It has become fairly common these days to dismiss any religious view as being geographically conditioned.  One of the most famous atheists in the word, Richard Dawkins, seems rather popular for his response to the question, “What if you’re wrong?”  Here is an excerpt from his comeback.  

“Why aren’t you a Hindu?  Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India.  If you had been brought up in India, you’d be a Hindu.  If you’d been brought up in Denmark at the time of the Vikings, you’d be believing in Wotan and Thor.  If you had been brought up in classical Greece you’d be believing in Zeus.  If you had been brought up in central Africa, you’d be believing in the great Juju up the mountain.”

This is a textbook example of the genetic fallacy.  This logical fallacy happens when you either accept or reject and idea based on its source, where it comes from or who said it, instead of its truthfulness.  Going to a belief’s place of origin to try to justify or nullify that belief is like saying, “Daddy told me that Santa exists, therefore Santa must exist” or “Mommy said that Napoleon wasn’t a real person, therefore Napoleon isn’t a real person.”  Or the opposite could be said. Suppose a child made a truthful statement, “Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.” It would be absurd to say “You are a child. You don’t know what you’re talking about; you haven’t even taken a second grade class in history.”  The statement is true no matter who says it, where they are, or the circumstances.

If it’s wrong that the earth is flat then it is wrong whether you’re brought up in ancient Mesopotamia or in the house of the leader of the flat earth society.  If Christianity is true, it’s true if you are raised in the home of a Bible-thumping fundamentalist in America or a Hindu home in India. When atheists say that Christianity is false because it all seems to be a matter of Geography they are committing the genetic fallacy.  What if we turn the tables? The atheist Penn Jillette, whose talent I admire, talks about raising an atheist family. I am sure Richard Dawkins did not teach his daughter world religions and atheism and then say “Pick the one you think is true.” But if the fact that Christians teach their children Christianity disproves Christianity then the fact that atheists teach their children atheism would disprove atheism.

“If I had been born in India I almost certainly would not be a Christian.”  Well, maybe, but if you had been back in the 1940’s you probably would have thought that smoking was a good thing.  That does not mean that our contemporary knowledge that it gives you cancer is unfounded. Disparity in belief does not mean no belief is true.  If we are merely culturally conditioned when it comes to religious beliefs then why should the religious pluralist or atheist think the view they espouse is any less arbitrary or conditioned?  The question is not whether we learn the Christian faith from our parents or our culture or some influential teacher. The question is, “Is it true?” All of this seems to display a low view of humanity.  We are all too dumb to think for ourselves and are slaves to what we are told. Except of course the critics.


Allyn Ricketts