Is ‘Not Knowing’ the same as ‘Not Believing’?

Yesterday I had a brief Twitter discussion with @facepalm333. The topic? Are you born an atheist? The statement arose ‘is not knowing the same as not believing?’ This stumped me for it is a very good question.

Having recently read The God Delusion and watching television series such as Root of all evil it is made clear that children should not be labelled a Christian child, a Muslim child and so on. We wouldn’t label children as liberal children, socialist children or conservative children, but why for religion? But are we born atheist, and specifically atheist?

We are all born with a lack of knowledge (except for the extreme basics like how to breath) but are we also born with or without any beliefs? We’re born not knowing (or believing) in the existence of a God but does that count as being born an atheist? It’s a blurry line I think. I would argue we are not born atheist because I feel that we need to be able to make a conscious decision about it, having looked at evidence. Yet dictionary.reference.com defines an atheist as ‘a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supremebeing or beings’. Now to deny we need to make a conscious decision, but is that so for the disbelief statement. If we’re born with no beliefs do we disbelieve?

I think this is quite a difficult question to answer, and with my lack of expertise I cannot offer an answer. I open the floor to debate…

Oh and Happy New Year to you all by the way!