There are people in this world that are willing to die for their religion. There are also quite a few people in this world that are willing to kill for their religion as well. If you were to ask any one of these people why it is that they feel so strongly about their faith they will not hesitate to cite scripture and personal revelation. There will be anecdote upon anecdote, quote upon quote, and justification after justification on why they feel the way they do. Why should they not? Most people that take a fundamentalist approach to religion have lived with it their entire lives. If not the religion they currently are a part of then anther sect or another denomination just as fundamental as the one the espouse today. If we look at this person in their entirety, as a being that grows and learns as all people do, we must look to their environment. So again we are forced to ask, why should they not believe in the things that they do?
This is an important question we must ask with any belief that is held, but much more important when we look at religious beliefs. In the United States the predominant religion is Christianity, and as any devout Christian will tell you, Christianity, the Bible, Jesus, and all of the other Christian ideals are the one true religion and all of the others are either perversions or flat out wrong. However, as any social anthropologist or sociologist will tell you, this is all almost exclusively dependant on the environment in which such a person grew up in. We are products of our environment. If we grow up in a family that absolutely hates green beans and thought they were poisonous, the likelihood of you coming to love green beans and trying them on your own are very slim unless provided strong evidence they were in fact not poisonous, and even then you’ll have a hard time choking them down. Same for differing ideas on religion.
Let us look back at history and see if we can make sense of this idea. Different cultures had different ideas of what it was to be religious. We see many pantheistic cultures in very early times like the Norse and Roman gods that struck down impious people. In other parts of the world we see a more spiritual religious view as with the Eastern philosophies and religions. Spirits were everywhere and honoring them was the best way to be pious. In the America’s we see animalistic spirituality with shamans taking on aspects of animals in order to increase the bounty during a certain season. Is it not strange that each region shares certain attributes? How can we put forward that one way of thinking is any better than another way of thinking? If the later theistic religions are right, why didn’t one of the Native Americans sit up and say “Aha! We are doing this wrong! There is only one god and he has this and that attribute”. Is it because they intentionally misinterpret facts and shun opposing religions? Or is it because their entire culture, their entire way of life is built upon the shamanistic virtues?
So what does any of this have to do with our current struggles with Christianity and Islam and Judaism and Scientology and the like? Well it has simply everything to do with it! How can any one single current religion claim to be the one true religion when we have so much anthropological data pointing to the fact that people only believe a certain way because their community does? When we look at our beliefs from this perspective we have to second guess why someone would be willing to kill or die for a religious belief. After all, we only hold certain ideas because they are ingrained in us from the time we are able to talk. This should be evidence enough to cast doubt on what we hold so dear. This should cause us to question why we believe what we believe and why we can be so sure that the other guys just “got it wrong”.
So the next time you hear someone claim that the Bible has all the right answers and that in order to believe in the one true god, ask them why it is they believe in that. Ask them why they don’t believe in Allah or Zeus. Others feel sufficiently strong about their gods that they are willing to kill and die for them, or at the very least, feel strongly enough to claim the same for their religion. Ask them where they first heard of the Bible and where they got the idea of god from. You can be assured that their counterpart in another part of the world is just as incredulous to their beliefs as they are of theirs.
The only answer to such confusion and obvious environmental indoctrination is to take a step back and look at all views equally from outside the status quo from whence you came. Weigh each religion not on its value to sway or make someone feel good, but on the actual merit of their claim. Why is this one better than that one? Why do only people in a desert region believe this, and those in a tropical believe that? This will lead you ultimately to dispose of all superstitions in favor of the one thing that can explain exactly why it is that so many different people have so many different beliefs-science.