The Difference Between Indoctrination and Education 


“What you believe is just a product of indoctrination.”

How many times have atheists said that to you, if you’re a Christian ? I’ve lost count of the number of times since I began this blog and began interacting with nonbelievers in general. The problem is that it’s a true statement. The other problem is that it applies to everyone.  
Everyone, at some point, has been indoctrinated. The question is, have they risen above that, which I would call “initial”, step and moved towards actually being educated. 
Let’s define our terms first, so that we can have some sense of what it is that we’re talking about. 
The essential definition of the verb indoctrinate, according to Webster’s is, 

–to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments 

We can call that instruction in first principles. What are the basics that people need to know? Most would argue that it’s the 3 r’s: readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmatic. How to read, how to reproduce that in writing (a dying skill), and how to do basic math. The stuff that the average person needs to get by with in life . The problem is that most times it is used in reference to the second definition,

to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

The problem is that most people don’t recognize when they are doing that, even atheists, because it requires a level of unusually self-reflective thought. Now, you cannot generalize this, and I don’t want to, but just in interaction with atheists, most of them are just parroting arguments. 

Occasionally, you will find atheists who are reflective enough to demonstrate that they can think for themselves and see beyond the expectations of others, so much so, that they will be painted as “not really atheists”. I would put admitted, public atheists like Stephan Molyneux and Dave Rubin in this category, as well as a few philosophers, such as Thomas Nagel, men (and a few women, I’m sure) who have gone beyond what is often expected of atheists, demonstrating a desire to deal with arguments rather than merely restating, dare I say, dogmatic and indoctrinated talking points. 
Well, what does it mean to educate someone? Once again, we turn to Webster’s to get our intellectual foothold for founding the argument, 

to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession

So, by definition, it would be one step beyond indoctrination moving from basic principles to specialization and honing skills. What’s really funny is that indoctrinate is a synonym for educate. 

Well, how then does this clear abuse of terms that creates, to the thoughtful person at least, a false dichotomy? By committing a fallacy of logic called the definist fallacy. Something that is similarly committed when atheists abuse words like faith
The accusation of indoctrination is simply a semantic game that the atheist wants to play in an attempt to try to differentiate their position and attempt to support their claim that they do not have a burden of proof for their claims about reality. The simple truth, the fact of the matter is that everyone has been indoctrinated. The question is whether or not that indoctrination is true and can provide a coherent and consistent grounding for reality. 
My assertion, based upon careful observation and reasoning, is that apart from the Christian worldview is the only sure and meaningful means of accounting for the totality of human experience and that every other worldview necessarily presumes it’s truth in an attempt to justify itself. For arguments that I can justly make such a claim, see here, here, and here

In the final analysis, it is appropriate to understand and use words correctly. Everyone has been indoctrinated by someone at some point at some time in order to teach them those first principles that are necessary to comprehend the world. The question that needs to be asked and answered is do those first principles come from within a coherent worldview?

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