Sunday, September 16, 2007 Religion as an Accident of Geography
Today, just a quick thought, directed mainly at any Christians (or other theists, really) who might be visiting my slice of the Internet. It is a sad fact that most people remain in the religion into which they were born. That is, most children inculcated into Catholicism remain Catholics, most children indoctrinated into Islam remain Muslims, most children raised as Hindus remain so, etc. A relatively small percentage of such people eventually become atheists or “agnostics”; I count myself among this percentage because I abandoned Roman Catholicism roughly six years ago, as I became more educated and learned about evolution, anthropology, philosophy and other subjects. Another small percentage of people switches from one superstition to another. For example, Cat Stevens, a folksy performer from the ’60s and ’70s, changed his name to Yusuf Islam when he converted from Christian to Muslim. Again, though, Stevens is the exception to the rule: Most people, once inculcated, remain so.
Therefore, I pose a question to my theist friends who still follow the religion into which their parents indoctrinated them: Do you feel lucky to have been born into the correct religion? Researchers have concluded 19 major world religious groupings exist on this planet. Those groupings are subdivided into roughly 10,000 distinct religions (which is not to mention all the religions that have gone extinct over the millennia). Scroll through this list of religions, and ponder just how different your life would have been had you been born into a different superstition. I want to make a suggestion: If a devout Christian, who was born in Topeka, Kansas, had instead been born in Saudi Arabia, he would have been a devout Muslim. If Osama bin Laden, who is a devout Muslim, had instead been born in Athens, Georgia, he would have been a devout Christian. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Religion spreads, passively, by the coincidental geography of one's place of birth and, actively, by parents’ talent for inculcating their defenseless, trusting young. Some people seemingly have a genetic predisposition to religious zeal; the religion to which they wed themselves has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with inculcative history. The Christian apologetics that is utterly convincing to a person born in Hendersonville, Tennessee, would be infidelic venom to that same person, had he instead been born in Tehran, Iran. Perhaps religion finally shall go extinct once more people realize that one’s piety, at least with regard to a particular superstition, is a mere accident of geography. A fundamentalist Christian, in other words, in an alternate reality, would be just another Jihadist. posted by The Jolly Nihilist at 3:19:00 PM