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Twin Sisters, Two Faiths

The BBC recently broadcast a programme about twin sisters, one of whom is a Christian, the other a Muslim. This was counterpointed by the twins' mother, an atheist - or at least she was an atheist at the beginning. But she was suffering from terminal lung cancer and, while the programme was being made, she had an ecstatic experience which led to her becoming a theist (though not a Christian).

The programme naturally made much of the Christian-Muslim differences, but what struck me was how similar the attitudes of the two sisters were. Twin studies have often shown concordance between 'identical' twins in respect of their religious attitudes, so this wasn't surprising. And, of course, Christianity and Islam are both 'Abrahamic' faiths, worshipping the same God, so it isn't all that surprising that the twins should have adopted their respective religions.

The most interesting part of the programme was, I thought, the mother's changed opinion. At first, when interviewed, she described herself as agnostic or more probably atheistic, and she thought it would be a 'cop-out' to alter her lifelong attitude to religion simply because she was soon going to die. But after her experience, which was evidently a deeply emotional event, she was unequivocal about her conversion. Not everyone who has an ecstatic experience will interpret it in theistic terms, but then not many people have such an experience when they are near death. A fascinating story.

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