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Children and religious belief

26 November 2008

Some militant atheists have claimed that children are natural atheists, and that it is only adult indoctrination that makes them believe in God or gods. Here is a report of some research that appears to refute that contention:

Justin L Barrett: Do children believe because they’re told to by adults? The evidence suggests otherwise | Comment is free |

Why do the majority of people – across cultures and throughout history – believe in gods?One way to address this question is to look at why it is that children acquire beliefs in gods. If an idea cannot be easily learned by children then it is relatively unlikely to survive into the next generation and will die out. So if we can explain why children are so ready to believe in gods, we will be a big step closer in understanding religious beliefs more generally. It may seem that the answer is simple: indoctrination. Children believe because their parents or other adults teach them, right? Unfortunately, the story is not that simple. Fortunately, it is far more interesting.

Hat-tip to Nouslife for the link.

And some militant atheists have gone so far as to urge (apparently quite seriously) that adults teaching religious beliefs to children should be classified as child abuse and punished accordingly. I picture their vision of a perfect society as being something like that depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave new world.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. aforcier permalink
    26 November 2008 7:25 pm

    Children, like all of us , originate from within “nature”.
    From within this universe.

    By their nature, children are inquisitive. They enquire, they ask questions.

    Even before an inquisitive thought comes to their mind, they will have been “seeded” by the world religious doctrines. They enconter the “God” proposal through their parents, friends, t.v. …

    By osmosis “God” becomes “real”.

    As they mature, it will take them a great force of will to free themselves from the “endoctrination” and return to their natural roots.

  2. 27 November 2008 1:00 am

    As an atheist I would advocate children being taught about the Gods of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism along with the concept of Atheism, with other lessons dedicated to the minor religions and Gods no longer worshipped, and then allow children to make up their own mind on the issue.

    Above all children should be encouraged to question. They should be taught how rather than what to think.

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