Children are wired for belief, says academic

Children are born with a natural belief in deity which is only overridden when they are told by adults that there is no god, says a leading anthropologist.

They instinctively see the world as having been designed and made for some kind of purpose, said Dr Justin Barrett on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

  • Listen to the Today Programme interview
  • Dr Barrett is a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind.

    He says there is a body of research, including his own, which has found through experiments and interviews that “children seem to have a predisposition to believe in some kind of god”.

    He says the particular god they grow up believing in depends on their culture, but their default position of belief is not dependent on people telling them god exists.

    He said: “I think it is possible for them to be told that gods do not exist and therefore override the natural propensity but if we threw a handful of children on an island to raise themselves I think they would end up religious.”