Regarding World Religion

By World religions map ru.svg: Tetromino et al. derivative work: — Obsuser [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By World religions map ru.svg: Tetromino et al. derivative work: — Obsuser [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist? 

 

The problem with this question is that it cuts backwards – like a chainsaw with a strong kickback. How would this be any different if posed to the atheist about their naturalism? As they love to point out, we simply believe in one more God than they do. So, if believing that 99.9% of all other views are wrong for one’s own view to be right, how is that less problematic for the person who believes that 99.99% of all other views are wrong? If this is a problem for the Christian, then it is at least marginally more problematic for the atheist.  

Now, if the atheist would like to respond by saying that the truth or falsity of other views is independent of the truth or falsity of their own worldview; or that the truth of their worldview categorically undermines the truth of all others, then they must grant those as possible answers for the Christian (both of which I would be happy to employ). So whatever answer they would like to use to exempt themselves would equally exempt anyone else from the import of the question. What’s good for the goose… 

Multiple Religions could point to a number of different things not ONLY the idea that cultures invent God. Dr. Gerald McDermott has written a number of books on the topic but “God’s Rivals” offers a unique perspective to this. All religions, while not equal, do offer glimpses of truth that may make it easier for those “believers” to accept the truth of Christianity if they explore the evidence. This may sound naive but considering the moral systems of most religions and unique elements that offer a shadow of Christianity it actually makes sense that God could prepare different people groups in different ways for the Gospel. Especially, when you consider that Judaism missed their own Messiah. Now, with that said this in no way supports a universalism. Merely that God’s methods and plans extend beyond the typical and into a transdimensional component that understands the course of human history and culture far better than we often do. This is also not to leave the explanation as a simple, “God works in mysterious ways”. Sometimes though I think we underestimate how well an omnipotent being would actually understand us. Especially when we look at how Christianity has spread, its almost as if the world was “primed” for it. )

 

 

A hundred is probably a modest estimate when it comes to particular religions – assuming that Swan is talking about the span of time since the dawn of human existence. Indeed, humans do seem inherently religious. So much so that it would be practically impossible to find a person – atheist or religious – who doesn't know what you mean when you talk about "God." The fact that people have been trying to discover the nature of God and how best to worship him since the dawn of time may equally be evidence of the actual existence of God. Swan’s point is, no doubt, that people’s inherent instinct toward religion explains the invention of God. But what explains people’s inherent instinct toward religion? Swan would, no doubt, blame human’s religiosity on some cruel trick of evolution – but even were this true, explaining how a belief arose does not suddenly make that belief incorrect. Who is to say that God did not use the process of evolution to make humans aware of his existence? (For Christian readers, this is not to suggest that the process of Darwinian Evolution is either true or false. Rather than defending a particular view of the origin of life, this response is intended to convey that evolution does not preclude the possibility of religious truth. If true, it could simply be the mechanism by which true belief arose). 

Built into the question, of course, are the dual dilemmas best phrased, “With so many religions, how do you know yours is the right one?” and “If God is real, why is there such confusion about who he is and how to worship him?” 

Of course, in answer to the first question, one may trot out the classical Apologetics arguments about how the evidence indicates that Christianity is the true religion. However, whatever logical force these arguments might contain, the second dilemma still exists. 

Assuming the truth of Christianity, this does not preclude the possibility of people being wrong about God. In fact, given what Christians call the "fallenness" of humans – that is, a separation of humans from their God because of willing rebellion – it should not be all that surprising that people are mostly mistaken about God. If the existence of God has not been agreed upon, the Atheist and Christian can still agree on the fallibility and overall ignorance of humans. Why should religion be any different than philosophy or science? Wherein there are a number of schools of thought and no one agrees. 

The history of religion has shown that, as societies improve in their philosophies, theologies and moral development, they tend to progress away from polytheism and toward monotheism. Aristotle and Plato, both from the heathen Greek culture, developed arguments which indicated a transcendent Creator God.  

Meaning that – as humans struggle to discover and worship a God they intuitively know; their concept of God becomes ever more similar to the Christian God.  

Further, it should be noted that - beginning with its rise in the first century – the insignificant Christian movement ballooned across the map, and rapidly became the largest world religion: where it remains today. 

Point being that, while there have been hundreds of religions, there have also been hundreds of human misconceptions about every subject under the sun. And just as science becomes more refined as humans develop, so the idea of God begins to further resemble the Christian God as time goes on. 

If anything, this shows that people all over the world are capable of creative distortion. It actually seems far less likely that multiple, diverse cultures would come up with similar invented deities and ideas about supernatural being(s). A far more plausible scenario is that there is a kernel of truth which mankind took with them and which evolved then separately as they spread across the globe.

 

2.) If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too? 

This is yet another question that simply cuts the atheist even deeper than it does the Christian (or Muslim or Jew or really any perspective one wants to launch this against). The chances of someone being an atheist in Iraq for example are next to none. If one had not be raised in a late modern secular nation, the chances of them being an atheist is next to nil.  

Another problem here is that there are plenty of adult converts who converted from entirely non-Christian homes to Christianity (myself included). So, my answer would simply be a biographical yes. My parents were secular and entirely non-religious and yet here I am as an ordained elder in a conservative Reformed protestant denomination.  

Finally, depending on the follow up for this question, the questioner may be liable to committing what is called the genetic fallacy. This fallacy occurs when one tries to invalidate the truth of a proposition or belief by attacking how someone came to believe it. Imagine that everyone only became a Christian via upbringing. Would that entail that Christianity were false? Well no. That would be the genetic fallacy. I could come to believe that the earth orbits the sun by reading comic books, but using that dubious means of belief formation would not invalidate whether it is true that the earth orbits the sun. So, if the questioner gets an answer in the negative, that is, that someone came to believe in the truth of Christianity because of their upbringing, what then? Where would the questioner go? It seems the point would be to then get them to doubt that the belief is therefore true. But in doing that, the questioner would need to employ the genetic fallacy.  

Quite possibly, but that doesn’t speak to the nature of what the question is really getting at. The insinuation is that religions are cultural. This is true to a certain extent. However, it says nothing about the superficiality of religion to many. Look at America and the number of superficial worshippers. Accepting a belief without investigation does not speak to its truthfulness. Also this neglects the reasons why Christianity would see such a significant spread across regions in a way not seen in other religions.

Impossible to say. Children will absorb the values and views of their parents in early development, as they have not matured enough in analytical thinking to form their own views about the world. However, as children mature and develop – near their teenage years – they begin to question values and standards, and to form their own views. This is the root of what has popularly become known as "teenage rebellion," the common perception that teenagers "think they know more than their parents," and the observable boundary-testing that occurs at adolescence.  

Psychologist Dr. Luke Galen states that, “While intelligence can be reliably measured at an early age, religiosity cannot. If you take a measure of a person’s religiosity early on, it doesn’t prove at all if they are going to be religious as an adult.”

Finally, it is worth considering that Christianity remains the largest world religion, and still the fastest growing. Christian believers and Churches are present in Communist countries, Hindu countries, and Islamic countries. By sheer averages, a person is more likely to be a Christian than any other religion. So, while a child is certainly going to adopt the values and worldviews of their parents, this is not a strong determiner of what values and beliefs they will hold as an adult.  

Regardless, the religion a person chooses – and their reasons for choosing it – are not the determiner of the truth or falsity of that belief. 

Probably. However, that doesn’t give any kind of answer to the far more important question about whether or not that religion is true.

 

3.) If people from the five major religions are told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed? 

Yet again, the question cuts back onto naturalism/secularism. Once we free ourselves from only talking about “religion” (a questionable concept anyway) and speak on the level of worldview and belief systems, then we can see that mere disagreement is unrelated to the veracity of the various claims. For surely the 5 major religions disagree more with naturalism than with each other and as such would be more problematic for the atheist. For if disagreement is supposed to show a that all disputed beliefs should be abandoned, then surely by that principle sharply disputed beliefs should be abandoned with even more haste.  

Contradiction does NOT equal equivalence as this question implies. If truth exists we would expect there to be various beliefs, especially if the Bible is true and men fear truth. Much like in science 2 or more opposing views may all be wrong but that can’t all be right. However, this says nothing to the possibility that 1 of them could be true.  

If people following the unification of quantum theory and gravity are told three conflicting things, should any of them be believed?   

The presence of multiple explanations for a thing does not make each of the explanations false. This would be a fairly faulty way of thinking, because the presence of multiple theories/explanations for things is ever-present throughout history, and still is in modern times. Yet it is still possible to determine the truth about a given subject despite conflicting information about that subject. 

Ultimately, when compared, whichever model best fits reality should be considered the true model. 

Confirmed atheist Jennifer Fulwiler began researching different religions when she began to become interested in religion. She initially avoided Christianity – dismissing in from the beginning because of a cultural bias against it. After considering every religion but Christianity, she came to discover that Christianity offered the best evidence.2 

This same story is mirrored in the life of prominent atheist blogger, Darrin Rasberry, who eventually converted to Christianity. Darrin describes his journey: 

“After considering Deism (the belief in a God who abandons His creation), Islam, Hinduism (yes, Krishna, don't laugh), Baha'i, and even Jainism briefly, I have decided to select Christianity due to its superior model for human evil and its reconciliation, coupled with the belief that God interacted with man directly and face-to-face and had *the* crucial role in this reconciliation. This, of course, doesn't prove that Christianity is absolutely true (although I can prove that God exists), but rather reflects my recognition that Christianity is exactly what I would expect to be the case given that God exists.”

Yes. If what the people are being told lines up with reality.

The fact that there is disagreeing truth claims has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not any of them are actually true.