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In the political context, indoctrination is often analyzed as a tool of class warfare, where institutions of the state are identified as "conspiring" toand divisive in human society dating back to antiquity. The expression attributed to Titus Lucretius Carus in the first century BCE quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum (what is food to one, is to others bitter poison) remains pertinent.
Religious indoctrination, the original sense of indoctrination, refers to a process of imparting doctrine in an authoritative way, as in catechism. Most religious groups among the revealed religions instruct new members in the principles of the religion; this is now not usually referred to as indoctrination by the religions themselves, in part because of the negative connotations the word has acquired. Mystery religions require a period of indoctrination before granting access to esoteric knowledge. (cf. Information security)
As a pejorative term, indoctrination implies forcibly or coercively causing people to act and think on the basis of a certain ideology. Some secular critics believe that all religions indoctrinate their adherents, as children, and the accusation is made in the case of religious extremism. Sects such as Scientology use personality tests and peer pressures to indoctrinate new members. Some religions have commitment ceremonies for children 13 years and younger, such as Bar Mitzvah, Confirmation, and Shichi-Go-San. In Buddhism, temple boys are encouraged to follow the faith while young. Critics of religion, such as Richard Dawkins, maintain that the children of religious parents are often unfairly indoctrinated.
However, indoctrination can occur, and often does occur with great frequency, in non-religious contexts. For example, in the 20th century, the former People's Socialist Republic of Albania and the former USSR 90, the ban on religious observance was officially lifted, in time to allow thousands of Christians to attend Christmas services (see Freedom of religion in Albania).
Similarly, in the former Soviet Union, "science education [in] Soviet schools [was] used as a vehicle for atheistic indoctrination", with teachers being instructed to prepare their course "so as to conduct anti-religious educations at all times," in order to comport with state-sanctioned Marxist–Leninist values. However, in 1997, several years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government passed a law recognizing religion as being important to Russian history with Orthodox Christianity (Russian: Православие Pravoslaviye), Russia's traditional and largest religion, declared a part of Russia's "historical heritage."
The initial psychological preparation of soldiers during training is referred to (non-pejoratively) as indoctrination.
- Funk and Wagnalls: "To instruct in doctrines; esp., to teach partisan or sectarian dogmas"; I.A. Snook, ed. 1972. Concepts of Indoctrination (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).
- See OED, indoctrination.
- Harris, Sam (2011). The moral landscape. Simon and Schuster.
- See Scientology beliefs and practices.
- Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Bantam Books, 2006. pp. 25, 28, 206, 367.
- Witt, Nicholas De (1961). Education and Professional Employment in the U.S.S.R. National Academies. p. 121.
- The National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual defines indoctrination as "the initial security instructions/briefing given a person prior to granting access to classified information."