How does religion impact where people decide to live?

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I am not clear on whether this debate is meant to be confined to theological arguments for or against, or you are expected to focus on other aspects of this question.  Since most religions have very different holy books, perhaps some more general arguments would be of use.

One that comes to mind is that for most people, there seems to be a need for a critical mass to make many religious practices achievable.  This implies that religion may very well dictate that one chooses to live amongst others of the same religion.  For example, in Judaism, there is a requirement for a minyan, which is ten men, in order to have a proper religious service.  Anyone who chooses to settle where there are fewer than ten men is going to forgo that aspect of the religion.  On a more practical level, it does take a community to build a house of worship, which most people do want to have.  So, in order to have a house of worship, one needs to be in a community of others of the same religion, to provide the wherewithal to build and maintain.  For at least two faiths, Judaism and Islam, there are dietary requirements that are almost impossible to fulfill unless one lives in a community with others who are of the same faith.  A very long time ago, I found myself in rural Missouri, with no kosher meat available less than two hours away.  I was surrounded by cattle ranches, but they did me no good. 

The minyon and houses of worship aside, one of the most powerful aspect of religion is its sense of community and culture, which all humans crave in one form or another.  This is yet another reason that religion can play a part in one's choice of where to live.  We are all "tribal" in many ways and find community and comfort with others like us.  The culture of a religion, its customs, is sometimes as much about community as it is about matters spiritual. In those times in Missouri, I often found myself missing things like bagels and Yiddish expressions as much as anything else.  When I moved back east, I promptly settled myself in a largely Jewish community. 

In today's world, shamefully, religious freedom can be a factor that dictates one's choice.  Sometimes this is a matter of life and death.  Christian people are fleeing some areas in the thousands, being threatened with conversion or death, a threat that is indeed being carried out.  People of the Islam faith no doubt wonder from time to time, given the current political climate in the United States, whether or not they will continue to be safe and free to worship as they choose in this country.  Certainly, Jewish people have been persecuted all over the world and have chosen to resettle innumerable times.  In Cuba, where the church was essentially outlawed, I would imagine many people resettled where they could worship freely.  Thus, religious freedom and safety can be a large part of one's decision about where to live.

If I were participating in a debate on this issue, I would tend to focus on the points that are true of all religions, rather than one just one religion. There are many examples of particular religions that can help one make one's point, but a point needs to be large enough to be generally true. 

jeffclark's profile pic

jeffclark | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

My background is in Religion / Psychology, so I will give you my take on this question.

One of the first indications that this is a valid question comes up in the first six chapters of the Bible. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve succumb to temptation, resulting in their being driven out of the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 4, after being driven from the Garden, Cain kills his brother Abel, thus being exiled from the presence of those who live godly. As Genesis 5 develops and Cain's generations develop, they begin to build cities and develop a culture that leads them farther and farther from God, culminating in Genesis 6, conditions being so bad that the earth is destroyed to start over with Noah.

Point: When God prepared paradise, he planted a Garden. When humanity left God, they developed urban culture which made it more difficult to live godly.

In that sense, it is possible that Religion could affect your decision of location.

On the other hand, religion requires contact with others in order to fulfill the command to "Ministry" and "Evangelism".  You cannot isolate yourself from others and be what you are intended to be. So there must be a balance.

There is not a definitive answer to the question, but there is very much food for thought. And whichever side of the debate you are on, you must be open to other possibilities.

One caution that I learned long ago, and I don't remember who said it, is, "Beware simple answers. Simple answers betray simple minds."

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