Why Do People Have Different Religions?

May 27, 2016

In this episode of But Why we tackle the question of why people have different religions. Our answer comes from Wendy Thomas Russell, who wrote a book on how to talk about religion for secular families. Plus we visit a farm where kids of both the human and the goat variety are involved in making cheese.

"Why do people have different religions?" -Anjali, 6, Olathe, KS

“First, let’s start with the word religion. Religion is a collection of beliefs that people have about some really big questions, like how did the world come to be, how should people behave, what happens to us after we die? Those are big questions. Those are questions that just about everybody on the planet wants to know and they are hard--if not impossible--to answer on our own. People have always tried and sometimes they’ve come up with answers and when those answers have caught on a religion is born.

“People have different religions for the same reasons that people have different opinions and different tastes, because they were raised in different ways and in different places and in different families and at different times, and with different brains. All of these things have a different impact on what we believe to be true about the world.

Anjali, 6, lives in Olathe, KS. She loves to read, draw and do science experiments.
Credit Anjali's mom

“Also, religion isn’t just about beliefs. It isn’t just about god, or gods or heaven or angels. It’s about friendship and community. If you think about your school and all of the things that make it great and all of the things that make you feel like you belong there, it’s not just what the teachers are teaching, it’s the activities and the people and the feelings. That’s how it is with religion. Some people love their religion because it feels comfortable. It feels like home.

“A big thing for kids is 'why can’t everyone agree?' That would be much simpler and easier, but when your parents have raised you to believe that certain answers are truth and that’s the way that makes the most sense to you and that’s the way that makes you feel good, it’s very hard to change your mind and most people don’t want to.

“It’s quite fine actually that people believe different things. I think that it can be a good thing. I think the better goal, if we have a goal, is to be understanding that it’s not what people believe, but what they do in life that matters.”

Wendy Thomas Russell, author of Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious, and she writes a blog here.

Listen to the full episode to hear more, and to go on a field trip with us to Blue Ledge Farm to learn about how to make goat cheese and to meet some curious kids of both the human and goat species!

Livia and Hayden Bernhardt live at Blue Ledge Farm in Vermont, and say the best part about having farmers for parents is that they are always around.
Credit Melody Bodette / VPR

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