I have been thinking today about something someone said to me recently, “You are only a member of your church because you live in Utah,” referring to the fact that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are several things wrong with this statement, the first of which has to do with my free will. I was raised in the middle of California, and I gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ to the earth when I was a teenager, back in the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan was the president. Utah had nothing to do with this, I had never been there, and had no desire to ever live in Utah then.
The next problem with this argument is that it supposes that geography has something to do with whether or not something is true. This simply is not accurate. Whether a scientific theory or a religion has truth really has nothing to do with the location of the discovery. If Jesus would’ve been born in North America instead of the Middle East, he still would’ve been the Son of God.
Geography does play a role in the lives of men and the designs of God, but surely he can do his work in any place he chooses. There are areas in the history of the world that are more fertile for freedom to flourish, as the history of the United States of America in the 18th century has shown. Today truth is sweeping all free nations, and there will yet be millions more who will hear the truth of the gospel in their own language, in a manner that they can understand (see D&C 90:11).
The idea that you are a certain religion because of where you are born is what Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza has called the genetic fallacy. We read of the genetic fallacy in the scriptures. In John 7:41 we read, “Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” and in verse 52, “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.”
Those that chose to reject the Savior of the world thought that because he grew up in Galilee that somehow he could not be who he claimed to be. How ridiculous! How does being from Jerusalem make Jesus more divine than if he was raised in Egypt, or Galilee, or anywhere else for that matter?
Dinesh D’Souza, put the genetic fallacy in terms we can all understand, and I share his remarks here:
“Essentially (some say) that we can’t really know if a religion is true, because there happen to be many of them. If you happen to be born in Afghanistan, you’d be a Muslim. If you happen to be born in Tibet, you’d be a Buddhist.
That’s true, but what on Earth does that prove? I happen to have been born in Bombay, India, which happens to be a Hindu country. The second largest group is Muslim. Even so, by choice I am a Christian. Just because the majority religion is one thing doesn’t make it right or wrong.
By the way, what (critics of Christianity) says about Christianity…is equally true about beliefs in history or science. If you are born in Oxford, England, you are more likely to believe the theory of evolution than if you are born in Oxford, Mississippi. If you are born in New Guinea, you are less likely to accept Einstein’s theory of relativity than if you are born in New York City. What does this say about whether Einstein’s theory of relativity is true? Absolutely nothing.
In other words, (those who say you are Christian because of your birthplace) are guilty of what in logic is called the ‘genetic fallacy’. It’s the fallacy of confusing the origin of an idea with its veracity.” 1
1. Much of this text comes from a debate between Dinesh D’Souza and John Loftus. The section referenced here begins at the 4:19 mark on the video entitled, “D’Souza/Loftus debate, part 3/13.”