The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, only in it, only confronting it - aliens. -Alan Watts, a British philosopher, writer, and speaker.
Cultural alienation is to devalue one's own culture and cultural identity. It is to abandon one's own culture, cultural background and cultural identity. An alienated individual thus invests little or no value to them. And instead, he values the new host culture he has adapted as his own.
In the level of societies, cultural alienation in a mass is manifested by a weak sense of cultural identity, placing more value to other cultures while devaluing their own.
Religions are cultures. They give identities. They give values, rituals and religiously accepted behavior. Someone who is converting to a religion abandons his host culture and devotes himself to the new one, experiencing alienation. The former culture in terms of self-identity is seen as an inferior. Hence the confessions of newly converted religious practitioners over the life they have lived before their conversion.
The question then rises about people who abandon a religious order in life. As they too must experience the effect of the alienation, where will they go from there? This also presents an ethical- and moral dilemma, since when one converts away from a religious culture, will the remaining members of the religious order be humane enough to not enforce the sense of the loss of self-identity? Or, will they see as their task to save the converter's soul without concern over the fragile psychological state after the conversion and the loss of cultural self-identity? Will they even go to as far as to excommunicate him from his loved ones.
The history of the rise of the now dominating religious cultures is a history of destruction of other belief systems. Like in too many other occasions in our history, the culture that has been seen as a superior one has attained a sense of righteousness for imposing the superior culture to those whose culture they see as an inferior. Even Julius Caesar used this tactic by naming cultures other than his own as barbaric.
But what is the worse consequence of this line of thinking? We are focusing too much on the differences between the cultures, and in our hubris, measure the beliefs in scales of inferiority and superiority. Yet, when we look at the daily lives of any individual in any culture, outside the reality of religions or atheism, how different from each other do you think we truly are?