Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quote of the Day - Religion and Heredity

Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. --Richard Dawkins


Almost every religious person will tell you that their religion is the most logical, the most accurate, and has the best moral code. And yet the great majority of them were born into their religion and hardly considered any of the others. And a majority of the ones who picked a religion other than their parents', picked the one belonging to most people who live near them. It's as rare to find someone in Alabama who decided that Zoroastrianism is correct as it is to find a Bantu tribesman who decided that Judaism is true.

34 comments:

Mis-nagid said...

It's just a coincidence, I'm sure.

Sadie Lou said...

My husband grew up Catholic, married an agnostic and became a Christian--all by himself.

I grew up agnostic, married a non practicing Catholic and became a Christian--all by myself.

My sister-in-law was raised Catholic, became a Christian before her brother did, married a Christian.

An elder at my church was raised Catholic, married a Protestant, together they became Mormons and then discovered Christianity.

My Father was raised STRICT Catholic, married an agnostic, together raised their children agnostic and now have a daughter who is a Christian, a daughter who is an Atheist and a daughter who is "seeking" Buddaism.

I'm not buying your theory based on my own, personal circumstance.

Jewish Atheist said...

I said "a great majority," not "all." Anyway, you and your husband joined the majority religion of your country. It's not like you suddenly discovered that Hinduism is true.

CyberKitten said...

I'm more intrigued by this statement by Sadie Lou:

"raised Catholic, became a Christian"

I thought Catholic's already WERE Christians...

(looks rather confused)

Mereadlin said...

I think you make an excellent point. We often stick with some derivative of the faith in which we were raised. Many people may leave it for a time, but I think if they return to something, it's similar to what they were raised. My guess would be it's a smaller number that choose something completely different, but I don't know any real statistics.

Mereadlin said...

"I thought Catholic's already WERE Christians..."

Depends on who you're talking to ;)

Sadie Lou said...

Well I'm non denominational so when I say "Christian" I'm using it in the generic, simplistic meaning of the word--just a follower of Christ.
Being Catholic means a whole bunch more than that.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: Being Catholic means a whole bunch more than that.

Ah, Gotcha. Just had me confused there for a moment...

Personally I'd call them all Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Quaker etc..) but different flavours there of.... I guess that makes you.... erm... vanilla?

It actually makes my head spin trying to keep up with all the denominations, sects & off-shoots.... Though I guess that someone somewhere is keeping a list or more like a family tree...

Sadie Lou said...

Personally I'd call them all Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Quaker etc..) but different flavours there of.... I guess that makes you.... erm... vanilla?

*laughing*
Sure. I like Vanilla. Can it be French Vanilla? Some of the flavors are pretty complicated--especially when you start adding the toppings....

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: Some of the flavors are pretty complicated--especially when you start adding the toppings....

Probably why I'm an atheist (or at least partially). It's just SO much simpler.....

asher said...

Very few buddist monks ever discover judaism. Ever think that might be because they are cloistered in Tibet where their access to anything might be hampered by their very strict denomination or that their secular Chinese overlords might prevent them from doing it.

If you were brought up Christian, the odds of your becoming Jewish is also remote. You keep hearing about the anti-christ, the folks who took on the responsibility of killing Jesus and other devilish tales of the jews.

If you're Jewish, you'd have a hard time accepting your saviour as someone who was "born", who is part of a trinity and in whose name your people have been persecuted for centuries.

I won't get into trying to finding a Muslim who might convert.

There are reasons for all these things instead of looking at it in a very Macro fashion.

Interestingly, how many people who were brought up in a religious home become athiests or agnostics?
Try finding that stat.

CyberKitten said...

This is interesting: From Religioustolerance.org

The fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca -- a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Numbers of adherents went from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001. Their numbers of adherents are doubling about every 30 months. 4,5 Wiccans in Australia have a very similar growth pattern, from fewer than 2,000 in 1996 to 9,000 in 2001. 10 In Canada, Wiccans and other Neopagans showed the greatest percentage growth of any faith group. They totaled 21,080 members in 1991, an increase of 281% when compared with 1990.

CyberKitten said...

The ARIS survey asked the subjects whether they had changed their religious identification during their lifetime. Some results:

About 16% of adults have changed their identification.
For the largest group, the change was abandoning all religion.
Baptists picked up the largest number of any religion: 4.4 million. But they also lost 4.6 million.
Roman Catholics lost the greatest number, 9.5 million. However, they also picked up 4.3 million.

Eric said...

I'm not buying your theory based on my own, personal circumstance.

This is maybe the funniest thing I've read today. You've taken your personal survey of what? 5 people, and based on that you're extrapolating it out to apply to everyone. And then you go on to admit your complete illogic. Annecdotal experience does not trump statistics.

Sadie Lou said...

Asher--Interestingly, how many people who were brought up in a religious home become athiests or agnostics?

I think people who grew up in a home where the family religion is forced on them in such a way that it caused division and anger in the home, will result in the child being repulsed at the idea of practicing that faith once they leave the home. I've seen it in my own family.

eric--
I listed 5 people. That's not everyone I know. I'm saying that based on just my own circle of people that I know/family & friends--the' statistics' don't add up.
I'm just as surprised by your willingness to believe everything you read--statistics and numbers mean a lot to you.

JDHURF said...

The insight provided by Richard Dawkins is on point, and to me, rather obvious. The majority of individuals tend to identify with the religion that they grew up exposed to, indoctrinated into, and above all the one that their parents shared with them during their most formative years. Even more fascinating is why this may be and Richard Dawkins writes a very brilliant and elegant piece on this subject. Essentially, what he asserts is that as infants and aging young adolescents, an individual is primarily dependant on its parents and/or elders; that in order to survive these individuals either inherently has or develops a capacity to accept all most anything that the parents or elders tell them. The brain at this stage is sort of like a dry sponge soaking up good and bad information that has been provided by credible authority figures. The language the individual learns is the one used by their parents and elders, thusly the religion one tends to lean towards is of the same fate.
Richard Dawkins undoubtedly elucidated this theory more deftly than I, though I did my best to summarize. I have the essay somewhere and if any one would be interested I could provide it.

dbackdad said...

I'm of the ilk that was was raised at least moderately religious and come to atheism/agnosticism on my own.

It wasn't really forced on us and there was no real backlash (at least from my folks) for abandoning it. My grandfather, however, is another matter. He's very religious and I purposely devise ways to not bring up religion around him. I'm still not sure if he knows I'm a humanist. He's 93 and I see no reason to create a family crisis just to make a point.

David said...

The “South Park Problem”

(Stay with me here…it’s on point.)

One bright, sunny day, there’s an industrial accident which kills all of the inhabitants of the town. They’re all assembled in Hell, where the Hell administrator (a middle manager with a clipboard and microphone) is giving an orientation speech for the new arrivals. Someone raises their hand for a question. The administrator pauses, looks up tolerantly and says “yes..what is it.” The person says “I don’t understand what I’m doing here, I was a good Catholic my whole life.” The crowd murmurs agreement and other speak up, “I was a good Jew…I was a perfect Moslem…” ect.. The Hell administrator taps his clipboard impatiently…”I’m sorry, it was the Seventh Day Adventists…”. There is a collective “awww” from the crowd.

Silly, but do we not believe this? We have had the good fortune to be born into the One True Religion. Not that there’s anything wrong with the other religions…they’re just…well, wrong. As we say in Olaynu….

-David

(For the uninitiated, South Park is an adult-humor oriented cartoon in the worst possible taste – and hysterical.)

T. Shotz said...

Well, the difference is, of course, is that we really are right and everyone else really is wrong!

Jack's Shack said...

I was born Jewish and still am, but that is because after careful thought and study I decided to be. It makes sense to me. Personally I believe in multiple paths to G-d, but Judaism fits me best.

I have no problem acknowledging that much of it has to do with my familiarity and upbringing, but at the same time I can say that I have spent time considering why it works with me.

Shlomo said...

A man dies and goes to Heaven. The Angel Michael is there to give him a tour of the area.

"Over there is the cloud for the Hindus. That one on the left is for the Catholics. Those over there are for Baptists, and those behind us are for the Moslems." With that the Angel starts to fly away.

The man suddenly notices a cloud off in the far, far distance by itself and he shouts "Hey Michael! Who is on THAT cloud?!"

The Angel turns back to the man quickly and says "SHHHH!!!! Those are the Jews. They think they are the only ones up here."

Esther said...

Let's face it. Humanism is the one true faith.

Everyone's a humanist, they just don't know it yet...

Esther said...

Oh! I forgot to add...

:)

Sadie Lou said...

I think Satan is a humanist too...
*wink*
His motto is "do what makes you happy"
Freaks and sickos included, or just the normal people?

Esther said...

Sadie Lou -

You have some misconceptions about humanism. Humanism, in it's various forms, is not about doing what makes you happy, it's about making the world a better place by bringing out the best in ourselves and each other and acknowledging the basic worth of every human being.

While I don't like to prostytize, here's a link to my church.

http://www.ethicalfocus.org/

We meet every Sunday. We celebrate holidays. We have a Sunday School. We're tax-exempt...

I wish people in the christian right would stop blaming the world's problems on humanists. Most people in this country don't even know that there are actual practitioners of humanist faith out there and that we take our faith very seriously.

Shlomo said...

Naturalism is convenient. We don't woory about schedules.

Laura said...

I'm late on this one... I been busy.

I was baptized and raised Lutheran, though we didn't go to church that often. I yelled at the pastor at church when I was 4, I got thrown out of Sunday School for laughing at 7, and used to doodle during the sermons.

My dad is a recovering catholic, my sister is agnostic, and my mom is sort of still Lutheran.

I tried a Non Denom youth group in high school - didn't do it for me.

I got into paganism in high school & college and it clicked for me. Something about the absence of the sacred feminine in most religion that bothered me.

I'm not any one thing, I am eclectic. I think there are great things about most religions that are obscured by factional fighting and political interference.

If you look generally, most religions say the same things. It's when you get into all the nonsensical rules that it gets all fucked up.

Most people I know are still whatever religion they were born as, or a short skip from that (catholic-->Protestant, etc).

Laura said...

Oh, and I did know one guy in high school who's parents were athiests and wouldn't let him go to the Christian youth group - so the force-feeding can go both ways ;)

JDHURF said...

The force feeding can most definitely go both ways as Laura pointed out; atheists are not exempt from the impulses of human nature. However atheism in and of itself is hardly a philosophical world view or metaphysics, for you can be communist and atheist, democratic and atheist, or you can even be a tyrannical dictator and atheist, atheist is simply an epithet used by atheists and theists alike to define ones belief in a supernatural entity.
I am a firm Secular Humanist and I don’t believe in any “god” or supernatural entity, nor do I consider my beliefs to be religious as does Esther. This is one of the innocuous debates within humanism, I prefer to use the term Eupraxophy to describe my world view.
However, Sadie Lou was terribly mistaken as Esther said. Humanism is far from merely being the act of doing what makes you happy, for rape, molestation, and murder statistically do make some individuals happy, but this is obviously deplored by Humanism and Humanists alike. Humanism or Secular Humanism has a long list and guideline of ethics and morality and can be found easily on the web. Here is a short summarization found at secularhumanism.org: “We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems. We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation. We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life. We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities. We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state. We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding. We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance. We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves. We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity. We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species. We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest. We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence. We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity. We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences. We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion. We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences. We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos. We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking. We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others. We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality. We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”
I am an atheist but as I tell everyone it’s not so much that I’m an atheist as I’m a humanist, it’s not so much a case of me refuting a god than a case of me affirming nature and humanity, for my ultimate faith resides in humankind rather than god. In conclusion I will add one of my favorite humanist quotes: “Human happiness is its own justification and requires no sanction or support from supernatural sources; that in any case the supernatural, usually conceived of in the form of heavenly gods or immortal heavens, does not exist; and that human beings, using their own intelligence and cooperating liberally with one another, can build an enduring citadel of peace and beauty upon this earth.” – Corliss Lamont

Sadie Lou said...

I wish people in the christian right would stop blaming the world's problems on humanists.

Me too. I'll check out that link--thanks. :)

Seth Chalmer said...

I think Dawkins's problem is lumping all religions together. Some religions hold that they are the One True Faith. Others don't. I line up with his position on the One True Faithers. It's ridiculous.

But what if you believe (as Jews, Unitarians, Sikhs and many others do) that there IS a God, but not merely one true faith? Then choosing to stay in one's own family's traditions doesn't mean throwing logic into the toilet. And there Dawkins falls unceremoniously down.

Jewish Atheist said...

But what if you believe (as Jews, Unitarians, Sikhs and many others do) that there IS a God, but not merely one true faith? Then choosing to stay in one's own family's traditions doesn't mean throwing logic into the toilet.

I basically agree with you. I think Dawkins does sometimes sound like he lumps all theists in with fundamentalist theists.

R10B said...

A thing we accept as true when we are young is not, we'd all agree, necessarily false. As we live we either cling blindly to our beliefs or reaffirm/abandon them with our own knowledge and experiences. But who can claim to have laid aside all bias and investigated all relevant thinking and evidence before laying claim to their faith?

Foilwoman said...

Sadie Lou: regarding referring to yourself as "Christian" does imply that your faith is Christian and the Catholic faith is not Christian. I am sure you are a member of a denomination (Baptist, Southern Methodist, whatever) and unless you wish to have readers infer that you are a member of the Christian church (a pretty amorphous thing -- Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Quaker, Unitarian Universality, Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, Church of Scotland, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormom, Christian Scientist, Congregationalist, AME, Pentacostal, Jehovah's Witness), you might want to be more specific to clarify your readers understanding. What Christian denomination do you belong to or see yourself affiliated with?