The Best of the Interweb is moving to this afternoon, so that we can continue to squeeze in the series on apologetics.
This morning, we tackle the objection that all religious beliefs are just culturally conditioned. In other words, if you grow up in Israel will you, in all likelihood, be Jewish but if you grow up in Iran you will, again, in all likelihood, be muslim and so on and so on.
This is one of Dr. Richard Dawkins’, (an evangelist of atheism), favorite lines when confronted with a skeptic of naturalism. He likes to shoot back in a tone tinted with condescension, “You just don’t believe me because you have been raised to believe in God!”
How should a Christian respond?
There are two quick responses to this argument:
(1) This commits the “genetic fallacy” by trying to invalidate a position by criticizing the way a person came to hold it. As Dr. William Lane Craig writes in his fine book, On Guard: Defending You Faith with Reason and Precision (David C. Cook, 2010), “The fact that your beliefs depend upon where and when you were born has no relevance to the truth of those beliefs.” (p.270).
Moreover, (2) The atheist or skeptic’s view may be just as influenced by culture. For example, you won’t find many atheists or skeptics in the Middle East. Thus, by their own standard, the skeptic’s argument is just as erroneous and falls apart.
Finally, is it really true that what we believe is so culturally conditioned? Our culture certainly influences but is it ultimately determinative? I was raised in a Christian home and was an outspoken atheist for 10 years. Also, we live in such a pluralistic society that there isn’t A “Christian culture” anymore. If anything, we return to response #2 in that the rise of atheism is arguably more culturally conditioned in a pluralistic society than religious belief.
The objection is really an attempt to evade the real argument on the table as to where the evidence leads–to a creator or to a purely naturalistic universe that somehow sprang into being from nothingness.
Yet, remember, we need to respect our conversation partner and, using questions gently posed, to guide them to truth (i.e., Greg Koukl’s Columbo Method!).
Tomorrow, we will look at the objection that a loving God would never send anyone to hell.
Until then, grace and peace.