One argument I’ve been hearing about with increasing frequency from the atheist community is that “everyone is born atheist” with the implication that religion is some unwitting indoctrination forced upon children too young to object. To me, such an argument represents a shockingly naive tabula rasa view of human development and, what’s more, invalidates the significant intellectual achievements of atheism as an intellectual stance.
A far more accurate view of human development would reveal that “everyone is born animist”, that is, ascribing human like traits to naturalistic phenomena. Our propensity to find and explain patterns of behavior is a product of our deep evolutionary background and even in modern, technological society, we curse our computers as malicious and believe that we can influence the timing of traffic lights. All religion does is impose an organizational framework upon our original animist intuitions. It provides a ready explanation for what we were already pre-programmed to believe.
Only atheism seeks to directly challenge the validity of our animist intuition and promote a wholly naturalistic view of the world. As a result, atheism is a deeply counter intuitive claim and one which can only be justified by deep intellectual inquiry into rationalism, skepticism and the scientific method. The argument that “everyone is born atheist” wholly discredits the significant intellectual effort that atheists must take to reach an intellectually defensible point of view.
So let’s retire this tired old canard that “everyone is born atheist”. It’s intellectually embarrassing and gives a grossly inaccurate viewpoint to outsiders on what atheism actually is.