The Right Religion

coincidenceAre you able to accept the fact that, had you grown up in a Muslim family, you would most likely be a Muslim now (and similarly for any other belief system)? You would be knowledgable of the scriptures, teachings, and apologetics of Islam, have had experiences that confirm the reality of your belief system (because you would be conditioned to interpret them in such a way), and be as ignorant as you are now of most other religions (except, perhaps, for their broadest details).

If not, you are likely ignorant of or downplaying the significance that your upbringing has on your beliefs (that is, you mistakenly think that your beliefs are relatively free from the influence of the limited languages, experiences, information, people, etc. you were exposed to growing up, thinking that the conclusions you have drawn are for the most part rationally based).

(Just consider the fact that almost no one believes in a religion they’ve never heard of (except for those who start their own). You might object, “well if they don’t know about it, then of course they can’t!” This demonstrates, however, that belief systems are generally not fundamentally rational but rather experiential. For if they were fundamentally rational, people should be able to arrive at belief systems deductively.)

If you are able to accept that fact, however, how is it reasonable for a god to expect human beings to get their beliefs exactly right (and punish them otherwise)? In particular, why do the gods of Western religions seem so obsessed with right belief, anyway? As expounded by the psychological theory situationism, it is not even clear that the person plays a more influential role in determining their behavior than the situation that person is in (in other words, what if beliefs are influenced more by external, situational factors rather than internal traits or motivations?).

Everybody wants to think that, by the grace of God, they happened to be born in a family that believed the “one and only truth” and belonged to the “right faith.” What often happens as a result is that people subscribe to whatever criteria for determining truth set forth by the group they belong to. The internally self-perpetuating cycle of self-validation of the group is thus continued.

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