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Could there be a gene for religiosity?

Could there be a gene for religiosity?
Jon Salway from West Yorkshire (Age 45-54)

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2 Responses

  1. It is possible there is a gene for religiosity, but it is far more likely that it is what is called a meme. A meme is like a gene, but instead of being passed down like hair colour, it is passed on as an idea. Faith will often come from parents’ beliefs, hence Christians giving birth to Christian children, and Muslims giving birth to Muslim children, and Atheists giving birth to Atheist children.
    The exceptions to these rules are normally when either there is a stronger religious or non-religious influence on a child than their parents, especially if the parents aren’t forcing their views about God (or any other religion’s god) to their children.
    Also, many people change their views later in life as they are educated more, and learn more of what they perceive are facts. This would imply that there is no specific gene for religiosity. However, there may be a combination of genes such as gullibility that give a higher or lower chance of religiosity.

  2. Your question is fascinating. Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The God Delusion’ suggests that belief in God may be the result of a virus of the mind. If you consider for example an influenza virus – we become infected – there is no choice in the matter. Now consider a virus of the mind – the big questions are ‘do we have a choice?’ Most would say that belief in religion and God is a matter of choice – we can choose to believe or not to believe. Or do we? For the question you are putting forward suggests that a tendency to believe and belong to a religion is in fact inherited and not totally a result of family, social pressures and where we were born. Here we could look to the modern theory of evolution – in other words if in a closed, very religious society you had a personality trait ‘not to believe’ then the chances are you would be isolated from that society and therefore probably not marry. Whereas people who had the trait of ‘believing’ the religion in this society would marry and pass this on to their descendants. This would be the religiosity gene. A very interesting question and worthy of further study.

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