Link: Religious Children Struggle To Separate Fact From Fiction

I wonder if belief in Santa Claus also has a similar effect?

I’m all for encouraging imagination or using fictional stories in teaching real-life concepts, but presenting children with questionable stories as if they are fact can definitely be troublesome in the long run.  (see following link for the study)

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16 Responses to Link: Religious Children Struggle To Separate Fact From Fiction

  1. Neil Rickert says:

    Given that kids eventually find out about the Santa story, I don’t think we have to worry about that one.

    It always seemed obvious that Adam and Eve was just a story, that Noah’s Ark was just a story, that the Tower of Babel was just a story. So I guess it is no surprise that, in order to believe those are actual historical events, one’s normal critical thinking has to be somehow disabled.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      I agree that fictional gift-leaving stories like Santa are less troublesome, but they are still acclimatizing young impressionable minds to the idea of supernatural belief.

      I would suspect there is a likelihood of a possible negative effect there as well. Just think of how gullible people are to advertising – could it be at least partially the result of early acclimatization to accepting such stories that bring positive results? It wouldn’t surprise me if it were.

  2. jblondie09 says:

    This article was interesting. I went to Parochial school so I’d be curious to see what my 7 yr. old self would’ve seen as fiction vs. non-fiction/fake vs. real. I don’t know if you can compare Santa though…I mean …it’s Santa 😉

  3. Arkenaten says:

    <blockquote|. agree that fictional gift-leaving stories like Santa are less troublesome, but they are still acclimatizing young impressionable minds to the idea of supernatural belief.

    I tend to disagree here, Jason. All of us – across the globe – are brought up with cultural fairy stories, be they Santa or Charlie & the Chocolate factory ( or the local cultural equivalent).
    Such stories are good in as much they encourage creative thought via the imagination, and it doesn’t take too long before the child realise that there is no way a geezer as fat as Santa is climbing down the chimney – especially if there;s central heating in the home.
    Religion, on the other hand relies on fear, punishment and lies ( false promises) to cement itself in the mind of the child.
    The difference is important and this is why if not checked at an early age religion can be regarded as child abuse.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      I’ll give you Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but Santa also relies on a reward system – believing in Santa in order to receive gifts from Santa. Not to mention an emphasis of control in convincing a child to act in a certain way (nice, not naughty) in order to receive such a reward. Sure, failure to do so may result in receiving a lump of coal rather than eternal Hellfire, but it is along some similar lines to religion in these ways.

      • Arkenaten says:

        Generally, though, only psychotic parents would be such bastards to kids over Christmas (or cultural equivalent) and are probably bastards all the time.
        Furthermore, most kids grow out of this belief by the time they are 8 or 9? and no parent will then turn around and tell the child that Santa is real.
        Granted, I was a late developer and was devastated on my 24th birthday to discover he wasn’t real, but that’s me.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        This is true, but that is 8 or 9 years for kids to piece together a more magical understanding of how the world works that they will then have to backtrack through when the truth takes hold. I don’t think it’s without significance, but definitely far less significant than the effects of religion.

      • Arkenaten says:

        No more significance than working out that Charlie & the Chocolate factory was merely make believe.
        Or Alice in Wonderland or Batman.
        There is a huge difference that you are a) ignoring or/and b) somehow trying to group Santa and Jesus’Yahweh in the same package, which if you really thought about it you would realise was nonsense.

        However, I will recant this if you can simply find one or two adults that will testify they were genuinely traumatized over Santa Claus.
        Your call…

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Here you go Ark, a little article that talks on the points of Santa trauma:
        http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/andrea-nair-button-pushing/20131119/santa-trauma-is-a-real-phenomenon

        As for the fictional stories you reference, they tend not to be emphasized through real life events as the Santa story is. If they were, I’d have the same issue with them.

        Bottom line, using fictional stories to enact control over others, especially children, is irresponsible.

      • Arkenaten says:

        I recant. Thanks for enlightening me.
        I never had to go through the visit Santa in a Mall thing as a kid.
        I don’t recall it being such a big thing in the UK. Probably because we didn’t have that many Malls in those days! Certainly not in the towns I grew up in.
        Oddly enough we never had a Santa belief with our kids.
        Probably because it isn’t so strong over here in South Africa, even though the image is all over supermarket crap come xmas time and what have you.
        But judging by these photos and the comments you are spot on Jason. Creepy!
        Time to ditch Santa too, methinks.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Yeah, I think it’s more an issue in North America more than the rest of the world. It’s ridiculous how fanatical some people around here can get about Christmas.

  4. Soduhson says:

    “The researchers acknowledge that the study design was not perfect. In particular, they recognize that it may not be exposure to religion that is causing these differences, but another variable that was not taken into account in the study. Still, the researchers believe that religion is the most likely contributing factor. ”

    Quote from the article.

    Personally, the difference between reality and fantasy were based on how seriously the topic was presented. Religious stories were never treated the same as a bedtime story, or a cartoon. I was one of the few Santa Claus doubters in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      In my experiences, religious stories seemed to me to be presented more like a bedtime story when I was young. I guess it all depends on how heavy-handed the surrounding religious culture is in their presentation of the stories.

      • Soduhson says:

        I would also add that Religious people (at least of the conservative variety) are constantly reprimanded for being closed-minded, arbitrary skeptics towards things they disagree with. I’ve found (personally) that people will ill-defined “spiritual-beliefs” are more likely to be accepting of obscure possibilities, compared to rigidly religious (or skeptical) people.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        Interesting thought! I would agree, some believers in new-age type things end up even more out there than the extreme Christians.

  5. nikeyo says:

    This came across my FB feed a while ago. I wasn’t too surprised.

    I fully believe in allowing children to formulate their own perspectives and concepts. Having my own indoctrinated perspective on reality shattered by logical thought and self-exploration prooved to be awfully traumatic for me (and many Atheists I know.) Why not allow rapidly growing minds to formulate how they naturally do to their fullest potential? By forcing their minds to function within a box of religion horrible stifles them.

    That was off-topic. But a thought derived from that thought of fact-fiction.

    Anyway….

    Fictional stories will always lend to a more abstract mode of learning concept. Aesop’s fables immediately come to mind. But are they absolute? Literal? Hardly. Teaching them as such, a hard fact without any freedom for interpretation naturally stifles the mind. Imagine if the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare was taught as literal? Without a deeper meaning to glean from, and anyone who did so being smashed down, or perhaps individuals only being allowed to sip from a spoon fed by “leaders” like our preachers/priests. What a sad thing to do to a mind!

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