YspeopleExplore tab

I did not choose my beliefs

About Philosophically

I think, therefore I am.

None of us choose what we believe. In fact, we have little say in this. Like yours, my beliefs are the outcome of a socialisation process.


For most of us, religion is learned in our younger years.

For most of us, religion is learned in our younger years. Picture: iStock

In a recent documentary, comedian and rational thinker Ricky Gervais asked viewers to consider a circumstance where it was not possible to discuss religion (or atheism) with a child until that individual was 20 years of age. He then asked viewers to ponder how many of these people would become Christian or believers of any faith.

I think his point was well made.

For most people, religion is learned in their younger years and at that point, becomes an ingrained belief. Gervais suggests that for most, religion is learned as a child - when they are the ‘sponge’ they must be to learn all they need in order to function in this world.

I would argue that not only is Gervais’ point well made, but it applies to much more than religion. It most certainly also applies to a range of social values including politics, racial tolerance and attitudes to various sexual lifestyles. Many of the beliefs we have as adults developed during our formative years and, once they are formed, they are difficult to change.

This conversation is living proof of this.

I was raised in a Christian household by two devout Anglicans. The existence of God was not so much a topic of conversation as it was an accepted fact. I went to Sunday school, said my prayers at night, was baptised and later confirmed, read the good book and endeavoured to behave in a manner my parents viewed as being consistent with the teachings of their God. I did not even view the existence of God as something worthy of contemplation until I was 15. I just accepted it.

Today, I know that there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a God and that the likelihood that a book drafted by Iron Age people and edited time and again is factual is virtually impossible. I know intellectually that this world could not have been created by a God that is simultaneously all knowing, all loving and all powerful. I am a massive fan of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, two of the most prominent atheists of our time, and my father is today anything but God fearing.

Despite all of this, here I am having a conversation with God.

Despite all of this, I still catch myself talking to God in my head.

Beliefs are very hard to change once they are locked in. I don’t believe in God, in any shape or form. Indeed, I am attracted to viewing the belief in God as feeble minded - and a reflection of socialisation, and a lack of critical thinking and/or insecurity. But I know that we do not choose our beliefs.

Our beliefs are the outcome of our experiences, influences, social conditioning and all the other environmental factors that impact us from the day we are born. This is not to say that beliefs cannot change. They can. Beliefs change in response to more data, more socialisation and more external influences.

We don’t not choose what we believe. I have never said to myself, ‘I choose to believe….’ No one ever has. Beliefs form over time. They are the result of our socialisation process and everyone experiences a slightly different socialisation process, influenced by different people and different external stimuli.

Beliefs are the result of external factors and, largely, socialisation.

As a result, we should never hold anyone responsible for what they believe. They did not make a conscious choice to believe it and as such cannot be held responsible for it. It is s sign of an unthinking and backward society that we would ever hold anyone responsible, or criticise them for something over which they had no say or choice.

While we may be entirely justified in criticising or even attacking someone for the way they behave, it is nothing short of stupidity to persecute someone, anyone, for what they believe.

Beliefs are the result of socialisation and once formed, are hard to change. It took years of internal wrestling for me to become absolutely sure that there was no evidence of a deity – and still I talk to one!

Socialisation is both powerful and dangerous.

  • Read last week's conversation: We're all a product of our environment
  • Banner 1
    | Your rating
    No ratings yet

    Related stories

    Women cheat on men who don't do house chores: study

    Women are more likely to cheat on men who fail to pull their weight when it comes to household chores, according to a major...

    Work Relationships
    Originally from telegraph.co.uk
    9 months ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Marriage is a con, serving no purpose at all.

    Marriage is a symptom of ugliness

    Relationships and love have astonishing value. But marriage? Pffffft, what a con!

    Relationships Community Social Issues
    12 months ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    By following a few commonsense rules, online dating isn't so scary after all.

    How to stay safe while dating online


    Have you found yourself single again in midlife? Thinking about online dating? Read this first.

    Relationships Technology Health
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Saying thankyou will brighten two people's day.

    The power of saying thankyou

    There is incredible power in saying thankyou and expecting nothing in return.

    Relationships Community Health
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Grandkids say the funniest things.

    The things your grandchildren say

    Children say the darndest things, don't they? Share your funny anecdotes.

    Relationships Community Humour
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Children need to know it's OK to bite, kick and scream if grabbed by a stranger.

    Nine life-saving lessons to teach your grandkids

    Here's how to equip your grandchildren with the tools to keep them safe from predators.

    Family Relationships Community Social Issues
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    We were like chalk and cheese.

    An overdue apology to my long-dead brother

    The pain following your death on that remote country road runs deep. Here's why I want to sorry.

    Family Relationships Loss
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    A class divided passport of the 80s.

    My passport is a snapshot of an uglier time


    You only have to look at my passport from the 1980s -- which lists me as black and bans me from travelling to South Africa --...

    Social Issues India Politics Australia
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Empty nesters, how did you celebrate winning your freedom back? Picture: Shutterstock.

    Empty nesters, let's hear your stories

    Alright all of you empty nesters, how did you celebrate your new-found freedom? Let's get a conversation started.

    Property Relationships Community
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)
    Baby Joyce.

    Marriage meltdown not Barnaby’s only failure

    Our Deputy PM's moral protestations about our interest in his love life go directly to the character of the man.

    Relationships Social Issues Politics Australia
    About 1 year ago
    (Love & Relationships)

    Message board

    Derek, 9 months ago:
    I am great
    George, 9 months ago:
    What's up Thomas?
    George, 9 months ago:
    Messages are now updated in real time on other browsers.
    Thomas, 9 months ago:
    Thomas, 10 months ago:
    DJC, 10 months ago:
    George, 10 months ago:
    Message board active from June 2018

    Have your say!

    Your Great Australians

    Trending stories
    When it comes to great bloggers you can connect with, this list has you covered.

    20 mature bloggers worth following

    Looking for Australian...

    (Entertainment & Culture) Almost 2 years ago
    They may be hideous, but geez, some toby jugs are valuable.

    Is your toby jug worth a fortune?

    Did you know that some of...

    (Nostalgia) 9 months ago
    photo credit @geoff.

    Why invest in women and girls?

    As we celebrate...

    (Kindness) 9 months ago
    That desperation to ''know'' and be right can cause so much unnecessary conflict.

    When 'knowing' is dangerous

    Nothing starts more...

    (Ys Comment) About 1 year ago

    Ripper dad jokes get a laugh

    Here's my pick of some of...

    (Love & Relationships) Over 2 years ago
    Weekly Poll
    Photographic memories
    It's 35 years since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in South Australia and Victoria claimed 75 lives and more than 2500 buildings.