Researchers presented 5- and 6-year-old children from both public and parochial schools with three different types of stories — religious, fantastical and realistic –- in an effort to gauge how well they could identify narratives with impossible elements as fictional.
The study found that, of the 66 participants, children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school were significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.
By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (e.g., Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorizations.
Catch the circular reasoning there? Supernatural elements are classified as fictional. Religion inherently deals with supernatural elements. So religious belief translates to an inability to distinguish fact from fiction.
It has become common for critics of religion to conflate all forms of belief, as if faith in God were the same as faith in a unicorn. But belief in the divine stands apart from belief in fantasy, and that’s something that religious adherents successfully teach their children.