Indoctrination linked to religion affects children’s perception of reality.
A team of American researchers have carried out a study on the effect of religious indoctrination during childhood , a crucial stage in terms of the way of thinking and the affirmation of one’s own identity that will later define the adult person.
Religion and education
The research was aimed at obtaining evidence on a possible openness to any type of belief by the boys and girls who spend more time in educational institutions linked to religious education: that is, if these minors are more likely to accept stories as valid mystics or fantastic that are not directly related to the beliefs and worldviews of their religion.
For this, minors between 5 and 6 years old were selected who were divided into 4 groups, according to their degree of exposure to religious education:
1- Minors who attend a public school and do not attend catechesis.
2- Minors who attend a public school and who attend catechesis.
3- Minors who attend a religious school and do not attend catechesis.
4- Minors who attend a religious school and attend catechesis.
All the boys and girls in these 4 groups were told three stories. One of them did not contain any magical elements and was realistic, the second was a religious variant in which the performance of miracles was explained, and the third was another variant that contained fantastic elements but that were not explained by divine intervention.
The vast majority of the minors in group 1 considered the protagonist of the realistic story to be real and showed a clear tendency to consider the protagonists of the other two variants, the fantasy and the religious, fictitious. In the rest of the groups, however, there was a tendency to consider religious history as real. The belief in the fantastic story, despite being relatively low in the four groups, increased in proportion to the exposure to a religious education, reaching its maximum (48% of the minors in the group) in those boys and girls who they attended a religious college and also the parish. The same happened with the belief in religious history, although its variability between groups 2, 3 and 4 was less, being close to 100% in group 2.
Are we influenced by religious beliefs?
The conclusion the research seems to lead to is that indoctrination linked to religion has a psychological impact on children, making them more credulous to any unsubstantiated assumptions. However, it should be noted that the study is based on self-report, information provided verbally by the minors. Therefore, it is not known to what extent children internalize these beliefs and begin to perceive the world and act accordingly. However, the hypothesis that a degree of verbalized and conscious acceptance of all kinds of unsubstantiated beliefs may subconsciously affect an inadequate worldview is not unreasonable.
Currently there is some evidence that people with strong religious or paranormal beliefs are also prone to committing cognitive biases, such as confusing metaphors with reality or believing that every process is intentional and leads to a goal, even if it is not carried out by an agent (That a tree loses leaves, for example).