In his book The God Delusion atheist Richard Dawkins argues,
“If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.
Just as feminists wince when they hear ‘he’ rather than ‘he or she,’ or ‘man’ rather than ‘human,’ I want everybody to flinch whenever we hear a phrase such as ‘Catholic child’ or ‘Muslim child.’
Speak of a ‘child of Catholic parents’ if you like; but if you hear anybody speak of a ‘Catholic child,’ stop them and politely point out that children are too young to know where they stand on such issues, just as they are too young to know where they stand on economics or politics.”
This is a ridiculous argument I hear from skeptics all the time, so I thought I’d weigh in.
There are really two objections to faith contained within this quote. Let me touch on them in order…
“Where You’re Born Affects What You Believe.”
I agree completely, but that in and of itself is not an objection to the truth of something. In fact, it could become an argument for the validity of a certain belief.
If something is true then it will affect people, correct?
Intelligent people will tell other people about it, correct?
Pretty soon whole neighborhoods and cities will be affected by this belief, correct?
The simple fact is truth spreads. Lies do as well. But so does truth.
Just because someone grows up in a country where Christianity is the dominant religion doesn’t disprove Christian belief, any more than becoming an atheist in a predominantly atheistic country would cast doubt on atheism.
“Most Believe in God Simply Because Their Parents Indoctrinated Them.”
Again, I agree completely. My reaction is simple: so?
It’s only the good parents out there who indoctrinate their children.
From day one my wife and I have set out to indoctrinate our daughters:
- We indoctrinate them with higher level math skills, whether they “believe” in math or not.
- We shove important literary works down their throats whether they adopt the particular writers’ understanding of the world or not.
- We force our beliefs about gun safety on our kids, as well as the dangers of lead paint, and the appropriate way to cross a street.
- We force them to go to school.
- We force them to play nice with their friends.
- We force them to do all kinds of things.
Because that’s what good parents do. Good parents indoctrinate their kids.
Indoctrinate comes from the Latin word doctrina, which simply meant “teaching.”
Good parents teach their children.
Why would any level-headed, thinking parent go to great lengths to indoctrinate their kids in just about everything in life, and then think they need to “back off” the subject of faith?
If Christianity is true, like other aspects of life, then a good parent will go to the same lengths to ensure his or her children receive a proper grounding in it.
And just because a kid grows up believing in Christianity because he or she was “indoctrinated” by his or her parents, doesn’t make belief in God any less truthful.
Just as no one would call into question the basic laws of science because a parent forced her son to take Biology II in high school and he took what he learned seriously.