How does one deal with the objection that how are you are raised determines your belief?

Abdu, I so very much appreciate hearing you speak as you are genuine and yet hit directly the answer to the question. I just ordered your book because, if your book is as intriguing as your answers in the Q&A or discussions, it’s a must! I look forward to it. An aside is that I so miss our brother Nabeel, though I never met him. I still feel his loss!

My question to you is one that I run into often. It’s not particular to Islam but to spirituality in general. The question is not a stumper for you but I wanted to hear how you would answer the comment that you your belief will coincide with how you were raised. Now you and Nabeel have/had it tough but along that line, you have it made! How do you answer without using yourself as the example to the fallacy of the comment? And now, with truth not often mattering, does it complicate it further?

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Hi Tim. Thanks so much for the kind words and I pray that you enjoy and are able to use the book for His glory!

I responded to a similar question in this forum so I’ll copy and paste part of that answer, but also add another insight.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. First, let’s look at the claim: “belief coincides with how you were raised.” My first response is, “And?” What does that prove? That my belief is false? That my belief is true? That beliefs are not provable? In any case, the argument (as you point out) is logically fallacious. We don’t need illustrations (like my conversion) to prove the fallacious nature of the statement. To say that something’s truth value is determined by the way someone has come to believe it is to commit what’s called the 'genetic fallacy." How we come to believe something has nothing to do with whether that belief is true. Such an argument is simply a nonsequitor. So, let’s say it is the case that someone is a Muslim because they were raised in a Muslim home in a Muslim country and they never had a chance to hear a counter perspective. That does nothing to say whether Islam is true or false. It could be utterly false or absolutely true. How a person comes to believe it says nothing about that (but it does speak to quite a bit about a person’s motivations for believing something).

Let’s turn the argument on its head. If someone argues that a belief can’t be proven true (or false or whatever) because it coincides with how you were raised, then we could respond by saying “How you were raised determined your belief that belief is determined by how you were raised, which means that your belief is either untrue or can’t be proven!” The claim is shown to be either a tautalogy or self defeating.

Another thing to think about is a subtle difference in human experience. I don’t think that social or cultural contexts determine beliefs. Rather, they influence them. And this, of course, shouldn’t surprise anyone because influence is all around us. It is inevitable. But it isn’t a deterministic thing or something that determines truth.

But, the fact is, culture and social issues, like family and persecution, have a profound impact not on the truth of our beliefs, but on the motivations for holding onto those beliefs. In my second book, Grand Central Question, the first chapter is dedicated to discussing this. In fact, the excerpt from that book was run in Just Thinking a few years ago If you haven’ already read my book or that issue of Just Thinking, I would recommend you do so. The link for that JT article is HERE.

Let me close with a story. My very first day officially as an RZIM speaker also found me on stage with Ravi during an open forum answering questions at a Canadian university (which made me nervous that it could have been my last day, too!). A young Indian man came to the microphone and asked, “If God wants me to be a Christian, why did he cause me to be born in a Hindu home?” I though for sure Ravi was going to take that one, but he left it to me because of my background. I began by pointing out the genetic fallacy but then also said this: “In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul says that God has ‘determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.’ With that in mind, I find it fascinating that you, a Hindu immigrant, were able to come to a western university in a country that allows freedom of religion (including to change) and you asked this question to a former Muslim and an Indian with Hindu roots. Perhaps God has determined that you should be able to come to such a place so you’d have the freedom to explore who the true God is. That’s the question you should be asking.”

We had a wonderful interaction after. I hope that helps!

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