Study: spread of religion may be due to "believer gene"

Researchers are speculating that whether or not you have faith may have something to do with your DNA.

Details, from the Religion News Service and Huffington Post:

A British university study suggests that people of strong faith can spread religion through a “believers’ gene” that is part of their DNA.

Cambridge University economics professor Robert Rowthorn theorizes a “predisposition toward religion” in a paper published in “Proceedings of the Royal Society B,” a prestigious journal of Britain’s Royal Society of scientists.

Rowthorn suggests that people with strong religious beliefs tend to have more children and that this, combined with a genetic predisposition to believe, can explain the expansion of religion.

The academic cites the World Values Survey in 82 nations from 1981 to 2004, which found that people who attended religious services more than once a week had an average of 2.5 children; those who never attended averaged only 1.67.

“The more devout people are,” Rowthorn wrote, “the more children they are likely to have.”

This, coupled with a “genetic endowment” that his theory ascribes to strong believers, could mean the spread of faith across the broad sweep of the population.

Read the rest.


  1. Look for the new atheist types to argue that the “believers gene” should be identified and removed. After all, if religion is responsible for all of the evil in the world, and faith in God is a mental disorder and, as Sam Harris said, we may have to kill a few believers in order to spare the world the harm created by them, then it’s a small step to laws requiring that the gene be removed or, better yet, that those identified with having a genetic propensity for strong religious faith be aborted before they can be born and ruin everything.

    Interesting that this comes from an economics professor. I suppose economics professors haven’t been very popular in jolly ol’ England for a few decades now, so he turned to speculation on genetics. Hmmm …

    The fact that it’s British and that Huffington Post jumped on it fairly quadruples the likelihood that it’s all a bunch of poppycock. Cheery-ho!

  2. Elizabeth Scalia says:
  3. It is important to point out bad science but as a Catholic and a scientist this kind of tosh really does need to be rubbished.

    Speaking a specific language is highly heritable but no one is suggesting that there are English or Mandarin language genes. When people propose that hugely complex human behaviors like religiosity are gene heritable, the burden is really on them to show us the genes. Otherwise it’s nothing more than speculative non fiction, not science.

    A links to debunk this ridiculous piece of pseudo science is below

  4. pagansister says:

    Maybe that is why I only had 2 children. :o) Does seem like a silly study, but fun to read and speculate on. However, as a thought, how did 2 religious parents (mine) who raised my 2 sisters and me in church only have 2 out of the 3 remain religious. My sisters are devout Christians, and I’m not. Guess I didn’t inherit the “believer gene”. My 2 children didn’t either.

  5. I think anyone with human DNA can believe in God

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