Is atheism the default setting at birth?

v 0.1 Atheism is the default setting at birth
It requires harsh and strict child abuse to turn children into non-atheists

v 0.6 after some thought I think is should change these statements into questions

Is atheism the default setting at birth?
Would a child growing up in a free world in which reason and a humanistic world view are the
standard invent its own gods?
Does It require harsh and strict child abuse to turn children into

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Comment by Matt on March 18, 2010 at 5:08am
If you mean the belief in a specific god, then yes ideed. Also a lot of the tenets of religion do not come naturally or even easy to young children, unless carefully packaged and force-fed from a young age.

If you mean belief in the supernatural and a positive relish for making up new ones, then no, I cannot say I agree. Only yesterday, "Carpet Fairies" were added to the long list of creatures that my youngest daughter believes in. Mind you, it is a special class of creatures that seems to be "creatures that I would like to exist and enjoy believing in", and the total lack of any trace of them does not seem to phase her at all. Also, the imaginary creatures are not expected to have any effect on observable reality, and they are adopted and discarded as the whim bites.

Some of them stay for years, such as Rochellla, the invisible little girl with pink hair who does all the naughty things my daughter would like to do, but doesn't dare. The delight in her outrageous behaviour makes me think of Loki, the trickster-god.

All this makes me suspect that the capacity for believing in things that do not exist is a basic human trait we get along with imagination, and is especially strong in children.
Comment by Gary Epstein on March 17, 2010 at 9:08pm
This would depend on if the concept of God, is abstract? Obviously for some, its a simple fable and for others a very complicated philosophical reasoning process. If we limit and cab distinguish between, what we may wish and what we can see, and use logic, we become atheists.
Now, could God be a physical abstarct, such a a quantum burp? Well, yes, but that's not theism. Theism is Allah, the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, the Japnaese Emerior etc.

One can be religious and still an atheist. At least as I understand the term, anti-Theist.
Comment by TNT666 on March 17, 2010 at 8:27pm
I totally agree that we, just as any other animal, are born without any sense of belief. A genetic predisposition certainly, but one that needs induction. I think if humans were born into the wild, among wolves or as Tarzan the legend did, children will simply adopt whatever lifestyle that is contextual. A "nature child" would see nature, well, as nature, no more no less.

IMO religion's only purpose is as a control tool meant to unite people under certain leaders/chiefs.
Comment by Sonny Mobley on March 17, 2010 at 4:39pm
Henk Bolhuis: Exactly, my friend. I had an imaginary friend when I was a toddler until kindergarten. I even created an extended family for him. I remember it as clear as day and my mom still won't shut up about the things I did in his name.

Also, I think a lot of people seem to forget it but in early childhood make-believe is a little more than just pretending. Children conjure up all sorts of things that are no doubt rather real to them. I think the difference between theist's and non-theist's is ultimately that one is able to shed this inclination towards self deceit.
Comment by Sonny Mobley on March 17, 2010 at 4:34pm
It's far too simple to say that either babies are born atheist's or born theist's. I have never seen anything to make me doubt that children weren't inclined towards at least some sort of anthropomorphizing of the world around them. I have always been uncomfortable with the 'babies are default non-theists' argument. They certainly aren't theist's but that doesn't make that swaddling newborn an atheist either.
Comment by J.P.M. on March 17, 2010 at 3:16pm
Thinking about this objectively, I kind of suspect that their may be some innate susceptibility to deism at birth. I have no doubt it is is reinforced through upbringing, but the ubiquitous evolution and persistence of religion (in pretty much all human civilizations known) could easily have selected for some heritable receptivity to it (thinking as an evolutionary biologist).
Plus I remember some disbelief and disappointment when my parents told me the truth about Santa Claus - when I was only 5 or 6. They just didn't like propagating untruths, but apparently I was predisposed to believe in Santa. That might have been a turning point where I starting wondering about the veracity of other myths people were spouting at me, because I have been athiest sice about grade 2, near as I can remember.
Comment by Henk Bolhuis on March 17, 2010 at 2:52pm
John, Thanks for the comments .... in fact...short after pushing the SEND button...i was also thinking on the beautiful imaginary world that i had as a child.(and still have) ..however, there were just no gods....but i myself could do lots of magic.....I guess that the ability of humans to create imaginary worlds is in fact taken hostage by religions. I keep my initial post as it is, its better to have imperfect start that through this process of communication matures than to start perfect and nobody to talk to. Therefor again..thanks..and i will have a look at that book you mentioned.

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