Is Religion Cultural?

Source

A Common Atheist Fallacy


One common fallacy of modern atheists is that religion is merely a cultural phenomenon. They would say that the reason most people in America are Christians is because they were brought up in a culture where the majority of people are Christian. However, if these people were all reared in Iran or Iraq, for example, then they would all be Muslim. They use this to degrade religion. By this they are implying that religion has nothing supernatural behind it. It is merely the result of the cultural myths that have developed in a particular society.

The question is, are they right? Is religion merely a cultural phenomenon? And does the fact that there are a number of religions in the world, each with a separate belief system, make all religious beliefs relative to a certain culture, and false everywhere else?

Being a Christian, I really can't speak for all religious belief, but from my knowledge of Christianity I would say that their conclusions about religion are both overly simplistic and completely wrong.


I. Christianity is a World Religion

The interesting thing is that, if what the atheists are saying is right, then Christianity would would be merely a small religion in the area of Palestine today. From the very beginning, the Lord told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news to every creature (Matthew 28:19,20). Jesus died for the sins of the world, and not for a small group of people.

And it was the ambition of the Apostle Paul to preach the gospel where Christ was not yet named. He didn't want to build on another man's foundation (Romans 15:20).

Another thing that Paul did that we still do today is to adapt the message of Christianity to the culture in which it is introduced. That doesn't mean we change the message of salvation by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But where the culture doesn't go against this basic message, and Scriptural principles, Christianity appeals to the culture of a people group in order to win them to Christ. Paul said he did this in I Corinthians 9:19-23. He says:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it."

Christians today still believe that Christ is for all men, women and children and that we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ to a world that is lost without Him (II Corinthians 5:19-21). It is a religion for the whole world.


II. The Gospel Continues to Spread Throughout the World

Far from being a cultural phenomenon, Christianity is spreading rapidly throughout the entire world. In 2010 there were 2.18 billion Christians in the world. That is nearly a third of the global population. It is estimated that by the middle of this century, the Christian religion will continue to increase until there are 3 billion worldwide. By that point only one-fifth of the world's Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. The typical Christian by the year 2050 will be a woman living in a Nigerian village, or a Brazilian shantytown. Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds and is moving to the South.


III. Christianity has a Small but Faithful Population in the Middle East and North Korea

But what about places in the world which are predominantly Muslim today? Christianity began in the Middle East and was the major religion of this region from the fourth century until the seventh with the Saracen Muslim Conquests. Now, Islam has the greatest group of adherents. Christians make up about 5% of the population there, and will likely decrease from 12 million to 6 million by 2020. The reasons for this are varied. They include low birth rates of Christians compared with Muslims, immigration, and an extensive persecution of the Christians in that area.

However, if the atheists are right and religion is merely a cultural phenomenon, then why are Christians still in this region at all? Despite the fact that it is dangerous to be a Christian in a place like Iraq, or Iran, still there are people faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, and are willing to give up their lives for Him. It would be much easier to go along with the major religion of the culture. But these people don't accept that religion.

The same is true in North Korea. The traditional religions in that area are Buddhism and Confucianism. However, the government is officially atheist, and many in the population are non-religious. If you're found out to be a Christian there, up to three generations of your family can be killed. That is a high price to pay for your beliefs. But these people are bucking their families and their culture. Despite the culture and the persecution, they have seen the truth of Christ and are truly born again.


Conclusion

Just because a religion is primarily in one part of the world or the other, doesn't make that religion right or wrong. Truth is truth whether a billion people accept it, or no one accepts it. Much of what we know as Scientific fact today was once not accepted by the majority. But the truth won out in the end. And there are cultures in this world even today that are unaware of much of what Science has learned. But that doesn't mean the truth that Scientific study has uncovered isn't true, or that it is just a cultural phenomenon. Nor do the things that Science has believed in the past, or the things that they believe today, make them true when they are false. They are either true or false, despite the belief to the contrary.

Christianity is based upon the claims of Jesus Christ, and the fact that He rose from the dead, proving that His claims were true. And if His claims are true, then culture has nothing to do with it. It is true everywhere. Christianity is not a cultural phenomenon. It is truth verified by history and has changed lives throughout the world. May we who believe continue to spread that truth to every culture in the world.







More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 3 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

God indeed is no respecter of persons. He treats all alike in that all may come to Him on the basis of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). This is not an ignorant view, but the one that Jesus Himself had. Following commandments will not get us saved in the end because no man is capable of perfection, which is what God demands (James 2:10).

God sets the standards for whom He allows into heaven. "Salvation is found in no other. For there is one name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In the end all will be saved, not based upon their culture, or what laws they have or have not kept, but upon the basis of that name that is above all others, and what they choose to do with Him. Thanks for your comments.


Jobanski profile image

Jobanski 3 years ago

"...God is no respecter of persons..."(Acts 10:34)

God does not favor a group of people based on location or appearance. He loves all of his children, and favors those who "choose" to follow him. In the end everyone will have a fair chance to "choose" to accept Jesus as their savior. Otherwise God would be a partial god and a liar.

Holding Christianity accountable as a whole to the unsatisfactory behavior of some members is unfair, because (in Christianity) we are saved on an individual basis. In other words we are saved by grace given through Jesus' actions coupled with the individual effort to keep his commandments, "...if ye love me keep my commandments...(John 14:15)" "...follow me...(Matt 4:19)" The actions, good or bad, don't prove truth in faith, only that we are human.

In the end God's judgement will be fair. Not because of how we perceive and understand Christianity, but how God has seen things. That is why we are charged to not judge people based on our ignorant view and understanding. IMHO if a Catholic/Muslim/whatever follows all of the commandments and treats people the same way Christ would with charity, then that person is a christian in my book regardless of how they pray.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

I believe that the Catholic Church has strayed away from the true Gospel. And Paul, in Galatians, has some harsh things to say about those who would preach another gospel.

Their oral traditions regarding Christ's death as only covering the penalty of eternal death, and the Christian having to make satisfaction for all sins committed after baptism is another gospel and not the one that the Apostles preached.

According to the Catholic Church, satisfaction by the Christian must be complete and perfect before one can enter heaven. Scripture says: "For by one offering He (i.e. Jesus) has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."

They say that satisfaction can be made through pennance and good works in this life. But if not completed in this life, one must go to purgatory after death. This is saying that Jesus' death was not completely adequate for sin. This is against multiple Scriptures, including Hebrews 10:10-14.

The whole idea of the Mass being a sacrifice securing forgiveness from post-baptism sin is heretical, as is the idea of the elements turning into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. That is crucifying Jesus Christ over and over again, instead of His blood being shed once for all.

Praying through the Saints and Mary is wrong because there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5).

So, to answer your question, their canon of Scripture is the least of their problems. The Catholic Church is leading many people astray from the truth of the Gospel.


PosseSocialMedia profile image

PosseSocialMedia 4 years ago from Charlotte NC

Mmm, GodTalk, I still have to differ. When I speak of everyone having different pieces you have to remember that I am simply speaking of Christianity as a whole. Here is a super-loaded question. Do you consider Catholicism to be a form of Christianity or not? The reason I say is because if you have never taken a look at a Catholic Bible you should. It is not the same as a King James Authorized version. While it does contain some of the same books, it contains other scriptures as well - scriptures that were left out when the translators of the KJV decided upon which should be included. That being said (and trust me, I am an ardent KJV fan) is it right for me to say that their canon is wrong or contains scripture that shouldn't be there?


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

The intolerance, in my opinion, came with the comment that I deleted. That, if you remember, is one of the reasons that I deleted it. This is my writing, and as such it is at my discretion to answer, ignore or delete any comments that I feel are inappropriate.

My seeming intolerance of atheists is in the way that they seem to want to take over the religious forums in order to spread their own intolerance for religion, or anyone who has any religious belief. In my opinion, they are using the forums, not for an intellecutal conversation, but to proselytize those who have a genuine belief in something beyond this life. Or, in some cases, they seek to simply make fun of them. And I will not let you or anyone else use my writing to do this.

Instead of trying to guilt me into continuing this argument, why not start a new hub, or a forum of your own. If you want to talk about what this hub was about in the first place, then feel free to continue. But otherwise I'm growing tired of this arguing.


ESP1983 profile image

ESP1983 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

You know GodTalk, this is precisely what I talked about and you just did it. You did not like my answer so you deleted it. You know, long time ago I entered a forum of Christians, and by that time I was still a Christian. Kind of waking up from some mistakes, but anyway I posted something I got it deleted. Since I don't want to waste too much time in case you decide to delete this answer, I will say the following to all Christians over here- your seeming intolerance for others' opinions is driving many people, like me, away from the religion. Because GodTalk if you thought the conversation was going nowhere, you could have just not answered to me and go on with the other commenters, frankly there is no reason to delete a comment unless it has swearing words, insults or threatening stuff. Disagreement is not a reason to delete someone's comment especially when that someone took some time to write it. Very disrespectful with all due respect.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

Lifegate: You are right. But as the Bible has said, Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. Thank God that by His grace, the Lord has chosen us that we might believe in Him and see the truth.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

To ESP1983: Yes, I did delete your comment because I believe that you were getting beyond stating your opinion and said some inappropriate things. Also, I don't believe that it is getting us anywhere to keep stating the same things over and over in different ways. You have heard what I believe, and we disagree. That won't change. And I believe that we've heard what you believe from the other very long comments that I haven't deleted.

If you want to continue the discussion you should start a forum question, or write another Hub. Besides, what we seem to be talking about goes a little off the topic of this Hub. The original topic was answering the question: "Is Religion Cultural?" If you have something to add to that discussion, I'm all ears. I guess I should write a Hub on why Christ is the only way to God. It will probably get a lot of readers. And from the other comment I just answered, maybe I should write another Hub on the reliability of the Bible.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Yes, GodTalk,

I'm glad I don't have just a piece of the puzzle. As a matter of fact, there's no puzzle at all. I have the big picture that God has given everyone the chance to see if they seek Him with all their heart. God's program is plain to those that really want to know the Truth,


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Yes, GodTalk,

I'm glad I don't have just a piece of the puzzle. As a matter of fact, there's no puzzle at all. I have the big picture that God has given everyone the chance to see if they seek Him with all their heart. God's program is plain to those that really want to know the Truth,


ESP1983 profile image

ESP1983 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

GodTalk just a question, did you delete my latest comment?


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

The Bible which we have today has been preserved better than any ancient document that we have in the modern world, and if you've studied all that has gone into preserving the Scriptures over the centuries you'd know that the Word of God as we have it is very reliable. God has kept His Word pure so that those who read it today can be sure that they have God's Word to them today and have a reliable source to base their lives upon now and into eternity.

I beg to differ when you say that everyone has a piece of the puzzle. The Bible itself says that there were false teachers that claimed to speak for God. Paul said that if he or an angel from heaven would preach any other gospel to us than that which has been preached, then that person should be accursed (Galatians 1:,9). There were false teachers then and there are now. We must remain true to the historical Christian faith, or it will no longer be the Christian faith.


PosseSocialMedia profile image

PosseSocialMedia 4 years ago from Charlotte NC

Lifegate is absolutely right. Folks love to argue what the Bible truly means (which can depend heavily on WHICH Bible you use I might add). What they don't get is that everyone has a piece of the same puzzle. We just have a hard time sitting down to the same table and working together to put that puzzle together.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

I know what you mean. I seem to argue a lot with people who claim to be "former Christians" but can't understand why Christians can't harmonize with other religions that teach the exact opposite of what Christ taught. Thanks for stopping by.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

GodTalk,

It always amazes me how many people want to argue the Bible and Christianity and yet really know nothing of what it proclaims. Thans for addressing the truth. After all, 2 + 2 will always = 4.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

What alien life forms are you talking about? Have you found out something that the rest of us don't know about?

Your problem with Christianity is that you think that God should give man many options to come to Him. If one believes that Jesus is who He said He is, God in the flesh, you are not arguing with humans, you're arguing with God. You can say that Jesus is not the only way, if you wish, but once again you are arguing with God, and the creator of the universe has a complete right to set the standards for how you apporach Him.

How can Christianity harmonize our differences with Muslims when they say that Christ is one of many messengers or prophets of Allah? You cannot harmonize that with Jesus being the unique Son of God who came to earth as the Savior of the world. Christianity would not be Christianity anymore. It would become some kind of sycretistic religion that really bears no resemblance to what Christ actually taught.

The reason we believe that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved is quite simple. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, proving that He is exactly who He claimed to be. Muhammed is in the grave. And so are all of the other religious leaders who began religions. We serve a risen Savior. And it is He who has said that He is the only way to heaven.

Once again, you can choose to believe it or not, but if it is true, then all other religions are simply wrong. They cannot all be right. You might say that they are all wrong, but you cannot teach that they are all right. They have competing truth claims.


ESP1983 profile image

ESP1983 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

And why exactly don't other religions teach that? You see, my problem with Christians is that they claim to have the sole truth, just like Muslims have their sole truth and both groups of people cannot or better said, don't want to harmonize the differences. A person is not saved by means of what HUMANS say. You are right in the spiritual sense that the Holy Spirit works as the person is saved, but why exactly it has to follow the method explained by Christianity and only Christianity? Or the Islam and only the Islam? This is purely human, is like Republicans wanting to establish that only their political method is the right one. I really don't think God really goes with the "I'm right you're wrong" mindset. This is why I left Christianity as an organized religion. I understand that the Christian message, when analyzed in a logical way, is good and great but is not the only path. What about alien life forms that are intelligent like us, they also have to be Christian? God is much more complex than that, my friend.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

Salvation by Jesus means believing that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He was God, in the flesh. Man could not save himself. He was dead in trespasses and sins. God had to provide a way for man's salvation. God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ provided the way to a relationship with a Holy God. Through Christ's death, he took the penalty for sin upon Himself. Through His resurrection, it showed the Father's acceptance of that sacrifice and that Jesus was indeed who He claimed to be.

No other religion teaches this. Salvation through Christ does not simply mean living life as modeled by Christ. It means admitting that you can never, on your own, do anything that will cause you to attain salvation. It means that you admit that Jesus and Jesus alone is your only hope for salvation.

The Bible indicates that once a person is saved, the Holy Spirit enters His life, and begins to conform him to the image of Jesus Christ. It is a process that will only be completed when we receive our new spiritual bodies, when Christ returns. Christians still, at times sin and need to confess that sin and forsake it. As a person matures they should sin less and live more like Christ. It isn't natural for a person to live the same way that they did before salvation, and if you don't see a change, then you can righfully question, if the person was truly saved.


ESP1983 profile image

ESP1983 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

The problem is that message and news of salvation is not what most people believe it is. Salvation by grace is nowhere near accepting Jesus and believe he has covered the sins so now you don't have to worry anymore about sinning because of human imperfection. It is amazingly illogical that people "perceive" a feeling of salvation through Jesus but then they keep doing wrong things before God as they are fully aware of their "salvation" yet Muslims, Jews and people who follow their religions and try to be the best they can according to what they know from their childhood are damned to hell because they don't follow Christianity. The Bible cannot be used as a source for backing the erroneous Christian approach since it has been modified since it was written and also cannot be taken entirely literal. Thus this is why many Evangelical Christians preach a gospel of fear and belief in a merciless, extremely judgmental and closed-minded God. People need something to believe, and are in search for peace, but that does not mean that once they find refuge in Christianity it makes it the sole, unique way to God and salvation. Salvation by Jesus does not even require someone to affiliate with Christianity as an organized religion. Salvation by Jesus means living a life as modeled from what He taught, and many religions and philosophy do that.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

It is hard to know where to start here, since you covered so many things. The fact that there are a lot of fakes is only significant if Christianity really has something to offer the world. And I believe it does. Throwing away a belief system because there are a lot of fakes is not a good reason. If something is true, it doesn't matter what everyone else does. You follow it because it is true. And the truth is, there are a lot of people who take Christ seriously and live exemplary lives, and are changing their world.

If Jesus is who He says He is, then Christians are not following a human perception of God, they are following God in the flesh. And Jesus said that the road to destruction is wide and the road to life is narrow. That is not because God wants only a few to be saved. It is because so few accept God and His one way of salvation through Christ. We all have the same offer of salvation. People are not going to hell because of their birth. They are going to hell because of a choice to spit in the face of their creator, and live a life that is contrary to His will, not accepting His Lordship over their lives.

And evangelical Christianity is growing all over the world. Evangelical Christianity takes the historical Christian faith very seriously. They try to follow the writings of Christ and the His apostles to the best of their knowledge and abilities. I'm not saying that there aren't any selfish Christians, but there are probably not any more percentage- wise than there ever were.

Christians aren't perfect, but whereever the Christian message has gone it has changed the culture for the better, from the poor being helped, to those in slavery being released, to women and minorities being treated with respect and dignity. You can try to deny this, but it can be backed by historical data. That has happened over the past 2000 years and it is happening today. Christ and His message of salvation are alive and well, and making a major impact all over the world.


ESP1983 profile image

ESP1983 4 years ago from Tampa, Florida

I am not an atheist, but we have to look closer to Christians today. Out of the 2.3 billion so called Christians, there is a huge amount of hypocrites and fakes that do not preach a gospel of love but one of fear and seeks to control minds instead of really showing Christ's model. To me it's absurd beyond imagination that only a small group of people will be saved and that people are going to hell by default from birth unless they follow a human perception of God, which in this case is the religion of christianity. Christianity is not really growing. The dogmas are expanding, but people are becoming more selfish, less aware of the real world and the dangers of overpopulation, and intolerance is rampant among so called Christian countries. My observations.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working