Non-religious childhoods

Posted By on August 20, 2019


I’m Anna Strhan from the University of York and I’m Rachael Shillitoe from the
University of York and we’re studying non-religious
childhoods. So our project focuses on how, when, where and with whom children in
the UK learn to be unbelieving. We use ethnography which allows us really to
attend to and listen to complex forms of experience in everyday life. And ethnography’s also particularly important in working with children as it allows them
more of a voice in producing sociological data than as possible in
other forms of research such as survey or experimental research. We conducted
field work across three sites in the UK and use the range of qualitative
research methods in order to explore the nature and varieties of children’s unbelief. We found that actually children’s unbelief is very much complex
and nuanced, so it isn’t just a simple unthought I don’t believe in God, there’s a
great degree of reflection and a variety and thought that’s gone into children’s
unbelief. In relation to other beliefs that children have, as you might expect some
children believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean
that if a child doesn’t believe in God that they won’t believe in Santa or the
Tooth Fairy or other things such as unicorns and which also seems popular amongst
children at the minute. People often in relation to unbelief think of the
teenage years as particularly important, that there might be a moment of sort of
deconversion where people move away from kind of childhood religiosity. But
actually we’re finding that the children have quite a strong sense of
themselves as unbelievers already in middle childhood and that they’re
quite reflective about that. They had clearly thought about it and reasoned with themselves and it was quite logical explanations as to their unbelief in
God, whether that was rooted in sort of scientific rationalism or sort of forms
of gender inequality or simply that they didn’t believe and that they found other
explanations of the origins of the universe more plausible such as the Big
Bang Theory. Yes we find that their children are quite metaphysically
curious in a sense.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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