I’ve heard it said so many times that babies are born without any beliefs about God and therefore, that babies are born atheist. But are babies born atheist? To answer the question, one would need to consider both what atheism is and the natural state of a person as well as whether atheism is a worldview system or nothing more than a psychological condition.
What is Atheism? Is it the claim that there is no God or the recently attempted redefinition by some atheists that “atheism” is the lack of beliefs about God. If atheism is the position that there is no God, then certainly babies cannot be atheists since that claims would require some reasonable assessment by a mature mind that can reason, and babies are in no position to be able to do that.
The only possible way babies may be considered to be atheists is if atheism is defined as the ‘lack of belief in God.’ In that case, since babies lack beliefs about almost everything, including God, it would be possible to say that babies are born atheists. But is atheism merely the ‘lack of beliefs about God?’ And is atheism merely a psychological condition?
As it turns out, atheism is not just ‘the absence of beliefs about God.’ In fact, that is simply a clever way to run away and hide from a discussion. Atheism is not simply the absence of beliefs of God, but a positive claim of negation, namely that there is/are no God/gods. This means that babies cannot possibly be atheists since they cannot reason about whether or not God exists in order to reject that God exists (atheism). But to drill the point home, we can continue our evaluation a bit more.
It’s clear that human beings have a deep-rooted, innate predisposition to believe in a higher power. Naturalistic evolutionary psychologists explain this phenomenon as a remnant of evolutionary progress [1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40806-017-0101-0 (accessed 8/19/2017)]. Theists would explain our deep-seated predisposition to believe as an internal witness to the existence of God, an inbuilt conscious witness to the divine.
However one explain this is secondary. The main point is that there is agreement that there is a phenomenon to be explained. Let’s set aside the fact that this predisposition doesn’t really have any bearing with whether God exists or not.
If one claims that babies are born atheists, one is claiming that the natural state of man is his predisposition to lack beliefs about God. But multiple scientific studies have confirmed that human beings do have an intrinsic belief in a higher power.Are babies born atheist or do we have a predisposition to believe in a higher power? Click To Tweet
Redefining atheism to be merely a lack of belief in God is to relegate atheism to nothing more than a mental state. But how can a baby both be born an atheist and also have a predisposition to believe in God? That would be impossible. So what the atheist cannot do is to claim that babies are born atheist and also try to explain the apparent intrinsic belief of a higher power. He cannot, in fact, account for this intrinsic belief, not even by using the model of naturalistic evolutionary psychology. Given this inability, it seems to me foolish to claim that babies are born atheist.
Something worth noting is that regardless whether babies are born theist or atheist, this initial state of infancy has little to do with whether God exists or not. Both sides must still reason about the facts of reality to determine which set of facts coincides with each worldview. To simply say or even imply that there is no God, even if babies were to be born atheist, is to commit the genetic fallacy; how a belief may originate has no rational basis of the truth or falsehood of that belief.
As it turns out, If as some studies have shown, human beings are born with the predisposition to believe in God, then babies cannot be atheists, no matter how we define “atheism.” Have you heard people claim this before? Did it seem odd to you? What are your thoughts about that claim?
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.