Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indoctrination is not choice

Discussing reasons for belief with people of faith is a touchy subject - not only because we are questioning the core beliefs of people but because it often isn't clear what their argument (or basis for argument) is (or even the definition of their god).  I have tried to address this topic in other blog entries and, I'm sure, it will be a topic that we face for years to come.  One point that is often neglected is not why someone believes but what made them believe in a particular god.

We (atheists) have a number of different arguments to make regarding belief in a god but I don't think we argue (often) enough about the method used for "making" believers - indoctrination.

It is almost always unfair for an atheist to ask what it was that brought a believer to believing in their "god" just as it is generally wrong for a believer to suggest that they "chose" to believe in the particular "god" that they follow.  Religion relies heavily on indoctrination - teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically. 

For the majority of believers, they follow the "god" that their parents followed - they stick to the religion that their family was a part of.  Though some move to different denominations of churches, very few actually change the "god" that they worship. 

To suggest "choice" it would have to be clear that one was given.  Most families don't teach their growing children comparative religions and fewer families, I submit, consider leaving discussions/information about religion until the child is old enough to reason his or her way through the claims.  In societies/religions where children were excluded from the religious rituals, practices and "instruction" until adulthood, Christianity and other religions were able to take hold and (almost) completely replace the previous/traditional faiths of those regions.

Indoctrination is not a choice.  It is the circumvention or avoidance of choice.

Richard Dawkins and others have argued that it is a form of child abuse (and with good reason).  Even ignoring the idea that children are being threatened with eternal damnation and hellfire - the abuse of a developing child's mind when it comes to reasoning and questioning is reason enough to see it as harmful.  Though some religions are (or claim to be) in favour of science, one of the greatest potential harms to a future scientific career would be to teach someone to simply accept something without evidence - this is the core point of religious faith.  To circumvent the skeptical view or to push the argument from authority before a child is even old enough to understand reason and logic is not the path we should be taking.  But I digress...

When discussing beliefs with a believer, are we naive, then, when we try to make the "how do you know your "god" is the true "god"?" point?  They didn't choose their "god" so the reasoning was never there to be questioned.  As is often said, you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves in to.  This is made even more difficult because of the destruction of reason and logic in the indoctrination process.

The argument, although completely hypothetical, that we may really need to make is this: 
Suppose you were not indoctrinated into your particular religion.  When presented with the information and books for the different religions at this point in your life, would you have selected your current religion/"god"?  Would you be able to accept the primary claims made by any of the major religions?

Since most people were not given the choice, the "what if" scenario might be a difficult one to get across or for them to imagine.  Some will counter with the idea that they didn't really "believe" any of it until later in life when they were "born again".  I would argue that if the child had not received the original indoctrination they wouldn't have had any pre-planted idea of it being true for them to return to later in life. 

I seriously doubt that many adults could be reasoned into accepting some of the "amazing" stories presented in the Koran, Bible, Torah and other religious books without the predilection to "believing" miraculous claims without evidence - a penchant that was created during their indoctrination as a child. 

I don't doubt, however, that people will suggest on this blog and elsewhere that they were 1.) raised as a non-believer, were not indoctrinated and 2.) reasoned themselves into accepting their "god".  (I doubt that the claims are complete and accurate but I don't doubt that people will make them.)

If you believe in "god", is it the same one that your parents believed in?  If you claim to have "chosen" your "god", what actually brought you to believing in that "god"?  Had you researched the other religions/gods? (Over 2800 of them?)  Why did you dismiss the others?  I am, honestly, interested in the answers to these questions.

1 comment:

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner said...

Didju heer me? Doesn't matter if you believe or not, we're still gonna be Divinely Judged; we’re still gonna croak. Jesus doesn't have a sign on the outskirts of Heaven saying, 'Those who don't believe, uber groovy, ya jive? C'mon in' - I was for fifteen years, conformed by the world, not by God. Be on the pro-LIFE-eration side, don't be on the side which'll swiftly LET you down (lead you down, too). I’m a small 'peAce-de-resistance' of a Larger Picture: God’s side. God bless you with discernment.