Saturday, 18 April 2020

How Religion Damages Children.

It’s difficult for young children to differentiate between fact and fiction after they have been exposed to religion.
Study Shows Children Raised With Religion Find It Challenging To Judge Fact From Fiction.

A 2014 study published in Cognitive Science shows a marked difference in their ability to distinguish fact from fiction between children brought up in secular households and those brought up in a religious ones.

Children conditioned to accept the magical content of religious stories as factual, find it harder to understand that such stories are actually impossible, not true accounts of real events. For example, when asked to classify the story of Moses waving a magic wand and making a pathway open up through the sea, children subjected to a religious upbringing will be more likely to classify the story as factual rather than fictional, despite the express inclusion of a magical element in the story.

Proportion of real judgments for realistic, religious, and fantastical stories by child's religious status (churchgoers, non‐churchgoers) for the public school students and parochial school students in Study 1
In two studies, 5‐ and 6‐year‐old children were questioned about the status of the protagonist embedded in three different types of stories. In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion. Children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school, or both, judged the protagonist in religious stories to be a real person, whereas secular children with no such exposure to religion judged the protagonist in religious stories to be fictional. Children's upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children's differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.

Corriveau, K. H., Chen, E. E., & Harris, P. L. (2015).
Judgments about fact and fiction by children from religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
Cognitive Science, 39(2), 353–382. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12138

Proportion of children's responses to the justification question by justification type (Reality, Impossibility, Religion, Pictorial and Uninformative) and religious exposure (Secular, Religious) for each of the four story types: (a) Familiar+Magic, (b) Familiar+No Magic, (c) Unfamiliar+Magic, and (d) Unfamiliar+No Magic.
Significantly, when asked to justify their classification, children from a background of religious indoctrination were more likely to give 'reality' as their reason for classifying stories containing magic as factual, and less likely to give impossibility for their reason for classifying magical stories as fiction. This suggests that children from religious backgrounds have been conditioned to accept magic as reality and less likely to think of it as impossible.

At the time of publication, a recent Gallop poll showed about 83% of Americans were affiliated with a religion, and 86% said they believe in God, with 28% believing the Bible is God’s words verbatim and should be interpreted literally. Fortunately for America, the decline in religion was also shown in this poll which recorded the lowest ever figure (49%) of Americans for whom religion plays an important part of their lives. THis was the fist time below 50% since Gallop began asking this question in 1992. But this still leave a disturbingly large proportion of the population brought up believing in magic and being unable to distinguish between fact and fiction.

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