Lack of exposure to religiously-motivated actions plays a key role in the early onset of atheism, according to a new study published in in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior.
The study, “Predicting age of atheism: credibility enhancing displays and religious importance, choice, and conflict in family of upbringing,” was authored by David Speed, Thomas J. Coleman III, and Joseph Langston.
Previous research suggests that exposure to Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDs) plays an important role in predicting who becomes religious, and who does not. The cultural learning concept of CREDs, researchers noted, concerns the extent to which behavioral models (in this case, parents) live out their professed beliefs.
And while previous studies have shown that there is indeed a link between exposure to CREDs, and onset of atheism later in life, it remains unclear exactly when a person’s religious views change, or when believers evolve into non-believers.
The researchers surveyed 5,153 atheists, in an effort to examine how, and when people become non-believers. Study participants were asked questions regarding CRED’s among their parents, the age when they became an atheist, and other factors. Langston and his team found that children tended to become atheists earlier in life when their parents didn’t engage in credibility-enhancing behavior.
In layman’s terms, if a child’s parents talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, the child will become an atheist earlier in life.
In a statement supplied to PsyPost, Langston said the following.
“The average person can take away three main things from this study. First, the extent to which parents faithfully model their own religious beliefs to their children (i.e. CREDs), works in tandem with other processes to produce unique trajectories of the timing at which one becomes an atheist: being allowed greater religious choice seems to drive the age of atheism down, but so do elevated levels of religious conflict.”
However, although important, Credibility Enhancing Displays are not enough to provide researchers with a complete explanation of when, why, and how people stop believing, Langston noted.
The researchers’ findings confirm that religious actions speak louder than words, and they confirm their previous findings. For instance, the same team of researchers published a similar study last year in in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior, demonstrating that religious individuals who were exposed to high levels of CREDs in childhood report believing in the existence of God with higher certainty than those who were not exposed to high levels of CREDs.
Another similar study by Joseph Langston’s team is currently under peer review.