Justin Barrett on Born Believers

October 31, 2012

Psychologist Justin Barett thinks most children have a natural aptitude for religious belief.  He says it's not surprising that so many people believe in spirits or supernatural beings.



This could explain the "religious blind spot" in our normally rational human mind. It has taken many thousands of years for human societies to advance to the stage of liberating people from religious belief that confirms to our inborn irrational (childish) belief in an omnecient and all powerful god(s). Such belief has historically been quite an impediment to the accumulation of scientific knowledge and technological advancement.

Jim -

I am a devoted TTBOOK fan and love your work. That said, I was a little disappointed that you did not hold Dr. Barett (an admitted Christian) to the fire a little bit more about the (many) serious holes in his argument. Not least of which was his main anecdotal 'scientific' example of the Box of Rocks in which he attempts to establish a child's mind as some sort of Tabula Rasa in which children have some innate propensity toward religion. If indeed this mind of a child was a blank slate, the first question you would get from a child when you ask 'what does God think is in the box?' would be 'WHAT IS A GOD?' To ask a child that question is to presume they have some knowledge of god and therefore are subject to the portrayal of God's inherent omniscience. It is disingenuous of Dr. Barett to imply some sort of 'fundamental' knowledge of god or for that matter language. After all, how many children's first word is 'god', rather than 'mama'?

As an enthusiastic supporter of TTBOOK, and atheist-until-proven-otherwise, I hope in the future that you can find guests that can make these sorts of cases succinctly in a manner which holds up past basic scrutiny.

Keep up the good work.

This comment came up as a Q during the interview. sometime..
What would children do if left alone...
This is welll depicted in the book "Lord of the Flies" based on a real story of children marooned on an island. Very interrestingly they invent a GOD as they struggle with daily survival of food, shelter and security. They also invent a social order and hieararchy along with the rituals for the GoD they invented and even use one of them as a sacrifice ...
So this reflects on a lot of basic inherent tendencies of conciousness..in a different sense..

I enjoyed the entire program...Great interviews and discussions.. I could relate to everything since I myself have engaged in first heand experience of intensice buddhist meditation camps which requires 12- hour meditatiions..

Golding's allegorical novel is not based on any true story.

I don't agree that a child's belief in his mother's omniscience at an early age and not so later amounts to the tendency to believe in an omniscient "god." I can see how a tendency to inappropriately input intention or purpose could, however. I would have been more interested in hearing about that phenomenon.

Most children of my ethnicity and related ethnicities are very receptive to the idea that a jolly old fat man flies around the world bringing toys to good children at Christmastime. So what?

Children do get God right and mom wrong - they figure out that mom isn't God. Is *this* a revelation?

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