Don’t Religious Beliefs Just Reflect Where One Was Raised?

by J. Steve lee

Are religious beliefs just a reflection of where one was raised? It’s hard not to notice that people who grow up in India almost always become Hindus and people raised in Saudi Arabia usually become Muslims. Likewise, many Christians accept Christianity because their parents were Christians. Since a person’s religious beliefs most often reflect the dominant religious beliefs of the region in which they were born, many people conclude that all religions are just cultural expressions. In this view, religious beliefs are not the result of reason, evidence, or the movement of God in a person’s life. Rather, religion is just a product of the way you were raised. There are two significant problems with this theory.

First, the origin of a belief does not determine whether or not it’s true. Each belief (and hence, each religion) must be weighed independently of questions about its origin. We examine how it matches up to things like history, logic, and data from science. If the belief stands up to examination, it does not matter how you came to hold it. For instance, what if a lunatic told you how to get to New York City? The man believes many wrong things about himself and the world, but if his directions succeed in getting you to the Big Apple, you can be sure that his belief about the route to New York was correct. It does not matter that he is certifiably crazy. Your belief originated with a crazy man; yet the crazy man knew the truth.

Second, the skeptical view described above says your surroundings determine your beliefs; yet this theory cannot explain religious conversions in which a person chooses against his or her upbringing. Every day all across the world, many thousands of people convert from one religious belief to another. If religious beliefs merely reflect where one was raised, this would not happen. The reality of religious conversion shows that religious beliefs are more than the result of upbringing. People change their religion, because they come to question their inherited religious beliefs. After examining the beliefs of other religions, they choose to reject their cultural influences and upbringing and the beliefs that come with them.

The most impressive historical example of this is the spread of Christianity. The Christian faith began as a tiny group of Jews huddled in Jerusalem, but then spread across the world, traversing many cultures and languages, as people examined the case for Christianity and came to believe it was true (as recorded in many instances in the book of Acts; for example, Acts 16).

In conclusion, where you were raised does have an obvious impact on your religious beliefs; however, history proves that this can be overcome when people reconsider their beliefs in light of evidence and argumentation. While most people’s religious beliefs reflect where they were raised, they still have the freedom and responsibility to consider the evidence and claims of their religion. Christianity excels when people take the time to seriously explore its claims as well as reconsider the non-Christian beliefs with which they were raised.


This article is provided courtesy of the Apologetics Study Bible for Students published by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. This dynamic study Bible contains over 200 fast-read articles that anchor us in the truths of the Christian faith and equip us to have conversations with others about Jesus Christ. For information on how you can own this powerful tool click here.

© Copyright 2016 Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

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