A reader writes:
Some of the recent e-mails about whether faith is a choice reminded me of an incident back in 2001 in Germany. President Johannes Rau caused a stir when he said that it was impossible to be "proud" of being a German - after all, he hadn't done anything in order to be a German. I think some of the same logic is being applied here.
I don't agree with President Rau. While he might not have chosen to be born a German, he chose to remain a German - by not choosing to become an American, or a Canadian, or a citizen of any of the countries that might have been happy to have him. If a person is aware that a choice exists, then they have the freedom to keep doing what they're doing, or to alter their behavior.
I think that a similar thing holds true for faith.
People are taught from a young age that one deity, or another, or none, exist. It's all they know. But for faith to really not be a choice, a person would have to hide in a cave for his whole life, not to experience the many other views of God. To even understand the word Allah, or atheism, or agnosticism, or Krishna, or any of the thousands of others, means that you have made a choice.
That's certainly the case with me. Obviously I was brought up a Catholic. It was ingrained in me in ways that will probably never change. But it was also open to me to challenge it or walk away or question or revolt - and over my lifetime I have done each one. I keep coming back, because in the search for truth and meaning, Catholicism, for all its current flaws and blind spots, remains truer for me than any other system of belief. But this in turn has led to a deeper and deeper frustration with religion as doctrine and a greater and greater interest in religion as practice.
This is where my own profound flaws as a human being come into play. And this is perhaps what every Christian should work on before pronouncing on anything moral or true. They will know we are Christians by by what we do, not by what we say.