Recently, I heard a scenario that completely changed the way I look at life. I would like to share that scenario with you now and explain how deeply it has affected me.
If you could study 200 infants who were separated into 2 groups: those growing up in (reasonable) Fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian homes (group A), and the other half in Muslim homes (group B), you would find a very consistent result when they are 21. If you were to ask the children what religion they held to at 21, about half would be Christians, half would be Muslims, and the majority of their answers would be consistent with the beliefs of their parents.
Does the outcome of this scenario surprise you? It did not surprise me. Do you see anything disturbing about this scenario? I did. What I realized was that when children are young, they do not possess the reasoning capacity to make informed decisions regarding any complex topic, including religion. Would you expect parents to teach their 4-year-old's about the best economic policy? Why not? Well because they would not understand it, right? Why then is it acceptable and normal for parents to teach their young children about a topic as complicated and multivarious as religion? Shoot, even Christianity has dozens of different viewpoints on the Bible alone, and many of them are mutually exclusive!
Out of this, a reasonable conclusion can also be drawn. When children are young, they are very impressionable. So much so that they believe that there are monsters in the closet and under the bed, that Santa is real, and that if they put a baby tooth under their pillow, a magical fairy will give them money for it. Is it then unreasonable to say that a child, any child will be greatly impacted by the religion of their parents (given that the parents are not gibbering idiots, of course...)? I do not think that this is an unreasonable claim. If this were not true, we would find that the religion of the parents would not have a significant impact on the religion of the offspring. When parents teach their children about religion at a young age, the effects are essentially the same as those of brainwashing. No matter the religion (within reason), the children are very likely to follow it to some extent for their whole lives.
From this, I think that it is also reasonable to say that the reason that the vast majority of Americans claim to be Christians, yet so few of them show up for church services on Sunday mornings is that they were raised Christians, believed it for a while, then "fell away" when they matured and their subconscious realized that they didn't really believe it. Consciously though, they still felt connected to Christianity, but they were too worried/busy with other things in their life to sit down and really think about it.
From this reasoning, I had a revelation. For quite some time, I have felt like a hypocrite. I lived the life of a Christian, but I never felt drawn by God, or really known what He wanted me to do (specifically). Yeah, I know what every Christian is supposed to do, but there is also supposed to be the voice of God in your life (ironic though that Christians hear a voice in their head and it makes them close to god, but schizophrenics hear voices and it makes them crazy...) and I have never had that. Ever.
Don't get me wrong. I believed (and still do) that the bible is true, that Jesus was God, and that He died for my sins, etc. etc. etc. I also know that had my parents raised me as a Muslim, I would be a Muslim right now. If they had raised me an atheist, I would be an atheist right now. That should make you think. I am an adult with fundamentalist, evangelical Christian views, and these are what I was taught since I was very young... Should it be surprising that this is the condition that I find myself in? How much were my religious view affected (adversely or otherwise) by what I was taught when I was young?
I. Do. Not. Know.
Can I know? I mean can I really ever know how much my religious views are skewed by the indoctrination I recieved as an impressionable child? Can anyone ever know? I'm not sure, but it sure made me think.
So, given all of this, I have decided to take a "religious vacation" and really examine Christianity (and other faiths) and decide whether or not it/they really is/are worth my unwavering faith. I have always thought that blind faith (or faith without reason) is fundamentally flawed and essentially worthless. I'll leave you with that and close with this quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God;
because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason,
than that of blind-folded fear...
Do not be frightened from this inquiry
from any fear of its consequences.
If it ends in the belief that there is no God,
you will find incitements to virtue
in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise..."