Unnaturalness of Atheism

Johannes Moreelse Democritius

The idea that atheism ought be assumed by default is a chimera. Atheism cannot be assumed by default, it must be demonstrated. The belief that given the failure of theistic case for God, atheism ought be assumed does not only commit an appeal to ignorance but is also against the picture painted by modern discoveries in Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR).

Several recent researches in CSR shows that children naturally hold certain universal religious ideas such as belief in divine agents and belief in mind-body dualism. Similar to universals of language, universals of religious belief include principles that are shared in all culture and time, the belief in supernatural beings.

Paul Bloom explained that it was believed that those beliefs in Gods, the afterlife &c., could not have been a result of innate but social and cultural learned beliefs. Observing a recently growing body of literature on this field, however, Bloom affirmed that such a view is no longer entirely right. Though culture plays a certain role, “some of the universals of religion are unlearned”(Bloom 2007: 149) Jesse M. Bering concurs with Bloom’s observation. He wrote:

Although conventional wisdom tends to favor a general learning hypothesis for the origins of after-life beliefs, recent findings suggest a more complicated developmental picture (Bering 2006: 454).

The idea that belief in supernatural beings requires indoctrination appears to be false. Bering explained that these findings show that the origins of such beliefs are not cultural indoctrinated. Children are natural predisposed, hard-wired, to hold such beliefs. This natural bias enables cultural indoctrinating to set in with ease. Atheism is thus unnatural. It requires indoctrination.

Following Bering, Darwinian mechanisms can reveal “how the standard architecture of ancestral human minds was co-opted by natural selection to create the functional illusion of an intelligently designed, immortal soul that was under nearly unbreakable moralistic contract with the natural world.”(Bering 2006: 461) A religion-critic may argue that, given our idea of gods is a by-product of our evolutionary process, then such beliefs are false. This, though, would be a fallacious reasoning because giving a successful account of how a person acquired a particular belief p does not address the truth-value of such belief. Belief p may have been acquired in a very dubious or unreliable methods yet true.

An illustration is required to take this point home. John Doe believes that his wife Jane Doe, 7 days pregnant, is going to have a baby girl because they made love 8 days before in the kitchen. Showing how dubious John’s belief aroused does not remotely address whether his belief is true or not. To show that John’s belief is false, we must examine not how John came to hold such a belief but whether or no Jane is carrying a baby girl. Providing a naturalistic explanation of John’s origins of belief does not discredit his belief.

Theists can agree with Bering and contend in line with Alvin Plantinga that, it is possible that “God [has] designed us in such a way that it is by virtue of those processes that we come to have knowledge of him.” Plantinga added:

Clearly, it is possible both that there is an explanation in terms of natural processes of religious belief (perhaps a brain physiological account of what happens when someone holds religious beliefs), and that these beliefs have a perfectly respectable epistemic status (2000: 145).

If what I contended and the findings in CRS is correct, unlike theism, atheism requires cultural indoctrination. We are not born atheists. Theism is nature’s favored preparedness default. If this is correct, atheism cannot simply be assumed by default, it must be demonstrated. It must demonstrate that our natural bias toward theism is an accidental by product of our bellum omnium contra omnes. To show that our natural bias towards belief in God(s) is false, atheism must be demonstrated to be true. As in John-Jane example, God(s) must be demonstrated not to exist.  This is why the idea that atheism ought be assumed by default is a chimera.

Bering, J.M. (2006) ‘The folk psychology of souls,’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences Vol. 29:453-498

Bloom, P. (2007) ‘Religion is natural,’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences Vol.10 No.1:147-151

Plantinga, A. (2000) Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

71 thoughts on “Unnaturalness of Atheism

  1. Well said. It seems intuitively true to me that the natural human default it to theism. If so, while that obviously that does not prove the truth of theism, it does seem to defeat the notion that theism is an indoctrinated belief.

  2. “We are not born atheists. Theism is nature’s favored preparedness default.”

    Many academics specifically say that we are born atheists.

    In any case, of the latter sentence, I felt the need to add:

    “The sun being smaller than the earth is nature’s favoured preparedness default.”

    And how very good we all still believe this. And that the earth is flat.

  3. Interesting post, Prayson.

    One need only to raise children without religion to prove this notion as false though. It requires quite a bit of work to indoctrinate children with belief in God(s). The God myth is no different than any myth or story we tell our children repeatedly and in which we present as true. This includes Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Fairies and Angels. I know you don’t like making these comparisons, but they are all things children believe when they are young (if their parents have taught them). In fact, we could tell children ANY story repeatedly, and they would believe it, at least until they are old enough to think for themselves.

    Because our children are vulnerable to indoctrination does not make them predisposed theism….

    • Deborah, do you really think it makes sense to compare the belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and fairies with the belief in a Deity?. It does not even compare. I am going to quote the author of “The Case Against Atheism” to explain my point: “A possible God, soul, and afterlife are of tremendous consequence to you, your loved ones, and all of humanity. Santa Clause and fairies are trivial and a joke when compared. The implication of their being a God and a Soul are so great that the significance is immeasurable. To compare overtly mythical creations to God is to miss the entire meaning of what God represents. It’s a dishonest and deceitful comparison to say the least. ” Mike Dobbins.

      • Noel, you’re confusing the object of the belief with the kind of belief being exercised and then making an exception based on the grandiosity of the object.

      • Noel, I’m not trying to sway you from your place of belief in any way. I’m just saying that non-theism is indeed a very natural and default state. You have to teach a child to believe in a gods/devils/angels/fairies/Santa. This is true, no matter the particular myth. I’m sure some would argue that Hindu gods are “overtly mythical creations,” and yet, they are very real and very sacred to those who believe. As tildeb wrote, it matters not the object…

    • I agree that Prayson has isolated another important and compelling conversation to have.

      My own experience matches your suggestion, Deborah. It was important to me to raise my child with all the encouragement possible if she was going to choose a life of faith. I took her to different churches, encouraged her to attend services with her friends, I bought children’s Bible stories and we enjoyed reading them. Now that she is in high school, we both will quickly reach for the Bible when we want to reference something. However, being atheist, it isn’t a high priority to me to teach her faith in a deity. And, as you suggest, without the work, my child who was enthusiastic about God as a toddler, slowly drifted away. I honestly believe that a young person is going to copy what their role models do, and the final decision about how to believe won’t happen till adulthood.

      I am tempted to agree that humans are predisposed to believe in *something* otherworldly, since this is shown in so many diverse examples. Belief in a greater power is comforting, and I am in total support of every source of love and comfort we find.

  4. “Atheism cannot be assumed by default, it must be demonstrated.” I would suggest that in reality it was the other way around. Theism cannot be assumed by default, it must be fed to the common man. If it is not fed to him then sense and sensibility continues.

    And let’s face it, Cognitive Science of Religion is bollocks, pure, utter bollocks, striving solely towards the desired result as opposed to the truth.

  5. Ah, still no fix in the template. Clicking the “Comments” button on e-mails always leads here where I only see this one comment. Suggest changing template.

  6. C.S. Lewis did better with fiction.

    Here, for instance, he should have written:

    Likewise, if you are an atheist, you do not have to reject all insights of all religions, just the wrong ones.

  7. “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    • No, not believe as an a priori assertion or assumption like,the central faith-based claims that form the various religion’s catechisms, but an adduced conclusion justified by reality’s arbitration of them.

  8. Daniel, your post reminds me of something that C.S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity”, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” So if I have hunger, there must be food somewhere. If I see darkness, there must be light somewhere to compare darkness with. If I see loneliness, despair, meaninglessness, and depression in my life, there must be hope, joy, meaning, and happiness somewhere in the universe as well. If I don’t believe in God, then God must be waiting for me to start believing in Him.

    • “So, if I have hunger, there must be food somewhere.” Is that true? Yes, if hunger is about food primarily. No, if hunger represents the internal state of the organism. Food is not necessary for the psychological phenomenon, and so the psychological phenomenon has nothing to tell us about some thing called ‘food’. It’s a kind of surrogate marker. We can put all sorts of things in our stomachs to sate our hunger, the hunger itself can’t tell us whether or not those things are food. We can look at the nutritional content of the things we eat to decide that they are food, but then we have abandoned the hunger = food explanation.
      I think what the argument in question is trying to get at is the base conditions for hunger. Those can explain hunger, but hunger does not explain the base conditions – unless you wish to claim that there is something essential about hunger. That lands us back ringside at the rationalism/empiricism fight, which has been waged for centuries by folks much smarter than the lot of us, to no definitive conclusion (though I’m prone to give the split decision to empiricism). Even so, hunger as an essential fact doesn’t tell us anything about the particular item we’ve just crammed down our gullet, which I think would need to be the case for this argument to succeed. In the present example, if we say food is finally a hunger-satisfying substance, then we can’t say that clay is not food. The ontological argument turns on similar points – it is a good argument given certain rationalist assumptions, but getting those assumptions is really the hard part. I think Plantinga has said as much, so there’s my appeal to authority to round out the whole mess.:)

  9. Ah, a few more clicks and I found this comment.

    So, I will repeat in different words:
    a-supernaturalism is not the default, supernaturalism is the default for the vast majority of people, but not everyone.

    So Theism and Atheism do not enter the picture.

    Theism: the belief that an all-loving, all-powerful, intervening singular deity is very, very far from being default.

    You are wrong on that account.

    But perhaps you define Theism differently.

    I would suggest you over extend the supernatural reflex to fit your agenda.

    But I agree that many hyper-rational atheists are very wrong on understanding the human mind. Thankfully, those atheists are in the minority — though more prominent among blogging atheists.

    • Who are these “hyper-rational atheists” and on what basis do you claim that they “are very wrong on understanding the human mind”? How do you know that “those atheists are in the minority — though more prominent among blogging atheists”? Come on, Sabio. Name names and produce the statistics, show us the evidence that justifies this incredibly arrogant claim of yours. Why not include such trivial details like, oh I don’t know, maybe some facts? This would go a very long way to explain why ‘we’ – the Sabio-approved version – should be so very thankful. Unless you just want everyone to take your word for it… a word that elevates you and your profound understanding of the faults of these disappointing atheists, of course… at no cost to yourself.

      Pay up.

      • To whom it may concerns:
        Tildeb and I have a very bad history of unfruitful and unproductive conversation.
        I shall not be engaging him here in the same way I avoid him everywhere else on the web.
        For it would be a colossal waste of time. Instead, I will leave his habitual belittling and name-calling unchallenged. But I am thankful for one thing, he makes it so clear that, like Christians, Atheists too come in all sorts of flavors.

  10. @ Prayson I was directed here by John Zande for some reason, so let me offer my feedback on your post.

    “chimera” struck me as an odd word choice, but I agree that to assume “atheism” is a default is odd, though no more odd than thinking “theism” is a default. Let me explain why:

    I think it is not ‘divine agents’ that are naturally intuited, but disembodied actors. And it certainly is not ‘universal’ among people but it probably can be found among most people in all cultures — I’d imagine. As how to interpret those misinterpretations (as Bloom would agree), culture teaches theism, ancestors, ghosts, spirits or more, but the “theism” would be cultural. Some religions capitalize on some of these cognitive illusions more than others.

    But I agree with Bering that the picture is more complicated than just teaching.

    But I have come to believe there are some “natural” atheists — those that don’t have these cognitive illusions of disembodied actors. But that is because human minds are not universally the same. Thus, contrary to your opinion, atheism is natural for them — with no indoctrination needed. I am an unnatural atheist, btw — a former believer.

    BTW, on a very minor side-note: What “universals of language” did you have in mind?

    Also, may I boldly suggest you fix your wordpress site to allow viewing all comments at once. As it stands, I can only view one at a time without clicking repeatedly, thus I have not reviewed other comments here.

    • Thanks Sabio for wonderful input. John Zander is awesome and I am glad he directed you to I believe my first provocative article written 😉

      Chimera, as I used, is a thing wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve. Atheism viewed as default is a wishful thinking by some of atheists who utter such an impossible hope.

      I will present an article where I go deep into CSR this was simply a teaser provoked by RussellTpot twitter user. The aim was to show that it is counter intuitive for humans to hold atheism and intuitive for theism. I will present data that even children raise in atheistic family and with both parents in favor of evolutionary account, their children prefer teleological accounts and supernatural agents. They need to be indoctrinated against what is intuitively right for them(as our brains a wired that way)

      There are elements that I totally learned, e.g. resurrection of the body, heaven, virgin birth etc which are not what Cognitive scientists would include in universality of religion. It is easy for human to believe in such thing than say evolutionary process because we are naturally biased toward such. It is more complicated than disembodied character that children intuitive from early strange hold. I will present that in the future “Naturalness Of Theism” article which will be less provocative and more into recent finding in CSR in last 15 years.

      For universals of language see Blooms’ paper. I could ask permission if to send it to you, if you do not have it that is.

      Thanks again for wonderful comment.

  11. I think it’s fair to say that pure atheism isn’t default. Anyone born into a cultural chasm would be likely to invent their own ideas about what may lurk in the unknown and this would eventually develop into some form of spiritual or religious superstitious beliefs. We can’t argue it’s not the natural inclination in the absence of other explanations. At least until presented with scientific facts to explain the unknown, at which point they could choose to continue with their irrational beliefs or accept reality.

    • Vwisp, you are thinking of a specific belief transmitted by culture and applying that to a ‘natural’ state by fiat to support your conclusion that belief in the divine is equivalently ‘natural’ (without recognizing the fiat aspect to the conclusion).

      You don’t have to go that far to test your argument: when you see snow or ice, do you therefore believe in the likelihood of god generally and Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli specifically? Unless you are a practicing religious Aztec, I sincerely doubt the premise you offer that it is somehow ‘natural’ to suspect any god or goddess exists to be responsible for snow and ice because you have absolutely no need for the hypothesis; I bet you understand that ice and snow are versions of water in different thermal states. Your belief or non belief in Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli is not predicated on snow and ice but imposed on it by cultural teachings. In the same way, your belief or non belief in Jesus is not predicated on the human response to assign agency to unknown stuff we encounter but a learned behaviour imposed on it to present an ‘explanation’ that we know is no explanation whatsoever. You don’t ‘believe’ in a god of ice snow as a default, now do you? Be honest. Be natural. When it comes to such a god you are by default an atheist because you have an understanding that doesn’t require it.

      • In the absence of the scientific knowledge we now have, I think most human beings would conclude invisible supernatural forces are at work. It’s a natural conclusion. We’re not naturally theists, because the evolution of base superstitious spiritual beliefs into the creation of gods take many generations. But neither are we naturally atheists because that requires having knowledge of the natural world that can enable us to dismiss our superstitious instincts. There’s no shame in it – it’s the mark of significant progression in our species that we’re starting to move beyond superstition and the accompanying religions, but it doesn’t mean we need to deny our origins or our ‘natural’ state.

        • I think most human beings would conclude invisible supernatural forces are at work. I think I know what you mean but I don’t think you’re expressing accurately. For example, I think you mean that the ancient hearing a rustling in the tall grass (apparently not understanding that wind can be relied upon to do this all the time) almost always and instantly presumes agency – and usually malevolent agency. The body then responds appropriately to a malevolent agency that then appears (say, a tiger). The person who presumes wind is always the cause of rustling is right almost all of the time… except the last one. Evolution favours the assigning of malevolent agency because it’s the survivors who are going to populate the majority of the gene pool.

          Our tendency to assign or presuppose agency, then, is not unreasonable. What’s unreasonable is to presume that this is evidence for a natural inclination to believe in supernatural hidden agencies. To the believer of Santa Claus, Santa Claus is neither invisible nor supernatural; he’s a jolly old elf with some pretty special reindeer. The evidence is in those hung stockings Christmas morning along with a few new presents that weren’t there the day before… often wrapped in Mom and Dad’s stock of wrapping paper.

          Our biological predisposition to believe in hidden agencies as explanatory for what we don’t understand is not to say that this reveals a default position for religious belief. Conflating the two is exactly the criticism used against studies that suggest as much.

          • I don’t think you considering the history of humanity very clearly. If you can find me one primitive society that didn’t develop a belief a supernatural forces looking something like deities, you might begin to argue that atheism is the default position. Perhaps some individuals would always have understood that life is nothing more than what we see before us, but the vast majority of us look for or imagine a bigger cause, a greater meaning. It doesn’t harm atheism to accept this is natural.

          • I think you could make the same point about, say, misogyny found in every culture, but is this evidence that it’s a natural, that it’s a default position for individuals? I think the cultural component is vital to both its proposition and its maintenance in the same way that I think we overstep what it is we’re talking about when we claim the propensity to assign agency means religious belief is natural. We have to be taught to believe in any particular religion in the same way we have to be taught that it’s okay to exercise misogyny.

          • Of course we would have to be taught any particular religion, I would never dispute that. But that’s different from being naturally inclined towards atheism. Most of us are naturally inclined towards theism, and belief in deities has evolved in almost every culture. The default position for individuals is irrelevant because we live in social groupings – it would tell us nothing about how humans have evolved, or what is natural.

          • Well, I still see no difference in claiming misogyny is ‘natural’ for every individual (and therefore a ‘default’ position) because we find it in every culture. The assumption is that the culture is simply an extension of the ‘natural’ inclinations we biologically possess. Is this true? I don’t think so because we find compelling evidence that cultures produce contrary expressions of these so-called ‘natural’ inclinations. Some cultures are misogynistic. Some cultures are not, although we find misogyny peppered throughout . Which culture is the ‘natural’ one? And how does this inform the claim that all individuals (relatively speaking) are ‘natural’ misogynists?

            I like to think by analogy because it allows me to see the line of reasoning more clearly. I understand that because we have a willingness to assign agency to the unknown as individuals, the theist can use this to substitute a particular kind of assignment – in a divine supernatural hidden agency – and then cherry pick data – like cultures that possess these kinds of beliefs – to claim that their particular assigned agency is therefore ‘natural’ but I think this places the cart before the horse. The default belief position regarding any specific divine supernatural hidden agency is always non belief… until we have cause to alter that. And culture certainly exerts a causal influence. To claim the default position to assign agency is a religious inclination is simply not true… as the example of Santa Claus demonstrates.

            So I think we have to be careful to accept the theist’s evidence as supportive of their claim; there seems to me to be a problem associating the former with the latter.

          • Hi Tildeb, thanks for making me think more on this. I don’t really agree with your argument but I have considered in greater detail the claim that one or the other has to be natural. In fact I’m quite sure that both theism and atheism are natural, along with a few other states of understanding about our existence. I’ve just posted on it if you fancy being enlightened. 🙂

  12. “Following Bering, Darwinian mechanisms can reveal “how the standard architecture of ancestral human minds was co-opted by natural selection to create the functional illusion of an intelligently designed, immortal soul that was under nearly unbreakable moralistic contract with the natural world.”(Bering 2006: 461) A religion-critic may argue that, given our idea of gods is a by-product of our evolutionary process, then such beliefs are false. This, though, would be a fallacious reasoning because giving a successful account of how a person acquired a particular belief p does not address the truth-value of such belief. Belief p may have been acquired in a very dubious or unreliable methods yet true.”

    This is true. But if we see we came to hold the belief through an unreliable method then there can be an undercutting defeater for the belief.

    Would an atheist want to admit such a thing? Would an atheist want to admit that beliefs developed through evolutionary processes have an undercutting defeater?

    • Thank you for wonderful question. The deeper problem is that those cognitive readiness are responsible for our belief in other persons as agents with intentions, desires and act towards a goal. It is also responsible for yak-factor of rotten things or our waste(toilet).

      Moreover how we hold any belief, being evolutionary biology, quantum mechanics, etc though foreign too our biological intuition can also be explain naturalistically. 🙂 So atheists cannot just dismiss it without shooting the who knowledge enterprise with it.

  13. Hunger is a primitive instinct, love is a supernatural value. As an advanced species, we tend to wonder where we are from, who we are, and where are we going (or becoming). Does this mean that theism is natural as well?

    • How coincidental can you get Noel? One tries to trip me by asking does one have to learn what hunger is and I turn and ask does one have to learn what love is. The answer of course is no to both questions, but the one thinks a no answer proves his point.

      The coincidence I see is that you wrote about the same concept several days ago in a post, Let’s Just Be.

      I quote a profound statement you make,

      “So when I am hungry, I will embrace it. When I feel discomfort, I will observe it. When loved ones are lost, I will nourish the memories. When I see unfairness and abuse, I will acknowledge its pain and suffer with the victim. Almost as if I am turning the other cheek.

      When others judge me and criticize me, I will accept it, learn from it, and prevent from doing the same to others. When others show contempt and hatred towards me, I will remain calm and wish them well. The same as loving my enemies.

      It is not natural or pleasant. But it brings peace and joy.”

    • Noel, that is actually argument from desire for existence of a supernaturals. All our primitive/natural desire have an object. We hunger, there is such thing as food. We thirst, there is such thing as water e.t.c. We have natural desire for after-life and transcendent reality. If all natural desire have object in reality, and desire for afterlife and transcendent reality is natural, then it reasonable to deduce that there is such thing.

      This is not a persuasive case, but it make sense of CSR findings philosophically. Let me know your thought.

      • Pica. This argument tries to establish something about a primary phenomenon by examination of a secondary phenomenon. To use the current example, our basic desire is to satisfy our hunger. That does not show that what we are eating at the moment to fill our stomach is food, much less that it is the explanation for hunger itself. Applied to physiology the argument makes little headway; applied to metaphysics, it makes none IMHO.

        • I follow your thoughts Keith. Our natural desire to eat(hunger) shows that there is something to be eaten(food). Our natural desire to mate, shows there is something to make love to(sex after maturity) and the list goes on to all our natural/intuitive wired-in desires. Now it would be strange that the leading desire for afterlife and transcendent being, suddenly does not have an object. If all other wired-in intuitive desires have an object, then it is reasonable to hold that afterlife and transcendent being(s) do also.

          This is why I contended that atheism cannot be assumed by default because nature has set its default, theism. To show that nature is playing tricks with us, the object of that natural desire must be shown not to exist. It cannot just assumed not to exist. 🙂

          • Yeah, but our hunger has nothing to say about the nature of all the things that we put in our mouths. 🙂 In this case, the nature of the object is the issue, so I’m not sure this makes any progress. All I have to show is that God is chewing gum and not an apple. All that the advocate of a nourishing deity must show is that God is an apple and not chewing gum. Quite simple, but not something which is simply derived from the existence of hunger.

  14. What Bloom (Banerjee, K., and P. Bloom. 2013) actually says is:

    “However, there is no evidence that children spontaneously come to believe in one or more divine creators. It is one thing, after all, to think about natural entities as intentionally designed artifacts of a sort; it is quite another to generate an enduring belief in invisible agents who have created these artifacts. Indeed, other studies find that young children are not committed creationists; they are equally likely to provide explanations of species origins that involve spontaneous generation [10].”

    He goes on:

    “Older children, by contrast, do exclusively endorse creationist explanations. This shift to a robust creation is preference arises in part because older children are more adept at grasping the existential themes invoked by the question of species origins (e.g., existence and final cause) and also because the notion of a divine creator of nature meshes well with their early-emerging teleological biases [10]. However, these older children do not spontaneously propose novel divine creators. Instead, they adopt the particular creationist account that their culture supplies.”

    Let’s repeat that: “they adopt the particular creationist account that their culture supplies.” That’s pretty clear. Culture.

    And more:

    “Some, such as Barrett [4], take children’s readiness to reason about life after death as evidence that they are ‘born believers’ in an afterlife.
    This conclusion is probably too strong, however. There is no evidence that belief in the afterlife arises spontaneously in the absence of cultural support.”

    There it is again: culture! Doesn’t arise “spontaneously” in the absence of culture.

    Overall, the recent studies find that although a notion of mind-body dualism might be hardwired (it’s stressed there is no conclusive indication of this, although i’d think it is, and that enables us to dream up imaginary friends, as much as fictional characters in literature), theism is cultural. It is learnt behaviour, much like a person’s unique pallet and preference in beverages.

    Now, I asked this to Roy, but I’ll ask it to you as well: Did you, Daniel, have to learn not to be a stamp collector?

  15. The evidence is overwhelming that we are predisposed to assign agency. That’s why we yell at our machines when they aren’t working properly and we can’t find the cause. We do this because this is how our brain relates us to the external event. Our mirror neurons, for example, can be demonstrated to activate this way… personalizing what another is experiencing. This is predicated on recognizing another as a similar kind of agent that we are. This doesn’t make the agency real or true; it makes it part of our response mechanisms.

    Children also assign agency (quelle surprise). What they don’t do is assign Jesus Christ or Huitzilopochtli to be that agent. That takes indoctrination. Until that teaching is done, from the child’s point of view the agency responsible for hiding in the darkened closet but making those strange sounds may be imaginary… or it may not. Presenting this willingness to believe in supernatural agency is not evidence for justifying religious belief as if this were the default. It’s not. Nor is the hypothetical agency in closet; it comes as an explanation for undetermined sounds or interpreted shadows. Kids would look at you very strangely – and rightly so – if you insisted to them that they believed in a specific closet agency all along… because the kid knows the agency disappears from existence when the light comes on and it evolves as characters from stories heard elsewhere are processed by the child over time. Kids are way too smart to fall for this line of thinking presented as if the method of science supports religious belief as a default when all of us know we don;t believe in all kinds of gods we’ve never heard of. There’s your default in action… easily available to each and every one of us who doesn’t have a religious agenda to promote.

    • What you fail to understand is children have an instinct unique to us adults. They intuitively know what is real and what is not. Granted, this takes time to manifest itself, an example is Santa Clause versus a Creator and Saviour. They develop an intuition, like we all do, to differentiate what is make-believe and what is not. We teach children about God and Jesus and this information sticks. When children become adults their knowledge transforms into what we all ultimately define as choice.

      I’ve raised three children and taught them all about Christ. Each one is unique and each have their own ideas. Ultimately we all have our own walk to walk, our own relationship with our source that defines what it is that makes us His. Indoctrination is a myth invented by the rebellious to justify their choice to deny God.

  16. Let us unravel this:
    The human mind prefers things to be “solid” instead of clouds of energy.
    The human mind prefers Euclidean geometry to non-Euclidean geometry.
    The human mind prefers Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics, and prefers both to relativity.
    (By “prefers”, I mean ‘will intuit, given the absence of other evidence’)
    When it comes to physics, the reason the world ever had Aristotelian physics was because Aristotle thought he could intuitively reason these things out without evidence. Evidence has been a death bed for what we intuit over and over again.

    The default position is not the position a child would take, or the intuitive suppositions we have when there is no evidence. The default position is to refrain from belief. And, you know this. This entire post is dishonest, because on the simple premise of what a default position is, you already know it is not what you have written here.

    If one refrains from belief in a god, tell me this: is one an atheist?

  17. Why do you make up strawman arguments and then argue against them? What’s the point?

    “Religion critics may argue that, given our idea of gods is a by-product of our evolutionary process, then such beliefs are false. ”

    No they wouldn’t. Show me one “religion critic” who says that.

    What on earth is the point in arguing against arguments that noone has ever raised?

    A “religion critic” would simply say that you haven’t provided any evidence to demonstrate that it’s true.

    “it is possible that “God [has] designed us in such a way that it is by virtue of those processes that we come to have knowledge of him.””

    Okay, it’s possible. Now provide evidence to demonstrate that this is true.

    “atheism requires cultural indoctrination”

    Incorrect. From wikipedia: “[indoctrination] is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned”

    This does not follow from your argument. Nothing in your argument leads to the conclusion that atheism requires its followers to not question or crtically examine the doctrine.

    In fact, that pretty much only fits religion.

    “If this is correct, atheism cannot simply be assumed by default”

    Incorrect. Even if we were born to be theists by default, this still places no burden of proof upon the atheist. Nothing about our default understanding of the world changes where the burden of proof lies.

    “As in John-Jane example, God(s) must be demonstrated not to exist”

    No. You are confused between proving that a belief is wrong, and proving that it is wrong to hold that belief.

    If I believe that there are an even number of stars that exist, you do not need to prove me wrong in order to prove that I’m wrong to hold that belief. You simply need to show that I do not have evidence to support my position. Indeed it is wrong for me to believe that there an even number of stars EVEN if I happen to be right and it turns out that there are. An unjustified true belief is still wrong to hold.

    • Interesting choice of word, chimera. You’ll have the atheists fuming over that one. That, and showing Atheism must require some form of indoctrination, will really fuel them into a frenzy. Good Job!

      But seriously, there is a reason why we are EXTREMELY higher in intelligence than any animal on the planet and it is not by a mathematically, absurdly large, random chance pseudoscience mutation.

        • I have a small stamp collection. I got a package in the mail for $4.95 in the mail containing about 50 stamps 25 years ago. I still have them but never pursued the effort to collect more. I also have a collection of old coins and baseball cards, many of which are very valuable, but those too did I not expand. I also have a small auto collection of antique cars (3) but lack of space negates adding more, and I have all the ones I really wanted anyway. I have a collection of Certificates of Deposit and gold coins. These I have no problem with getting more of.

          What’s your point John?

        • Are you even serious? Soap carver, duct tape artist, or trainspotter are not even real pursuits. Use real life in your question to get my real answer. Stamp collector did not work so you make up stuff????

          • The problem with you and I stems from what I know about you John through your own revelations about yourself at your blog. I know you where raised and taught the Bible and I know you eventually chose to reject it. I do not know the event in your life that led you to reject it, nor do I need to know, but I do suspect some specific event must have propelled you to question what you where taught and that event steered you to where you are, my opponent. But I love you and I will fight for you. I will not rest until my final day that the hope I have for you is either realized or buried forever. I said my goodbye at your blog and regret that. Can I return to give voice to a dissenting opinion?

          • I assure you, there are indeed soap carvers, duct tape artists and trainspotters. Now, did you have to learn to “not-be” one of these?

            It’s a very simple question, Roy: Yes or No?

          • What percentage of the human race are soap carvers, duct tape artists and trainspotters? 0000000000001.?

            The answer is no. I did not have to be taught to not-be one of these. It isn’t a ‘taught’ lifestyle pursuit, more of a hobby, like your original trick question, stamp collecting, some of whom find these hobbies joyful and rewarding.

            But isn’t that the variety of the human race, to find pleasure in hobbies that others have no interest in.

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