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The effect of religion on the perception of reality

The effect of religion on the perception of reality

June 12, 2024

A team of US researchers has conducted a study on the effect of religious indoctrination during childhood, a crucial stage with regard to the way of thinking and the affirmation of one's own identity that will then define the adult person.

Religion and education

The research was aimed at obtaining evidence on a possible openness to any type of beliefs by children who spend more time in educational institutions linked to religious education: that is, if these children are more likely to accept as valid stories Mystics or fantasies that are not directly related to the worldview beliefs of their religion.


To this end, children between 5 and 6 years old were selected and divided into 4 groups, according to their degree of exposure to religious education:

1- Children who come to a public school and that do not attend catechesis .

2- Children who come to a public school and that attend catechesis .

3- Children who come to a religious school and that they do not attend catechesis

4- Children who come to a religious school and that attend catechesis .

All the children of these 4 groups were told three stories. One of them did not contain any magic element and was realistic , the second was a religious variant in which the performance of miracles was explained, and the third was another variant that contained fantastic elements but that they were not explained by a divine intervention.


The great majority of the children in group 1 considered the protagonist of realist history to be real and showed a clear tendency to consider the protagonists of the other two variants, the fantastic and the religious, fictional. In the other groups, however, there was a tendency to consider religious history as real. The belief in fantastic history, despite being relatively low in the four groups, increased in proportion to exposure to a religious education, reaching its peak (48% of the children in the group) in those boys and girls who attended a religious school and also the parish. The same happened with the belief in religious history, although its variability between groups 2, 3 and 4 was lower when it was already close to 100% in group 2.

Do we allow ourselves to be influenced by religious beliefs?

The conclusion that the research seems to lead is that indoctrination linked to religion It has a psychological impact on children, making them more gullible before any assumption without foundation. However, it should be noted that the study is based on self-report, information provided verbally by the minors. Therefore, it is not known to what extent children internalize these beliefs and begin to perceive the world and act accordingly. However, the hypothesis that a degree of verbalized and conscious acceptance of all kinds of unfounded beliefs can subconsciously reverberate in an inadequate worldview is not unreasonable.


Currently there is some evidence that people with strong religious or paranormal beliefs are also prone to commit cognitive biases, such as confusing metaphors with reality or believing that any process is intentional and leads to an objective, even if it is not carried out by an agent (that a tree loses leaves, for example).


John Trudell " Religious vs Spiritual" Perception of Reality (June 2024).


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