Is atheism a choice?

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Religion

[Disclaimer: The following post refers to a very small part of an interview I heard. It does not reflect my feelings about the interviewee overall. The entire interview was very interesting and I applaud Mr. Sweany for speaking out against the BSA’s position regarding the exclusion of homosexuals from its organization.]

Back in December, I was listening to a show called ‘Think’ that airs on our local NPR radio station. The host, Chris Boyd, was interviewing Brian Sweany, and editor at Texas Monthly, who wrote the op-ed “Scout’s Dishonor” in which he spoke out against the Boy Scout’s anti-gay policies.

During the interview, several listeners requested via email that Sweany discuss the BSA’s discrimination against atheists. In his response, Sweany said something that bothered me. He said:

It is true that members have been kicked-out for being atheist and I think that’s a slightly different issue, but it’s an interesting one to explore. Because I think if you’re coming from it from my standpoint, you would say that homosexuality is not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s who you are and it’s part of who you are. Whereas I think choosing to be an atheist is a decision that one makes, either from a family standpoint or from an individual standpoint.

What troubles me about his statement is the part where he says “[Homosexuality is] not a lifestyle, it’s who you are and it’s part of who you are. Whereas I think choosing to be an atheist is a decision that one makes…;” seemingly implying that atheism is a lifestyle… a choice that atheists make like what car they will drive, whether or not they will follow sports, or whether to listen to opera or punk.

Atheism is who we are and is part of who we are. We cannot force ourselves to believe in a supreme being for which there is no convincing evidence. Just as a homosexual should not be asked to lie about their sexual orientation or to hide it, atheists should not be asked to profess a belief that they do not hold, nor hide the fact that they do not hold a belief in a supreme being.

The statement Sweany made makes me wonder… are some of the negative feelings society has toward atheism and atheists due to a conception that we make a conscious effort to not believe in a god?

This is simply not the case. On the contrary, many atheists come to realize that they are atheists because they go to such lengths to try to convince themselves that the god that their friends and family believe in actually does exist so that they, too, can believe.

  1. criticofchristianity says:

    Never thought I would quote Glee on an atheist blog but I think this is relevant: “I can’t believe something I don’t.” – Kurt. This quote stuck with me because I feel the same way about God. As far as I can gather, Christians seem to think that all non-Christians have made the choice to reject the Living God and His Son, and because it is everyone’s personal choice, God is justified in sending them to Hell. But you are right. It is not a choice. I can’t randomly decide to believe in God, as hard as I may try, I just can’t believe something that I know is a lie. Thank you for a great post.

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