This is probably the shortest and most difficult question we face, and we face it every moment of our lives. Why? Why do we do what we do? How much of what we do is free will? Or is free will an illusion we use to place credit or blame on the shoulders of the successful or unfortunate. How much of what we do is choice? What guides, influences, or controls those choices?
My immediate response, at this point in my life, is free will is non-existent and the few choices we believe we are making out of our own free will are so heavily influenced and limited by our genes, our location, our past, our undependable perceptions, incomplete knowledge, and faulty logic as to be virtually meaningless. Accepting this proposition and living without the illusion of free will creates an opportunity to change how we view and accept ourselves and others. This acceptance of the why, or the lack of why, in the choices we make leads to compassion and assistance instead of derision and punishment.
So, are we born this way or is everything a choice? How much about the *what* we are at birth, controls or limits our future ability to choose? How much of where we are born, and to whom, controls or limits not only our ability to choose, but the choices available, the choices we perceive?
We are only as free as the next breath, the next heartbeat.
Some of us are born with extremely limited abilities to make choices in our lives. Intellectual and emotional development is touchy at best. Most of us are able to function reasonably well, but here comes my opinion again; I think we are mostly barely hanging on to fractured realities. In other words we are all batshit crazy. The only ones I worry about are the ones who disagree. While we all have moments when we are rather pleased with ourselves and are convinced everyone else is either nuts or dumb as a box of rocks, there are those who live the entirety of their days firmly convinced of their righteousness and the failing of others.
By now, it is probably obvious where this is all headed, straight to the Great State of New York. New York is the most recent state to belatedly acknowledge that all humans have the same legal rights. If the connection is not obvious, the only thing standing between equal rights for all and discrimination is whether we freely choose who or what we are, or are we created as we are by a capricious god who can’t make up his mind. Or more likely, there is no god creating anything and due to the extreme complexity of the human mind and endocrine system we can be born with every combination of gender identity and sexual orientation possible, and that’s OK.
Let’s return to the original question. Why? Why is this distinction important? The answer is found in one of the many corners into which the pious are trapped. They are convinced that a god, known to many as a fictitious character, has a negative opinion of LGBT citizens. These people, whose beliefs leave little freedom to choose, believe that gender identity or sexual orientation is a choice freely made after careful deliberation. Though when asked, they have no recollection of ever deciding to be male or female, gay or straight.
They believe god hates or at least strongly disapproves of LGBT people. When it is proven that we are born with these traits, they must then admit that their god truly does create LGBT’s just as he creates heterosexuals. Once this is admitted they must admit their holy books are not the word of god, but the literary creation, and I use the term loosely, of men. Not that there is not already enough evidence to prove this to be true. Personally, whether people choose or not, their civil rights should never be an issue, but here religion bares its ugly soul. By believing people make conscious decisions to be gay or straight, male or female, and living in fear of turning gay, they justify discrimination based on a book they believe to be the word of god.
This presents a wonderful opportunity to put another nail in the box holding the other deceased gods and demons of our past. Fund research that proves beyond question that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent traits with which we are born. Proving this to be true would follow in a long line of discoveries that have steadily eroded religion’s grip on society: geocentric to heliocentric; creationism to evolution; demons invading our souls to bacterial and viral infections; free will to DNA.
The best part is all the fear they instill in their congregations of the gay agenda, the gaying of America, will be proven false. They will be seen as liars. Because, if we are born this way and these traits are in fact inherent, then you can no more make someone gay than you can turn someone straight. Something they know damn well to be true. Yes, there will be more people fearlessly being themselves, but there will not be any more or less of one orientation or identity than ever before. This is the problem, they prefer everyone remain in the closet, because another thing they do not have is the courage to face their neighbors.
Religious leadership knows what’s at stake, it isn’t the gay agenda, it’s the loss of their congregations, the loss of income. This is bigger than gay or straight. Loss of faith in the doctrine of free will calls into question all faith and belief. Any challenge to this religious induced belief, the sanctity of free will, calls into question everything they hold dear. This is a lynch-pin of their beliefs. If free will is an illusion then for a god to pass judgement and punish us for sins we had little or no choice in committing is fundamentally wrong. It then follows that begging forgiveness, from anything other than those we have harmed, is bullshit.
God created the murderer; therefore, god wants murderers. The murderer asks god for forgiveness or god punishes the murderer for failure to do so. Now, that does sound silly. Maybe, poor people aren’t poor just because they are lazy parasites who simply failed to choose to be rich. The doctrine of free will absolves us of responsibility to others. They made their choice, they suffer the consequences, end of story. This absolute belief in free will is critical if we are going to overlook god creating, but not loving all his children equally. Absolute faith in free will has many repercussions for the faithful and the secular.
Obviously, once we learn to look past the illusion of free will, and accept people as they are, then we can no longer justify any form of discrimination or punishment. Those who have made some terrible decisions will be viewed with compassion and empathy once we learn to accept we are not masters of our minds or bodies. This does not imply we are not to be held responsible for our choices; however, it does force us to reexamine, to further delineate, the lines between choice, opportunity, ability, and compulsion, between the conscious and the sub-conscious, between what we believe and what we know, between punishment, confinement, and treatment. Admitting our perceptions are not to be trusted, that our beliefs are questionable, our logic is faulty, and free will is illusory, will change how we treat anyone whose choices or lives differ from our own, especially if they never had a choice at all.