Are Babies Atheists?

This is another one of Your entertainingly idiosyncratic ideas @Patrick :slight_smile:.

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Not the first person to have this idea.


Yes we all have access to Google to post hoc justify our wild guesses. Now produce some evidence.

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I don’t think that reference helps you. Surely an atheist is someone who has ideas about god but has chosen not to believe.


Ok, I will leave the children under 5 alone.

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Reminds me a bit of the claim that the ancients had a flat Earth cosmology, when we aren’t even sure they had a cosmology.


I agree with @Patrick that children are born atheists. I suppose I don’t understand why this is a controversial statement.

However, Patrick’s assertion that

… would not invent God without indoctrination by parents/caregivers.

Seems hard to believe, as @Patrick himself posted a few weeks ago: The Human Brain Evolved to Believe in Gods


Yes, very self contradictory.

Try reading the link he posted, which he must have known argues against his position:

I think he was just playing. :smile:

To be fair, @Patrick has made it clear that he does not personally agree with all the articles he posted. I was just saying that there seems to be an argument that people will generate some sort of belief in God(s) sans indoctrination.

Hmm, after reading the link I would still say that babies are atheists in the sense that babies lack a belief that God exists.

The issue is whether one uses the “there is no God” or the “lack a belief in God” version of atheism. @structureoftruth wrote a blog post about this, in which he calls the first definition of atheism “negative atheism” and the second one “positive atheism”.

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You could read what people who study it say. :slight_smile:


I have a question for you, Patrick. I recall an interview where Helen Keller speaks of having a concept of God before she learned to communicate with other people. (I think the popular quote is something like, “I knew of Him. I just didn’t know his name.”) So that would suggest that at least baby Helen Keller (or toddler Helen Keller or pre-adolescent Helen Keller) was NOT an atheist.

On the other hand, I’ve also read that Helen Keller described herself as an atheist later in life. (I’ve not tried to find primary sources on this.) So would that suggest that some people are theists (by default) early in life (without any prompting by society) but eventually reject theism?

I don’t have a particular position on Helen Keller but I’ve certainly had Christian friends and acquaintances cite her as fodder against atheism—so that has made me curious about the actual facts. (I have discovered that some people actually quote-mine. Believe it or not!)


My positions are not always in line with the articles that I post. My primary purpose in posting articles is to aide in the discussion of items that may be of interest to fellow bloggers at PS.


As far as I can see, babies are blank slates. And as they grow up, they are exposed to the world of their immediate family and pick up concepts.

It probably takes a few years before kids can grasp concepts such as God.
I don’t think they can be called athiest… they just don’t know the concept of God to make the call.

Okay perhaps saying that all babies are atheists is too broad of a conclusion. Perhaps all babies are agnostic until they can reason how the world operates and how they can control their world. So how does a child go from being an agnostic to a believer in a specific faith? I contend that this is culturally based. If the child matures in a family/group culture where a particular belief is practiced, more than likely that child will either accept or reject that belief. So would you agree that all babies/children are born agnostic and then are atheistic of all Gods and beliefs except the God/faith of their family/culture?

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I appreciate your articles @Patrick. Thanks.


What other options are there? (As you say, they can either accept or reject that belief of their family/group culture.)

I suppose the third option is that they could simply ignore the issue.

Yes, I would say that would be a safe bet.

It takes a few years before kids can grasp much of anything.


Hi @swamidass, @Patrick, @AllenWitmerMiller and @Ashwin_s,

I’m quite surprised that no-one has even mentioned the work done in the field by Dr. Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Center for Anthropology and Mind. See this newspaper article for an overview:

Children are born believers in God, academic claims

Dr. Barrett has written a book on the subject:

Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief (Atria Books; 1st ed. edition, 2012)



Perhaps a better way of putting it is that babies are not born Christians (or Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.). I don’t think that is a controversial statement. It is also in line with the Great Commission which directs Christians to get the word out.

Do humans have some innate predilection towards believing in the divine or the supernatural? I think we do. Given the seemingly independent emergence of different religions across the globe it would seem that human societies tend to invent religions. That has to come from somewhere in our basic human behavior.

If atheism is defined as not believing in the deities described by organized religions then I think it is fair to say that babies are born atheists.


Glad to see you here @vjtorley. Thanks for the reference.