Since a human's first breath, they are forced to be conditioned as replicas of their parents and society. Forced into a certain belief system, a certain set of opinions, and a certain set of morals. These humans grow up and, theoretically, become just as those before them, sustaining the laws of that society. Not only is this done to instill patriotism but it is also done in religion.
Atheists are ridiculed everyday for being different; they do not conform to society's views on such ideals as religion, and because of that they are looked at as the "brainwashed" ones. It's pretty interesting, though, to look at this from a psychological perspective, because it suggests that the religious are the brainwashed ones.
The Conditioning Technique
To properly condition, one would be more successful to obtain a clean slate. Newborn babies are that clean slate, for they are less likely to question what they are taught as fact from those they trust when they knew no better. When this child is born, it is subjected, at the earliest age possible, to religious ritual. For example, Christianity and the baptism. Already, that human being is being forced into a ritual and religion without their consent, whether they understand what is going on or not is not relevant. It is not their choice.
As they grow older, they are told over and over by their parents, who they trust instinctively to teach them facts, about that religion and ideals. They grow up at their most vulnerable stages being told that these religious beliefs are fact. They go to Sunday School, and are taught that no other religion is correct, that the others are considered cults, and that if one is a member of said cult or a nonbeliever at all, they instill the fear of hell and punishment into these still innocent and vulnerable minds.
Who wouldn't believe their parents? Growing up, they are the first and most trusted teachers. They confirm all of the taught lessons from church and Sunday School, so in these children's heads, it must be true. Hearing the same information every day also would add validity in their minds and further plant this information into their brains. They are getting confirmation that these beliefs are correct in every aspect of life; home, school, and church.
In "A Brave New World", a futuristic science fiction novel by Aldous Huxley, a conditioning technique is used on the infants and growing children to make sure people live up to society's standards, laws, and beliefs. They are not only conditioned physically, emotionally, and chemically, but also psychologically. At night, recorded suggestions are repeated over and over again until it is permanently in these children's heads. Now contrary to religious conditioning, this wasn't conditioning of facts, but merely suggestions to mold these individuals to behave certain ways in life. In the same way this is what goes on with children. They have these ideas and beliefs repeated over and over as fact from everyone in every aspect of life until there is no questioning because it's all they know.
Atheists and Conditioning
Atheists are able to see past this conditioning and do not conform to society. They are able to see what is happening to people. Some can even understand why these people believe what they do, and though it's not their fault, it can still be difficult when they deny fact or refuse to question what they already know. People fear change and fear not knowing.
Atheism can be a courageous way of life. In one spectrum, there are these humans that have been conditioned to believe a certain way, pointing the fingers at atheists wishing death on them and trying to oppress them. In the other spectrum, everything that atheists were taught, whether by parents, society, or both, is recognized as not fact and not true, so to some it can be a difficult voyage to find purpose and answers. People fear the unknown. Atheists use it to learn new things and further explore the wonders of this universe.
I remember when I first noticed all of this. All through Sunday School, even at the early age of about ten, I was questioning the validity of the scripture. I had found the errors and contradictions, but when I asked, I was greeted with an overly excited "god works in mysterious ways". I also remember the one time I was at a family function. Sitting on the couch, I saw my grandparents and my two aunts at the table, bowing their heads, and starting to say their supper prayer. They seemed like they were in a trance and all I heard was a depressing, low, monotone, memorized prayer escaping their lips. It actually made me sick and uncomfortable.
I came to realize that day religion is instilled through conditioning and brainwashing from birth, and I was able to recall through both memory and what I was told, all of the times I was "conditioned" to believe this way of life and belief system. I vowed to myself to never conform to such a thing, and now it is easy for me and other atheists to see, but almost impossible for any religious person to.
Brainwashed and conditioned people do not know they are brainwashed or conditioned.