A linguist and a missionary gave up his faith after he spent years with Piraha tribe of Amazon in Brazil.
Daniel Everett was tasked to visit this tribe which lives along the Maici river and convert them into Christianity. Piraha tribe has 350 people and are simple hunters and gatherers in the Brazilian rain forest. The tribe has its own language which is unrelated to any other.
These tribal people speak using only three vowels and eight consonants. Piraha language is tonal and a different pitch transforms the meaning of the word. However, unlike other tonal languages, Piraha can also be hummed and sung. They have no words for colors, no words for numbers and no way of expressing any history beyond that experienced in their lifetimes.
Everett was shipped to this tribe in the late 70’s to learn their language, translate the Bible into Piraha and convert the tribesmen into Christians. But, the opposite happened. Everett lost his faith in the 80’s and did not tell anyone about it till the 90’s thinking that it will come back.
Everett revealed to The Guardian:
“Absorbed by the daily struggle to survive, they do not plan ahead, store food, build houses or canoes to last, maintain tools or talk of things beyond those that they, or people they know, have experienced. They are the ‘ultimate empiricists’.”
He recalled that when he tried to convert them, the rarely violent Piraha, immediately rejected any kind of coercion. He further mentioned,
“It’s wrong to try and convert tribal societies. What should the empirical evidence for religion be? It should produce peaceful, strong, secure people who are right with God and right with the world. I don’t see that evidence very often. So then I find myself with the Piraha. They have all these qualities that I am trying to tell them they could have. They are the ones who are living life the way I’m saying it ought to be lived, they just don’t fear heaven and hell.”
Following his giving up of faith, Everett got divorced from his wife and lived a happy life with the tribe. He also said that the Brazilian traders are trying to trick them into giving up their land and his ex-wife and his former missionary group is trying very hard to convert them.