Why Do People Tend to Accept the Dominant Faith in Their Geographical Location?

Most Indians are Hinus, most Iraqis are Muslim, and most Mexicans are Catholic. When nations invade or suppress other people, they usually give in to the cultural tendencies of the invaders. As a result of this, most of the Middle East is Muslim and most of South America has become Christian.

If everybody had a legitimate chance at realizing the reality of God shouldn’t we have expected to have seen large bodies of native Australians or Americans that were already monotheist? Instead, it seems many of them subscribed to whatever local variation of religion was available. Today, the world hasn’t changed much. Many people live and die with the faith they were born into. Are they merely unthinking or suppressing a reality they know to be true? Do people in Christian nations have an advantage over those in other countries?

*Disclaimer: this is not a criticism of Christianity, I just want to know people’s thoughts

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Children tend to mirror the beliefs of their parents.
If a country is invaded, parents would tend to convert to the invaders as a way of “getting along”.

Just my 2 cents.

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Very well put. Thanks. No, as you say, all this makes one think that as God hasn’t set us all with an equal knowledge, He looks more on the heart than on the actual perception of options. That’s apparent on evaluating how much a child, say, less than 5; or a person with learning challenges, who not understand the salvation plan, even if they were born there.

George Macdonald and C S Lewis discuss that God meets us where we are. Thanks

Well then, the Jews should have adopted the religion of their Babylonian conquerors. They did not, not even in captivity.

I never claimed that ALL conquered people groups gave in to the culture of their conquerors. I am certain a considerable number of Jews did adopt the practices of the Babylonians, just not enough to destroy the Jewish religious identity.

Maybe its wrong to assume that God gives everyone an equal chance at knowing him?

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I think this is what has been called the “view from nowhere”. In an abstract disembodied sense, you’re absolutely right that religious belief is largely an accident of birth family and location. But how much weight should an individual put on this sort of POV-neutral reflection?

I think there is value in hearing other POV’s and in being able to look critically at ones personal POV. Doubt isn’t a bad thing. But at the end of the day we are embodied creatures and very much beholding to our culture for our humanity. We shouldn’t want to outgrow our humanity and neither should we be tempted to outgrow our most fundamental beliefs on the basis of such considerations.

Personally I lean heavily toward universalism. In a big picture sense, I don’t think it matters what religion/philosophy is dominant in ones POV. This is important because it helps me cope better across cultures in this global village which most of us are plugged into to some degree. But I remain loyal to my own faith commitments and I think others should too. We are particular people with particular backgrounds. So if you’re happy with your life and your POV, why mess with it? There is no reason to think another will suit you better unless you’re dissatisfied to begin with.

That will be 2¢ please.

I would say it’s obvious why. You’re more likely to follow what is most common. I don’t think it’s complicated at all. That’s why evangelism is so important. At one time Europe was not most Christian and Mexico was not mostly Catholic. China is not mostly Christian, but in the last ten years a congregation I am connected to there has grown by ofer 1500 members. Not just pew sitters but life transformed, Bible reading, praying baptized believers that reach out to their fellow Chinese citizens and tell them about Christ. It’s how my fiancée became a Christian and how we met.

How would you know?

Nobody is saying that. But God will judge us according to the knowledge available to us.

I disagree. It most certainly is a rightful criticism of many Christians of the “believe like me or you aren’t saved” variety. Too many Christians read the Gospel of John and conclude you have to believe the Gospel story like them or you are hell-bound. Being saved appears to have become equated with accepting certain facts as true—or believing 49 problematic things every day before breakfast. Jesus and God are much bigger than believing historical facts about his incarnation or having a masters in theology and being able to understand Romans and the Cross. Having a relationship with God is much simpler. I’d say people experience and know God in many different settings and cultures. It doesn’t mean they are all doctrinally correct but a Rose by any other name smells just as sweet.

I can’t help but sympathize with critics at times when Christianity becomes a caricature of itself.

Lets claim there is no way to heaven without belief in Jesus because as good Christians we read the Gospel of John.

Let’s further give the people original sin they can’t escape on their own, thanks to one person’s sin instigated by a magical talking snake.

Let’s also have billions of them born in time before the historical Incarnation or in a geographic location where the Gospel is not preached or is subservient to alternative religious background knowledge.

Then let’s assume this life is the ONLY chance you get (proof text Heb 9:27) and send them to hell eternally for the finite crime of merely not accepting that God already saved them from their sins in the person of Jesus.

I truly find myself having more solidarity with non-believers than fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who believe this. People who have never heard and unequal access to the Gospel message are just brute facts we need to reckon with.

Vinnie

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It’s just an assumption, but I happen to think it is a good one. Judah was conquered when the people had come to an all-time low in terms of being faithful Jews. It only makes sense that some of these same unfaithful individuals gave into Babylonian practices as a continuation of their habits.

Your point however, still stands as a good example of a people group that resisted their conquerors’ culture.

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Under no circumstances would I expect a geographical uniformity of Christianity (Also: the per capita variations might not be as drastic as they appear. When corrected for cultural Christianity they will be somewhat smoothed out.)

If Arminianism is correct, then the gospel has to spread and you’d expect hot spots and cold spots. (I am loath to use the spreading-disease metaphor).

If Calvinism is correct, then it would seem reasonable to me that God placed the elect in (for the most part) close proximity for fellowship, etc.

In either case geographical variation is easily explained.

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I was comparing religions recently looking for evidence that Christianity has had some ideological impact on Hinduism. One can certainly see impacts like this throughout history. In Hinduism I encountered this attitude that Christians were religious amateurs so I thought I would look at Hindu scriptures to see if I could find any substance to this. Instead ran straight into some rather difficult theological premises which I simply couldn’t swallow. I think the same is true of the Bible. A great deal is simply taken for granted. They assume that the reader already believes certain things. I think that makes it difficult to cross many of these religious lines. I mean, I wasn’t raised Christian but with psychology, liberalism, and abundant criticism of the Christian establishment. But some of the premises of these religions seem to go much deeper into the culture than that.

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The Babylonian captivity was a watershed event in Judah’s lack of faithfulness. The Jews became strong in their faith and solidarity, enabling them to survive the Inquisition, Holocaust, and other horrors, and that persists to this day.

Pre-Columbian native North Americans were monotheist. How they evolved to that is unknown, whereas in Egyptian culture one can see the evolution. The Greeks went from polytheism to evolution and atoms remarkably quickly. As Christendom stretches from Ireland to Vladivostok, Finland to Spain and the colonies of the imperialists (Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Russia, France, Spain, Britain above all), of that vast realm it must have lot going for it; it follows the money. How many of the billion and more realize the reality of God in any meaningful way I have no idea. Christians have most of the nukes. Even if they’re pointing at each other.

Of course Christianity is in free fall in the WEIRD world, but it will explode with Africa’s population, marginalizing and squeezing Islam more there leading to more conflict, yet to equal Christian on Christian genocide and war there.

I would think the WEIRD world will take its toll on every traditional faith system in the Western world.

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I tend to think the solution to this problem involves working from two different points:

  • One does not have to have knowledge of Jesus to be saved; they can know God and still be saved through Jesus.
  • Monotheism might have been more prevalent than we would ever be able to know. Establishing exactly what all of the Native Americans or Aboriginal Australians believed is quite difficult seeing as we wiped most of them out. It should also be noted that for most of history state religion is the only thing put forward. It’s possible this isn’t what a lot of people even believed. All of this, however, is not to suggest that there are huge monotheistic groups hiding behind official Roman or Assyrian records.
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Nobody knows God. God stories abound. The N. American Indians had The Great Spirit, or Great Mystery. The Australian aborigines have the Rainbow Serpent. Hindus have Brahman, a God by any other name for 15% of humanity - unless henotheism or monolatry aren’t good enough. How does having a God story facilitate Jesus? What about the quarter of humanity that have no God story?

What is ‘saved’?

And - to the OP - why wouldn’t they?

I wouldn’t expect geographical uniformity either. It’s just that even where the Gospel message has been preached and people have access to it, they are far more likely to accept it if they live in certain regions. This is a brute fact.

I don’t think the issue is trying to “explain” the variation to placate our doubts. The Gospel doesn’t need us to defend it.To me it’s about understanding the nature of religious belief and realizing very plainly that people in the world have unequal access to Jesus granted their geographical location. As others have noted, religions seem to come with a lot of assumed background knowledge. If you don’t share that background knowledge, the religion could be very foreign and irrelevant to you.

This, along with babies and small children that die, along with the idea that more people have lived without hearing the message of Jesus than have heard it, should seriously call into question Christian exclusivism and doctrines built around taking some statements in the Gospel of John as universal mandates. It hard to maintain a logical argument that P is required for Q where P is acceptance of the Gospel and Q is salvation. Maybe P is just sufficient for Q. If P is required for Q, every deceased child that ever lived is damned.

Sometimes we actually have to remove our heads from the Bible and look at the real world.

Vinnie

You are describing a caricature. A careful reading of the bible leads me (yes, just my opinion) to this, in your terminology:

If P is human action and Q is salvation, there is absolutely no teaching P is required for Q. Instead, the actual teaching is that Q is entirely an act of God’s sovereignty. God will have mercy, the bible tells us, upon whom he will have mercy. There is nothing in the bible that precludes God from saving whomever he wishes, whether or not they’ve heard the gospel. Does it happen? I don’t know, but I’d like to think so, and nothing rules it out. David certainly thought so, when he expressed hope that he’d be reunited with his dead infant son.

I would say that what appears superficially as “P is required for Q” is a description of the normative and is actually: As believers, we are to act as if P is required for Q. We are to evangelize as if the salvation of the lost is dependent on their hearing the the gospel and responding positively. But in truth, the importance of evangelizing is the privilege of glorifying God through the giving of the message, not in the getting of the response.

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How is it a caricature when countless Christians believe it? I am describing those beliefs which are very much extant in the Church.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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