Religion’s Flexibility Proves its Improbability

Flexibility in region has been one of its strongest allies when it comes to conversion – especially when the religion you are talking about is Catholicism. I find this strange, especially if you are a Christian who believes and teaches that the bible and your traditions are the result of a one true and infallible God. To me a religion’s ability to change, fundamentally change, in order to gain followers at any cost is more evidence religion is more about power and an innate desire to belong than it is proof religion is a supernatural phenomena.

Church in Guatemala with a number of Christian and Mayan symbols and practices.

For example, while I was in Guatemala, we ran across church after church which had implemented aspects of the Mayan faith in order to gain acceptance of the Catholic church by the local residents. The result is an almost hybrid tradition of Mayan legends, imagery, and stories seamlessly integrated with Catholicism. Sometimes to the point where the former Christian and/or Mayan tradition is almost unrecognizable as its original form. Yet, the Catholic church completely accepts them as Christians and proud members of the church body – a further extension of the power of the Vatican. If there is one true religion, on true law passed down by a supernatural God, then do these hybrids qualify?

Human NOT Supernatural
The fact that most of the world shares a belief in a supreme and supernatural power, but cannot agree upon which supernatural power is “right” leads me to believe that the answer lies within ourselves rather than the supernatural.

It is natural to desire a feeling of transcendence and connection – even if that means making up a religion, a God, or a tradition to develop that connection. Native American tribes did it, the Romans did it, and so has everyone else – the one difference – no one agreed about who is really in charge up there.

Similarly with the Catholic/Mayan hybrids these developments were for people – no the supernatural. They were designed to recruit followers, to empower the already powerful church – NOT to celebrate a strict set of laws written in the Bible.

I get it
I want to draw a clear distinction in my argument. I am not arguing that what the Catholics did was wrong, nor am I arguing that their conversion tactics somehow violated the laws of their religion. Rather, I am arguing that this sheds light to the fundamental nature of mankind and their desire to follow a group. Whether one worships a Mayan, Christian, or Sky God makes little difference as long as the need for community and transcendence is fulfilled.

It seems to me that if there were one true God and religious law there wouldn’t be so much variety in religious experience. If God created men, revealed himself, and created a natural instinct to know him wouldn’t we all be Christian’s by default? However, this isn’t the case.

Native Americans, Mayans, Buddhists, Christians etc. had no inclination each other existed before they bumped into each other throughout history. They had no idea that one group served multiple Gods while another served one. There was no feeling of wrongness for their beliefs, no questioning. This variety of belief, even in geographically close proximity, is evidence religion is a human creation not supernatural one.


6 thoughts on “Religion’s Flexibility Proves its Improbability

  1. PB and J

    I’d like to state that I am not making any argument that what you say is impossible. However, I am a christian… but not a catholic as this blog entry is mainly about.
    Might I just mention that my faith is not a religion. This is upon the fact that I do not follow rules, as such, I make a personal desision to be more like Jesus. I can be classed as a christian because I have a relationship with my father.
    In reply to your statements on how you do not understand the changings of religion, I could continue speaking of forever but I will most simply say that it is a reputation from certain churches that puts us down as believers and makes it harder to communicate with others.
    I’d like to mention that this reaction towards the Christian faith is merely based on one source. Whereas, my opinion is highly based on the experiences of my lord since my birth.
    No, we would not all be christians by default because God wanted to create us un a way that we could have free will and make the desision ourselves. He did it only to make us happy because he loves us so.
    I must point out that I have never altered my faith to fit with others, and I make no intention to.
    Most importantly, I would love to say more but I think I have said a lot already! So, I think you wrote this with great thought and detail and I must congratulate you on the will to challenge the views which you came into contact with.
    All the best!

    1. Atticus Finch Post author

      Thanks for your input and I see your point that religion is an individual experience. However; this doesn’t change the problem that people are their certain religion mostly because of the geography they were born. If you had been born Muslim you most likely would not be a follower of Christ. If you had been born 300 years ago to a Native American tribe you would share their beliefs.

      Also, my reaction to the Christian faith is based on multiple sources and study. I could critique multiple denominations; however, here I focused on the Catholic faith because it was the one in which I experienced most in Guatemala.

      I commend your faith; however, what makes it more legitimate that any other faith. Why not Buddhist or something else all together. Everyone thinks they are right – this means someone is wrong…

      1. PB and J

        I understand your point and I agree that if I was born to a muslim household I most likely would not be a Christian. However, it does not make it wrong. To be put originally in one faith does not mean you cannot see potential in another. None the less, my point is that when everyone believes they are right there can only be one truth. I see a whole truth in what I have experienced because when I have been in worship and otherwise, I have literally felt his presence. This is not my only reason, nor is the fact that I have had answered prayer and have been spoken to by him. It is the only thing that, after fully understanding, I have seen as working with the science of the universe, though you may dissagree, and fitting with history and the facts of human nature and life. I am unable to go into further detail at this present moment as I have not the time. None the less, I do have more that I can explain upon that subject.

  2. Rattlesnake

    I pretty much agree with everything you said. I’m agnostic, but the only reason I’m not an atheist is that atheism requires belief in something that appears to be impossible to prove. I’m generally skeptical of anything that doesn’t have any solid evidence to support its existence (such as ghosts), and I would say that the phenomena that most people attribute to supernatural activity have more likely physical explanations, even if they are not evident right now.

    As for your point regarding the diversity of religions, I would say that if there is some sort of spiritual force, it is probably something that has been interpreted differently by different cultures (hence the different religions). But I would say that it is more likely that people invented religion as a way to explain things and to establish a system of morality (which is a good thing, in my opinion).

  3. jon

    I also agree with you. However, I’d say that a reason being skeptical about religion (like being skeptical about ‘ghosts’ as Rattlesnake says) is that it’s not based upon evidence, and if we don’t rely upon evidence, then anything goes (i.e., it’s OK for us to make decisions based upon any belief system). I think we may live in a world that’s now too dangerous for decisions to be made on the basis of such an open-ended arena of beliefs. If we can’t count on each other to be rational in our decision making, I believe we’re headed for trouble, especially in terms of international politics, terrorism, etc. If a fellow at work told you that he strongly and passionately believed X, something completely without evidence behind it, and he might make decisions on the basis of that belief, you’d sure hope that his belief X was a benign one; otherwise it would get you nervous. If it wasn’t a religious belief, you might even call him on it and say ‘that belief is not based upon any evidence; why would you believe that?’ But when it’s a religious belief, we’re not supposed to say anything; it’s not OK to say that ‘the emperor’s got no clothes’.

    I agree that the diversity of beliefs and worship rituals helps us to see the human side of religious beliefs, like the crack in a movie screen that breaks the illusion and reminds you it’s just a movie you’re watching. I’m not against the type of experience that PB and J is describing; I’ve experienced it (i.e., something similar to what he’s described) too. But I think it’s much more likely that it was a psychological experience rather than a supernatural one.


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