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Is religious belief natural or man made?

How many people who identify as atheist are of the opinion that...

  • 98 votes
  • 7 votes
skado 9 July 2

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As one of the rare individuals who retains vivid memories of infancy, I can state that infants worship their primary care-giver, usually the mother. That worship is often re-directed, by misinformed but well-meaning adults, towards a mythical entity.

Indeed! It seems likely that an evolutionary advantage would be conferred on feelings of attachment and security in young people. Offspring who did not remain close to their adult protectors, and who wandered away often did not survive to reproduce.

Never did we feel more safe and secure than when in the arms of our adult protectors. Which is why it seems to me that we have a need to create a sky daddy as a surrogate for the feelings we had when we were small.


Children tend to be credulous, and so have a tendency to accept ("believe" ) what they are told. It is the surrounding culture that indoctrinates them into accepting the existence of one or more deities.

I also think they notice when there is something that doesn't quite add up. Some may not bother or pay attention and others may consider it a part of their culture and not give it much attention

Some are rebellious.


The framing is overly simplistic. It's natural, absent education and development of critical thinking skills, to believe all sorts of superstitions. To believe in the specifics of a particular religion requires indoctrination.

The trick being used is to offer you two correct answers, but put one first and make it sound more appealing. Then when people ignore the second it can be claimed falsely as proof of their prejudices, and failing to understand the second, which will then probably be published elswhere on other sites or on paper, without of course mentioning how the result was acheived.

@Fernapple One has to be on guard against both theists and agnostics who wish to invalidate atheism by painting it as lacking rationality and thoughtful consideration. I only take issue with one thing you said. I think the language used in the first question is so black & white ("born atheistic", "only through indoctrination" ), that I find it hard to judge it correct or incorrect. And the second question is tricky both because one is necessarily inferring agency and anthropomorphism to imply religion, and one could ponder how much of this evolutionary predisposition is culturally "hardwired" rather than individually hardwired.

@Rossy92 Yes that is why I published my alternate poll, which strangely seemed to get the exact oposite results, for basically the same question. Odd that.


Research indicates that humans are born with a predisposition for religion. After all, religion is nothing more than an anthropomorification of the unknown and humans are predisposed to anthropomorphize everything.

Further, if anything, children are borne agnostic since babies don't know anything and cannot be said to hold beliefs about God's that would make them theist or atheist.

Yes, but not all humans. Hence I use the term natural born atheists to describe people who never believe religion for a second. I am one. There are many on this site.

I think that we are born Tabula Rasa and everything that we learn begins with our immediate family and everything that we learn thereafter is a form of conditioning. Conditioning that we unwittingly accept or regard as true or factually based.

Religion is a just another form of carrot and stick training which BF Skinner renamed 'operant conditioning' as though he had made some new discovery.


Children are born without ingrained beliefs of any kind. I would not call that atheistic.

How do you figure that?

Either you believe in a god or you don't believe in a god.

@xenoview The absence of belief is not the same as belioef of absence.

@wordywalt Either you believe in a god or you don't. Which do you believe?

@xenoview I am an atheist and go not believe in any diety of any kind. But, I am not a newborn child with no breliefs of any kind.

@wordywalt newborns have no belief in any gods, they have to be taught religion.

@xenoview Absolutely correct. That is my point. AGain, absence of belief is not the same as belief of absence.

This all just comes back to the fact that we do not have a consensus on the definitions of 'atheism' and 'agnosticism'. It's sad really. And they're really not that far apart. @wordywalt, so I can understand, are you saying that you have to know of, and actively deny the existence of a god in order to be an atheist in regards to it?

@JeffMurray Yes, I am saying that to be classified as an atheist, one knows of belief in the existencein a god or gods, but has decied to reject that belif in its entirety.

@wordywalt So if you don't know about the concept of God, then you can't be an atheist. If you've only ever heard of one God, and you don't believe in it, are you an atheist then? Or do you have to know about every iteration of God and reject them all? That would likely include no one. But a person who rejects thousands of conceptions of God, but doesn't completely reject one, also cannot be an atheist?
So then to be an atheist, you need to actively reject every single conception of god you know about, you don't have to reject ones you don't know about, and you have to know about and reject at least one. I think I got it.
Wouldn't it just be easier to use the definition: 'lacks a belief in a god'?


I think that children are naturally disposed to magical thinking.


Depends on the person. I am blessed/cursed with the gift of seeing through bs. At the ripe old age of 8, I asked a Catholic priest if he had ever performed an exorcism. Needless to say, my granddad was not amused.

You did not ask him if he had buggered any little boys? 😉

I asked my grandmother how it could be you only go to heaven if you lived in a
country where youndver heard of him
I was 8 too. Luckily. she said, the story has some holes in it, which I didnt understand but confirmed it wasn't possible. She also said it was great a girl in my class called me peculiar, that that was good news , never be part of the hers. 8 was also a confronting age with questions with my kids, like they started paying attention.


Religious indoctrination of children is CHILD ABUSE!


Are we "born atheists" , as some people claim?
It is certainly true that babies are born without any specific religious faith, but does that make them "born atheists"? I do not think so.

First: Not every being that does not belief in God is an atheist. Nobody would argue that insects or sharks or mice are atheists, although none of them believes in God.
I'd say that we can only say "A is an atheist" if A is (in principle) able to grasp intellectually the concept of "God" and then decides not to subscribe to this concept.

Second: If we can say anything about babies and their relationship to religion, it is analogue to babies and their relationship to language. Babies cannot speak, but that does not mean that they are "a-lingual". Just the contrary: babies are born with a brain that is prepared to learn any language quite effortlessly. Therefore although infants cannot (yet) speak they are "born speakers"; all they need is sufficient linguistic input.

The same can be said - mutatis mutandis - about babies and belief (religious or not). They do not (yet) hold any belief, but they are born believers, as they are equipped with cognitive mechanisms to acquire any belief effortlessly. No toddler or child will ever come up spontaneously with the idea of the Christian god or the idea of karma or reincarnation, but s/he will adopt these beliefs easily because evolution prepared the human brain to expect and adopt beliefs like these.
For comparison: Evolution did not prepare human brains to learn how to write or to read or to do math, which is why it takes many years of intensive training to master these skills.

Given that Homo sapiens is a cultural animal, and given that culture (in addition to artifacts and knowledge about the natural world) also consists of fictions, tales, belief systems, imagined orders etc... , it is absolutely necessary that babies acquire and adopt the beliefs of their specific culture as effortlessly as their language.

The "gullibility" of toddlers and children is not a bug, it is a feature, the very characteristic trait that enables culture to exist and to be reproduced. It is this trait that makes us human.

"atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

X implies not-X.

Despite a-astrologer not being a word of any use, there is nothing stopping it from being a word.

After all, we do have words in use for people that are apolitical and agnostic. This is because there are people that are political and are gnostic and to other people it's important to emphasize it's negation

In the same vein, there are people that are theist and as such, because the negation of theism is important to some people, the negation in common use, ie atheist.

Rest assured, if it was important for someone to distinguish themselves against astrologers, a-astrologer (or the less cumbersome non-astrologer) would be in common use

@Poseidon Yes, but we do use "non-smoker", "non-driver", and "non-drinker" I think that it is usual to use a "non" "A" term when there are/were large numbers, perhaps historically more than half of the people who do a thing. But you are quite correct that when the "nons" reach the majority then you could perhaps should change "non" to "normal", or some other such term.

@Fernapple But those are REAL things! I was talking about what is going on today.
Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. Why would I have to be labeled anything simply for pointing out stupidity?

@Poseidon Yes I wholy agree. Except that we do of course label people for pointing out stupidity, we also call them, honest, forthright, insightful, public spirited, and lots of other good things.

Everyone is born with a clean slate!

@Poseidon That myth has been busted long ago !

@Matias, What myth are you talking about?

@Matias How and when was this "myth" busted? Is that what your pastor told you?


Though I voted the first choice, I've read that there is sufficient anthropological evidence that humans tend to want to worship something, be it the cliché sun and thunder gods, etc. and that this tendency evolved around the same time as language did.

Again, that's just shit I've read, but it makes sense to me.

"Again, that's just SHIT I've read," I capitalized the most important part of that comment.

The trick being used is to offer you two correct answers, but put one first and make it sound more appealing. Then when people ignore the second it can be claimed falsely as proof of their prejudices, and failing to understand the second, which will then probably be published elswhere on other sites or on paper, without of course mentioning how the result was acheived.

@Robecology Tells me you missed my point, or at least felt it more important to express your distaste for academia.



As Richard Dawkins pointed out.

"Children are naturally credulous. Of course they are , what would you expect ? They arrive in the world knowing nothing, surrounded by adults who know by comparison, everything. Learning by trial and error is often a bad idea, because errors are too costly. If your mother tells you never to paddle in the lake because of the crocodiles, it is no good coming over all sceptical and adult. It is easy to see why natural selection might penalize an experimental and sceptical turn of mind and favour simple credulity in children. But this has an unfortunate by-product which can't be helped. If your parents tell you something which is not true, you must believe that too. Credulity as a survival device, comes as a package."

But that is where belief differs from religion, because it is possible to believe in, and be taught, things which are true, even empirically true. There are crocodiles in the lake, but not, goblins in the hills. Belief even a genetic tendency to belief is not the same thing, at all, as religion.


Children are predisposed to follow instructions from their parents or other teachers. This is common in most species and is beneficial for the continuation of the species.Belief in gods was primitive man's way of trying to understand a dangerous world but we are a bit more knowledgeable than that now I hope.
Apart from in a few theocracies religious observance is decreasing in most countries because many children are not indoctrinated as before. My two boys now grown with their own families have no interest in religion whatsoever because it was never even discussed when they were young. The two boys their age from across the street who's mother was an ardent churchgoer were amazed that my two didn't go to Sunday school.

“ religious observance is decreasing in most countries”

I would love to see some data that support this popular idea, but haven’t been able to find it.

@skado []

A very marked difference to two or three generations ago. Even in my lifetime there has been a marked decrease. Most towns here have two or three empty churches which are either falling in to disrepair or a re being used for another purpose. Manses have been sold of and most ministers cover at least two parishes.

@Moravian @xenoview @Fernapple

Thanks for this, Moravian. I had not seen it. It's interesting but it is only about the difference of religious attitudes between age groups. I didn't find in it any support for your claim that "...religious observance is decreasing in most countries...". If I missed it I'd be happy for you to point it out to me. But even if it were true that it is decreasing in most countries, that still wouldn't necessarily mean it is decreasing as a percentage of world population.

To which point, the same organization, Pew Research Center, says "...although religious “nones” tend to be younger than religiously affiliated people in the United States, the opposite is true at the global level: Unaffiliated women are older than the affiliated and thus more likely to be past their prime childbearing years."

And, "...religious “nones” are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population in the coming decades due to a combination of low fertility and an older age profile."


@skado []
Churchgoing is certainly declining in England

Yes, here in the US too.

@Moravian It is in decline of course where there are high levels of education and reasonable living standards, but there is every sign that those may well go into decline and that could bring about a religious revival.

@Fernapple It is interesting that the traditional church, certainly here in Scotland has an aging congregation which is decreasing as they die off . There are a few "happy, clappy" churches run by Americans which are expanding which is a bit worrying as they are attracting a younger membership

@skado [] In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

Yes, the U.S. but not the world.

@skado Be careful!!! In the fine print, you'll notice that "non" means "not affiliated." It doesn't mean non-belief/non-believer.

Atheists and agnostics, combined, still only account for about 6 to 7% of the population in America (8% of one wishes to be generous.)

Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 show that 4% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 2% in 2009. An additional 5% of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 3% a decade ago.Dec 6, 2019


It's still pretty bleak for us that openly self -label as true non-believers. 😏

@Poseidon That's quite misleading. According to Pew Research, there are some Atheists that pray to a higher power on a daily basis. You have to dig into the fine print and A LOT of it to determine religiosity in America.

While it's true Millennials and GenZers have moved away from belonging to a specific church/sect, some 85% of Americans still believe in an omnipotent higher power.

Fun Facts About Atheists In America, Pew Research


Good point. Thanks.

@SeaGreenEyez The first line in the article is, ,"Measuring atheism is complicated". But hey, I'm just the messenger. Why don't you go and discredit some one else's posts.

@SeaGreenEyez Atheists who pray to a higher power ??. In Texas it's probably to electricity generating companies during a cold snap.

@Poseidon 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 I'm sorry. I didn't see a disclaimer that said, "You can post here BUT only if you agree with me and find my comments or post fascinating."

I can assure you, I comment frequently with facts, factoids and opinions that wholeheartedly agree with the poster and sometimes the polar opposite. And what's totally weird????? Lots of people post comments that agree with my posts and lots of people comment that don't agree.

I'm fairly certain that's why most of us are here. That's sorta the point of being in a forum community.



@Moravian I know. When I read that in one of the Pew studies, I had to read it again. I guess some Atheists pray...on a daily basis. To whom or what? It did not say. 🙄🙄🙄

@SeaGreenEyez Honestly, I'm offended by anyone trying to label me, just as offended as I am by someone telling me, "bless you"! What makes these jerks think I need blessed? If you think about it, it's damn insulting!

@Poseidon And someone here is trying to label you????? Where?????

@SeaGreenEyez Why is everyone so quick to label me an atheist? Or anyone for that matter.

@Poseidon Who on earth here is trying to label you anything??? I've read and reread this exchange, that thus far, you're the only person that seems to be feeling labeled.

I don't see anyone here labeling you anything. You however, seem to be on a path of attempting to label yourself anything but Atheist.

Honestly? No one here really cares how you SELF-label.

@SeaGreenEyez What makes you think I was referring to you?? I was speaking generally.

@SeaGreenEyez This isn't something I "feel". This i what I've experienced. Is this really something you want to argue about, something I've experienced with my own eyes and ears?

@SeaGreenEyez []

@Poseidon What makes me think you were referring to me?


Because you were speaking directly to me:
@SeaGreenEyez Why is everyone so quick to label me an atheist? Or anyone for that matter.

Poseidon: 0
@SeaGreenEyez What makes you think I was referring to you?? I was speaking generally.

And this nonsense above???? Labeling me a dummy? You might not wanna do that on this site. I'm reluctant to report people to Admin, but you've got no reason to get nasty with me and I will report you should you call me names or infer such in the future.

I strongly suggest you learn how to keep your emotions in check when posting.

And in that note?

@SeaGreenEyez If you, by your own words, "already don't give a fuck" why are you still here?


I contend it could be a combination of both. The man-made part is obvious, the concept of organized religion pretty much speaks for itself. I say it could also be instinctual in the sense that a lot of human beings possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of structure/organization/appeal to a higher authority. Over the years I have observed such from a considerable number of fellow agnostics and atheists, the belief in or need to believe in a deity may have been removed from the equation, but the desire to appeal to a "higher authority" manifests itself in the need for more/bigger Government involvement in personal affairs.


When I was forced into a Catholic school in third grade, I remember thinking to myself, "You're adults. You actually believe this crap?".


We are actually born Agnostics


Everyone is born with a clean slate!


I think religious belief grows out of fear of the unknown.


Without an exact definition of what you mean by the word "religious beliefs" and/or religion, the question is hardly a valid one.


ha so much for the atheist love of science eh


If there was no god then would that answer Sarah Lane Ritchie's question?

If I understand your question, I don’t think it would change anything. We are evolved how we are evolved, whether there’s a god or not.


I don't believe children are born with either atheist tendency or religious belief.
I don't believe they innately are aware of either of those ideas.
Though they might become indoctrinated later.
I was dropped off at a Sunday school at about age five to be babysat.
I remember feeling how weird the experience was.
A woman there tried to make me feel deficient for not knowing 'god'.

I am one who adheres to the definition that one who does not know of 'god' is atheistic by default because they lack a belief in god.

Since being on Agnostic, I've felt that agnostics run the risk of becoming 'outcasts' both to the religious and to atheists. Here I have met a few atheists as mean-spirited as religious bigots. Perhaps at one time in history, choosing to be agnostic helped discourage religious people from murdering them. Nowadays, it is a common theme or problem with agnosticism: that people are forced to keep up what has become a charade for fear of dislike by others. Thus, it appears that a choice of agnosticism is more about pleasing others than knowing oneself. I hadn't thought much on the differences between agnostic and atheist, until I met loving, intelligent people who are atheist. 'Atheist by default' as you say.

@AnonySchmoose Yes, I find any definitions that blend or meld atheism and agnosticism to be a perversion and completely, almost intentionally, fuck over the English language. There need not be any further definitions, in my opinion, than those that classify atheism as 'what one believes', and agnosticism as 'what one can know'. These other definitions only serve to create more ambiguity where it doesn't need to exist, and with language, especially English, being as imprecise as it is, why? There doesn't need to be an overlap, so why would you adhere to definitions that create one, and in the process, reduce everyone else's ability to know what the hell you're trying to say??
Anyway, by my (and the logical) definitions of those words, I'm an atheist because I lack a belief in god, but I'm agnostic because I know I can't know if one exists. I have met a few agnostic Christians in my time, which, by my definition, LITERALLY EVERYONE should be an agnostic something because EVERYONE should admit they can't KNOW either way.
The only problem I have with identifying as agnostic only is that to me it's not saying anything. It's like asking someone what they like to eat and having them reply, "food".
Well, yeah, of course. Anything you would eat, by definition, is food, so you're not really saying anything...

Sorry for the rant.

It's okay... a rant is not an issue. 🤣


This is the big issue. Some atheists get quite adamant that religious belief is nurture not nature. I say that I would love to believe that, but my experience and observations in life, and yes this is subjective, Incline me to believe that some or nany but not all people are born predisposed to religion, but they can out grow it or move beyond it. This is a depressing fact but it's my honest view. I hope I am wrong, but I don't think I am.


Every human being is born agnostic atheist.

Mvtt Level 7 July 2, 2021

In no way could children be born with innate religious beliefs. They are blank slates, but their brains are desperately seeking connections and correlations whether they are valid or not. Thus, the tendency to superstitious behavior may well be innate. Religion is the elaboration of superstition into rituals and repeating just-so stories. Early humans were likely to practice animism, while monotheism is a relatively recent invention.


Skado, I tried to send you a msg. but am not sure I succeeded. (Not sure how that works anymore.)

Sent you one. Let me know.

@skado Contact! Thanks.

@Wallace @skado
Suddenly, everyone in the room was no longer intrigued by the topic at hand...


I am more none of the above. Most athiests I know, were raised in some religion. I think peoples reactions or what they take from it varies. I don't believe in God, and found lots of it made no sense. I loved the rebellious nature of Martin Luther and Jesus, and identified with it. Then in 9th grade we read the play JB by Archibald Macleish. From there I took what I thought was good and resonated with me and ignored what didn't. I do that with all information or new ideas or philosophy I read or hear. regardless of the source.
In 9th gradeI took honors English and

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