Guest / Limited Access /
Childlike Faith: Are Kids Born with Belief?
Childlike Faith: Are Kids Born with Belief?

Children, argues Justin L. Barrett, are born receptive to the idea that there is a god. In Born Believers: The Science of Children's Religious Belief (Free Press), Barrett, a psychology professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, builds upon previous research on cognitive development to show that children naturally intuit design—and a Designer—when exposed to the natural world. Holly Catterton Allen, professor of Christian ministries at John Brown University, spoke with Barrett about the scientific evidence testifying to children's religious beliefs.

Why do you suggest children are "born believers"?

I'm using that term in a folk sense, the way we might say that Michael Jordan was a born basketball player, or Mozart was a born musician. I don't mean that Mozart came out of the womb playing the clavichord, but that given very minimal cultural and environmental input, he was going to take to it like ducks to water. Virtually all humans are essentially born believers—they have a natural receptivity to religious belief.

I'm contributing a new line of research that affirms [Swiss developmental psychologist Jean] Piaget's insight that children see design and purpose and meaning, but challenges his idea that they see human design or purpose. Piaget posited that young children believe that humans made the mountains or the sun. He thought they believed that God is just a human being involved in this creative process with other humans. But new research is showing that by the age of 4, children say that humans make some things, such as chairs and tables, but not mountains and trees. Even preschoolers know that humans are not the answer to the "who made the world?" question. Someone else is needed.

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended33 Under 33
Subscriber Access Only 33 Under 33
Meet the Christian leaders shaping the next generation of our faith.
TrendingReligious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
The legal context for what's happening at Gordon College, and how Christians can respond despite intense cultural backlash.
Editor's PickWhat We Talk About When We Talk About 'Birth Control'
What We Talk About When We Talk About 'Birth Control'
Meaningful debate requires us to define the terms of discussion.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

Christianity Today
Childlike Faith: Are Kids Born with Belief?
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.