One of main themes in Richard Dawkins's great book 'The God Delusion' is the virus of faith which mostly infects people in their early childhood.
Richard Dawkins does point out that evolution has developed a child’s brain in a certain way that makes possible to brainwash them more easily than adults. This feature will make small children quite automatically to accept the ideas that are presented to them from a position of authority.
However, this feature have been extremely useful and even a crucial one for the continued existence of humanity. It just is not possible to have a child himself testing the truth of claims such as ‘Don’t go to the river, as the crocodiles will eat you' or 'Don't jump from the cliff'. Very often those who did not believe their elders at all would not have lived long enough to have offspring.
Religions soon learned to misuse this inbuilt human feature. It is one of the central reasons why all the modern monotheistic religions want to get hold of children as soon as they start understanding spoken language.
The younger a child is subjected to the brainwashing of a religion, the better the chances are for him or her to accept these teachings without ever questioning them in any way.
In a similar vein, the creators of more modern belief-systems like Communism and Nazism wanted to get hold of children at the kindergarten, and they got magnificent results.
In the end, there were tens of millions of believers in modern Russia who did not question the value or contents of these teachings they had learned in the early childhood.This happened even though the reality around them often was even strong contrast with these teachings.
Things that are learned at the earliest childhood are the most persevering. They are often not treated as learned things at all in the end, but as something more than they really are at a closer look.
This is also the real reason why church elders are still so keen on getting hold of children at the earliest moment possible. The stark fact remains that when your ability for reasoning has not yet developed fully, even the most idiotic claims can be treated as given facts.
Things learned in the earliest childhood can reside in one’s mind for the rest of life without the carrier being aware of their origins.
Richard Dawkins thinks that is distasteful even to talk about Catholic or Rrotestant children, as religion is not a genetically transmitted feature of any person. Religious traditions are normally learned also from family, but the child is never a Catholic or Protestant at birth.
One does usually say that a child is a stamp collector or chess player at birth, even if his parents would be deeply into these things.
However, there is a still a widespread misconception that religion can be in a mysterious way transmitted to a child at birth.
This view persists even though everybody knows a boy from a protestant family will be a Muslim if he is raised by a Muslim family and vice versa.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 18th of February, 2012)