In the last post I addressed the argument that all religions must be human inventions because they are markedly different from one another, and tend to be limited to a specific culture and/or geography. A more common “argument” against religion comes in the following form: “You are only a Christian because you were born in America where Christianity is the cultural religion. If you would have been born in India, you would probably be a Hindu. You believe in the religion you believe in because you inherited it, not because it is true.”


I put parentheses around “argument” for good reason: this is not a valid argument against the truth of religion in general, or Christianity in particular. As an empirical observation, it is undeniable that one’s religious beliefs are largely determined by where they live, and/or the religious beliefs of their parents (an accident of history, not the result of critical examination and rational reflection). But does it follow from this that the object of all religious faith must be a human invention? No. It is non sequitur.


This sort of thinking commits the genetic fallacy (invalidating a view based on how a person came to hold that view). The fact of the matter is that the truth of a belief is independent of the influences that brought one to believe it. While I may be a Christian because I live in a society in which most people are Christians, it does not mean that my Christian beliefs are not true. The truth of Christianity depends on the veracity of the claims themselves, nothing more and nothing less.


It is not important how someone came to hold the view they hold; all that is important is the soundness of the reasons for which they hold the view they do. If I was born in India I would probably have been raised a Hindu, and might even be a Hindu today. But that would not change the fact that Hinduism is false, and Christianity is true. The empirical observation that people tend to inherit their religious beliefs tells us nothing about the truth value of those beliefs.


This argument is a double-edged sword that can be turned against the atheist as well. American atheists were born in America, and educated in a school system where scientific naturalism and secularism are the prevailing philosophies. Is it any wonder, then, why they believe in no god? If they had been born in Saudi Arabia they would probably be a Muslim theist. Does that mean scientific naturalism is therefore false? Of course not! The truth-value of scientific naturalism, Christianity, and Islam must be determined on the merits of those views themselves.


This “argument” also ignores the conversion factor: instances in which large numbers of people of one religion convert to a different religion. Think of Christianity. Christianity originated in a thoroughly Jewish culture. People who held Jewish beliefs abandoned them by the thousands in favor of Christian beliefs. Pagans did the same. Why? Because they found something to be true of Christianity they did not find in their own religion. The claims of Christianity were so compelling that they abandoned the religion of their parents/nation. It was a matter of truth, not inheritance.