How do you explain the relationship between religious affiliation and culture, ethnicity, and nationality?

Most people believe that their religion/denomination is the one true faith. I wonder how religious people explain the fact that their own faith is usually related to their personal background.

In England, about 45% of the population belongs to the Church of England. About 10% are Catholic, and about 9% other Christian denominations (mostly Methodists and Baptists, both native to England). English Catholics comprise recusants (concentrated in the north, especially Lancashire), immigrants/diaspora, and converts (mostly from Anglicanism). Other religions in England are represented almost entirely among ethnic minorities. E.g., one of the largest concentrations of Buddhists is found in Aldershot, due to Nepali soldiers stationed at the garrison, while white British converts make up only about 1.5% of Muslims.

Anglicanism is concentrated in countries/regions with strong ties to Britain: Africa (which accounts for more than half of all Anglicans), the US, Canada, the West Indies, Oceania, the Indian subcontinent, and Hong Kong. There are more than 18 million Anglicans in Nigeria, but only about 320,000 in Latin America. Somebody from Nigeria is about 190 times more likely to be an Anglican than somebody from Latin America is.

Around 40% of all Catholics live in Latin America, which is obviously due to Spanish/Portuguese colonisation. The Philippines, also a former Spanish colony, is the third most populous Catholic country in the world with about 7% of all Catholics. If one looks at the distribution of Catholicism, one sees that it is concentrated in regions of Europe and in former European colonies. One exception is South Korea, which has a large Catholic population, but was never colonised by a European country.

In East Timor, about 97% of the population are Catholic and therefore include the filioque in the Nicene Creed. In Serbia, up to 97% of the population is Eastern Orthodox (estimates vary). The Catholic and Protestant minorities are concentrated in the north of the country, the Muslim minority, in the southwest. Therefore, somebody from Serbia (outside the north or southwest) will almost invariably be Orthodox and will not include the filioque. Therefore, it seems that one’s beliefs about the procession of the Holy Spirit are determined more by geography than by theology.

Almost half of all Muslims live in five countries in Asia and Africa, while there are 10 countries in Asia and Africa where 99%-100% of the population are Muslims. I assume that the vast majority of Muslims believe that Islam is the one true faith, while the vast majority of Christians believe that Islam is a false religion. It seems that whether one is a Christian or a Muslim is largely determined by culture, ethnicity, and nationality, rather than any kind of objective evaluation of competing religious claims.

I assume that most Catholics would say that the Catholic Church is the one true church and that its teachings are objective and absolute. However, people’s religious beliefs are usually determined by factors such as the religious beliefs of their parents and/or the main religion practised in their community or country. How do Catholics explain this?


It’s human nature. Growing up around a thing bosses you towards it. It doesn’t mean it’s true, it’s just what we do. I am hyper conscious of my bosses against other religions for cultural and ethnic reasons. In my search for religious truth, I was influenced by my parents, which ethnicities participated in a faith, the historical attitudes of various types of racism, purely cultural practices and beliefs, etc. That wasn’t all of it though, I could’ve joined the traditional religion of my people (it is very much alive and well, and available to me) but I didn’t. I became Catholic because I think it’s true, and is a superior faith.

But biases are part of it, so I think God saves people in many religions, despite the falseness of them. He knows how far different people will go.


It is why Catholics must evangelize. We see the detrimental effects that all the heresy and schism has caused.


I don’t know what there is to explain. People’s religious beliefs (and political beliefs/mindsets/attitudes/language/habits in general) are established and influenced by their environment and upbringing. This was by far even more true in the past when people were much more isolated within their nation, state, and local community.

Do you have a question about this as it relates to Catholicism?



God and Christ speak to different people through different houses. As scripture says, John 14:2
"In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

So, in prayer, I pray that people find an acceptable house but I don’t know what houses are acceptable. I know my home is the Catholic Church but I love our Protestant brothers and hope all Abrahamic homes are found acceptable.

Also, very much digest that line from John, the Christ new everything and could see everything. So many times in reading the Bible, I see how God and Christ laid out the plan for our world. He knew one day there would be different houses of Christianity; in stating that I see him welcoming many.

Also, today is the celebration of Peter and Paul. Here is one Divine office has to write about both and their role In Christianity
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide;” (Jn 15:16). [1]

Today is the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. These two very different men were united in their faith in Christ, their service to the Church, and in their near contemporaneous martyrdoms in Rome. However, Peter, the first to profess, and Paul, who deepened the faith, would come to lead Christ’s Church through their own unique charisms. In The Twofold Mission of Peter and Paul in the Church we hear, “And so, each in a different way gathered together the one family of Christ; and revered together throughout the world, they share one Martyrs crown.” Also, in these saints, we see Jesus forming friendship, carefully calling His disciples by name. He elevated Saul to Paul and Simon to Peter, just as He lovingly befriends, calls, and elevates us today. Sts. Peter and Paul honored Christ with the totality of their lives, modeling for us what our response to Jesus’ friendship can be. [2][3][4]

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@Mythicalbio Thank you. That is a very interesting, somewhat surprising reply. I think you illustrate my point quite clearly by approaching the question from an unusual background yourself. You are one of those unusual people who have actually looked at all the religions in the world and come to the conclusion that, based on all the evidence available, and after considering it as rationally and objectively as possible, the religion that you are supposed to follow is not the default religion for your own family or culture. If, for example, somebody from Japan chooses to become a Catholic, I would assume that their decision is based on a careful consideration of the reasons for and against Catholicism, whereas if somebody from Italy, for example, is a Catholic, I would assume that it is probably because Catholicism is such an important part of Italian culture.

@c4csp Thank you. That does illustrate my question. You are a Catholic and, unsurprisingly, you believe that it is necessary to evangelise because everyone who isn’t a Catholic is living with heresy and schism. But that brings us back to the question, how do you know that Catholicism really is the one true faith? Surely the Presbyterians in Scotland, the Lutherans in Sweden, the Eastern Orthodox in Russia, the Oriental Orthodox in Armenia, the Theravada Buddhists in Cambodia, the Shia Muslims in Iran, etc, all also believe that they follow the one true faith.

@TK421 I agree with you. I am just not sure how Catholics reconcile this with the idea that Catholicism is the one true faith and that all its teachings are revealed by God.

Put simply, if somebody is Polish, they will probably believe in things such as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary, transubstantiation, and papal infallibility. If somebody is Scottish, it’s likely that they believe in the five solae and think that the Presbyterian polity is the way that God wants churches to be organised. Catholics generally believe that Protestantism is wrong and would like to convert Protestants to Catholicism. However, Protestants also generally believe that Catholicism is wrong and would like to convert Catholics to Protestantism.

It’s essentially a question about epistemology: how do Catholics know that their faith is actually the one true faith revealed by God? How do Catholics know that their beliefs are not solely the result of environment and upbringing and that the beliefs of Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, etc are not equally valid religions for people whose environment and upbringing influenced them to follow those religions instead? If all religions are not equally valid, were the vast majority of Catholics just lucky to be born into a Catholic environment and brought up to be Catholics?


@RepetantCatholic Thank you. That offers a different perspective. So it is possible that God is perfectly happy with some people being Catholics, some being Anglicans, some being Baptists, some being Jews and Muslims, etc. In that case, all the arguments about whether the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice or a memorial, whether saints should be venerated, whether people are saved by faith or works, or whether salvation and damnation are predestined, doubly predestined, etc would just be squabbles between religions that are all equally acceptable to God.

There’s no need to explain when Catholicism is the original church that Jesus started. It wasn’t started by some guy 1500 years after Jesus. The only Christian faith other than Catholicism that can make a similar claim is Orthodoxy. If one believes in Jesus, then non-Christian faiths are not even on the radar screen.

I was lucky to be born into the Catholic Faith. My mother was likewise born into it. My father was not. There were no Catholics in his family. He had been brought up in two different Protestant churches and his family didn’t like Catholics. He converted to Catholicism as a middle-aged adult.

I know a lot of converts, regardless of what they converted to or converted from. Also a lot of people who were not brought up in any particular religious tradition and chose as an adult. Nationality and culture don’t absolutely determine what faith you embrace, especially nowadays.

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You could sort of say this about any belief. What about atheism? If someone born into an atheist family becomes atheist, is that because atheism is true, or simply because their family is atheist?

You can do the same with many belief systems. Someone raised in a Catholic family might deny Sola Scriptura. Do they do so because they were raised in a Catholic family, or because Sola scriptural doesn’t make sense? And if they have logical reasons for not believing it, does the fact that they were raised in a Catholic family negate those reasons?



Well, I think this is something people universally need to think about. Why they believe and feel and think the way that they believe and feel and think. When we think about validity, we have to consider that while the world’s religions have some things in common, they also have differences and these differences aren’t necessarily compatible. It’s easiest to see that within Christianity. The protestants (Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.) originated from a religious and political revolution that swept Europe in the 1500s and different belief systems developed from it. Some of these beliefs aren’t compatible with the Church, so one is right and the other is wrong, or both are wrong, but they’re not both right.

About the question of luck:

Luck is a matter of perspective. People are born in a certain time and place in order to carry out whatever God intended for them. If a person was born in the Church and if their conscience was formed by good role models and good teachings, then that means they have more to answer for. This was affirmed on the highest level of authority in the 2nd Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium:

All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.

Lumen Gentium is a little thick as far as reading goes but if you’re curious about this stuff, it’s a really good document to read to get a better idea about responsibilities and the Church’s role in the modern world.


That’s not Catholic teaching, obviously. God is not “happy” that we are not all one, and in some cases the divisions are very clearly the results of the sins of numerous people.

However, if someone believes that some Protestant church is the true church because their parents, aunts, uncles, grands who were all good people raised them up in it, God is more understanding of that than he would be if a Catholic decided to quit the Catholic faith and go be Protestant.


Because Jesus started the Catholic Church. Jesus is God, He rose from the dead. We have overwhelming evidence historically of these accounts. Muhammad did not raise from the dead nor any other false religion. Every other Christian faith came from Catholicism. So yes, the Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God.

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The main reason of the diversity of religions is that people have free will. Before Christianity most people in the world were pagans. Before 1500 AD, most people in the Americas were still pagans. In your example, I would ask, why is not everyone in England Anglican? The fact that there are Catholics there is in itself a miracle, since it used to be a crime against the sate to be such for centuries.

Is this Catholic teaching? If so, has the teaching on this matter changed in the past 500 years or so?

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How to explain it? The Catholic Faith has the fullness of all religious truth. Some nationalities and cultures have the Catholic Faith, and some don’t. It is simply something that all those who do not possess it, need to possess it. People usually convert by example, not by fine argument or becoming convicted of truth. This is where I’m an odd duck. “People” didn’t even enter into it for me. True, I was inspired by the example of a people who were a little more cultured, a little better-educated, a little more urbane, and quite frankly, a little more interesting, than the bland, “whitebread” WASP monoculture in which I was raised. But that is not why I became a Catholic. I became persuaded by ideas, by truth, by logic, and by the work of the Holy Spirit.

And I will just share this as well, to say “my faith is the only faith, my church is the one true church” actually runs entirely counter to the rest of my personality. I am by nature a very liberal, tolerant, accepting person. If someone comes up to me and insists that the moon is made out of green cheese, I won’t dismiss him as an idiot. No, I will tell him that his assertion is very interesting, I’ve heard of that before, as long as you brought it up, explain for me why all the astronauts and space scientists are wrong, and show me precisely why you think the moon is made out of green cheese. You must have some very good reasons for thinking this. Did you learn this somewhere? And from whom? Were you brought up to think this? What evidence persuaded you of this? Share this with me, would you? And so on.

Again, being dogmatic about the Catholic Faith is a strange fit for me, but it’s a fit I have to accept… because it’s true.

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We don’t know it but believe it.

Very interesting topic that I have wondered about and that gives me problems just accepting Catholicism as the true faith people claim it is. Its hard to believe God wants everyone to be Catholic when religion is such a cultural thing that varies depending on where we live and our family etc. I don’t think one is necessarily superior. Maybe religion fills a human need and was never meant to be fully true(any religion)


Three of my grandparents changed religion twice, during their own lifetimes. I think it is healthy to explore. In some religions typical in other countries, one is explicitly denied any such option which is unhealthy. My racial element is on one of my British sides. We had few Catholic acquaintances, but quite a lot of acquaintances who were another denomination or indeed agnostics of goodwill. Most of my religious training came in completely secular classes. The Catholic church, in two different regions of England, subsequently told me “the Church has nothing more for you”. One has to not be naive, when enquiring, as quality varies to put it mildly.

I am offended if people assume I am of the “required” ethnic extraction (because of their unjustified cultural demands). In most of the towns where I’ve lived, parishioners were easy with the social mix. But in one town, they got very uptight about their expectations (though they would humour obvious Slovaks or south Indians). My first and last names are a bit multi-purpose (as a lot of names are). As a kid I was one of the sallowest few of the class (due to one of my English sides); now I suppose I am thought weatherbeaten. My accent is multi-regional (as befits the last few generations on our English sides). I was excluded by my secondary school from its assemblies (till I disexcluded myself): I now see this was because the Troubles of NI were only a few years off and because important bishops were raising their profiles.

We were junior craftspeople, labourers, clerks, domestics etc and just a bit more geographically mobile (and imaginative) than was average at the time. We went through a big share of bereavements, missing persons, minor disabilities, danger, hardship etc, up to and including my time.

It’s God’s will that we should be individual. I don’t think the Church should assume it has had a plan for you. As a retired single I think it made a mistake focussing solely on the offspring in its own schools. I think there is more future in “dead ends” like me! I have lived outside the box and see outside the box.

The four marks of Catholic Church is that it is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Christ’s church is visible in the world. It should be very easy to recognize. Now one may argue today it is not, especially with all the modernism after Vatican II. But before Vatican II, The Catholic Church was very distinguishable.

We may think any religion is fine as long as people are good and loving to one another. This is false and the Church rejects this relativism. If you look at the Protestant schism, we see many religions form out of that. Yes, some Protestants love the Lord and follow Him and many will be saved. However, all those different Protestant faiths are not visible and distinguishable. Some of those faiths say abortion is ok and some not. This kind of contradiction cannot coexist in the eyes of God. God does not will the murder of innocent babies, nor does God will schism that leads to misinformation and people thinking it is ok to murder babies.

So we do not “think” the Catholic Church is the one true Church, we know it is.

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I don’t generally post things that aren’t Catholic teaching, and Catholic teaching doesn’t change.

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