A team of American researchers has conducted a study on the effect of religious indoctrination during childhood, a crucial stage in terms of the way of thinking and the assertion of one’s identity that will then define the adult person.
Religion And Education
The research was aimed at obtaining evidence on a possible openness to any type of beliefs by children who spend more time in educational institutions linked to religious education: these children are more likely to accept as Mystic or fantasy stories that are not directly related to the worldview beliefs of their religion.
To this end, children between 5 and 6 years old were selected and divided into four groups, according to their degree of exposure to religious education:
- Children who attend a public school and do not attend catechism.
- Children who attend a public school and catechism classes.
- Children who attend a religious school and do not attend catechism classes.
- Children who attend a religious school and attend catechism classes.
All the children of these four groups were told three stories. One of them did not contain any magical element and was realistic, the second was a religious variant in which the performance of miracles was explained, and the third was another variant that contained fantastic elements, but that was not explained by divine intervention.
The vast majority of children in group 1 considered the protagonist of realist history to be real and showed a clear tendency to consider the protagonists of the other two variants, the fantastic and the religious, fictional. In the other groups, however, there was a tendency to consider religious history as real.
Despite being relatively low in the four groups, The belief in fantastic history increased in proportion to the exposure to religious education, reaching its peak (48% of the children in the group) in those boys and girls they attended a religious school and also the parish. The same happened with the belief in religious history, although its variability between groups 2, 3, and 4 was lower when it was already close to 100% in group 2.
Do We Allow Ourselves To Be Influenced By Religious Beliefs?
The conclusion is that research seems to lead that indoctrination linked to religion has a psychological impact on children, making them more gullible in the face of any unfounded assumption. However, it should be noted that the study is based on self-report, information provided verbally by the minors.
Therefore, it is not known to what extent children internalize these beliefs and begin to perceive the world and act accordingly. However, the hypothesis that a degree of verbalized and conscious acceptance of all kinds of baseless beliefs can subconsciously impact an inadequate worldview is not unreasonable.
Currently, there is some evidence that people with strong religious or paranormal beliefs are also prone to commit cognitive biases, such as confusing metaphors with reality or believing that any process is intentional and leads to an objective, even if it is not carried out by an agent.