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Did You Inherit Your Religion?
By John Penberthy
One Saturday morning I was sipping my coffee and reading the newspaper when the doorbell rang. This was an unusual occurrence as we lived in a somewhat isolated log cabin in the mountains outside Denver. At the door stood two attractive college-age girls who wanted to talk to me about becoming a Jehovah's Witness.
Normally I would politely say, "No thanks" and return to my paper, but that morning I decided to engage with them. After hearing their initial pitch, I asked one of them, "Are your parents Jehovah's Witnesses?"
"Our whole family is," she replied.
"Do you think religion is an important thing for people to have in their lives?"
"Very," she replied, and I agreed.
"How many other religions have you studied and investigated?"
"Is a car an important thing in your life?" I asked.
"Well, yes, but not as important as religion."
Again I agreed. "What kind of car do you drive?"
"Is that what your parents drive?"
"Why not buy the same as your parents?" I inquired.
"Because I like Toyotas better." She was starting to get impatient but politely continued to humor me.
"How do you know?"
"Because I like the way my Toyota looks and drives, plus it was inexpensive and gets good gas mileage."
I nodded toward my Toyota sitting in the driveway and agreed. "How did you know that about your car when you bought it?"
"I test drove different cars and talked to my friends about their cars," she said, increasingly exasperated.
"So you checked out lots of different cars before deciding on your Toyota," I gently summarized, "but your religion, which is much more important, you inherited from your parents without knowing anything about the alternatives?"
"Yeah," she replied rather sheepishly, catching my drift.
"I'll tell you what," I said. "Spend the next five years investigating and studying the other great religions of the world and then if you still want to talk to me about becoming a Jehovah's Witness, we'll talk."
The girls, realizing they had a hopeless case on their hands, thanked me for my time and left.
The vast majority of people worldwide inherit their religion - one of the most important things in their lives - unquestioningly, without ever investigating the alternatives. Religions serve a valuable purpose in that they provide moral guidance for societies. The central tenet of all religions is simply having an open heart and open mind. Yet when adherents dive too deep into religious dogma, they often lose sight of this and thus religion can become divisive. Many people are convinced their religion is the only way to God. No religion has a monopoly on truth, however, and we can expand our spiritual understanding by investigating other religions. Did you inherit your religion?