Upbringing and beliefs

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Back to a ‘Life’ post and the first on religion and religious beliefs. If you don’t fancy it, try clicking some of the links to other posts on the right but this is more about how our upbringing influences our beliefs so it may interest you.

If we were fully conscious of our surroundings when we entered this world from the womb, we would have observed that many things which will go with us through life were already in place – no matter where we live.  Our parents, sex, nationality and race were all fixed at this point, and we didn’t choose them. Our parents will go on to teach us what they think is right, their attitudes and traditions, and of course, their religious views, if any. If they hold religious views, in most cases they will be obligated by their religion to pass on those views and teachings to us.

The point I would like to make in this post is that we owe so much of our attitudes and views to our upbringing, to the country in which we live and were brought up and to the traditions of that country, our community or region. From an early age, our parents and also later our schooling and church may teach us religious beliefs. We will take these beliefs on board with very little questioning, at least until we are older and can make decisions for ourselves. Even then, fear of going against our parents and community may prevent any consideration of abandoning our religion, or of adopting alternative beliefs.

Very few of us actually set out to chose a religion – why would we? The religion we have been taught by our parents, our church and our society seems right and natural to us. If we haven’t had a religious upbringing, then that seems right. Why change? So we may believe our religion is the ‘right’ religion and that all followers of other religions have somehow ‘gone astray’. We can become polarized against others because they have a different religion.

Having grown up in northern Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s, the choice was to be brought up as a Christian … or to have no real religious beliefs. Most people in my region of Scotland were of the Protestant denomination with some Roman Catholics. My parents were both Protestant so that’s how I was brought up.

Granted there are many who are converted to another religion but I believe on a global scale, they’re pretty much in the minority. Globally, most children and many young adults take on the religious beliefs of their parents, if they have any religious views. My point here is that there was absolutely no chance I would be brought up as a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, etc. because of my parents’ beliefs and the country, community or region where I was brought up. I’m sure the same is true for you if you think about it.

So why is it that many of us look upon our religion as the ‘correct’ one and all others somehow ‘wrong’ or misguided when we haven’t even looked into the merits and demerits of each in an unbiased fashion? If truth be told, it’s only the ‘correct’ religion because it’s the religion of our parents and our region, that’s all. I’m quite sure if I had been born to Jewish parents in New York, I would quite happily be Jewish, if born to Muslim parents in Tehran I would be Muslim and if born to Hindu parents in Mumbai I would be Hindu.

It’s a very simple and logical argument, but, in terms of which religion is correct, one I find very hard to argue against.

The next part is slightly harder. Most religions advocate spreading the Word – certainly Christianity does. Many wars have been fought in the name of religion. For centuries, Christian missionaries have gone around the world ‘spreading the Word’. Christians obviously believe this is the right thing to do. Why? Well because they’ve been brought up in the Christian faith and it seems right to them to spread the ‘correct’ religion. But as I’ve argued above, if they’d been brought up under different circumstances, they might firmly believe that another religion is ‘correct’ and they would have happily been spreading that Word. So what does it all mean? I don’t know, but if by some quirk of chance, I’ve landed with the ‘correct’ faith, and I am in the right boat so to speak, what about all the others around the world who have again by chance been dealt the card of the ‘wrong’ faith and will never question it. I do find that very hard to accept.

The bottom line of course is that we should all be tolerant of the beliefs and religious views of others. After all, most of us haven’t actually thought about and chosen our religion.

What do you think? Drop a comment below.

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