Forced conversion and religious warfare is common throughout history. Millions of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam from 1000 to 1500 AD, conquistadors forced Christianity on indigenous people in America, African slaves in the Americas were forcibly converted to Christianity by their white masters…and of course, let’s not forgot the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades.

I don’t blame people for converting when faced with death and destruction. If my life or my friends and family were on the line, I would be speaking in tongues and praising Jesus in a heartbeat.

But why do people keep believing long after the threat is gone? This question baffles me, especially with more recent converts like those with indigenous or slave ancestry. I hear so much about retaining culture, not succumbing to white influences, being proud of your heritage…but this is hardly ever applied to religion. So many Hispanic people have some indigenous heritage, yet Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. African Americans are known for their lively, charismatic churches that are a large part of their culture. Why would you want to hang on to something that was forced on you by oppressive, murderous people? How can such cruelty convince someone that that religion is worth joining? Is it just that religious belief is so powerful that you can trick yourself into genuinely believing something for your own well being?

This is just an honest question I’ve thought about occasionally, and was currently prompted by a post over at Womanist Musings about retaining African American heritage. I’m not trying to troll or be culturally/racially insensitive – I freely admit that I’m ignorant about this issue, which is why I’m asking. I’d especially like to hear from minorities whose ancestors were affected by this sort of thing, or people with background in sociology/psychology/history/etc.