• Peter Kupisz

Influence of Family and Culture on Religious Beliefs

Many people object to the truth of Christianity by pointing out that one’s religious beliefs largely depend on which family one is born into, and also on the larger society that one is raised in. For example, in his book espousing Secular Humanism (i.e. atheism), Dr. Philip Kitcher highlights this issue.


How can a devout person, deeply convinced of some specific, substantive doctrine – the claim that the world is the creation of single, personal deity, say – come to terms with this predicament? [i.e. the influence of the surrounding society upon him] To face it clearly is to recognize that if, by some accident of early childhood, he had been transported to some distinct culture, brought up among aboriginal Australians, for example, he would now affirm a radically different set of doctrines…

The implications of this reality, at least according to atheists like Kitcher, is that all religions are false. However, does this necessarily follow? The respected Christian philosopher, Dr. Alvin Plantinga, points out that the same societal influences used to dismiss religion can also be used to dismiss atheism. Is atheism false simply because atheists are affected by their society?


True, if I had been brought up as an Australian aboriginal, I would probably not hold the religious beliefs I do hold; no doubt I would not so much as have heard of those beliefs. But, once more, isn't the same true for Kitcher? If he had been brought up as an Australian aborigine, he would not have held the philosophical and religious beliefs he does hold -- including his skeptical beliefs about religion.

The truth is that although people are influenced by their family and society, this does not determine that any particular religion is false or true. Therefore Christianity (or any religion for that matter) can still be true despite Kitcher’s observation.


References

Philip Kitcher, Life after Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism, The Terry Lectures (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 8.


Alvin Plantinga, Review of Review of Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism, by Philip Kitcher, January 1, 2015, https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/life-after-faith-the-case-for-secular-humanism/.

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