Childhood indoctrination / socialisation of pre-school toddlers creates up to two-thirds of British Christians says survey

A Church of England survey this week reveals the staggering extent of  childhood indoctrination / socialisation* in Britain. The survey shows that nearly two-thirds of all British Christians become Christian when they were still toddlers at 0-4 years old. (1,2) Seventeen out of twenty Christians become Christian when children or teenagers, only one in twenty when adults.

* h/t Matt Sheard comment about socialisation 19/9/17.

Whilst half of Brits are Christian, four in ten don’t belong to any religious group. Almost six in ten  of 19-24 year olds are non-religious.

A further 13% become Christian at 5-10 years. So three-quarters (77%) become Christians before they have left Primary School. Only 1 in 12 (8%) become Christians between 11-18 years at Secondary School. In summary, 85% became Christians before they are adults.

If you or someone you know has suffered from child indoctrination help is at hand with Drs. Darrel Ray & Marlene Winell. Read this post.

4 in 10 people are non-religious. The young are much more non-religious than the elderly.

Whilst half of all adults in Britain identify as Christians, only 1 in 50 (2%) were Muslims. Significantly, 4 in 10 (42%) do not belong to a religious group (the ‘Nones’) (see Table 1).

There are fewer than half the number of young Christians (28% 18-24 years) than older Christians (72% 65+ years). Conversely, there are twice as many young non-religious ‘Nones’ (57% 18-24 years) as older ‘Nones’ (24% 65+ years) (see my Table 1).

More nones are young.
Table 1

85% of Christians become Christian when children or teenagers, only 6% when adults.

In Britain (the UK less sectarian Northern Ireland) only about 1 in 20 (6%) people become Christians when they are adults. Thus 2% become Christians at 19-24 years, 2% at 25-34 years and 1% at 35-44 years. Only 1 in 100 become Christians after they are 44 years old. (see Figure 1)

Significantly, more than 6 out of 10 (64%) became Christians when they are toddlers at 0-4 years. Moreover, more than 1 in 10 (13%) became Christians at 5-10 years and a further 1 in 12 (8%) became Christian at 11-18 years (see Figure 1).

childhood indoctrination: 64% Christian became Christian as toddlers.
Figure 1

Give me the toddler for the first four years…

The Jesuits disputedly said:

‘Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.’ (8)

This survey suggests to me that:

‘Give me the toddler for the first four years and I will give you the indoctrinated man.’

What is an ‘active Christian’?

The survey gives the proportion of ‘active Christians’ or ‘practicing Christians’ (the two terms seem synonymous from the survey). The active/practicing Christian group is defined as ‘those who say they read/listen to the Bible at least once a week and pray at least once a week and attend a church service at least once a month’.

Almost half (44%) of adults who became Christians at 0-4 years are ‘active Christians’ as adults. This is the group that is most likely to have suffered childhood indoctrination / socialisation. By 5-10 years the effects of childhood indoctrination / socialisation are less prevalent – only 1 in 6 (16%) are still ‘active Christians’ in adulthood. Similarly, only 1 in 5 (19%) who became Christians at 11-18 years are ‘active Christians’ in adulthood. For Christians who were converted to Christianity as adults, far fewer than 1 in 10 are still ‘active Christians’ (see Figure 2).

Childhood indoctrination results in most active christians
Figure 2

Childhood indoctrination / socialisation creates most ‘followers of Jesus’

Childhood indoctrination / socialisation means more than half (56%) of those who became Christian at 0-4 years still follow Jesus as adults. Of those who became Christians at 10-19 years, only 1 in 7 (14%) follow Jesus. For those that became Christians between 19-34 years only around 1 in 20 (5-6%) still follow Jesus (see Figure 3).

childhood indoctrination leads to most followers of jesus
Figure 3

What proportion of Christians are ‘active Christians’?

Fewer than 1 in 20 (4%) Christians read or listen to the Bible every day. Perhaps surprisingly, a much larger proportion, about 1 in 5 (18%), pray every day (see Table 2).

Only 1 in 7 (14%) read or listen to the Bible at least every week. Again a larger proportion, more than a third (34%) pray at least every week. Only 1 in 5 (19%) Christians attend Church at least every month. Thus the survey calculates that only 6% of adults in Britain are ‘active Christians’ (see above definition of ‘active Christians’ and my Table 2).

Table 2

If you don’t belong to a religion have you ever considered joining one?

Only 1 in 10  of those who don’t belong to a religious group have ever considered joining a religion. Some 9% thought about becoming a Christian and a further 1% thought they might become Jewish. 9 out of 10 (89%) who don’t belong to a religion have never considered joining a religion (see my Table 3).

Table 3

At what age did you lose your faith?

A third (34%) lose their faith or stopped being a member of a religious group at age 11-18 years. In addition, 1 in 5 (19%) lose their faith at age 19-24 years and 1 in 6 (16%) at 25-34 years (see my Table 4).

Table 4

Atheism UK Comments

Chris Street, President of Atheism UK comments on the survey:

“With more than 6 out 10 Christians becoming Christians when they were toddlers, at 0-4 years, this survey highlights the breathtaking scale of relentless and insideous childhood indoctrination / socialisation in Britain, by religious people. Moreover, these children, too young to think critically, are the main group who follow Jesus and the most active/practising Christians as adults.

This survey shows that 42% of Britains are non-religious.

In comparison, the 2016 British Social Attitudes Survey shows the slow but steady trend in increase of  the non-religious, from 31% in 1983 to 53% in 2016. (7)

How can 0-4-year-old toddlers and young kids think critically? Why should man-made religions and religious faith escape the requirement for critical thinking? Is it not immoral to convert toddlers to religion? Or is it the only way that religions can survive?

Stephen Law has advocated ‘Liberal’ education. Students should be raised to question and think for themselves and make their own moral judgements. They should not be raised to embrace, more-or-less uncritically, the judgements of an external moral authority in an ‘Authoritarian’ educational setting. (4)(5)

I’m reminded of what atheist and comedian Ricky Gervais said: “there would be more atheists and less faithful if you weren’t allowed to teach anything about religion – or atheism – until children had become adults. I think we would see a different pattern” (3).

However, under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, children have the right to choose their own religion
and beliefs. Parents can help children to decide what is right and wrong. (5) @ 43-48 mins, (6).

I believe we should actively campaign for ‘Liberal’ education and teaching of critical thinking skills. But short of applying Ricky Gervais’s idea, how do we reduce  childhood indoctrination / socialisation?”

How the survey was conducted

ComRes interviewed 8,150 GB adults aged 18+ online between 17th and 31st March 2017. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. The survey was published on 12th September 2017.


(1) ComRes Survey.

(2) ComRes data tables.

(3) Ricky Gervais comments on childhood indoctrination and religion.

(4) Law, Stephen, 2007, The War for Children’s Minds, Routledge.

(5) IHEU Malcomn Evans & Stephen Law 2014 talk.

(6) UN Rights of the Child, Article 14. (accessed 17th September2017).

(7) British Social Attitudes Survey.

(8) Jesuit quote. (accessed 17th September2017).



Chris Street, President, Atheism UK

Atheism UK membership

Become an Atheism UK full member to support us. Now to arrange talks by excellent speakers such as David Silverman, (President, American Atheists) takes time and money. The July 2017 Silverman talk organised by Atheism UK was to a packed Conway Hall (unfortunately, we had to turn away three late entry ticket holders!).

Atheism UK membership is £24 per annum. But if you are a full-time student or pensioner it’s £12 per annum. So if you can support us, many thanks.

Chris Street, President, Atheism UK.

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2 Replies to “Childhood indoctrination / socialisation of pre-school toddlers creates up to two-thirds of British Christians says survey”

  1. I’ve been saying this for years. We all know a childs earliest years are their most impressionable when their brains are still developing. To me, it’s pure evil that religion takes mere babies and starts cramming their heads with made up gods and religious rule books that are thousands of years out of date.

    The christening ceremony pushing every new generation of parents to keep repeating the cycle of bringing up very young children to believe in made-up religious claptrap is such a wicked thing to do to a child. It’s affects children for the rest of their lives and encourages them to then do the same to their own children.

  2. ‘Indoctrination’ is a very value loaded term. All children are socialised, intentionally or unintentionally into the values of the family and sub-culture into which they are born. A few adopt new values at odds with their socialisation and this tends to happen in late adolescence but can be later or earlier, which is born out by table 4. This is true for atheists, communists, football fans and all religions.
    The most interesting observation in this survey for me is that later converts were not more fervent in their religiosity, which I find counter intuitive. I’ll look at my research on atheists to see if this pattern is repeated there.

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