The brainwashing of children

by Marcus Loane


One result of brainwashing is the victim having a deeply held conviction that something is true even though they are unable to justify it intellectually.

Religious belief is an accident of birth

It is a fact that those with religious beliefs almost always follow the same religion as their parents. There are very few Moslems with Roman Catholic parents. There are very few Buddhists with Hindu parents. It follows that a person's religious beliefs are usually an accident of birth. What they believe depends on where they were born and also on what period in history they were born. Very few honestly evaluate all the world's religions (past and present) and decide that a particular one must be the "true way".

Children are like sponges

Children soak up knowledge and believe what they are told. Any religion that wants to survive and spread would do well to indoctrinate the young. The younger the better. Beliefs inculcated in childhood can be hard to shake, even when there is strong evidence to show they are false. Children have programmed in acceptance and a magical way of thinking. They are receptive to fantastic ideas like invisible beings which can read thoughts. Many of those with deeply held religious beliefs have been indoctrinated from a young age. As religious belief is mostly passed down generations ("inherited", as it were), any religion that encourages brainwashing of the young and having lots of children should do very well at spreading. The main branch of Christianity, Roman Catholicism, is a classic example with its stance on contraception. I am not suggesting that its doctrines were deliberately created to enhance its spread. It is just that any religion that happens to encourage having lots of children and teaches its doctrines to those children when they are too young to discern true from false, will become more widespread than religions without these features. It is kind of evolution of religions.

How can you possibly describe a child of four as a Muslim or a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew? Would you talk about a four-year-old economic monetarist? Would you talk about a four-year-old neo-isolationist or a four-year-old liberal Republican? There are opinions about the cosmos and the world that children, once grown, will presumably be in a position to evaluate for themselves. Religion is the one field in our culture about which it is absolutely accepted, without question -- without even noticing how bizarre it is -- that parents have a total and absolute say in what their children are going to be, how their children are going to be raised, what opinions their children are going to have about the cosmos, about life, about existence.
- Richard Dawkins

 The intense brainwashing of children is not uncommon in N. Ireland where I come from. It leads to adults who may never fully recover regardless of whether they accept the dogma or reject it. Those who accept it are living their entire lives under the implied threat of hell and have the divine Voyeur monitoring their every thought (although some are quite happy with their faith). It is guilt and fear dressed up in a Love and Truth facade. Those who realise the dogma is false have to deal with the upheaval of remaking a worldview from scratch, the stigma of being labelled bad, and possible outright rejection by family members for the crime of conducting an honest search to find out what is actually true. Some adults have been so badly indoctrinated in childhood that while intellectually they realise the Christian claims are false they still experience the guilt and fear. Thankfully I am not one of them, but I have conversed with some of them. It may be damaging for parents to teach children that their faith-based beliefs are true. Children can be educated about what people's faith-based beliefs are without claiming that they can be known to be true. In fact they could be educated about the wide range of competing faith based beliefs around the world and throughout history – “some people believe this, other people believe that.” That will give them a much better foundation for dealing with all the bogus claims they will be bombarded with during their life. Children can be taught how to think, not what to believe.

 I know brainwashing is a strong word and I realise that parents are only doing what they think is best for their children and their motives are good. I am just saying that the effects can be the same as brainwashing.