Is it natural for children to believe in God or do they have to be taught it?

Babies

This comment was made on a blog I was visiting recently: “None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that”

I was interested, for I knew of some scientific research that suggested the opposite. I asked the author of the comment whether they had any scientific evidence for the statement, but none was forthcoming. Instead, I was asked what evidence I had seen.

A blog comment isn’t the place for an extended review of evidence, so I decided to post it here. This post repeats some of what I wrote a year ago in Do children naturally believe in God?, but adds additional information I have found since then.

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Is religion dying out? Is this inevitable in the modern world?

Crosses on the top of churches

I’ve seen it many times. A confident statement by a committed atheist that religion is dying out. It is inevitable. Modernisation, especially science, has made it impossible for the virus of faith to survive much longer.

Scandinavia is a peaceful paradise and almost godless, and shows that once society rides itself of God, prosperity and happiness follow. Well known atheist blogger and scientist, Jerry Coyne, has faith in this:

I believe with all my heart that some day America will end up like Scandinavia: virtually godless. I won’t live to see it, but I’m confident it will happen, and the trend is in that direction.

Many religious leaders see the same trends with concern but others disagree. God is still in business, they say, people are still being converted, and true religion is on the cusp of a comeback.

Everyone has a point of view and most of us have bias. Many of us fall victim to wishful thinking when we consider matters close to our hearts. Who has got it right? What do statistics and the experts say?

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Rejecting the wrong god – throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Aztec twin god Ometeotl

Over the years I’ve met many people, in ‘real life’ and on the internet, who have changed their beliefs about God. Some have moved from unbelief to belief in Jesus, others have moved from belief to atheism. And I have come across a few who have changed their belief twice – from faith to unbelief and back again, or vice versa.

Few of us are purely emotional or purely logical about these decisions, and for some these choices have involved a time of deep reflection as well as some emotional stress.

I often ponder how and why these changes of belief occur.

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Book review: CS Lewis vs the New Atheists

Book cover

I didn’t have high expectations of this book. I’m not that much interested in the so-called new atheists, nor in those who argue against them. And I think the world probably has quite enough books about CS Lewis.

But I am interested in the philosophical arguuments generally. And I am a great fan of Lewis – he was a very formative influence on me as a teen and young adult. So I thought I’d read the book more or less for old times’ sake.

I’m glad I did.

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Giordano Bruno and Cosmos

The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Roman Inquisition

The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Roman Inquisition, by Ettore Ferrari. Picture: Wikipedia.

Recently the TV series Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, was launched on TV screens around the world. I didn’t watch it (we don’t have pay TV) but the first episode generated some controversy, with critics arguing it got some of its facts badly wrong.

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How can we know if God exists? Do philosophical arguments help?

Shaft of sunlight

My friend Howie has a blog, Truth is Elusive, and his latest post discusses the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, and whether they are effective or even useful. His broad conclusion is “not very” – that is not for him, not for many people, only for a few.

I mostly agree with Howie about this – for most people. But it isn’t true for me. But I needed more than a blog comment to explain why, so I wrote this post instead.

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