your religion can,” [Wayne] Besen said.”). That struck me as a failure to understand the function and centrality of religious belief for those who are committed to it. On point, a reader and commenter over at ExGayWatch named “jasmine” linked to a blog post by Hugo Schwyzer who in turn linked to an article by ex-LA Times-religion-writer William Lobdell. Mr. Lobdell has experienced a crisis of faith and no longer views himself as a believer.

In his reflections on Mr. Lobdell, Schwyzer notes that his (Schwyzer’s) response to evil in the church has not been to turn away from God. Through this awareness, he wonders if indeed there is something involuntary about belief. Some things just seem right and make sense. I have had a similar sense throughout my adult life. I know there are inconsistencies in my beliefs but I have tried on many other worldviews and have found them full of cognitive inconsistencies as well. It does not seem like my beliefs are chosen as if from a menu. To me, it seems like our brains are wired to believe but not wired well enough to find a system without holes. For folks with religiously based conflicts over sexual behavior, the conflict can be excruciating in that here are two realities, each of which seems given but at odds. The process of resolution for some folks is a dynamic, fluctuating process that may leave some aspects of both worlds intact and others modified. I suspect that the results seem less like a choice and more like a water moving to the lowest level – does water have a choice? For others, the resolution may come in a series of revelations, each with what seems like a new perspective. Sometimes, these moments are so vivid, they seem like the awareness must be the divine intruding and are certainly not experienced as a choice. In any case, I am only scratching the surface and am speaking descriptively and not prescriptively.

Suffice to say, as I experience religious belief and as it has been described to me by numerous clients, friends and colleagues, such beliefs are often not experienced as mutable or negotiable. I do not say this to say, I am comfortable with this. Some religious beliefs are not healthy in my view. However, to trifle with them as if they can be switched on and off is, in my not completely chosen opinion, to misunderstand how the religious mind works.

81 thoughts on “Is religious belief a choice?”

  1. The notion that religiosity has roots deep in the human psyche is not particularly new. There are numerous sociological and psychological theories that tinker with this notion, and I suspect it has some merit.

    We all have, for example, varying needs for “clear explanation” of things that are inexplicable. Human beings seem to be uncomfortable with the unknown, and are often willing to substitute the unknowable in its place to provide some sort of articulate explanation.

    What disturbs me about Dr. Throckmorton’s description here is what appears to be the application of the gay/lesbian sexual orientation narrative being applied to religion. I believe such an approach is doomed to a variety of failures, in part because it ultimately depends on the existence of logical equivalences that likely do not exist.

    It’s rather like various feminist rantings I’ve read (e.g. Butler, Fausto-Sterling, or more recently Bindel) who keep trying to apply a “lesbian-feminist” narrative to the experience of transsexuals. What appears to be a reasonable bit of reasoning at first turns out to be based on assumptions of equivalence (and connections) that are suspect at best, downright wrong in many cases.

    I’m also cautious about confusing religiosity (as in the prediliction to believe in a religious tradition), with following a specific religion. Specific religious belief is likely some kind of intellectual construct within the mind, and the sense of need that different people experience for a connection to a religion is going to vary.

  2. A person who grows disiillisioned with his faith also has the option of going more indepth with his faith and recovering deeper meaning and understanding of that faith.

  3. Jag,

    I can understand how you would interpret that as a dichotmy. For some people it really is a dichotomy. I guees for me it would be. (That is me interpretting the teachings of the bible for my own life and not applying it to yours or anyone else)

    There are some people like you say where they have found a place where their christianity (religious belief etc…) can blend with their homosexuality.

    And I think – trying to be more clear – what I was trying to say is that through SIT a person who is predominantly religious over his/her sexuality will either change that perspective on their religion and evaluate the meaning, teachings etc… differently and find a religion/sexuality that works for them or they will blend not evaluate that perspective on their religion it’s meaning, teachings etc differently and they will still find a religion/sexuality that works for them. In the later that sexuality may not be expressing homosexuality to the same degree that others might.

    Not a dichotomy to them if they say so. But it could be described as a dichotomy to someone else who evaluates the same things differently.

  4. The anglo version of th Amish tradition is: Rumspringer. I imagine it has a different spelling in German/Deutsch/Schweizerdeutsch since Rumspringer really doesn’t translate from anything German.

  5. Nonetheless Minty – as you point out it isn’t rocket science – that even the minority who does not change their religious evaluation should still receive the same care and respect as others do.

    And keeping in mind that psychology is still rather young compared to other sciences and as we have seen new information is always correcting previously known information.

    And the point is yes, beliefs can change. You seem to change frequently while others may be different and decide not to.

  6. Eddy,

    Nah, just sitting at the computer watching financial markets and popping in here to comment. All the same I’ve been a bit obsessed with being on the internet the last week.

    Hey, I passed a karaoke bar the other day and thought we had not much of you here. Glad to see you.

  7. Right now, I could choose to be Buddhist meaning I am free to do this. But do I want to? Could I do it now, given that it makes no sense to me? In a way, I am able and in another way I am not.”

    Here is the key difference: A person who grows disillusioned with his faith, really does have the option of becoming a Buddhist.

    On the other hand, *most* unhappy gay people can not just discard their sexuality. They can pray and pray and pray, waste vast amounts of productive energy and time, without ever becoming straight. From Iran to Mississippi, this is true.

    —-

    To be fair… I admit to somewhat trivializing the ease of eradicating religous hang-ups. The ghostly tentacles of one’s upbringing can last a lifetime. Just see Michael Glatze or Charlene Cothran.

    But just as ex-catholics have to deal with catholic guilt, or ex-Jews still have to deal with the Jewish mother syndrome (“you never call!”), it’s doable.

  8. Warren –

    As you may know, it is found in much pesonality psychology research that there is some heritability to religious beliefs…as we might say with sexuality.

    Mary –

    “And client centered therapy should I assume help a person come to the conclusion with satisfaction which of the two – religion or homosexuality – is going to take precedence.”

    I really don’t understand why you keep putting religion at one end of the spectrum and homosexuality on the other. People can be gay AND christian.

    Please stop making these false dichotomies.

  9. isn’t it also possible for hundreds or thousands of people to have sexual desires they never act upon? I believe it is more prabable than possible.

  10. You know, no one can prescribe an outcome.

    When I interviewed my therapist I wanted a gaurantee that I would totally overcome all feelings of same sex attraction. She said no such guarantee is possible. I knew then that she was good.

    We move in a direction and try to gain some knowledge or advantage. There are no guarantees with anything and anyone who tells us differently is not being upfront.

    I wish the christian side of sexual attraction change did not advocate one way or the other on politcal positions and did not say that “all” people have the potential to change. Their premise is that if you can control your behavior then no law should be made on your lifestyle.

    Not everyone believes the same thing and in the same way. From one to the other we are all different.

  11. Mary,

    I believe I counted 11 posts by you since 11 am. Are you in line for Jayhuck’s ‘serial posting’ crown?

    And, seriously, does anyone know where Jason is? It seems it’s been over a week since he’s checked in.

  12. Mary, I respect that in your case, your sexual orientation has changed, to become more aligned with your spiritual beliefs.

    My point is simply that personal beliefs can change by the force of mere intellectual argument. Sexual desire is not like that. This comparison of religious belief to sexual desire is wildly off the mark, if not willfully dishonest.

    Personal beliefs, like outfits or hairstyles, can be changed relatively easily. I have no doubt that in ten years, I will have different political and/or spiritual beliefs than today.

    With sexual desire, while it may be POSSIBLE for some people under some conditions to change, it is not PROBABLE. The experience of the vast majority of homosexuals, and indeed heterosexuals, attests to this.

    For every Anne Heche, there are hundreds, thousands or perhaps even hundred-thousands who have found their same-sex attraction to be unchangeable. (and was Anne Heche even gay to begin with?)

    This is all common sense. It’s not rocket science. 😀

  13. Hi Eddy,

    As soon as I think of or find out that term about the Amish I will write – I believe it is a German word. So interesting about your background and I love the story about what your dad said to you – you were not rambling – it was so good to hear!

  14. Dr. Throckmorton,

    Isn’t therapy also serendipitous? I could go in for one particular reason or goal and through my therapy come up and out with many things and conclusions I had never thought about or thought were possible?

  15. Ok, on the star – universe thing: As I understand the article, by calculating distances and ages using luminosity, some stars appear older than the universe was once thought to be. However, this calculation is actually stretching out the assumed age of the earth so it is not exactly that a star is older than the universe. In any event, the whole thing is off thread enough that I would like to move away from it.

    Timothy — Agreed no need to fuss over different beliefs about the Bible on here. They are indeed relevant to doing sexual identity integration but we will not solve the disputes here.

    In general, I want to make it crystal clear that I recognize that some folks synthesize religious beliefs and views of sexuality, some have never seen a conflict, some decide one way of the other as a point of organization. There may be other possibilities that I have not mentioned. I do not understand why it is so unclear that I am describing cases and situations and not prescribing the outcomes. As a professional guideline, outcomes cannot be prescribed. Individual therapists may decide to specialize with certain clients but that seems like a win-win. The clients get someone who is focused on their issues and the therapist feels passionate about his/her work. Some therapists will simply honor the wishes of the client and the therapists values will never be an issue. We got all kinds of folks and so we need a framework that is pretty broad…

  16. Sexual desire is not.

    Hmmm. Not much understanding of rape victims, abuse victims, jail sexuality, etc…

    Many people change sexual desires under varying cirumstances.

  17. Wow Minty – so would you suggest that gay people should change their beliefs too?

    By the way, because you have not experienced any change in your life or that you do not know anyone personally who has experienced change does not mean it does not exist.

    I am not arguing that gays should or try to change. I am saying that some like myself have. So here’s the big whoopdedoo – if I want to talk to a therapist about my sexuality – I do not want anyone trying to convince me to give up my religious beliefs nor my desire to not have sex with people of my own gender. It is not proven that homosexuality is entirely biological. That is my belief, and my belief in God is probably different than yours and my therapist’s. But I am not paying to have her convince me to accept her ideas, her theology, her views. I am paying her to help me with mine.

    That you have chosen to express your homosexuality and have chosen to change your beliefs on some issues does not incline me to do the same. Nor should I assume that you want to take on my opinions/beliefs as your own.

    And that’s a big deal if I were to ask you to do so.

  18. thank you Mary – I appreciate your perspective on therapy/science and never thought of it that way but now I can see where it would make sense.

  19. Ann,

    I would agree – a very prsonal dynamic – one that cannot be mandated by a “few” individuals.

  20. This topic seems rather silly. Comparing sexual desire with religious belief is apples to oranges.

    I used to be a Muslim. But I was convinced otherwise, and now I am an atheist. Whoopdeedoo!

    Similiarly, I used to oppose nuclear power. But I was convinced otherwise and now I support it. I used to support big government liberalism, but the past 6 years have made me detest big government. Etc, etc.

    Personal beliefs are subject to change and open to intellectual persuasion.

    Sexual desire is not. Where’s the book or movie that can convert one to an ardent heterosexual? Personally, I can vouch that Boat Trip, a movie with Cuba Gooding Jr, scared the gay right out of me – but only for a week.

  21. Miracles, things we cannot touch or understand cannot be meaured against things we can understand. That should not prevent us from trying. Even of the tangible “facts” we can touch sometimes are misinterpretted by us or not fully understood. Sort of like looking at the knee of an elephant when someone else is looking at it’s tail and another is (from a distance) looking at the whole elephant but unable to touch the animal. All valid descriptions and perspectives but to understand something – it must be taken in entirty (sp?) – Anyhow the same with faith- as Paul says in Corinthians that our knowledge is incomplete and will not be fully complete until another time – same with faith.

    I guesss, we are all betting a little bit differently.

  22. I think it is the level of commitment and devotion we have to certain values and faiths and beliefs and religion that determine where we draw the line about what we do and what we will not do, regardless of our personal desires. We can choose those values based on what is important to us and then for some it becomes a way of life and where there was once a conflict or dilemma, there is now resolve. Again, I believe it is a very personal dynamic.

  23. Ann,

    My personal opinion??… I don’t think religion has to be involved to have values, morals, ethics etc… Many of my values have stayed the same since becoming a Christian – some have changed.

    As far as a therapist being a scientist.?? Well, I guess it depends on your background and licensing, practice, etc… There are therapists that also do research and studies, there are therapists that rely on the work of other scientist etc… I personally see therapy as a science since it relies on practices, theories of applied techniques in bahvioral and psychological studies and sciences.

  24. Hi Timothy,

    So what you are saying is that based on your belief of Protestantism, that homosexuality has always been acceptable and is not a sin.

    Would you say that a person can also be a Protestant and view homosexuality as a sin and does not in any way shape or form feel comfortable with changing his perspective on that to fit his homosexual desires? In his view he would be changing his deeply held faith. In your view…? What would that be?

  25. David,

    I think you and I are saying the same thing??

    Let me recap my interpretation of the article and news and how I evaluate science. I think you will see we are on the same page.

    Using a measurement to age stars, it was discovered that M33 was aging out to be older than the universe. So the scientist KNEW they had to recalculate the way (old standard of measuring) and come up with a new method for measuring age that was more accurate. Because we all know that it is impossible to have something exist in the universe that ages older than the universe. The scientists did evetually do exactly that and came up with a new measuring technique that is more accurate and explains the age of the M33 and the “new” defined age of the universe.

    So, it is a good example of how using scientific methods can sometimes be inaccurate and how we have to negotiate new understandings of our methods etc….I think it is funny – so do a lot of the scientists who were faced with this “inconsistency”. It is funny. We make mistakes and have to correct our previous held assumptions. I think that is just part of being human – we have incomplete knowledge and are trying to gain more – that’s all.

  26. Mary,

    I cannot see a therapist being a scientist but I could be wrong. Just seems that one deals with absolutes while the other deals with variables. I am a complete dork when it comes to science so please forgive me if I am completely off base 🙂

  27. also, doesn’t each one of us have a different interruption of religion/faith/values? Some, I would venture to say, believe in God, follow the Bible and yet do not believe in organized religion, per se. So many different examples to cite but will stop for now 🙂

  28. Does religion have to be involved for a person to have personal values? Can a person’s religion change while their values remain consistant or the other way around – can a person’s values change while their religion stays the same? I am glad we are given the privilege to make these choices throughout our lives and based on our past, current, or future beliefs, we can re-evaluate or re-consider what is best for us as we evolve.

  29. Mary,

    I don’t know how to make this clearer to you but I will try:

    My faith is in God. My religion is Protestant Christianity. My tradition is evangelical. None of those things changed.

    A great many notions and beliefs have changed during my life. But none of them are central to either Christianity or my faith.

    “Homosexuality is sin” isn’t a tenat of the Christian faith. It isn’t in the two commandments of Christ. It isn’t in the ten commandments given to Moses. It isn’t even in the Nicene Crede. And – though you no doubt disagree with this – same-sex relationships are not (as I understand it) condemned in Scripture. I would go so far as to say that Christ himself clarified this and that condemnation of gay persons is contrary to the very essence of New Testament doctrine. I do NOT state this to start an argument about it – so lets not – but to point out that this is what I believe based on my studies)

    I don’t know what further to say to you about this. But please understand – your continuing to assert that I’ve abandoned my faith is beginning to stray beyond misinformed and is verging on offensive.

  30. Since you did answer a question directed at Timothy…

    I didn’t answer anything, I commented on a portion of what you said. I do think it’s an important distinction, but I’m not sure I even understand the question as you phrased it to me. Timothy can answer if he likes, I’m still considering my own thoughts on it.

  31. Ann,

    It does come down to personal choice – what does a person want to do with their own body.

  32. NICKC,

    I have a hard time making public policy against left handed people or gays.

    Now, I am ambidextrous. Whether you go to a restaurant, use a door handle, many atm sliders at grocery stores, use a coffee mug with a special saying or picture, etc… the world is .. well made for the majority of right handers. They are the majority and that is they way it is. Also, I have been gay and have experienced the discrimination and violence against gays first hand. So – I have a hard time with making politics out of people’s sexuality – unless of course they are pedophiles, rapists, necropheliacs and the sort – you get the idea.

    Now, for me, I feel differently about people and their religion. People have all sorts of faith backgrounds. Even amongst any group of Baptists you will find a great variety of ideas about what is biblically correct. I’m not just picking on the Baptists – this go for all christian denominations – I just used them because a baptist friend was just on the phone with me. Anyhow, what may make perfect sense to one person and one group does not to another. Each differing view will SEEM obvious to one group or the other. So, go practice whatever religion you want … is what I say. And if you want to stop using your left hand – okay – it can be done. If you continue to have homosexual feelings but don’t want to pursue that lifestyle – okay that can be done too. Whether you change or not is never guaranteed. Some people do change. Some don’t.

    I personally do not believe that sexual attraction is solely inherent and has environmental components as well. But what exactly are the paths to anyone’s sexuality is not clearly defined. And how to unwind each individual path is different for everyone who wants to change directions. (BTW, it has been shown that women who were brutally sexually abused as children can have some pretty abberrant sexual fantasies that they don’t like or really want to exprience in real life but have trouble reaching orgasm unless this is present) So, if women can change from a sexually abusive life – so can others change their directions – in my opinion. It is just that homosexuality is a political issue on both sides – those for and those against. And ultimately, it is a very personal item in a person’s life.

    But I still ask you – should gays change their beliefs – in your opinion.

  33. “The new finding implies that the universe is instead about 15.8 billion years old and about 180 billion light-years wide.”

    Ok, last comment on this. You posted three different times about an article which said “scientists had found a star older than the universe.” The article to which you linked (at my request) does not say that or anything like it. It was about a possible refinement of the constant used to calculate such things which points to an older and therefore larger universe than has been thought for the past couple of decades. One is a fact, one is nonsense.

    It bothers me because your original statement smacks of the kind of rhetoric used by those who think science is somehow the flip-side of God and that’s not especially helpful considering the nature of the discussion. If you meant something else, then once again please try to be more accurate and consistent in the future.

  34. Are there other people out their who practice therapy that are bona fide scientists??? And do they help people in conflict with their sexuality – not simply by helping them transition into a gay acceptance but a personal choice and place of acceptance??? Just wondering if someone wants to pick this up.

  35. David,

    Since you did answer a question directed at Timothy. Can you tell me then from your perspective what is the difference between someone who has come to a clearer understanding of themselves and their religion and still does not accept homosexuality as biblically correct and someone like Timothy (whom you say in your response has?)

    Did both people keep the same faith and religion? Do they both have equally clear understandings of themselves? What would you say?

  36. Timothy,

    I know someone else has answered for you but I am interested in how you interpret the difference for yourself??

  37. David,

    I’m sorry to nag on this but you keep trying to prove me wrong on something.

    So if you go back that astronomy article and you will read about a galaxy (also know as a star cluster – where this is a star) and how they talk about the measuring of it….. etc, etc, etc…

    Then at the bottom of the article you will read these words:

    “The new finding implies that the universe is instead about 15.8 billion years old and about 180 billion light-years wide.”

  38. it is important to remember that individuality plays a crucial part when we want to distinguish what is considered inherent, immutable, ability to choose, etc. What may be considered impossible for some may also be a possibility for others.

  39. Mary-

    I am not saying anyone SHOULD change their beliefs. Ultimately, that’s a personal decision. But I have a hard time equating personal belief structures–whether religious, political, social, or whatever–with inherent natural traits, such as sexual orientation.

    It’s like equating religious belief to left-handedness.

    Yes, both are difficult to change. But one clearly involves a greater level of choice and personal decision than the other. I’ll let you figure out which that is.

  40. Once again I have to ask this: how about other religions or other ´”syndromes” than “unwanted” homosexuality (in my mind unwanted homoseduxlaity sounds about as plausible as unwanted height). Does this “immutability to religion also apply to whatever religious belief a person may profess to, or only conservative Christian beliefs.

    Also why should we restrict ourselves just areas where we can mes with people’s heads and meatla health, why not also happily nedsorse female circumcision in gynaecology. It has religious and cultural baisis so why wouldn’t we endorse that?

    Why messing with someone’s brain in the name of religion and causing intentional harm (or abstinence of all possibility of being intimate, loved, relationship or family) would be more acceoptable than mutilating his/her body in the name of religion?

    And if a person chooses abstinence or celibacy because of his/her religion why would they need therpay for making that decision? Since when have moral choices been the focus of any kind of counselling? If you need a shrink or meds to be abstinent, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it to begin with.

  41. Because it sounds to me like you are saying that you did not abandon your faith but came to a place of clearer understanding about yourself and your faith??

    I think that is an important distinction.

  42. Mary,

    That article has nothing to do with “finding a star older than the universe” so you can retract that. The calculations on the size and age of the known universe are always being refined with new data, and I suspect will be refined even further with the next generation of space based telescopes. The point is, it is self correcting – even if the results point to large shifts in understanding.

    And I would assume also applies to psychology of sexual attraction/sexual fluidity/change etc…

    I don’t know that psychology will ever be comparable to the natural sciences – can we really expect an equation to accurately predict human behavior? But that doesn’t mean that the scientific method is not useful, quite the contrary it seems the only way to cut through the anecdotal garbage and self serving nonsense of a Joseph Nicolosi.

  43. David,

    I think you have misunderstood me. I believe and rely on science, statistics, etc… I happen to also believe in God.

  44. I wasn’t paying attention to the news last night until I got done posting. I live in Minneapolis and work about a mile from that bridge. Needless to say, it’s hard to turn away from the endless news reports.

    Hey Ann! Welcome back!

    I’m originally from just outside of Pennsylvania Dutch Country…the land of the Amish…one of my grandmothers was from that culture and my grandfather (who passed away before my parents even met) was an itinerant preacher.

    The name of that custom–where they go out and taste of the world–escapes me but they actually turned it into a reality TV show a few years back.

    LOL, with these roots you’d assume that I was raised ultra-conservative Protestant but mom was staunch Catholic and dad converted. One of my brothers has remained Catholic; two have gone Evangelical and three have no affiliation whatsoever. (Bedside Assembly with Pastor Pillow and Sister Sheets.) All relatives on mom’s side were Catholic; on dad’s side they were mixed. My town was largely Congregational and Methodist but my neighborhood was heavily Catholic (and Italian).

    So, it was somewhere in first or second grade that I learned that, as Catholics, we were the one, true, holy and apostolic church. It never fully washed with me. You mean, my sweet grandma wasn’t going to heaven just because she wasn’t a partaker of Catholic sacraments? Most of my friends and all of my relatives on dad’s side are ‘in the wrong church’ and going to hell?? “How comes we cross ourselves when we pass a Catholic Church but not the church across the street?”

    (Dad reminded me of this in an incredible but brief conversation we had one day. I was back home visiting and took him out on a few errands since he was confined to a wheelchair. Anyway, as we drove, he suddenly spoke up and said “Son, I have to tell you something. …From the time you were six years old you were asking questions that I didn’t know the answers to. It scared me–and I backed away. I was never really there for you. I’m sorry about that. But, I want you to know that I’m real proud of the way you’ve turned out.”) (LOL! You should hear the expanded ‘tear-jerker’ version of that story someday.)

    Rambling…sorry.

    Timothy,

    Thanks for understanding. LOL! I think you may have something there. You grew up with A LOT of ridiculous church rules whereas I had A LOT of latitude. I wonder if that makes me more likely to hold onto my views…or you more likely to let go. LOL! Or maybe it just is and doesn’t impact us in the present much at all.

  45. Timothy,

    When you talk about people who do not abandon their faith and allow themselves to express their homosexuality – do you mean people who were told by a chruch that homosexuality is not in accordance with “teachings” and then that person went on to find a church that said homosexuality is in accordance??

    Because it sounds to me like you are saying that you did not abandon your faith but came to a place of clearer understanding about yourself and your faith??

  46. Timothy,

    Thank you for clarifying.

    “I believe that my reconsideration of the “sinfulness” of same-sex partnering….”

    Did reconsidering change your view?? Did it change your faith system??

  47. Yes, tradition was the explanation and what a good one it was! I recently went to Lancaster, PA. and visited the Amish community. It was very interesting to realize how important it was for them to live their life according to their faith and what they valued. Apparently each child at the age of 16 or 18 (not sure which) is given permission to go out into the world and live any way they want to. About a third of them leave the Amish way of life while the others never leave or come back by choice. Again, no politics or organizations are involved. Just a personal choice.

  48. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060807_mm_huble_revise.html

    “The sciences are very accurate at analyzing the natural world, and are self-correcting as new data comes in. Errors, mistakes and unexpected results are vital to finding the truth in such a discipline. Scoffing at those events displays a severe lack of understanding”

    And I would assume also applies to psychology of sexual attraction/sexual fluidity/change etc…

    I was not scoffing – as much as I was pointing out that we ALL learn more and more everyday. (Honestly, I was laughing at how we place so much “faith” in the hard sciences and then discover that we were wrong.) I think it is funny – I do it, you do it, profound thinkers do it. It’s a human thing to learn and discover more.

  49. Eddy,

    I’m sorry that for you it came down to a matter of abandoning your natural emotional drives. I cannot tell you what is best for you and if this is your choice then I must respect it.

    I wish that perhaps instead of considering your direction to be an abandonment, that instead you could see it as a matter of acknowledgement of such desires and a decision not to act on them. But, I’m sure that you have plenty of “wishes” for me as well. 🙂

    In any case we are all different and make different decisions on how to respond to the circumstances of our lives.

    I do want to emphasize, however, that many gay people do not abandon either their faith or their sexuality. And, in my opinion, there is no more harmful message than the false claim that one or the other must be abandoned.

    I’ve met many gay people who hear that lie and as a consequence – realizing that their orientation was fixed – abandoned God. And it makes me sick. And furious.

    I personally believe there is nothing more evil that a person can do than to stand between God and one of his children and drive that child away.

  50. Mary,

    It is not a false dichotomy because what you are suggesting is that they change something. You did abandon your beliefs and do accept your homosexuality. So – something did change. You did not like your religion of your youth and chose to find a faith that accepts your homosexuality.

    No, Mary, you misunderstand what I’m saying. I did not abandon the religion of my youth and seek some other faith. I did, however, question certain teachings of my religion and found them to be faulty. Among those teaching were:

    It’s morally wrong for women to wear pants.

    It’s morally wrong to watch television

    It’s morally wrong for boys to swim in the same pool as girls

    It’s morally wrong to go to movies

    All alcohol consumption is sin

    And, of course, homosexuality is sin.

    Today I watch television – and I am still a Christian. I also drink and go to movies. Changing those beliefs were not a matter of abandoning my faith but rather a matter of reconsidering the various teachings I had been subjected to.

    I believe that my reconsideration of the “sinfulness” of same-sex partnering was probably made easier because I had been raised with a bunch of (let’s admit it) nutty ideas about what was or wasn’t holy. While this was a bigger issue – and involved a great deal more study and thought – the precedent had been set to allow healthy reevaluation of notions of holiness.

    But you must understand, Mary, that change, maturity, growth, reconsideration, evalutation – these things are very different from abandonment.

    I do feel sorry for those who have never had to reconsider what they’ve been told. It makes any variation seem to be a slap in the face of God. It may cause them to be fearful and dogmatic. I guess I’m lucky that I was banned from wearing gym shorts and going bowling because when the extremism of these teachings were exposed, it opened me up to the idea that faith is not just an exhaustive set of rules that must be followed at all cost and allowed me to see that the important aspect of faith is not what we do but what relationship we have with God.

  51. Mary,

    I was responding to this comment of Warrens:

    “Choice applied to sexual attractions and religious belief is probably inappropriate. Arguing that one or the other can change seems again to miss the point of how they function for the person.”

    To me, Warren here groups both sexual attractions and religious belief together and seems to suggest that both are intrinsic or at least have an intrinsic influence. That is the parallel I am noting.

    I had started a post (and deleted it) right after Warren wrote this where I asked straight out if he believed both the religious inclination and sexual attraction to be intrinsic. Then he wrote this about the religious side:

    “However, changing religion for those with an intrinsic religious identity is not like changing clothes either.”

    So apparently Warren does indeed believe there is such a thing as intrinsic religious identity and to me suggests the same may be true about sexual attraction.

    As to your comment:

    ” I think there are some who would place religion over sexuality as religion guides what is sexually appropriate irregardless of how we feel.”

    Yes indeed, enter Exodus, Focus on the Family, and Ted Haggards church. Some abandon that religion. Some adjust the religion to include their particular inclination. Some are stuck somewhere in between the two.

    This takes me back to my original response to the topic: “To me the problem comes not so much with the belief as with what informs the belief.” Obviously there are some who manage to meld their religious identity and their sexual attraction together and live in peace, while others cannot and live in conflict. Others still claim a change claiming to abandon or be free from the one or the other. Apparently these people conclude that one of the two is not “instrinsic.” If both religious identity and sexual attraction are “intrinsic” it would seem those who abandon one or the other may be deluding themselves.

    I think we can safely say that the sex drive is intinsic, for most (except the apostle Paul I guess). The arguments start when we try to define the direction of sexual attraction. Is the religious inclination intrinsic to all? Well, not to Dawkins apparently.

    The truth is, we have no proof to offer each other as to what defines sexual attraction or whether there is a God and if there is which name and identy belongs to God. So, we blog and speculate with our thoughts and emotions, but we remain human and without in our face evidence to confirm much of anything on the two topics.

  52. Mary-

    I don’t think I am the person suggesting that religious beliefs are as immutable as sexual orientation. I’m saying that religious belief is no more immutable than other forms of bigotry people learn while growing up. And yes, I do mean to equate the two, because one seems so often to reinforce the other.

  53. Mary said:

    Not all christians accept that the earth is 6000 years old. Not all christians acccept that man did not evolve. Putting those who do not accept homosexuality as part of their religion ( or accept mutable sexuality) in with the same subset of those who age the earth so young or evolution as impossible is not logical.

    I didn’t do any such thing, I was simply making a comment about the nature of faith, and the relationship between the natural and the supernatural.

    BTW, recently scientist have tried to age the oldest known star in the univers – Oooops – to their surprise, by their calulations ( all scientific of course) the star is older than the universe!!

    I believe that’s the third time you have made that statement without a reference. If you did read something along these lines, I suspect at the very least you’re relaying the facts incompletely. Please either provide a link for the rest of us to review or retract it.

    The sciences are very accurate at analyzing the natural world, and are self-correcting as new data comes in. Errors, mistakes and unexpected results are vital to finding the truth in such a discipline. Scoffing at those events displays a severe lack of understanding, and in this case does tend to validate my original statement.

    BTW, was it not this same scientific method that you said you could reasonably rely on to extend your lifespan to 130 years? Sounds like you have a great deal of confidence in it to me 😉

  54. Ann,

    Remember how Tivia calls it – Tradition!

    There are some things that are just the way they are for folks.

  55. Paul,

    Your comment about making religion parallel with sexuality. Maybe I am misunderstanding you but I think there are some who would place religion over sexuality as religion guides what is sexually appropriate irregardless of how we feel. That some people try to parallel the two – I think is a mistake. One will override the other – in my opinion. Did I understand??

  56. Timothy,

    Abandoning one or the other was not a necessity for you. But, Warren is speaking about people like me who have SSA but still had the concept of homosexuality as sinful even after we questioned both our beliefs and our urges and after we let go of those beliefs that were foolish…arbitrary…obstinate and inconsistent. For me, believing as I do, my choices are as Warren described: either abandon my beliefs or abandon my e/w/p/s/p desires. I try to see it otherwise but I’m unable to. It’s a difficult road, though, and I’d like to think that, if I needed a bit of support, I could find a therapy akin to SIT nearby.

  57. Dr. Throckmorton,

    There is a play called “Fiddler on the Roof” that is an example of how religion and beliefs and faith can play the central part in the life of an individual, family and community. It also has nothing to do with Christianity, a church, organizations, or politics. In it, they are faced with various life challenges and turn to their religion to solve the conflict, dilemma, or challenge. For some, this is their foundation and what they choose to continue following all their life.

  58. Timothy,

    It is not a false dichotomy because what you are suggesting is that they change something. You did abandon your beliefs and do accept your homosexuality. So – something did change. You did not like your religion of your youth and chose to find a faith that accepts your homosexuality.

  59. NICKC,

    Would you suggest then that gays who accept homosexuality as some do should change their deeply held core beliefs?

  60. It is the same thing with people who are in conflict with their SSA – they either choose to abandon their beliefs (and I gurantee they will always feel that hint of not feeling good about this) or abandon their earthly/worldy/physical/sexual/personal desires for a greater belief in their faith system.

    I believe this to be a false dichotomy.

    Abandoning one or the other is not a necessity. Alternately one could, and indeed should, question both ones beliefs and ones internal urges. I did.

    And having concluded that the teachings of my youth were faulty in many areas, I let go of those beliefs that were foolish and arbitrary and obstinate and inconsistent with what I understand God to be and kept those teachings that reflect a higher moral value. And guess what, there’s no hint of not feeling good about this.

  61. While I am agreeing with much with what is being said here regarding the non-choice aspects of religion. I would have to argue that it easier to change one’s religious belief rather than one’s sexual attractions (if that is the conflict that one feels.)

    I base this thought on the fact of evangelism and religious conversion. If one can change toward, it is equally possible once can change away from. People are converted to this or that religion all the time–or, at least, it must be better documented than people changing their sexual attractions.

    Where I think I will find more agreement from the group here is my follow-up assertion that just because religion could be changed doesn’t mean it necessarily should be changed to accommodate other aspects of one’s life (including same sex attractions.) There is just too much socially, culturally, personally, psychologically tied into one’s beliefs for someone else to force (however subtly) beliefs onto another.

    How religion is discussed and dealt with in a therapeutic relationship (for any purpose) appears to me to be a crucial component of training for the profession.

  62. Haven’t had much chance to follow these discussions lately, but one quick question:

    Seems to me that a number of personal belief structures can be as “immutable” as religious belief. Racism, for one. Most people with strong racial prejudices would say, as Warren does about religion, that their beliefs “just seem right and make sense.”

    So Warren, are you suggesting we elevate every type of deeply held belief or hard-to-change pattern of thought to the status of an immutable core value?

  63. eddy wrote:

    _______________________________________________________

    “So, did I choose them because they reflected MY OWN core beliefs? Or did they come to be because enough people shared the same core beliefs and I naturally sought them out? And, where did those dang core beliefs come from anyway? Did people have ‘em and create Judaism and Christianity as great big social clubs? If Judaism and Christianity were the real thing, how much have they suffered from the tainting of time and tampering? And what does an honest man do when the answers to those questions could define the course of his life?”

    ________________________________________________________

    Nicely articulated Eddy. Honesty forced me to take a giant step back when it came to defining “God.” I have not quite thrown God over, but I cannot say I “know” the God I thought I knew. So much of Christianity speaks of “relationship” with God, but it seems more honest to say the relationship is with a belief about God not a relationship with God. Back in the day, God purportedly would send fire down from heaven to confirm God’s views to the people. Now we only have stories of past confirmation. We are forced to bypass the senses that make us human and be instead ‘spiritual.’

    “Choice applied to sexual attractions and religious belief is probably inappropriate.” (Warren)

    I am not sure of this seeming parallel. I think the argument can be made that if I were born in Tibet I would probably be Buddhist if I had an innate religious inclination because Buddhism is the predominate religion in Tibet that gives definition to that innate inclination. If there was no one around to tell me about Jesus (for instance), my religious bent would not go towards Jesus because I would have no knowledge of Jesus. My ‘choice’ of where I spend my religious energy is informed by external input. But being attracted to the same sex seems universal whether Buddhist or Christian. Being attracted to the same sex does not require someone to inform me that it’s a “choice” in order for me to have the inclination.

    To parallel religion with sexual attraction seems to say there is a choice. As if to say the sex drive and religious inclination are intrinsic but defined by environment.

  64. Warren said: Right now, I could choose to be Buddhist meaning I am free to do this. But do I want to? Could I do it now, given that it makes no sense to me? In a way, I am able and in another way I am not.

    A better example, in my mind, comes from looking closer to home. When we choose to participate in a faith-based community, we generally have options. In the context of Christianity, there are denominations, and even within the most unified denominations there tend to be theological questions for which well-regarded leaders and thinkers don’t have unanimous answers.

    Choosing the understanding which fits for me as an individual often doesn’t feel like choosing what book I’d like to read or what movie to see.

    I understand that some of us find ourselves feeling wired not just for faith, but in a specific direction for understanding and expressing the nuances of that faith. For some, these beliefs are more a matter of personal conscience and discernment with external guidance; for others the external guidance is understood to be completely external, and discernment about is sought about how to live within it.

    As Jim Kennedy noted, we have no evidence that adopted children grow up to prefer the beliefs of their biological parents.

    So, Warren, it makes sense to me that you find yourself grounded by tenets of faith which you can’t imagine changing. That strikes me as the result of choices you’ve faced. That you have found certain options compelling and life-giving to the exclusion of all others doesn’t change the fact that you exercised free will in making the choices.

  65. I think he means WHEN the religious aspect is more prominent in a person than homosexual desire.

    And client centered therapy should I assume help a person come to the conclusion with satisfaction which of the two – religion or homosexuality – is going to take precedence. But you cannot assume in good practice that one’s sexuality is going to override religion or vice versa. Some people however, just cannot give up their relgious beliefs nor should they be asked to do so. Some people decide to change religious beliefs. Some people don’t have religious beliefs and should not be forced to accept any if they do not want to.

  66. Warren wrote: Religious identities are fairly stable and religion is associated with numerous positive mental health outcomes. In my opinion, therapists should have as much caution about tampering with enduring religious identities as with other aspects of personality integration.

    So I guess other aspects of personality integration would include a homosexual orientation? But then we’re right back to where we were before and one of them has to move in some way. The question I have is that if you are going to question one aspect of personality (homosexuality) why not another (a religious tenet?)? Your SIT plan seems to elevate religion over homosexuality simply because it is religion and generally given a bye in psychology (deeply held religious thought cannot be considered delutional).

    But is it really religion v. homosexuality? Romance (sex) in Reiss’ system is a basic desire which is associated with a basic goal and a unique joy for man, that is our loves. One joy which is regulated among others according to our core values. This is exactly what your SIT is about. Homosexual orientation in romance is in direct conflict with other basic psychological desires (a la Reiss), which are acceptance, family, honor, power, social contact, status and tranquility when considering the organization (order) which most religions provide. Is it not those psychological desires/values which you would work to bring to a new order should a person not be able to “shake” his homosexuality? If he chooses that joy abov all others. Then aren’t you serving to alter his religious outlook to be in alignment?

  67. Eddy,

    I like what you said. I am soo familiar with the Catholic church and have always been more bent towards a life with faith than one without. And my siblings were far more accepting of me during the gay years than these days as a Jesus Freak. Ah well! There are lots of things I’d do if it were not for faith. I just cannot do some things no matter how the urge to do so is awfully tempting at times. I just would not feel good – literally. I get sick when I am in a place of disharmony ( what is that called – dis -ease). Really.

  68. Not all christians accept that the earth is 6000 years old. Not all christians acccept that man did not evolve. Putting those who do not accept homosexuality as part of their religion ( or accept mutable sexuality) in with the same subset of those who age the earth so young or evolution as impossible is not logical.

    BTW, recently scientist have tried to age the oldest known star in the univers – Oooops – to their surprise, by their calulations ( all scientific of course) the star is older than the universe!!

    Science is not as accurate as people think. There are discrepancies and that is accepted. Religion is not in an adversarial position to science. People are in adversarial postions to eachother.

  69. What I am getting out of your posts Warren are this – suppose I was raised in a primarily Muslim culture and came to America – that is primarily protestant. I would not change my religion to meet the majority because it is such a basic component of my belief system. And I would not change because I probably enjoy the benefits of being Muslim – in that it helps me to order my thoughts of value, rules and discipline, right and wrong, what is good for me and what is not good for me etc…. And I would enjoy that structure.

    Now, I may feel like indulging in some of the “American” cultural ways such as eating certain foods without regulation or observance of seasons, changing my sexual mores to be a little more relaxed so I could have sex with my boyfriend, etc… and that might feel good for a time. But ultimately because of the way I was raised or the values I truly believe, I will feel disrespectful to my god, disrespectful to myself and others, I may begin to feel cheapened for breaking my religious rules and overall begin to have inner conflicts that make me uncomfortable. On one hand enjoying sex and on the other not enjoying breaking my values, on one hand enjoying all kinds of foods and on the other hand not enjoying the observance of my beliefs… This is a conflict. And it can cause a person to travel down a road filled with error and guilt and defeat. That is conflict – never being able to come to terms with something that works for you. And people assign those understandings differently.

    And I can change my beliefs about sex, foods, seasons etc… but I will not feel good in the long run. It is the same thing with people who are in conflict with their SSA – they either choose to abandon their beliefs (and I gurantee they will always feel that hint of not feeling good about this) or abandon their earthly/worldy/physical/sexual/personal desires for a greater belief in their faith system. That’s a pretty big deal. And if I am going to change either the way I act or the way I believe – I think I will change the way I act because in my world of values – that is what you do. I just can’t give up my faith – I can’t. And there are PLENTY of times when I would love to go out and throw caution to the wind, break rules, live without accountability – but I just can’t. It would sour my

    life to live out of accordance with my faith. Abd it breaks my heart to hear others demand I change it.

    This very fact that I would rather change myself than change my belief in Jesus Christ as my Savior and how I interpret the N&O Testaments is not what gay activists want to hear. They want to hear that I think it is okay for me to be gay and live in a gay lifestyle – and they want to impose that through such ideology as the APA is considering. But by the same token many, many christians want gays to stop being gay at just about any cost. Christians want gays to give up on their beliefs as well.

    Niether perspective is fair to an individual who is supposed to have freedom.

  70. This is good discussion and I appreciate the feedback. I knew I was going out on a limb a bit with this post; and I am not completely satisfied with how I am articulating my thoughts. I do not mean to suggest that religion just is and questioning it can’t change it. It isn’t like feeling based preferences in many respects. However, changing religion for those with an intrinsic religious identity is not like changing clothes either.

    Eddy, you describe well the experience of many people I know and work with who realize how things could be different if they just believed differently. However, try to do that and other issues pop up that bring on loads of dissonance and is hardly an improvement.

  71. How many cans of worms do you got hiding, Doc?

    LOL! I was raised Roman Catholic but began questioning aspects of it as early as 2nd grade. Nonetheless, I was always more church-related than any of my brothers. (Heck! I even attended a few ordinations!) I left the Catholic Church just after high school.

    After that, I tried Lutheran (too close to Catholic, at least at the time), Unitarian (couldn’t figure them out), Assembly of God (more charismatic than pentecostal), Baptist (both charismatic and not) and Methodist. While, from the outside, these (except for the Unitarians) are distinctly different denominations with some different takes on what it means to be a Christian and to live a Christian life, when you get up close, you find some ‘core beliefs’…beliefs and traditions that are common to all.

    So, did I choose them because they reflected MY OWN core beliefs? Or did they come to be because enough people shared the same core beliefs and I naturally sought them out? And, where did those dang core beliefs come from anyway? Did people have ’em and create Judaism and Christianity as great big social clubs? If Judaism and Christianity were the real thing, how much have they suffered from the tainting of time and tampering? And what does an honest man do when the answers to those questions could define the course of his life?

    LOL…do you remember the Shari Lewis’ song “There Is A Song That Never Ends”? Well, for me, these have been the questions that never end. Been asking ’em for years and just keep looping. (LOL! I think I’ve got it! I’ll go ‘miraculously straight’ after 40 years of ‘looping in the wilderness’.) Or, better yet, someone will chime in with the answer to the unanswerable.

    The question does cut to the heart of it though. If I didn’t believe Biblically that homosexuality was sinful, I’d waste no time looking for Mr. Right and hanging out an “I’m available” sign. I don’t care about societal pressures; I’ve been challenging them from my early teens. I don’t care about family pressures; my family, as a whole, would have been more comfortable with a gay brother than a ‘Jesus Freak’. I try to remain true to my INNER voice. I’ll admit sometimes it sounds just like mom but, there’s an awful lot of her stuff that I’ve filtered out over the years. I kept the stuff I believed.

    BTW: Both mom and dad (before he passed) let me know that they were okay with my being gay; only one (maybe two) of my 6 brothers would be against my settling down with a nice man. But, I have to live with and by what I, personally, believe. Which brings us back to those questions…which brings me back to my loop…

  72. Warren,

    The contrast is appropriate when discussing matters of legal rights.

    If one makes the argument that gay persons are to be denied rights or protections BECAUSE their orientation can change – ie. if mutability is the sole criterion for civil protections, regardless of desire to change – then it is indeed reasonable to ask why religion would be entitled to such protections. It is unquestionable that it is possible to change beliefs.

    If the sole proof for denying rights is to show an example of someone who has changed their orientation, then why would not adequate proof for denying religious rights be the presentation of someone who is a “former Christian”.

    If the argument is that one can “change” if they were sufficiently motivated and therefore pressures should be applied (as Alan Chambers argues about denying marriage equality), then why cannot pressures be applied to change undesireable religious notions.

    Frankly, the more we seek knowledge the less certain we are of our absolutes. And the more we study and think, the less sure we are that we are right. Ultimately, we believe what we believe because we believe it. And those who would seek to pressure us to believe otherwise would probably be pretty successful in doing so. Certainly the Church was successful in propogating its beliefs and in the anihilation of paganism.

    It is reasonable and fair to point this out to those who stand behind the priveleges of religion and argue that gay persons should be subjected to the whims of their dogma simply because they can be. Voices have to speak out against the claim that gays must be punished (or kept inferior by law) because “they can change”. Especially when observation shows that gays cannot (or not easily) change at all and that Christians can do so easily and in fact do so on a daily basis.

  73. Choice applied to sexual attractions and religious belief is probably inappropriate. Arguing that one or the other can change seems again to miss the point of how they function for the person. Winning debate points by saying religion can change and sexual orientation cannot is to feel good in an argument but lose the point of the conversation.

    Right now, I could choose to be Buddhist meaning I am free to do this. But do I want to? Could I do it now, given that it makes no sense to me? In a way, I am able and in another way I am not.

  74. If we want to answer the question truthfully, we have to realize that faith simply doesn’t necessarily play by the same rules as cold, hard analytical fact. I don’t honestly understand how belief in the supernatural can be entirely based on the natural, the rational – certainly it can’t be restricted by such. On the other hand, faith does not seem to me compromised if we accept that the earth is not 6000 years old. In short, this is not a subject one can approach glibly or simplistically and expect accurate answers.

    I think we do that when we ask if religious belief is a choice. But in trying to answer, I would say that it’s hard to imagine one could be expected to abandon a belief they otherwise see as authentic and true, no matter what the reason. It would be, in fact, unconscionable and even unconstitutional (in the US) to expect that. However, certainly people can and do make choices to abandon their religious beliefs because, for whatever reason, they no longer see them as true.

    So, the question as asked seems moot. It’s not whether religious faith can be changed, but whether one can be expected to make such a choice for reasons external to the faith itself.

  75. “…tampering with one of them…”

    You can change your ideas, it’s true. But I challenge any gay person to change their beliefs – just as they are trying to challenge me to change mine. I choose to follow a Christian religion. At times it seems in conflict with my own ideas and it is something that needs to be worked on – as we know scholars have been doing this for centuries and christianity has been split into many sects over such issues – so has Judaism, and Islam.

    If the APA says that religion and belief systems have no place in pyschology then they write their own death sentence or at the very least a new religion.

    The science religion debate will also have sects, “cultures” within itself, etc… I doubt anyone can live without a belief system/faith of some sort but why should I change my faith? Only because it fits the belief system of someone else??? Does not sound right – whether you are a christian imposing your beliefs on others or a gay activist (or non activist with entrenched views on how others should live) imposing your views on others.

  76. Warren wrote:

    _______________________________________________________

    “Suffice to say, as I experience religious belief and as it has been described to me by numerous clients, friends and colleagues, such beliefs are often not experienced as mutable or negotiable. I do not say this to say, I am comfortable with this. Some religious beliefs are not healthy in my view. However, to trifle with them as if they can be switched on and off is, in my not completely chosen opinion, to misunderstand how the religious mind works.”

    _______________________________________________________

    What does it mean to trifle with religious beliefs? Is a religious belief superior to an unreligious belief simply because the religious person invokes a deity, when the unreligious has none? To me the problem comes not so much with the belief as with what informs the belief. I read through the threads on this site and some religious beliefs say that Jesus loves gay people and created them gay, that gay is a “gift.” Others say Jesus wants gay people to repent or they’re going to hell. Was “Jesus” trifling with the Pharisees religious beliefs?

    The reality of my own ssa didn’t give me a choice about my religious identity, they were in direct conflict with one another, they could not coexist without, at the very least, tampering with one of them.

  77. Thanks for the tip Lynn David. I know that the psychology of religion stuff is out there but it is an entire literature that I am not as familiar with as I should be. Religious identities are fairly stable and religion is associated with numerous positive mental health outcomes. In my opinion, therapists should have as much caution about tampering with enduring religious identities as with other aspects of personality integration.

  78. However, to trifle with them as if they can be switched on and off is, in my not completely chosen opinion, to misunderstand how the religious mind works.

    There have been studies which looked into thee religiosity of the mind. Religiosity does not have to do with theology but with a necessity for order. Likely there are differences among people which allows for the various reactions to homosexuality. I suspect this explains those with a high degree of religiosity who are wedded to a theology are will often argue that science (or evolution) is a religion for an atheist. Science can provide order and thus can provide solace for the need of religiosity. However there is no thoelogical construct in science by which it may be considered a religion.

    Have you read of Steven Riess’ “sensitivity theory” in his article “The sixteen strivings for god?” You can download PDFs of that article (and some of his others) from his home page:

    http://nisonger.osu.edu/reiss.htm

    In it he proposes:

    A psychological theory of religious experiences, sensi-tivity theory, is proposed. Whereas other theories maintain that reli-gious motivation is about a few overarching desires, sensitivity theory provides a multifaceted analysis consistent with the diversity, richness, and individuality of religious experiences. Sixteen basic desires show the psychological foundations of meaningful experience. Each basic desire is embraced by every person, but to different extents. How we prioritize the basic desires expresses our individuality and influences our attraction to various religious images and activities. Each basic desire is associated with a basic goal and a unique joy, such as love, self-worth, relaxation, or strength. We do not seek to experience joys infinitely; we regulate joys, in accordance with our core values, to sixteen balance points (sensitivities) that vary based on individuality. Religions help persons of faith regulate the sixteen basic joys by providing some images that strength joyful experiences and others that weaken them. We can strengthen our experience of self-worth, for example, by contemplating God in the image of savior; we can weaken our experience of self-worth by contemplating original sin. The theory of sixteen basic desires is testable scientifically and suggests such philosophical concepts as value-based happiness.

    He is basicaly saying that ‘god’ and religion supply a diverse set of more basic desires. “Romance” – that is sex – being only one of these within his framework (or order – religiosity). in some respects then, a person of homosexual orientation has 15-1 odds in favor of his religion and against his sexual orientation. Religion is in part a conscious restatement of what man previously experience instinctually. So tying a theology to that experience of man further enforces the percieve order which a religion provides. Is it any wonder then that it is not only a difficult decision for a homosexually oriented person but also represents such a culturally divisive concept as well?

  79. Do we choose to believe?? We choose what to believe but none of us can prove it is the absolute – even if you call it science.

    Overall, in my opinion, people are wired to find an anchor, something to hold onto with certainty. Science, organized religions, “love”, etc, etc… have all failed and yet provided for us – all of us – some sense of understanding and value. We are made to believe.

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