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Brilliantly simple.

SkeptikSeeker 5 June 7

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Agreed, just stop teaching falsehoods.


Absolutely true. Considered atheism is just a side-effect of skepticism and critical thinking, two of the foundational aspects of rational inquiry.


We learned ancient mythologies in school. Many of our current religions should be included in that category. Myths are ways to understand the world around us through metaphor. Most currently religious folks take the metaphors literally, and that's why we can't call them myths yet.


Could not have said it better !


Religion does not need indoctrination to take roots in children's brains. They have to learn the specific content of their creed, but the way our brain is wired, it only needs some nudging by parents or caregivers to make children adopt some religious belief. They are mentally prepared to adopt it. Religious belief is a natural outcome of our hard-wired cognition and emotion.
The mental default of humans is NOT atheistic.
See: "The belief instinct" by Jesse Bering,
or: "Why Religions are natural and Science is not" by Robert McCauley
or "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer

I agree that human brains are very prone to confirmation bias and agency inference and the like. That people will tend to believe what makes them comfortable. That the scientific method is in many important ways counterintuitive. That a child left to itself would probably be superstitious.

But I still think it's valid to say that if education is offered without any basis in indoctrination that it will teach critical thinking and skepticism and the scientific method and guide children to compensate for the well-understood and documented weaknesses of their own default mentation.

Maybe that's a sort of counter-indoctrination but it's still fact-based. The epistemology of the scientific method works. It produces innovation, invention, and understanding, as well as a mental model of reality that is far closer to accurate than anything religion can even dream of. The failed epistemology of religious faith on the other hand, can only assert things and then threaten you for not believing them.

@mordant Excellent counterpoint. Thank you.

@mordant I agree with you. I am all in favor for education based on science and critical thinking. I just wanted to stress the point that it is a MYTH cherished by a lot of activist atheists that religion and magic are somewhat alien to the human mind, and that it takes massive indoctrination to create a religious mind, that a secular, naturalistic worldview is the human "default".
If it were, we wouldn't see religions everywhere - or you have to believe a kind of gigantic conspiracy going on all over the world for as long as we have historical records. Many atheist activists actually do believe in that kind of gigantic conspiracy of the priests against ordinary people. But unfortunately (!) humans are NOT born scientists, but born believers. It takes 12, 15 years of systematic education to create a scientist, but it only takes a little nudging to create a believer.

@Matias I hadn't thought of it in quite those terms (only takes a little nudging to create a believer) but you are quite right.

If one regards a newborn as a tabula rasa then technically it's an atheist out the chute but that changes pretty quickly if you just provide it with a belief-friendly environment, and maybe even if you don't ... this is the nuance many of my fellow atheists fail to understand. The human mind is not specifically optimized for belief ... but it is specifically optimized for quick, shallow pattern matching for the purpose of rapid threat recognition, and therein lies the problem. It leads to agency inference and confirmation bias, and when those are not trained to be subject to adequate filters, that sets us up for magical thinking.

@mordant I do hope that you do not subscribe to the outdated and discredited view that humans are born as a "tabula rasa". They are not. No animal is born that way. We are born with a whole bunch of evolved mechanisms which act as filters and predispositions right from the first day. - - -
Have you already read Pascal Boyer's "Religion Explained"? If not, read it, because the book is a modern classic that opens your eyes for all those subtle and no-so-subtle biases humans are endowed with and that make babies so prepared to effortlessly acquire any belief. It is a common myth (!) among activists that babies are "Technically born atheists".
Another question atheists cannot answer is: where does the "belief-friendly environment" come from in the first place?

@Matias Filters and predispositions yes, beliefs and ideologies, no. To me, "blank slate" is just coherent ideas and framing, not proclivities and tendencies and predispositions. A child has no beliefs about deities or even a concept of deities at birth, only a vulnerability to the sophisticated and highly evolved deity memes in his environment.

@mordant Your post is quite incoherent. First, it's " predispositions yes". Two lines below, it's "not predispositions".
Nobody ever claimed that babies are born with "deities in their mind", so this is a strawman argument.
And nobody knows what a "vulnerability to the sophisticated and highly evolved deity memes in his environment" could possibly mean, given that most religions in history did not feature "highly evolved deities" in the first place.
And the meme concept isn't science either but only a handy metaphor.

Religion is a serious topic. You really should acquire some basic knowledge about religions in general. >>
Christian Smith: "Religion. What it is, How it works, Why it matters" -
or the book by Pascal Boyer I mentioned above.

@Matias Sorry I was unclear.

  1. Children have predispositions, but not particular beliefs, at birth.
  2. To me "blank slate" refers to the absence of particular beliefs, and not to the absence of predispositions.
  3. Ergo, I was not contending that children have no dispositions, in assuming for the sake of argument that they are "blank slates". Perhaps the term tabula rasa is used in an overdetermined way often; I am not doing so.

To a young child, even a primitive religion is rife with potent symbolic influences. Sure, religion serves legitimate purposes, but that begs the question whether, particularly in the modern era, other things might serve just as well. To my mind, religion's primary actual value is in providing community and refuge and, to some extent, social continuity. These things are hardly the sole province of religion, and need not be joined at the hip with the failed epistemology of religious faith, or with notions of a separate, superior morality handed down from on high, or other demonstrable harms.

In the course of my life, I have had plenty of contact with and involvement in religion and thought long and hard about it. Longer and harder than the vast majority of people. I studied my religion of origin formally and full time for a year, and participated actively in church administration and lay ministry and such like. I was about the furthest thing from a mindless pew-warmer and am today the furthest thing from ignorant about religion as most people care to get. Doubtless I would take away some things from Smith and Boyer, as there's always something to learn. But I hope, though, you don't seriously imagine you would motivate anyone to take your suggestions when it is delivered in a patronizing and supercilious manner.


I think public schools are total bunk. A famous study often aired during in the 1980s on the Kentucky Learning channel, showed that in classes with self-directed study, and five children per teacher, children could advance a grade every TWO WEEKS.

Preschoolers, learning-challenged, even "retarded" kids, up to older adults, used to go from not being able to read at all, to speed reading, in 20 minutes, when I was using Sing, Spell, Read, and Write phonics songs/charts - seen for free on YouTube.

Kids even got copies of the charts after they learned the songs, then went home and taught their 2-3 year old siblings to read, so it has nothing to do with my skills, but with using the right hemisphere of the brain with color and music.

It even works on Thai children who don't know English.

All the rest of school is deliberate time-wasting warehousing-they hold all the kids back to move in lock-step, so parents can go to work and not have to pay for childcare.

And, of course, so they can keep feeding out of the public money funds.

Such nonsense.


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