Over the weekend, the Melbourne newspaper The Saturday Age ran this interesting piece:
‘INFANTS are hard-wired to believe in God, and atheism has to be learned, according to an Oxford University psychologist.
Dr Olivera Petrovich told a University of Western Sydney conference on the psychology of religion that even preschool children constructed theological concepts as part of their understanding of the physical world.
Pyschologists have debated whether belief in God or atheism was the natural human state. According to Dr Petrovich, an expert in psychology of religion, belief in God is not taught but develops naturally.
She told The Age yesterday that belief in God emerged as a result of other psychological development connected with understanding causation.
It was hard-wired into the human psyche, but it was important not to build too much into the concept of God. “It’s the concept of God as creator, primarily,” she said. Dr Petrovich said her findings were based on several studies, particularly one of Japanese children aged four to six, and another of 400 British children aged five to seven from seven different faiths.
“Atheism is definitely an acquired position,” she said.
Source: The Age
The conversation is picked up on Barney Zwartz’s blog, The Religious Write, where Zwartz asks whether or not Petrovich’s findings might support an evolutionary anachronism that we are outgrowing. So, what ought we make of all this? Should we really be surprised? Should theists be encouraged by such findings? What difference does it make that the children studied were 3.5+ years old?