It is a (disgusting) truism that the greatest single “predictor” of what individuals claim to “believe” with regard to religion, is mere geography. The reason is as simple as it is pathetic: many people merely ape and parrot the words/actions of their parents/grandparents etc.
In other words (as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog) the vast majority — to the extent that they “believe” in anything — “believe in” MOMMY AND DADDY.
I use the above (somewhat childish) terms deliberately, to point out the fact that merely aping and parroting one’s “Elders” is both abysmally stupid and dangerous.
For instance, I am intelligent enough to recognize the fact that — at a certain point in time — my ancestors were (most likely) “converted” to Christianity at sword-point. I am also intelligent enough to recognize that at (somewhat) later point in time, at least some of my ancestors engaged in “Protestantism” (which, until recently, the Roman Catholic church — RIGHTLY — classified as a form of “heresy”.)
The truly horrifying thing is: I have no way of knowing whether my ancestors who initially “converted” to Christianity did so for a VALID reason (IE: because they understood what they were being instructed to “believe”).
Quite frankly, it is INFINITELY more probable that they were threatened directly (“convert or die!”), or systematically deprived of the opportunity to continue engaging in their pre-christian (“pagan”) religion (when all Non-christian religions were OUTLAWED by Emperor Theodosius I in 391 AD.)
As I’ve said elsewhere: if somebody stuck a gun to my head, and demanded that I “convert” to Islam, I would have exactly 2 choices: lie to him about having “converted” (and survive), or be honest, and get shot in the head.
Genuine “conversion” is simply not an option in cases such as the above, for two reasons:
- It is impossible to “believe” something without first understanding it.
- It is impossible to force oneself to “believe” anything.
As an illustration of point #1 above: do you “believe” the following statement?
ඒබ්රහම් ලින්කන් රෝස පැහැති යුනිකෝන් විය.
Unless you can read “Sinhala“, you have no idea what the above text “says”:
(For the record: it is a machine translation of the English phrase: “Abraham Linsoln was a pink unicorn.”
At any rate: you get the idea: until — and unless — you understand the statement you cannot even know whether or not you “believe” it, or not.
Most christian denomination (and Judaism) have specific procedures for ensuring that children “born into” those ethnoreligious subcultures are indoctrinated with just enough information about their specific religious sect to constitute a rudimentary “understanding”.
The problem with this is (of course): such instruction typically fails to even mention the counter-arguments against the dogma, points of disagreement with other ethnoreligious subcultures, religious/philosophies outside of Christianity/Judaism, etc.
That is intensely problematic, to say the least:
How can you know whether you ‘agree” with something, when you have been systematically kept ignorant of the alternatives and objections to it?
So, yeah. It is overwhelmingly likely that the first generation of my relatives who “converted” to Christianity did not do so of their own free will. Moreover, it is overwhelmingly likely that subsequent generations defaulted to the religion perpetrated on them by their subculture — at least partially because they were IGNORANT of the alternatives (both within, and beyond, Christianity).