09 June 2012

No two religions alike

I'm working my way through Star Trek: Enterprise, and one of the concepts I think is interesting about the Star Trek universe is that we imagine many aliens as developing technology very similar to ours. That's because, as far as we know, the laws of physics work the same on the far side of the known universe as they do right here on Earth. Any alien civilization that developed spacefaring ships with warp drives would first develop particle colliders, fusion reactors, etc. etc.

Flash back to 14 years ago (or so)... one of the reasons that I deconverted from Christianity was because I noticed something very peculiar about religion: no two cultures on Earth, who are geographically isolated and have no contact with each other, will ever develop the same religion. And it's not just that they call "God" by some other name, or they have a different "solution" to humanity's problems – it's that they have completely different concepts of what God or gods are, about what the problems facing humanity are, etc. etc.

For example, in much of the "how to witness to people of other religions" pamphlets and books I read as a Christian, there was a great deal about how other religions had posed inadequate solutions to humankind's "sinful nature". But the very concept of "sin", of humankind being "fallen" and needing redemption, are uniquely Judeo-Christian theological concepts. You would think that, if Christianity were true, that other cultures might at least get the problem correct, but fall short on the solution. But that's not the case; no two religions agree on just what the problem(s) is, much less the solution.

The more I reflected on this, the more it bode poorly for the validity of my faith. Scientists on separate sides of the globe, measuring the stars and studying the orbits of planets, would ultimately come to the exact same conclusions about the laws of physics. Somewhere in some other distant galaxy, there's probably another Isaac Newton type who discovered the law of universal gravitation. These facts can be independently verified by anyone with the knowledge and tools to explore them.

Not so with religion. Instead, the more cultures you have that are geographically isolated, the more disparity of religion you will find. This shows that unlike science, there isn't really any method by which the faithful can identify and falsify bogus ideas, or independently verify correct ones. Not surprisingly, each culture thinks that their take on gods and religion happens to be the correct one. How do they prove that? They can't. They believe it because they want it to be true, because they have a personal conviction that it is true.

It certainly is worth pondering that a great deal of what religion one believes is the product of the region and time in which one lives. If we ever meet a spacefaring alien race, will they preach their religion to us, and us to them? Will Christians tell the Vulcans that Jesus can save them, too?






You know what it's like to not believe in a particular faith because you're not a Muslim. You're not a Hindu. Why aren't you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India. If you had of been brought up in India, you'd be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in Denmark in the time of the Vikings you'd be believing in Wotan and Thor. If you were brought up in classical Greece you'd be believing in Zeus. If you were brought up in central Africa you'd be believing in the great Juju up the mountain. There's no particular reason to pick on the Judeo-Christian god, in which by the sheerest accident you happen to have been brought up and, and ask me the question, "What if I'm wrong?" What if you're wrong about the great Juju at the bottom of the sea?"

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