Indoctrination Unavoidable?

Several weeks ago in a post about worldviews, I mentioned a statement by atheist, Richard Dawkins about indoctrination.  I would like to address the statement Dawkins made and deal with the subject of indoctrination.  In the ninth chapter of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, Dawkins makes the following statement:

“Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence almost everyone has the same religion as their
parents?  And it always just happens to be the right religion.  Religions run in families.
If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece we would all be worshiping Zeus and
Apollo.  If we had been born Vikings we would be worshiping Wotan and Thor.   How
does this come about? Through childhood indoctrination.”

First, let’s define indoctrination before we discuss the quote by Dawkins.

Indoctrination – The act of teaching a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view.

I would first like to concede that indoctrination does take place, in fact, I would like to add, that it occurs everywhere, through everyone, in varying levels.  Because of the way we can know something and not know something, we are limited in a semi-transcendent view of knowledge.  There is really no way to “get out of the box” as Ravi Zacharias puts it, in a transcendent way, and know everything about everything in life.  We can know things on a subjective level and we can compare them to a uniform experience that we have in our life and culture.  The varying levels of indoctrination that may take place can range from the highest and strictest of worldviews to the smallest and most trivial examples of allowing an opposing team’s uncle call the balls and strikes in a little league baseball game.

As a parent of three children, I want my children to own their own faith and not have the faith of their parents.  As they get older I will encourage them to do the work that I have done in my own searching, including all sides.   But that doesn’t mean that I am not going to teach them what I have found to be good, reliable trustworthy truth now.    I will help them, answer questions, give them resources to help them make their own decisions as they are ready.

Not everyone does their homework.   It has been apparent to me that not everyone that believes a particular worldview, including Christianity, knows what they believe and why they believe or at least can articulated it in a meaningful and understanding way.  On the surface level many worldviews can look and make sense, but in truth and reality, there can only be one worldview that is correct.  As you dig a little deeper you will no doubt encounter difficulties as you look for coherence in the worldviews that are incorrect.   For many people, the statement, ignorance is bliss, is true to life.  As I have stated before I will be digging deeper and looking at each of the major worldviews in the future posts.

Christianity stands out among other worldviews.   I would like to point out that many worldviews are very closed-minded to allowing opposing views to influence their captors.    Jehovah’s Witnesses will cut you off if you show any signs of doubt or begin to look outside the ideology they teach.  They have been even known to excommunicate their own family members if they reject the teachings.    This is nothing however to the Islamic world where if you leave your Islamic faith, could mean death if you are caught.  As I type this, there is a pastor in Iran who is in prison, in fear of his life because he left the Islamic faith for Christianity.  There is also the certainty of ridicule that will come from scientific atheism that if you renounce your atheism and still maintain your scientific beliefs.

Compare those to the words of Paul in the Bible as he challenged the Thessalonians “Test everything, hold onto the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and then in Acts, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)   You will find no where in the Bible that it tells us to just believe and not examine the evidence.   One of my favorite verses, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)  Each of these scriptures shows the open, unafraid mindset of the Christian worldview.

So what are we to make of Dawkins’s comment that “almost everyone has the same religion as their parents… Religions run in families.”  Two things to consider.  First, for the worldview that is most coherent, and dare I say correct, people will examine it and stay with what they find to be true.  Secondly, I would challenge Dawkins’ assertion that almost everyone  has the same religion of their parents.  Consider what is taking place today in China and other countries like Russia and the former Soviet Union.   In 1966  through the leadership of the atheistic communist party in China, all books, Bibles, and any references to religion were burned and destroyed, its leaders declaring God is dead.   Today in China, Christianity is the fastest growing worldview than all others.  Nearly 100 million strong.  When there is a vacuum of truth, it is a most welcome breath of fresh air.

The last point I want to make with indoctrination is that there seems to be a conflict with the view of naturalistic determinism, of which Dawkins and many other of the new atheists claim to support.  If we can be indoctrinated by things outside ourselves like the Bible, religious parents, reruns of old TBN shows, etc., then we are  not locked into genetic determinism through our DNA.  If everything we believe and know is because of genetic determinism then we cannot be indoctrinated.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.  I will take a closer look at determinism and free will in my next post.

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