Children are born believers in God, academic claims

Children are “born believers” in God and do not simply acquire religious beliefs through indoctrination, according to an academic.

By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent,

Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose.

He says that young children have faith even when they have not been taught about it by family or at school, and argues that even those raised alone on a desert island would come to believe in God.

“The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children’s minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God.”

In a lecture to be given at the University of Cambridge’s Faraday Institute on Tuesday, Dr Barrett will cite psychological experiments carried out on children that he says show they instinctively believe that almost everything has been designed with a specific purpose.

In one study, six and seven-year-olds who were asked why the first bird existed replied “to make nice music” and “because it makes the world look nice”.

Another experiment on 12-month-old babies suggested that they were surprised by a film in which a rolling ball apparently created a neat stack of blocks from a disordered heap.

Dr Barrett said there is evidence that even by the age of four, children understand that although some objects are made by humans, the natural world is different.

He added that this means children are more likely to believe in creationism rather than evolution, despite what they may be told by parents or teachers.

Dr Barrett claimed anthropologists have found that in some cultures children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them.

“Children’s normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design. In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe.”

read here:

Dr. Barrett: "If we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God." Photo: John Taylor

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6 Comments on “Children are born believers in God, academic claims”

  1. Rafiq A. Tschannen
    January 9, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    As the author, after a long research, comes to the same conclusion that the Holy Quran already points out, the logical sequence should be that he embraces Islam!

  2. Zia H. Shah
    January 9, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    The testimony of existence of God is written in our consciousness, we cannot evade it. As is claimed by the Holy Quran: When your Lord brought forth offspring from the loins of the sons of Adam, He made them witness against their own selves by asking them, “Am I not your Lord?” They said in a manner of speaking, “We do bear witness to that.” (Al Quran 7:173)

  3. Zia H. Shah
    January 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    CS Lewis a famous Christian theologian, once observed:

    “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

  4. Abdul Haq
    January 10, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    This is so much in line with some of the finest points in Islamic philosophy:

    “In the 12th century, Ibn Tufail further developed the concept of tabula rasa in his Arabic novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child “from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society” on a desert island. The Latin translation of his work, entitled Philosophus Autodidactus, published by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671, had an influence on John Locke’s formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.”

    This story is also believed to have influenced the story of Robinson; but do notice the difference in levels of spirituality between the two stories.

  5. Sana
    January 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    “Children’s normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design. In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe.”

    Clearly Dr Barrett has forgotten what the scientific method is (was there a control for this study?). What a ridiculous conclusion to draw. There is no way to determine what, exactly, the children believe. What they are prone to is a belief in imaginary things – Santa Claus, tooth fairy, Cinderella – and that imaginary thing can also be a God.

  6. Zia H. Shah
    January 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Sir David Attenborough on God

    Sir Attenborough certainly stands in awe of the majesty of nature but raises the question of suffering to deny God. Let me quote here the concluding paragraph, in the later editions of the legendary book of Sir Charles Darwin, on the Origin of Species that can make one quickly conceptualize the role of suffering in the grand scheme of things:

    From the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been breathed, by the Creator, into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    Once the question about suffering is understood as a tool for evolution, as Charles Darwin suggested, then one is ready to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as suggested by many of the verses of the Holy Quran.

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