Study Shows Children Raised With Religion Find It Challenging To Judge Fact From Fiction

By Rachel Zarrell | 28 July 2014

It’s difficult for young children to differentiate between fact and fiction after they have been exposed to religion, a new study in this month’s issue of Cognitive Science says.

Researchers presented 66 5- and 6-year-old children from public and religious schools three types of stories — religious, fantastical, and realistic — to determine if they could identify fictional elements in the narratives.

The authors found that when presented with stories that included “ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention,” children who had been exposed to religion were less able to differentiate the made-up elements, like talking animals, as fictional.

“The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories,” the study concluded.

According to the Huffington Post:

By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (e.g., Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorizations.

The researchers suggest that religious teaching and exposure to miracle-based stories give children a more common acceptance of the impossible, despite what’s actually realistic.

About 83% of Americans are affiliated with a religion, and 86% said they believe in God, according to recent Gallup data. Additionally, 28% of Americans believe the Bible is God’s words verbatim and should be interpreted literally.

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  1. Has anyone on this site bothered to read the Bible let alone comprehend it? What idiot studied “66 5 and 6 year old children”??? No children can establish fact from fiction between age 5 and 6. The “age of reason“ is between a child’s 7th birthday and their 9th birthday. Almost no children reach the age of reason upon their 7th birthday and the bulk of children reach the “age of reason” by appproximately age 8 years and 3 months but some children do not reach the age of reason until their 9th birthday. The “age of reason” means that a child understands the difference between ‘right and wrong’. No 5 or 6 year old understands the difference between right and wrong at age 5 or 6. You can talk to a child until you and they are blue in the face at ages 5 and 6 but they do not understand right from wrong and you can argue this point all you want but it will get you nowhere because 5 & 6 year olds still will not understand.

    • Obviously you missed that the study exposed the religious kids disproportionately being confused by the data presented in greater numbers than non-religious kids which is called “phenomena.” No matter the sample size as long as there is a pattern you document this because it says thefe is a variable here that says something. This is science.

    • Juliet all the more reason to keep reality in mind when raising children.
      We can still see disproportionate numbers in such a study without claiming to have nailed it down.
      of course you’re right, and obviously so.
      I have read and studied the bible. it’s a horrifically vile tale and leans heavily if not entirely on conjecture, hearsay, racism, other bigotry, heirarchy and ‘magic.’ Somehow i think it’s not appropriate for children or adults.

    • The point was to also illustrate that kids who are raised like this have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy, & believe unevidenced fairy tales & myths are real, when they’re adults as well. That’s why a significant percentage of adults believe Noah’s Ark, Adam & Eve, the resurrection of Jesus, & Moses & the Exodus story, which have zero archaeological, historical, or scientific evidence to support them, are true.


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