I had an interesting conversation with my father (devout Catholic). My wife and I just had a baby a month ago. I told him my newborn daughter was born atheist. Of course he disagreed. His arguement had me thinking.... Is atheism strictly just a conscious decision? Or does ignorance of a deity/dogma constitute atheism as well? Does a newborn's limited mental cognitive ability justify atheism? Does someone living in the deep primitive tribal areas of the Amazon never exposed to religion constitute atheism? Are all babies that have ever been born - born atheist?

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Comment by Ava Wilson on October 26, 2010 at 10:44pm
Babies are born naturally Atheist. If you never tell a child about God, they'll never know about it. Religion has to be taught and indoctrinated into kids for them to know about it. . . they don't come out walking and talking and praising God. If anyone wants proof, my daughter will be a shining example. She's 16 months right now and when she is able to talk and converse with me, without having ever mentioned God, I could ask her "Do you love God?". . . guarantee you she would say "Who?"
Comment by Kim on October 27, 2010 at 12:12am
In the purely philosophical sense, I would agree that babies are atheist. The only other alternative is "theist", and they certainly aren't that.

On the other hand, I personally refrain from referring to my child, or anyone else's, as "atheist" or "theist" (or "Christian", "Democrat", "socialist", or any other label). The reason is simple: I think that children pick up on more than we may know. I want my child, and other children as well, to make up their own minds and feel free to ask questions without an label attached. If my child decided at 5 that he believes in Jesus, I will not call him a Christian. This is the same child that thinks that monsters just might be in the closet. He needs to decide for himself. I will answer his questions as best as I can, but I will never label him and thus influence him to let me make up his mind for him.

Am I wrong? Maybe. But only time will tell....
Comment by Loop Johnny on October 27, 2010 at 6:46am
Are all babies that have ever been born - born atheist?
By the definition of atheism, yes.

atheism = lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

The major problem with newborn or tribal people is that they do not have an education, so they can distinguish fact from fiction.

All babies are born, by definition, atheists and continue to be so until some person indoctrinates him with his religion. At that fragile state, babies accept everything you tell them.

e.g.
If a baby asks: "Why does the wind blow?" you cannot tell him the facts ( meteorological, thermodynamics, sun radiations > hot vs. cold currents ) because he won't be able to comprehend them. Most parents use stories to give them an idea, even though they are lying, like "The wind blows because the trees sneeze."
This explanation is far more easier to grasp, like most purpose-oriented explanation. Science gives a functional-oriented explanation, far more complex and accurate than the bollocks that any religion thought of.

It is nothing wrong into believing in Santa, tooth-fairy, imaginary friends when you're a kid, but be cautious because those stories can go into the other direction and mislead or stop a persons learning.

If a kid knows that the wind blows because of the trees, that doesn't mean he knows how wind blows. He knows just the story. No evidence whatsoever.

Kids don't have a powerful and stable reasoning to distinguish fact from fiction like ( some ) grown-ups. It is important to pave the way with some stories and gradually detach from them as you find out a more complete theory of hypothesis X.

Does someone living in the deep primitive tribal areas of the Amazon never exposed to religion constitute atheism?
If they believe in some supernatural then they are not atheists. Usually at that stage supernatural is equal to natural because they don't have a proper functional-oriented explanation of the surrounding world. Just purpose-oriented. ( "I have prayed to the sun, I had succeeded in my hunting." ) It doesn't necessary have to be a known religion. Any belief system will do.

Is atheism strictly just a conscious decision?
Depends on the individual. 2 cases:

1. The individual is capable of conscious and rational thought, due to education, etc. -> Then atheism is a conscious decision.

2. The individual is not capable of conscious and rational though, due to infancy or the lack of knowledge -> Atheism is just a consequence of NOT believing in any deity. ( by definition )
Words were invented by us. Stick to the definition.

Or does ignorance of a deity/dogma constitute atheism as well?
Yes. The difference lies that we are actually quite aware of how religion/dogma works so we are not ignorant. I have read a part of the New Testament. All my friends are theists. And religion is everywhere. It is, almost, impossible to be ignorant. Atheism usually start within a religion and leave it because they realize there was no stable source of evidence whatsoever. Everything that ever was in the dogma of a religion was stories that have originated in some persons mind.

No evidence to support that claim. If valid evidence was found I will gladly believe it. ( I mean come on, a God that gives you a second infinite life, who wouldn't wan't a thing like that? )

About your baby. If I were in your place I would tell him any kind of simple story to satisfy his curiosity and I would let him explore as much as he would like. Being exposed to any kind of information can lead to a balanced stable mindset.

There is a good thread here Religion is good for children
Comment by Jason on October 27, 2010 at 3:03pm
See, I am on the same line of thinking as Loop, but P.J. makes a good point. Are animal’s atheist?
That Ricky Gervais movie – “The Invention of Lying”. In the movie - the ability to lie does not exist – thus religion never came about. So were all those people atheist? Or were they just ignorant? I guess it depends on what the definition of atheism is. As loop points out it simply states a lack of belief - it doesn’t specify how the lack of belief came about (decision vs. ignorance).
Comment by James on October 27, 2010 at 9:28pm
I would agree that all babies are born Atheist, as per the definition. They do not believe in a god. Whether they are aware of the concept of a god makes no difference. Imagine there is an idea that exists for which you have no knowledge... Say, a three headed green cat with two tails and the ability to shoot fire out one eye and ice out the other named Lou. You've never heard of Lou, so you don't have any belief in him. When believing and not believing are the only options, then lack of knowledge of the idea eliminates the possibility to believe.

Obviously, if someone were saying that their kid is Atheist because they are I would disagree. That is the same as Catholic parents saying their newborn is Catholic. Of course that isn't the point you were making, but I thought I'd add that.

To claim that understanding the definition of Atheist is necessary for one to be one is false in my opinion. I was an Atheist before in ever knew what the word meant. But I certainly didn't believe in a god. Likewise, if I didn't know the description of the flue virus, does that mean that I can't have or get the flu? Additionally, there could be dangerous ground in that claim. We know how some theists claim that the idea of a god precludes it's validity. The two ideas aren't exactly the same, but some theists could claim double-standard/hypocrisy regardless.
Comment by Jon Heim on October 27, 2010 at 10:00pm
well, you don't have to know about something to not beleive in it.

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