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Many atheists take it as self-evident that we are born as atheists, that not to believe anything supernatural is the human default mode, that it takes indoctrination to turn babies (= born atheists) into little believers.

But that is not true. Religion does not need indoctrination to take root in children's brains. They have to learn the specific contents of their creed in order to become, say, a good Christian or Hindu, but the way our brain is wired, it only needs some nudging and specific input provided by parents or caregivers to make children adopt some religious belief. They are mentally prepared to adopt it, not unlike language acquisition.

"Indoctrination" presupposes a certain resistance and unwillingness on the part of the "learner", but in the case of human children, there is no such resistance, on the contrary!
(Learning how to read or write or doing math needs much more "indoctrination" than the acquisition of a religion!)

The regular operation of ordinary human perceptions, the human brain, and common human cognitive processes work together to make religion a natural and fairly effortless way for people to think about and live in the world. Religion actually comes quite naturally, it turns out, given human neurobiology, cognition, and psychology.

A purely secular existence is certainly not the human default mode.

Recommended reading:
"The belief instinct" by Jesse Bering,
"Why Religions are natural and Science is not" by Robert McCauley
"Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer

Matias 8 June 4

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The way I usually put it is that natural selection has fitted us with things like confirmation bias. They are (or more exactly, were) survival advantages. Run now, ask questions later, don't speculate about what's rustling that bush. Was great in the hunter gatherer world, not so much in modern urban technological society.

We are nowhere near as mentally clear and consistent and logical as we like to think we are. That's why children need to be taught critical thinking skills early and deeply. Otherwise, sure, they will probably succumb to a religion or some other unsupportable belief system. If their parents try to pass on those beliefs, they probably will anyway. It's a slow, multi-generation process to get humanity to a place where religion is a fringe phenomenon. I think it will take another millennium to get there.


Religion and atheism are learned sometimes beliefs are natural occurrence but science and rational thought prevails


I have no memory of learning any particular religious belief even though my father was Southern Baptist and my mom was an atheist. I remember learning about religions but adopted none for myself...they all made a bit of sense in certain ways but not enough for me to believe in anything that I could not see or explain. It was like acquiring many languages for me...yes, easy enough, but fluid and using the parts that made kind, etc. I feel like I made up my own "religion" but there was never a deity involved.

I almost feel like it is quite opposite to has been repugnant from an early age to think the world made sense through actually made no sense to me...It brought me no comfort during times of sorrow and my joy was not enhanced by any thoughts of heaven...



I didn't give it any thought until I was 8 and my mom 'found' Jesus. Suddenly, she decided smacking me around every time she got upset was wrong. By that time, I knew that everything she said and did wasn't to be trusted. I learned to be an atheist through church attendance and actually reading the book I was being told about. What I read didn't match what I was told.


Indoctrination is merely the formal instruction in a doctrine in order to become a functioning member of the group. Can be voluntary or not. Key words are "formal instruction". Formal meaning trained instructors imparting a devised structured lesson in formal setting eg classroom. Military basic training a classic example.
Wrote a book on this, the human dilemma. It's the way we learn and this religion thing is passed on generationally. That cycle needs to be broken.
People don't realise how mailable a child's mind is, how easy to get them into Santa and the tooth fairy?
Have always said give us a child and I will have them bowing to and worshiping a piece of dogshit on the mantelpiece in 4 weeks, it really is that easy. Couple this with adults also believing, unconscious references to deity constantly and peer group (family and societal) pressure......this is why religion survives. We live in another's past.


A belief in a god is a social construct. But the mental immaturity that leads to wishful thinking is innate, requiring growing up to purge. Many (most?) people never grow up.

It’s more than just wishful thinking. We are born with several hardwired instincts that impose the “ingredients” of god belief upon neonates, for the purpose of parental bonding. When we get old enough to separate from parental dependence, those instincts don’t automatically go away. They generally are transferred to a surrogate which we call God. Like many of evolution’s products, this instinct is stronger in some individuals than others, but widely distributed in the population.

Haha... Men who choose Superman as their avatar are rarely grown-up

@Matias, once again you start by admitting defeat with an Ad Hominem fallacy:

"When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser." - Socrates

@skado, the mental immaturity that leads to belief in god is innate (at least in some), requiring growing up to purge as well. Belief in god is simply one form of wishful thinking, that of not having to ever grow up.


Source(s)? Got any?

We don’t need a source to express our intuitive insights. Some thoughts can be original. Think: What would be the source of the source? The source of the source of the source, ad infinitum?

He lists them in the post. Another good source is biologist, John Wathey’s “The Illusion of God’s Presence”.


Nobody can ever be described as being born atheist. To be atheist we first have to have a knowledge of theism and have decided to reject it. It is obvious that no child is born with a knowledge of theism or a belief in god or gods, that is patently absurd. The logical conclusion therefore must be that no child is born either atheist or theist. Belief in god is learned behaviour, but to be an atheist we must first be taught about belief in god in order to be able to reject it.


Indoctrination is merely teaching - we assign the connotation to the concept - negative or positive. I was indoctrinated as a child - no choice in the matter (i.e. "believe in god or suffer the consequences" ). But it wasn't necessarily a negative experience - actually quite the opposite. That is why it took hold.

We are born atheist. We do not possess the ability to conceive of a god until we're taught it. That's why the concept is so individualized - it varies person to person.


IMO being taught a particular set of religious doctrines is pretty shallow, based on symbols of symbols of symbols. Probably in most cases the young children don’t take religious instruction very seriously. I think seeing their parents attending church, praying, etc would influence them more than words.

There is an innate religious impulse but it has nothing to do with belief or indoctrination. It has to do with becoming consciously aware of one’s existence and being struck with awe and reverence. That awe and reverence might be expressed through art, music, literature, science or spirituality.

We try to communicate with each other through symbols, hoping to convey to others our most profound emotions and thoughts. Over time, through constant repetition those symbols tend to lose their potency and become trite and meaningless. That’s what’s wrong with institutionalized religion. Even science gets to be institutionalized at times.

We are busy, busy, working ceaselessly to apprehend and organize the morass of sensory date as it comes in. Through layers of data compression and labeling we create “things” and form our own realities. We might try to make sense of someone else’s symbols, but for those symbols to mean much they have to resonate to some degree with our own world views. We might give polite lip service to our teachers but if we are aware and courageous we will not blindly accept their instructions.




Mama told me all the Grimm's fairy tales she could remember, also Hoffmann's; Andersen's and Bechstein's. Papa told me the Heldensagen and the whole Norse Mythology. I became an atheist anyway. By age 11, it was all over.


I don't think that was the case with me. I was brought up without religion. I wasn't indoctrinated into atheism either. We didn't talk about any of it. I knew nothing of religion until friends would tell me about their religious beliefs, They wouldn't make sense and I'd ask questions. I'd try saying their prayers and nothing would happen so I didn't believe it.

I believe that people naturally wonder why things happen and look for answers and religion can fill that void, but so can actual answers. Actual answers work better because they make sense. When we don't have answers due to a lack of knowledge about how the world works, religions are more likely to take hold.


I still call it "indoctrination" but I see exactly where you are coming from. I.E. reading, writing, and doing math would not appear to a child as having the "benefits" and answers that religion offers.


Disagree. All animals have evolved to take instructions from their parents. It is an essential part of survival like not walking in front of a bus or wearing adequate clothing in winter. It is only when they are mature enough to weigh up the available information that some may decide to leave religion.
Of course they are indoctrinated hence the Jesuits saying "Give me the child to the age of seven and I will give you the man "


A mom is a baby's god. Basically. Similar thought would be a person is a god to a dog. Until the dog grealizes he can bite the hand that feeds him.


I seem to be one of a tiny minority on here who was raised atheist, but as I'm 4th generation, not 'as such' - there was very little discussion nor tenants to learn, it was merely the assumption underpinning everything, and also, religion around us then was at such a low ebb it was never seen or discussed either (must be why my mother was so awed by nuns she couldn't bring herself to actually speak to one).
I just assumed that religion was a historical artifact like belief in ectoplasm... other than in remote tribes one saw in National Geographic, though even then I thought they should be left alone.


We are not born atheists. We are simply born with little brain contents. It is the interaction with the environment that forms cognitive structures and schema. As infants, we are wired to receive and value any inputs on ANY subject which our parents give us. We are not especially prone to religious belief.


I am a prime example. Having been born in a Mormon family, I trusted my parents when they told me that everything the church taught was reality. It was only as an adult that I started to question Mormonism and Christianity in general, and discovered that there is no basis in fact or evidence for accepting such mythology as reality.

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