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From a noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, this fascinating theory about the value of religious faith finds that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. Infants have a lot to make sense of in the world: Why does the sun shine and night fall; why do some objects move in response to words, while others won’t budge; who is it From a noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, this fascinating theory about the value of religious faith finds that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. Infants have a lot to make sense of in the world: Why does the sun shine and night fall; why do some objects move in response to words, while others won’t budge; who is it that looks over them and cares for them? How the developing brain grapples with these and other questions leads children, across cultures, to naturally develop a belief in a divine power of remarkably consistent traits––a god that is a powerful creator, knowing, immortal, and good—explains noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist Justin L. Barrett in this enlightening and provocative book. In short, we are all born believers. Belief begins in the brain. Under the sway of powerful internal and external influences, children understand their environments by imagining at least one creative and intelligent agent, a grand creator and controller that brings order and purpose to the world. Further, these beliefs in unseen super beings help organize children’s intuitions about morality and surprising life events, making life meaningful. Summarizing scientific experiments conducted with children across the globe, Professor Barrett illustrates the ways human beings have come to develop complex belief systems about God’s omniscience, the afterlife, and the immortality of deities. He shows how the science of childhood religiosity reveals, across humanity, a “natural religion,” the organization of those beliefs that humans gravitate to organically, and how it underlies all of the world’s major religions, uniting them under one common source. For believers and nonbelievers alike, Barrett offers a compelling argument for the human instinct for religion, as he guides all parents in how to effectively encourage children in developing a healthy constellation of beliefs about the world around them.


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From a noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, this fascinating theory about the value of religious faith finds that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. Infants have a lot to make sense of in the world: Why does the sun shine and night fall; why do some objects move in response to words, while others won’t budge; who is it From a noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist at Oxford University, this fascinating theory about the value of religious faith finds that we are all predisposed to believe in God from birth. Infants have a lot to make sense of in the world: Why does the sun shine and night fall; why do some objects move in response to words, while others won’t budge; who is it that looks over them and cares for them? How the developing brain grapples with these and other questions leads children, across cultures, to naturally develop a belief in a divine power of remarkably consistent traits––a god that is a powerful creator, knowing, immortal, and good—explains noted developmental psychologist and anthropologist Justin L. Barrett in this enlightening and provocative book. In short, we are all born believers. Belief begins in the brain. Under the sway of powerful internal and external influences, children understand their environments by imagining at least one creative and intelligent agent, a grand creator and controller that brings order and purpose to the world. Further, these beliefs in unseen super beings help organize children’s intuitions about morality and surprising life events, making life meaningful. Summarizing scientific experiments conducted with children across the globe, Professor Barrett illustrates the ways human beings have come to develop complex belief systems about God’s omniscience, the afterlife, and the immortality of deities. He shows how the science of childhood religiosity reveals, across humanity, a “natural religion,” the organization of those beliefs that humans gravitate to organically, and how it underlies all of the world’s major religions, uniting them under one common source. For believers and nonbelievers alike, Barrett offers a compelling argument for the human instinct for religion, as he guides all parents in how to effectively encourage children in developing a healthy constellation of beliefs about the world around them.

30 review for Born Believers: The Science of Children's Religious Belief

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fred Kohn

    I was quite surprised to see how few stars others were rating this book. The sign for me that this book was extraordinarily objective was the fact that I was not sure whether the author himself believed in God until quite late in the book (although I had early suspicions). Perhaps I am a bit prejudiced: the author takes quite a few shots at Dawkins and the the new atheists, and I myself dislike them quite a bit even thought I don't believe in God myself. Perhaps this explains the relatively low I was quite surprised to see how few stars others were rating this book. The sign for me that this book was extraordinarily objective was the fact that I was not sure whether the author himself believed in God until quite late in the book (although I had early suspicions). Perhaps I am a bit prejudiced: the author takes quite a few shots at Dawkins and the the new atheists, and I myself dislike them quite a bit even thought I don't believe in God myself. Perhaps this explains the relatively low ratings of what to me seems like an unusually well written and researched book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    هَنَـــاءْ

    ٢.٥

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    While there was an interesting summary of research on cognitive development in children, overall, I was shocked by the simplistic nature of the author's arguments, and by his obvious biases. To give one especially striking example -- he argues that those who profess to be atheists appear to be disproportionately "male-brained" -- i.e., have difficulty understanding or empathizing with the feelings of others, and have difficulty "attributing agency" to others. At an extreme, he mentions, this is While there was an interesting summary of research on cognitive development in children, overall, I was shocked by the simplistic nature of the author's arguments, and by his obvious biases. To give one especially striking example -- he argues that those who profess to be atheists appear to be disproportionately "male-brained" -- i.e., have difficulty understanding or empathizing with the feelings of others, and have difficulty "attributing agency" to others. At an extreme, he mentions, this is the difficulty that is thought to characterize autism. I found this problematic for several reasons -- to work backwards -- there is increasing evidence (perhaps not available at the time of publication) that autistics are in fact hyper-sensitive to the feelings of others -- that withdrawing is a defense mechanism, not a failure of perception. Second, I hardly think we can call it a "lack" if people have difficulty attributing agency to non-human phenomena. In my view, it should be possible to believe in God, if one does, without having to attribute thunder storms or fortuitous events as the work of an unseen agent. Understanding that there are agentless causes (or that there can be) is the basis of science -- and part of what freed us from belief in witchcraft. Here was another example of his visible bias and ignorance about religious thought, which made me question is whole research agenda: "the sort of religious beliefs children naturally acquire without any explicit input from adults will deviate from the worked-out systems of theology of the world's religious traditions. Left to their own devices, they will likely become religious in some sense but probably in a sense more like what you would call superstition than a thoughtful, sophisticated belief and behavior system. They may be drawn to worshiping Mother Earth, astrology, or an unhealthy preoccupation with ghosts, among other suspect beliefs and practices such as wearing their underwear inside out to produce snow or carrying amulets for success on school exams." (239). It's hard to know where to even begin critiquing this paragraph from a religious studies point of view. As far as I can tell, the implicit argument is: people who can't bring themselves to attribute agency to natural phenomena (such as thunderstorms) are psychologically deficient in some way, which in its extreme form can be labelled autism. Not being able to believe in "worked out systems of theology" places a person on the tail end of a curve of "normal" human development/belief in Gods/religion. But worshiping nature (animism in any form) or ghosts (voodoo etc.) is a "suspect" religious practice?? I find it hard to take seriously anything the author says, given that extremely crude understanding of and overt disdain for a significant part of his field (i.e., religious studies). Furthermore, there's another significant lack from a religious studies/ethical perspective: he never explains why the _is_ of children's belief in God (which he does present ample evidence exists) leads to an _ought_ in terms of adult belief. Children go through a number of perfectly "normal" developmental stages (lack of belief in object permanence, belief that they are the center of the universe) which no one would argue should be retained into adulthood if a person is to have any sort of healthy psychological relationship with the world. (I'm not arguing here that belief in God must also be "outgrown" for a healthy psychology, only that saying children *do* believe something doesn't mean they (or we) *should*.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Malachi

    How can this get such a low score. Too many atheists with 'male brainedness' who just don't want to admit any of it I guess. Anyone interested slightly why people have a multitude of faiths and gods around the world should read and how faith in the unseen develops (especially if atheism is supposed to be out predisposition, like we are taught) . A very informative, concise and entertaining peice of work. 5/5 How can this get such a low score. Too many atheists with 'male brainedness' who just don't want to admit any of it I guess. Anyone interested slightly why people have a multitude of faiths and gods around the world should read and how faith in the unseen develops (especially if atheism is supposed to be out predisposition, like we are taught) . A very informative, concise and entertaining peice of work. 5/5

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    “. . . the facility with which children acquire and use god-concepts is obvious. Similar to how they come to reason about other people, children from religious families easily form ideas about gods. They readily explain events as possible consequences of a god’s activity. They make predictions and suppositions about god’s thoughts, opinions, and wishes. They apply ideas about gods in novel and sometimes personal ways. From where does this religious fluency come?” (77-78). “The easy answer (perha “. . . the facility with which children acquire and use god-concepts is obvious. Similar to how they come to reason about other people, children from religious families easily form ideas about gods. They readily explain events as possible consequences of a god’s activity. They make predictions and suppositions about god’s thoughts, opinions, and wishes. They apply ideas about gods in novel and sometimes personal ways. From where does this religious fluency come?” (77-78). “The easy answer (perhaps too easy) is that they are taught it: children believe because their parents (and other trusted adults) act as if they believe, and talk as if they believe. Until given strong reason to believe otherwise, this testimony is powerful. We might call this the indoctrination hypothesis” (78). “The question to be answered, then, is how and why many religious ideas are so easy for children to adopt” (78). “One answer to this question has been at the theoretical center of the scientific study of religion and especially in the psychology of religion for over a century. The answer might be called the anthropomorphism hypothesis. . . . God was, is, and is being made in the image of people. By this view, children learn about people—what they think, how they act, what they like—and then analogically reason about gods” (78-79). “The anthropomorphism hypothesis further maintains that through the course of development, gods look less and less like a human because children have more sophisticated reasoning abilities to draw on to make sense of them” (79). “For Christian, Muslim, or Jewish children, God begins as a big person living in the sky and then either gradually or radically becomes an all-present, formless, unchanging, nontemporal, all-knowing, and all-powerful being. Crude anthropomorphism gives way to God as an abstract being with unusual properties” (79). In his book Born Believers, Justin Barrett argues for a what he calls “the preparedness hypothesis.” He argues that “children do not have to reason about gods as they reason about humans. In fact, children’s minds actually facilitate the acquisition and use of many features of God concepts of the Abrahamic monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and perhaps those in other traditions as well . . . . Children may easily form ideas of God because their mental mechanisms have two properties that favor learning about God. First this equipment easily entertains nonhuman agents. Second, it appears to presume superhuman properties until it discovers otherwise. Superagents fall close to natural default settings” (79). “ . . . children are initially capable of understanding lots of beings—from God to ghosts to gorillas—as well as they understand humans, and supernatural properties do not impose undue conceptual burdens” (80). “ . . . their minds assume that many superhuman properties are the norm” (80). “Developmental psychologists continue to find evidence that the godly properties of superknowledge, superperception, creative power, and immortality, are quite intuitive, at least for young children. Concepts of God are easily accommodated because they play on many of these default assumptions rather than violate them” (80). “Already at age five, children treated God as significantly different from people (and animals) in the false-belief task. Children were not simply aping that ‘God knows everything’ but apparently used their understanding of God’s superknowledge to solve a strange new problem” (90). Children “theologically accurate” from three years old on, while “the majority of the children were not accurate regarding humans until five years old” (90). “So Piaget’s idea that children cannot conceive of God as different from a human being until around age eight or nine is mistaken” (90). “From this experiment and others like it, it appears that the three-year-olds treat God and humans similarly, not because God is human-like but because people are, in certain respects, Godlike in terms of knowledge” (90). “ . . . we should more carefully scrutinize the beliefs of children than those of adults, particularly if they deviate from what adults believe. But adults generally do believe in gods” (172). “That belief in gods begins in childhood and typically continues into adulthood places it in the same class as believing in gravity, the permanence of solid objects, the continuity of time, the predictability of natural laws, that causes precede effects, that animals bear young similar to themselves, that people have thoughts and wants that motivate and guide their actions, that some things are morally right or wrong, that their mothers love them, and numerous other ideas about the world . . . . These beliefs all arise early in childhood and typically persist into adulthood. If believing in gods is being ‘childish’ or ‘immature’ in the same respect as these sorts of beliefs, then belief in gods is in good company” (172). COUNTER EXAMPLE? False beliefs that persist into adulthood? “As initially sensible sounding as the indoctrination hypothesis may be . . . this hypothesis has received little attention from scholars of religion. Several reasons for this neglect spring to mind” (178). “ . . . cultural anthropologists, religious studies scholars, and people raised in religious communities find the indoctrination hypothesis a caricature of what typically happens in religious communities” (178). “Ethnographies of religious belief and practice in traditional societies often stress the commonness of religious discourse and how it is neatly woven into daily life” (178) LOOK UP REFERENCE. “Rather than coerce, threaten, and bully children into belief, adults simply believe . . . and act accordingly. They conduct the appropriate rituals, say prayers, discuss the meaning of life events, wonder about the activities of gods, and go about life as if gods were just as natural, normal, and certain as air, gravity, or germs” (178). “The one piece of ‘evidence’ I hear most recently cited in relation to the indoctrination hypothesis is the observation that children tend to ‘inherit’ their religion from their parents. Hindu parents have children who grow up to have Hindu beliefs” (184). “It does not follow, however, that if a child grew up with no Hindu parents and in no contact with other Hindus, the child would likely grow up without any religious beliefs or practices at all” (184). “As the indoctrination hypothesis attempts to account for why people have any and every kind of religious belief, the observation that specific varieties of religious beliefs are influenced by parents and social environment is irrelevant” (184). SEE REFERENCE Hauser’s book Moral Minds: “According to Hauser, they possess a moral instinct (analogous to a grammar) that informs and restricts the range of moral rules that are likely to be received and understood as unchangeable norms” (190). “Indeed, Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, and Deborah Keleman agrue to the contrary that children are biased to adopt some beliefs over others by the way their minds naturally function. Atran puts the place of belief in gods in startling strong terms when he writes: ‘Supernatural agency is the most culturally recurrent, cognitively relevant, and evolutionarily compelling concept in religion. The concept of the supernatural is culturally derived from an innate cognitive schema’” (190). LOOK UP REFERENCE “As anthropologist and psychologist Joe Henrich has demonstrated, perhaps for reasons of natural selection, people do not just blindly follow the example (spoken or otherwise) of any parent or adult in authority” (194). LOOK UP REFERENCE “Dawkins has suggested a view of the developing human child’s mind that assumes the young mind is blank slate just waiting to be filled in” (194). “Such a perspective lurks in many social sciences but has not squared with the state of the art in the psychological sciences for at least three decades” (194). “ . . . those of us who study religious thought and action—scientists and scholars such as Scott Atran, Jesse Bering, Pascal Boyer, Stewart Guthrie, Brian Malley, Bob McCauley, Deborah Keleman, Tom Lawson, Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Jason Slone, Richard Sosis, Todd Tremlin, Harvey Whitehouse, and David Sloan Wilson—do not see religious ideas as intruders into human nature but as a wholly expected extension of the way humans are naturally put together” (196). “How to teach children about God, what to teach, and when to teach it are all challenges that many parents, religious leaders, and religious educators face. The scientific research concerning children’s cognitive abilities relevant for religious thought certainly informs these questions” (221). “ . . . some have asserted that teaching children to believe in God is wrong—even child abuse” (222). Nicholas Humphrey’s Amnesty Lecture: “Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith./In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it” (222). “Does being taught the existence of an eternal hell during childhood cause comparable (or more) psychological harm than being physically or sexually abused?” (224-225). “Considerable research on the relationship between religious commitment and psychological and physical well-being does exist, and the general finding is that committed theists are psychologically healthier and more equipped to cope with emotional and health problems than nonbelievers” (225). “Children (generally) want to be what their parents are, on any number of religious and nonreligious dimensions, and to disallow them inclusion in that social circle is a form of emotional exile. Identifying with parents is natural” (228). STUDIES FOR THIS? “unrefined natural religion” (229). “parents should, as much as children are capable, help them to learn how to think as opposed to simply telling them what to think” (229). Philosopher Roger Trigg: “The right to religious liberty, however precious, can never be so unqualified as to leave the lives of young people at the mercy of those who have contempt for the voice of reason” (232). And later “When religion cannot be transmitted to the next generation, it is not being freely exercised” (232) SEE REFERENCE “ . . . research does indicate that commitment to a religious belief system and participation in a religious community is associated with many positive outcomes. Actively religious people have been shown to enjoy more mental and emotional health, recover from trauma more quickly, have longer and happier lives, and are more generous, volunteer more, and actively contribute to communities more than nominally religious or nonreligious people do” (233). Robert Emmons on strivings “Being actively religious, to the point that religious beliefs have an impact on one’s day-to-day goals or strivings, promotes well-being by structuring and ordering what is important in life, thereby reducing conflict, and thereby reducing mental and physical illness” (234). “The parents who regard their religious commitments as true and beneficial are justified in lovingly and thoroughly instructing their children in the ways of their religion” (236). ANECDOTE: “I don’t believe that Jesus was born in a stable. It’s impossible. It doesn’t make any sense” “Okay, well what do you think a stable is?” “That small piece of metal that holds papers together.” “Well, I don’t believe that Jesus was born in a staple either.” “Unless special environmental or personal conditions . . . get in the way, children will become religious without any direct instruction or teaching” (238). “ . . . the sort of religious beliefs children naturally acquire without any explicit input from adults will deviate from the worked-out systems of theology of the world’s religious traditions. Left to their own devices, they will likely become religious in some sense but probably in a sense more like what you would call superstition than a thoughtful, sophisticated belief and behavior system” (238-239). “Children’s natural propensities toward religious thought and hunger for spiritual fulfillment will propel them toward some kind of religious expression whether trusted adults supply suitable targets or not” (239). “. . . on their own, children will tend to become religious, but not necessarily in the best, most reasonable, or most beneficial type of religiousness” (240). “Here I offer some suggestions for those who wish to encourage children’s religious beliefs. I begin wit a caution: because participation in a religion can powerfully shape a person’s beliefs and values and can motivate people to both striking acts of benevolence or malevolence, I suggest parents examine the justifications for their own religious beliefs and commitments befoe blandly encouraging their children to own these beliefs. Parents should consider their reasons for beliefs of any kind, but perhaps especially those that may play a powerful role in their children’s lives if passed on. What I advocate is not a cynical stance but a humble one. We could be wrong about our commitments and should welcome what intellectual (including religious) traditions, the exercise of reason, and scientific evidence have to offer us by way of challenge, correction, or affirmation of our beliefs. Then when parents turn to offer insights to their children, they can feel confident that they have performed quality control on their own beliefs and are offering their children the best they have to offer. As a parent, I try to give my children skills for discerning the good and true in hopes that they will adopt my right beliefs but also reject my mistakes” (240). First recommendation is “Start early” (241). “You can teach about divine attributes such as being superknowing, superperceiving immortal, and wholly good. In fact, it may be that starting children when they are three may be more effective than waiting until they are eight or older” (241). “ . . . avoid abstract language and give children tangible thought problems through which they can exercise their understanding” (241). Superknowing: “Can God see what is in this darkened box?” “That’s right! God can. But could your brother? Could a dog?” Immortal: “What was God like before you were born?” “What will God be like many, many years from now?” “Was there ever a time when God did not exist?” “Did God need to be born?” “Will God ever die?” Creator: Draw children’s attention to what they are already inclined to see: the apparent function and purpose in the natural world. Then answer this question: But where does the design come from? Roger Trigg Religion in Pubic Life paraphrased: “ . . . often forgotten in discussions about children’s religious education is that religion is not merely an exercise in self-discovery or finding meaning for oneself. Religious education also concerns claims about how the world, humans, morality, and reality really are” (242-243). PERSONAL NOTE: My job is to know the resources well, so when the LIII children have a question I can direct them. “I’m not entirely sure. Let’s find out together” GET PAUL HARRIS research “Harris, an expert on how children learn through testimony, has begun systematically studying how children learn about unseen scientific entities such as germs and oxygen, as well as unseen beings such as spirits and God. He has emphasized the similarities in how children learn about these classes of entities as opposed to fantasy characters that their elders do not believe in, such as goblins and fairies” (244). “Don’t say you believe in it or have faith in it; talk as if there is no question about it” (245). “Children might be sensitive to the way ‘believing in’ is usually used for entities in which doubt of existence is possible” (245). “It may be appropriate on occasion to address the fact that others have divergent views. Scientists and other scholars do this with regard to cutting-edge areas of research where consensus is still being forged. But rather than say ‘I believe Y,” the confident scholar says, “Others believe X, but Y is the case, and here is why” (245). “Talk about God in actual contexts in which God’s action can be detected” (246). “Harris suggests that incorporating forces and agents into cause-and-effect relationships—the sorts of reasoning that children naturally pay considerable attention to—may be more effective in fostering commitment than abstractly postulating a thing’s existence” (246). “With this principle in mind, talking about God’s actions in cause-and-effect contexts in the here and now will be more effective than talking about God in the abstract or even what God did at the creation of the world, with Noah and the Flood or with Moses and the Exodus. These sorts of stories alone may give children the impression that God is more like a character in fantasy tales about fairies and ghouls than a real player in the world” (247). Chris Boyatzis LOOK UP #8 for Encouraging….Pehr Granqust Lee A. Kirkpatrick “The hypersensitivity agency detection device...needs to be able to periodically link events in the world with the action of gods, or the gods will become less relevant” (247) “Prayer, particularly asking and thanking God for common things like family members, health, and wealth, as well as mundane events . . . could help prime the one who prays to notice God’s actions. Of course, noticing God acting or even wondering at why God did not act as requested…encourages bringing thought about God into causal connection with the real world” (247-248). “Naturalistic or scientific explanations for events need not compete with or eliminate religious explanations. Multiple explanations may be true and helpful simultaneously. Hence, I am not suggesting that God or other religious forces replace scientific explanations but rather that they add ultimate causes behind the immediate causes” (248) SEE REFERENCE “Harris offers that the exceptionality of the tooth fairy and Santa may encourage children to think of them as not of the same status as oxygen, germs and the like. Similarly, if you talk of gods, the ancestors, or whatever other religious entities you regard as real only during rituals or in places of worship or sacred spaces, or on special days such as Sundays or holidays, then you are tacitly communicating that these religious beings are relevant only under special conditions” (249). “Instead of talking about beliefs, using beliefs to generate inferences, attitudes, and feelings in lots of different contexts encourages depth of useful belief” (250). “…deep and broad religious beliefs—the kind that produce long-term commitment—probably come about through a similar process of seeing them used and using them over and over to solve problems, inspire actions, and evoke emotions” (250). “As developmental psychologist Chris Boyatzis rightly points out, religious belief in children is not just about their cool cognition. It is not just about what kids think, but also about what they feel” (252).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Argum

    This book has two halves and a sort of subpart. The first is the evidence of children's belief from interesting experiments in the literature. The second is the applications or how that stuff works in the real world. The last two chapters are about how to be atheist and how to raise your kid religious which I think are supposed to be like instructions distilled from the rest, but just came off strange given tone of the rest of book. Regardless, this was an interesting pop science treatment of th This book has two halves and a sort of subpart. The first is the evidence of children's belief from interesting experiments in the literature. The second is the applications or how that stuff works in the real world. The last two chapters are about how to be atheist and how to raise your kid religious which I think are supposed to be like instructions distilled from the rest, but just came off strange given tone of the rest of book. Regardless, this was an interesting pop science treatment of the brain science and development of religion in the minds of children. Other people talk about his bias in their reviews but I was just as likely to find him snarky about Christian beliefs as atheists.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl

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  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Cognitive psychology of religion stuff, a growing field. Really interesting stuff.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tahsin Hassan

    Are babies born believers? Or the idea of God is only limited to adults? With the rise of developmental psychology in the last hundred years, research showed interesting and astonishing results. This book describes all of this in detail with scientific evidence both for and against. Just Myth or a Fact? In Islam, there is a concept called Fitra or the embed nature. It is indicated even in The Quran. According to this phenomenon, Allah embedded the loyalty to Him into our soul when He created it. T Are babies born believers? Or the idea of God is only limited to adults? With the rise of developmental psychology in the last hundred years, research showed interesting and astonishing results. This book describes all of this in detail with scientific evidence both for and against. Just Myth or a Fact? In Islam, there is a concept called Fitra or the embed nature. It is indicated even in The Quran. According to this phenomenon, Allah embedded the loyalty to Him into our soul when He created it. Therefore, human beings are naturally inclined to believe in some sort of God. It does not need to be forced on him/her. Other major religions also have similar beliefs. But this is what religion tells us; what about science? Children's Idea of God Before asking whether a child believes in God or not, it is essential to know, "Can a child even recognize God?" According to the research, children can identify living things, physical objects, humans, and many more. They can identify the presence of both seen and unseen agents (things/beings). Not only that, they are eager to know the "why" or the reasoning behind everything. So, if there is a God, a child possesses the ability to identify Him. Many scientific studies have shown that children are naturally inclined to God-idea as if they know Him very well. In fact, sometimes better than adults; especially in understanding supernatural powers like - beyond time-space, controls everything, the infinity of His properties. How do they Know Him? But how!? How do they know Him? The easy answer is - "From parents." Not so fast! The writer presented many studies against the Indoctrination Hypothesis or taught by parents. For instance - If parents do not brainwash their child, would we lose all the religion from the world? Hypothetically, if atheism is natural, an atheist parent's child would remain atheist (but evidence shows otherwise). A calculation shows that, in that scenario, after 6 generations (approx 200 years), only 5% of the world population would be religious. But we do not see that, do we? Hinduism is here for thousands of years. Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam are also surviving strongly for thousands of years. So, it is not indoctrination, something else must be going on. Evidently, children do not simply trust what their parents or other authority figures tell them. If a child would listen/believe his parents that easily, our parents' lives would be more comfortable and pleasant. Parents know this very well. They just hope that their child listens or at least pretends to believe them. Furthermore, research shows that indoctrination can backfire, resulting in the child not being interested in what is taught anymore. Should Parents Play Any Role Outspoken atheists of present time like Dawkins and Hitchens compares parents effort to teach their children religiosity to the child (sexual) abuse. It is well documented in the scientific studies that – if a family follows the religious value more, the children would be more mentally, spiritually, socially, and physically healthy. In contrast, the negative effect of child abuse is also well documented. However, there is no scientific evidence on the relation/connection between these two experiences. Thus, without any structured scientific relation between them, such claim of Dawkins and Hitchens in their lectures, writings is irresponsible in general and dangerous for science. Undoubtedly, parents' responsibility is to ensure that their children grow up as good human beings. Interestingly, the book also discusses in detail whether atheism is natural in children. In fact, it compiled a list of suggestions to become a successful atheist! Parenting is Important! It is evident from the research works of the last hundred years that children have a natural tendency towards believing in God. Yet, born believers need proper training to better utilize it. There is a story in the book. A child was asked how does he follow Jesus without seeing him? He answered, "I just watch daddy – he has to live like Jesus, and I have to live like him." Children primarily want to be like their parents. At an early age, they try to find their hero in them. Thus, despite being born believers, parents play an important role in later development. For example- every child has a natural tendency to eat when s/he is hungry. But it takes guidance to teach him what to eat and what not to, what is healthy and what is not. In the last two chapters, the book discusses what role parents should play in children's theological development. Choice is Theirs In the conclusion of the book, the writer commented - people are free to make their own decision. Parents, teachers, and caregivers should make a proper effort to pass down what they believe as truth. But at the end of the day, it is their choice if they become a true believer or not. Though children may be born believers, whether they die believers is between them and God.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Orsolya

    There are certain actions our brains make which are so natural that we don’t even realize we are making them. One of these things is “beliefs”. We have the ability to believe and a Webster’s definition of the term but why and how do we “believe”? Taking this a step further, Justin L. Barrett Ph.D shows the link between brain development in children and the ability, disposition, and even preference to have beliefs in something abstract or supernatural. “Born Believers” explores this connection be There are certain actions our brains make which are so natural that we don’t even realize we are making them. One of these things is “beliefs”. We have the ability to believe and a Webster’s definition of the term but why and how do we “believe”? Taking this a step further, Justin L. Barrett Ph.D shows the link between brain development in children and the ability, disposition, and even preference to have beliefs in something abstract or supernatural. “Born Believers” explores this connection between development psychology and religious psychology. Barrett successfully captures the reader with thought-provoking ideas as early as the “Introduction” of “Born Believers” (ever notice that EVERY single culture in EVERY single age has believed in a god of some sort?). Sadly, this instant reading excitement dims slightly as the actual text begins. Initially, Barrett explains development experiments on the tendencies of babies and young children to believe that invisible “agents” create and/or control the order of the world. Although many of these experiments are interesting and even quite compelling; Barrett doesn’t thoroughly explain and connect these findings with his hypothesis. Much of the scientific elements seem related to existential theory and therefore results in the reader making his/her own connections to children’s beliefs in gods and religions. Simply put, there is too much room for interpretation and Barrett is not 100 percent clear or convincing, leading to a lack of being “blown away”. Worried that “Born Believers” will contain too much scientific jargon or data? Rest assured, that is not the case. In fact, Barrett overdoes the level of simplicity and begins each chapter with a whimsical or humorous story. “Born Believers” also lacks in proper data or chart information. The hypothesis is weakened and the reader craves more scientific background versus less gloss. More than likely, the text was dummied down to attract the average reader but this resulted in too much simplification. Plus, the connection to religion is unclear at points. I gathered that babies (and humans, in general) need to attribute blame and creation to something or someone (or a force) but that doesn’t (per se) mean a belief in god or religion. Another annoying writing tactic is Barrett’s constant “recap” of previous arguments and chapters (which becomes tedious) and his mentioning of “what’s coming up” creates the feel of a live television programming going into a commercial break. Fortunately, there are stronger moments as “Born Believers” progresses. For instance, I learned that my ability (or lack there of) to calculate “forever” and something “just being there” versus being created is called “artificialism” according to psychologists. Experiments are also discussed how young children attribute natural events/artifacts (mountains, tornado) as being created by “not humans” and then choosing “god” as the creator. Most children, even those pointed in other directions by their parents or educators; are prone to choosing creationalism over evolution or spontaneous generation. Again, the level of compelling information becomes even more baffling (in a good way) as Barrett becomes more secure in presenting his information. The experiments and research are worth mentioning and will spark healthy debates. Further, they encompass all areas related to spirituality and beliefs on cultures all around the world, creating a very complete view and argument. The second section of “Born Believers” dives deeper into how all of the evidence relates to the hypothesis, how children are born believers in “natural religion” and are not theologians (very different), and presents the arguments of whether religion is childish. Although not as strong as the first section, Barrett is still passionate and insightful. Oddly, Barrett spends the entire book arguing that children are not forced or ingrained (neurologically) to merely believe what their parents insist on believing and yet later comments that children naturally want to relate to their parents even in religious forums. Contradiction? Barrett wraps up “Born Believers” with tips on either becoming an atheist or encouraging (conversely) religion to children. As a reader without children of my own, I found this to be bland and skimmable but parents could find this useful. Overall, “Born Believers: is a good scratching of the surface and introduction to the topic which encourages further reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Received this book as ARC from Goodreads. "The belief in God appears to be a naturally occurring human phenomenon" Agree or Disagree? Dr. Justin Barrett has written a thought provoking novel on the subject of children and faith. Are we born believing in a supreme being? Or is it something taught to us? This book is divided into two parts. Part one is labeled "The Evidence". It is primarily a listing of many studies Dr. Barrett used to explain his belief that we are all 'born believers'. He states Received this book as ARC from Goodreads. "The belief in God appears to be a naturally occurring human phenomenon" Agree or Disagree? Dr. Justin Barrett has written a thought provoking novel on the subject of children and faith. Are we born believing in a supreme being? Or is it something taught to us? This book is divided into two parts. Part one is labeled "The Evidence". It is primarily a listing of many studies Dr. Barrett used to explain his belief that we are all 'born believers'. He states (I am using a quote from an ARC- the actual quote in the published novel may be slightly different) "The vast majority of cultures, as well as the vast majority of people, believe in some sort of God or Gods" (page 21) He lists not only studies, but information obtained by observing children. I am not a theologian, nor an anthropologist. I found part one of this book to read like a textbook. Long and dry. Part two, "The Implications", was far more interesting to read. Dr. Barrett describes "natural religion". A term he uses to describe what we have from birth. He states this "natural religion" is in it's infancy. What's the most interesting? Chapter 10 explains his thoughts on Should we Introduce our Children to God? Now we are at the nitty gritty, the reason why I wanted to read this book. It was worth the wait. I learned a great deal. I found myself either nodding in response to something written, or shaking my head and thinking "Is he nuts?" Dr. Barrett offers some suggestions for encouraging children's religious development. I agree with some of what Dr. Barrett writes. In all honesty, there are some things I don't understand, and some things I think are outright strange. My thoughts- interesting book, but as as parent, no matter how many studies you throw my way...I'm not certain I believe Dr. Barrett's theories. It's comforting to think we are all born with previous knowledge of God, but I'm not certain I quite buy the idea. I think this is something theologians, philosophers and anthropologists may be arguing over for years.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jo Oehrlein

    Interesting book with many psychological students of young children to see what they believe and when. It shows that belief in the supernatural is the norm for young children. It refutes some of the claims of the new atheists about religious belief in children and religious teaching of children. The last chapter is probably most relevant for Christian Educators and Christian Families. It talks about how to teach religion to children and has a nice bulleted list of 10 things to do that will help p Interesting book with many psychological students of young children to see what they believe and when. It shows that belief in the supernatural is the norm for young children. It refutes some of the claims of the new atheists about religious belief in children and religious teaching of children. The last chapter is probably most relevant for Christian Educators and Christian Families. It talks about how to teach religion to children and has a nice bulleted list of 10 things to do that will help pass on your beliefs to your children. So, if you have a hard time making it through the whole book, at least read the last chapter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I received this book as an ARC from goodreads. This book has an interesting premise that all children are born with the propensity to believe In a higher power. This Barrett refers to as Natural Religion, and does not necessarily translate into organized religious belief. The author uses results from several experiments to support this hypothesis. The second half of the book however, is more about how to mold those born believers into organized believers, which I think misses the point. If we a I received this book as an ARC from goodreads. This book has an interesting premise that all children are born with the propensity to believe In a higher power. This Barrett refers to as Natural Religion, and does not necessarily translate into organized religious belief. The author uses results from several experiments to support this hypothesis. The second half of the book however, is more about how to mold those born believers into organized believers, which I think misses the point. If we are all born believers, what does not tell us about the evolution of the religions that exist today and how can we better understand religious beliefs of the past?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Interesting enough. Not as extensively researched, or the research wasn't as extensively explained, as others, but develops a case for how the human tendency to seek out cause and effect and determine agency (those things which can act indepently) leads to a natural affinity for belief in the supernatural. Interesting enough. Not as extensively researched, or the research wasn't as extensively explained, as others, but develops a case for how the human tendency to seek out cause and effect and determine agency (those things which can act indepently) leads to a natural affinity for belief in the supernatural.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Rae

    I feel as though it should have been half as long and twice as interesting. I found it to be very repetitive and often found my mind drifting from what would have been a very interesting topic. However, less-than-exhilarating writing and sub-par story-telling techniques are to be expected from a scientist.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sabeeha Rehman

    This book is serious stuff and requires careful reading, or to be in the zone of deep spirituality. Some parts are not a quick and easy read. But its probing and fascinating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Really interesting for people of all religions, including atheists.

  18. 5 out of 5

    BHodges

    Interesting premise, needs more substantive research to better sustain.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Walker Wright

    ***1/2

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tariq

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hicham

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Baker

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mohamed ElBediewy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Halit

  26. 4 out of 5

    محمد عبدالرازق

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bilal

  28. 4 out of 5

    Douadi Lakhdar

  29. 5 out of 5

    James Funston

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fawaz

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