Does Your Location Affect Your Religion?

Recently, I heard a challenge to Christianity that was worded like this:  “The only reason you identify yourself as Christian is because you were born in America; if you had been born in Iraq, you would be Muslim and if you had been born in northern India, you would be Hindu—religion is nothing more than a cultural expression of morality.”  The person making the challenge was Richard Dawkins, a popular atheist in our culture today.  Though I had not heard that objection worded in the same basic way, I have heard this objection of Christianity before, and thought that I would like to pose a response from two perspectives.

The first perspective is purely a practical one, for I know that there are many nominal Christian parents that are essentially banking on this principle, hoping that their children will remain Christian (at least in name), while never truly training their children up in the faith.  They think that of course, America is a Christian nation, so of course, my children will remain Christians all of their life.  This not only exposes a faulty understanding of Christianity (as I will mention below), but it is a dangerous assumption, for America is becoming more and more of a secular, atheistic nation, and not a Christian one.  Thus, some are estimating that as many as 80% of teenagers leave the church when they hit their college years, often without returning.  Don’t get me wrong, many of them still think of themselves as Christian, but their Christianity has no bearing on the way they live their lives and for all practical purposes, they are secular humanists in practice and thought.

Furthermore, many of these children will openly reject Christianity because they see how self-serving, jaded, lazy, and corrupt so many churches have become.  Many embrace the atheism of their college professors, but others are embracing false religions like Islam because they are attracted to the self-discipline and rigid lifestyle that such religions offer.  We should not need to be reminded that one of the reasons that the Byzantine empire fell so easily to the Muslim expansion was due to the corruption and self-seeking nature of the church—people saw its weaknesses and rejected it as diseased and dying.  Such an observation has been made of much of the church in America.  Thus, it is not enough that we are actively pursuing the Christian faith, it is essential for us to recognize that our children must be actively pursuing the Christian faith as well.

That is the purely practical perspective, now for the theological one…  While many religions may very well be simply cultural expressions of morality, Christianity, by definition, is different.  For in Christ, we are called “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17)—in other words, we are changed from the outside in.  Christianity is not a mere self-help program, it is a total change of lifestyle that can only be accomplished if one is supernaturally changed by God—we refer to this as being “born again” (John 3:3).  This change is impossible to do for oneself, but God must effectively draw us to Christ as well (John 6:44).  God draws us from the world, God gives us new life, and God makes us a new creation.  This is more than mere morality, it is transformation.  And, it is a transformation that takes place all over the world, even in countries where you can be put to death for claiming Christ as Lord and Savior.

The sad thing is that too many Christians simply treat Christianity as a self-help program, and when that happens, they do not live like new creations and Christianity becomes nothing more than a social norm—a norm that is quickly being redefined in America.

4 Comments

  1. neilrobbie

    I’d like to ask Richard Dawkins if he thinks his atheism is culturally conditioned.

    It would also be interesting to know what he makes of the fact that Christians are new creations, who received the Holy Spirit by hearing the gospel and not by doing what the law or wisdom (self help) requires (Galatians 3).

    I’ve enjoyed stumbling on to your blog and pray that God will bless your ministry.

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    1. preacherwin

      Hah! He would probably try and suggest that atheism is a choice separate from his cultural conditioning, though look at the culture into which he was born and in which he was educated. Yet in doing so he creates a double standard. But, if he affirms that his atheism could be culturally conditioned (something that the secular school system is working hard to do in many parts of our country) then he, to quote from CS Lewis, is cutting off the tree branch which he is sitting on.

      Blessings and thanks for the comments.

      win

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  2. Citizen Tom

    Excellent post!

    Why are people dropping out? I think part of the problem is that Christians have allowed what their churches actually do to become far less relevant.

    When Christ said to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” we failed to consider the possibility he was was not just dodging the question. Therefore, we have given government many functions (health, education, and welfare) that it has no business doing.

    Even though government performs these functions (health, education, and welfare) poorly, performing these functions gives government officials huge power. That includes the power to secularize our nation.

    Therefore, there is much irony in Dawkins statement. A secularist — atheist — government destroys religious freedom and produces the result he complains about.

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    1. preacherwin

      Thanks, Tom, and I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts. There was a time when people considered it their duty to attend and support a local Christian church; such is no longer the case. One can even do “good community deeds” though various non-Christian groups, so why bother with the guilt trip? People no longer see church as relevant to their lives…sadly this sentiment is felt even in church. Many even in my own congregation have a mental wall of separation between how they live and behave in church to how they live and behave in the culture. And folks are surprised when the unbeliever calls us hypocritical.

      Not only do you give government the church’s power when the government takes over the “care” of the week and needy in society, but you also create a slippery slope for churches to become almost entirely focused on internal matters. Such leads to bickering and it leads to self-absorption. Last time I read the book of Acts, Paul did not do evangelism by building a big building in every city with the motto, “build it and they will come,” but he went to the people where they were to reach them with the Gospel.

      Finally, your insight about the irony of Dawkin’s statement is true. Were this a Muslim state, for example, he would have already been beheaded as a blasphemer. Because our Christian forefathers were confident that what they believed was true and that Christianity would prove itself as rational, desirable, and true to those who came from different backgrounds, they did not feel threatened to allow freedom to express both religion and ideas openly.

      Blessings,

      win

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