You’re a Christian because you’re American!

21 Mar

This post will conclude the series examining some recent interactions I had on Facebook. The first two are here and here. One of the objections that cropped up in several forms (and also appeared in the comments section of a recent post) has to do with the sociological causes of belief. In his book “Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?” James sire distinguishes between reasons for belief and causes. When asked to explain why people believe what they do, most people respond with things like family, culture, place of birth, etc. Sire believes that these aren’t reasons at all, they are causes. Here is one of the comments from the thread last week: muhrica son

The objection here is less severe than the objection from my comments section the other day (“Why are you a Christian? Because you were born in America.”) The objection isn’t actually on the surface, it’s implied; the logic looks like this:

1)      There are many religions, each dominant in different parts of the world

2)      Each religion claims it is the correct path to God

3)      Therefore, thinking you are on the correct path to God is a product of where you are born.


Jesus loves everyone, Americans included; but he isn’t from here guys…sorry.

Another subtle and more insidious assumption is that we have no way to discern religious knowledge: it’s assumed such a thing doesn’t exist! The sheer fact of a plurality of religions is seen as a trump card which proves that none of them could be right. However, just because people disagree on something doesn’t mean that both of them must be wrong.

My reply has always been that while people’s religious affiliation is caused by their sociological circumstances, they are free to accept or reject this. This happens frequently as there are plenty of Christians in Africa, Muslims in London and Buddhists in the United States. What matters isn’t the cause of religious belief but whether the reasons we hold for accepting or rejecting the belief of our upbringing are sound. There will never be any proof, and we are all inclined to be convinced by data that supports beliefs we already hold. That being said, people change their deeply held beliefs and values in the face of new information all the time – and this happens with matters of faith too.

I believe Jesus is the only way to God not because I was born in Roanoke, Virginia or because I am a white male but because the human condition, the circumstances of our universe and the facts of history are best explained by this solution.


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