TAG | Christianity
The heritability of religiosity is modest in the American environment. In some environments, such as Saudi Arabia, a normal range in variation in religiosity obviously can not express itself. But under more relaxed conditions it seems that around half of the variation in religiosity in the population can be traced to variation in genes; in other words, the trait value runs in families. Obama’s father was born a Muslim, but was an avowed atheist. I couldn’t find survey data from Kenya, but I did find some from Tanzania. According to the World Values Survey 8 out of 1171 respondents did not believe in God in Tanzania. The equivalent figure for the United States was 51 out of 1200. And his mother, from what we can tell, was also an atheist. The United States and Kenya are not, and were not, Saudi Arabia, but neither were they Sweden or Japan. Though one had license to be an atheist, it was certainly culturally atypical, and all the pressures would have gone in the other direction. From this I conclude that Barack H. Obama lacked a natural disposition toward supernatural belief.
That early Christianity was a highly syncretic religion is no great revelation (so to speak), nevertheless this Guardian piece on the pagan traditions incorporated within the Easter celebration is (if you discount the irritating hints of nature worship lurking in its penultimate paragraph) a good read.
In particular, I didn’t know this:
In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today’s Vatican Hill. Cybele’s lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection. There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation. What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts.
In the meantime, I’m glad to report at least one restaurant in New York City yesterday afternoon was serving hot cross buns (a traditional English Good Friday Treat), and very good they were too…
The idea that religious proselytizing is something to be avoided lest it cause (dread word) “offense” is idiotic, and all too typical of our times. Just because someone is from a family or, indeed, an ethnicity or nationality, usually associated with one particular faith does not make it wrong to try and change his or her mind. That’s called debate – and there is no good reason that religious ideologies should be immune from it.
And yet here we find a writer for the New York Times who is at least somewhat critical of Christians for trying to take their faith into Muslim areas of Nigeria. To be fair, the piece is reasonably subtle and well worth a look, but nevertheless this, in particular, struck me as revealing of a certain type of cultural cringe:
…Whatever form the recruiting takes, it is often perceived by Muslims as cultural aggression — unprovoked aggression, since they’re not generally inclined to proselytize, and serious aggression, since in many Muslim cultures it’s a grave thing for a believer to stray from the fold.
To which the response must be ‘too bad’. Christians should be free to try to tempt people to sign up for their faith, and so should Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists and, for that matter, anyone else, for theirs. That’s part and parcel of the free flow of ideas, and those who think that such a free flow is a good idea should not be in the business of propping up the cultural and religious taboos that stand in its way.
I’ve recently triggered a round of discussion on several weblogs around the interwebs relating to the term “Judeo-Christianity,” especially when it comes to definiting the civilization of the West (as in, “our Judeo-Christian culture”). I started the discussion here, to which Ross Douthat responded with his disagreement (also, my response to Ross, of a sort, here). Noah Millman and Sam Goldman lean toward my side, though with reservations. James Poulos stayed neutral. At Taki’s Mag I tried to show that the debate might have the faintest of relation with current events, while Richard Spencer responds with, Is Christianity Western?, where he considers some of the arguments in The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. A quick answer to Richard’s query would be that though I would not say Christianity is necessarily Western, I do believe that the West as we understand it is necessarily Christian or post-Christian. Even if we are not religious, I would say that Christianity is the religion we are not if we are Western. Similarly, if one is Japanese, and not religious, Buddhism is the religion one is not, if you get my drift….
A month ago some bloggers were mooting whether Barack Hussein Obama was a Christian at all due to his heterodox beliefs. Well, we now know how it was that the majority Americans voted for this avowed Christian non-Christian: most American Christians are not really Christian! A new Pew Survey reports that 52% of American Christians believe some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Denominational breakdown below the fold.