Have you ever wondered why some people, who you think could be "perfect" Mormons in so many ways, reject the Gospel? What about how some people can sit through the most spiritual of meetings and feel absolutely nothing? Or witness events that we consider to be miraculous and still feel no reason to believe in a god?
There are certain reasons why we can assume that people do not believe in God. Among these are:
a) personal pride
c) falling prey to Satan
I admit that before I really gave atheism or agnosticism any serious thought, I would have put the blame squarely on the shoulders of anyone who claimed to not believe in God. And the reason why it was their fault and no one else's was because of one or more of the above. After all, God opens to all who knock. So why don't they just knock on the door?
But could there be more to it?
I think that I started to think about this more after getting to know certain people who were among the most wonderful, compassionate, loving individuals that I had ever met, and yet are either atheist or agnostic. The case of one friend in particular -- I'll call her Amber -- who happened to be born into the Church in Utah but later left it, made me think a lot. She is a real sweetheart, has the biggest heart for animals (a cause near and dear to my heart as well) and people who suffer. She has been through a lot of sadness and tragedy in her personal life. We had some interesting discussions via e-mail about God and why/how I can believe in Him. She wanted to find peace. She wanted to believe in God like I do. But she can't -- at least not up to this point in her life. I wouldn't call her an atheist, but I would say she is definitely agnostic. And I just can't quite attribute it to any of the reasons on my list.
We've been having an interesting discussion over at Three Feet High And Rising about whether a "faith gene" could exist. (Read the thread if you get a chance because it's very interesting.) I'm a believer. Yes, I have my doubts and sometimes they are major. I see many logical and sensible reasons to deny that God exists. Yet I can't. And then we have people like my friend who yearn for the kind of peace that believers are accustomed to, but find it to be elusive. Why is that? And who is to blame? Is it Amber's fault? Is it Satan's fault? Is it God's fault? Or is it simply the card that life dealt her?
PB, a non-believer who wished that she could believe, said on the Three Feet High And Rising thread that, "a core belief for Christians is that they are saved by Christ, which means that non-believers are damned."
"That isn't really what we believe as Mormons and yet we seem to do a great job of making people think that that is what we believe. If we truly believe in our own doctrine -- that God is fair and just and that EVERYONE will get a fair shot to hear the Gospel in its purity and entirety (and not just the flawed, human, earthly interpretations of it), whether in this life or in the next -- then what do we have to fear if people like Jupee, PB, or my husband, decide to not join us in baptism and fellowship in the LDS Church? I don't know Jupee or PB personally, but I would venture to guess that they are good, decent people. We don't know why they seem to be lacking the "faith gene," but I believe that if God exists, he will give them their fair shot and won't hold it against them if they honestly never felt his presence in their earthly lives -- especially if they sincerely wished they could believe, like PB said."
Fifthgen, a fellow Mormon, then responded:
"So, I was thinking about the “faith gene” on the way to work. It has interesting implications for Mormonism. As FD points out, Mormons believe that, at some point, everyone will have a full opportunity to accept (or reject) God’s plan and follow Christ.
Let’s assume that there really is some genetic component to faith. If someone is genetically prevented from believing, or even significantly hindered in their ability to believe, Mormon doctrine would suggest that their full opportunity to make a knowing and voluntary decision would not come in this life. Presumably, it would come in the hereafter, when their genetic condition no longer interferes with their ability to have faith and accept God’s teachings. This raises some interesting ideas.
For example, maybe the “faith gene,” or rather its absence in some people, is a necessary part of the mortal experience. If everyone believed easily, no one’s faith would really be challenged. At least in some things. Maybe the genetic non-believers are here to allow an environment where faith is even possible.
Additionally, a genetic component to faith would make any sort of value judgment about non-believers very problematic. Until we can test for the DNA marker for the “faith gene,” who knows if you are talking to someone who made a voluntary decision not to have faith and follow God, or someone who simply cannot do that. The safest choice for believers would be to treat everyone charitably and without judgment, recognizing that they may not have really had their full opportunity to embrace God yet."
So what do you think? Are we genetically predisposed to either believe or not believe? And if we are, can we "change sides?"