Psychology Research Shows Your Genes Play a Big Role in Religiosity

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), May 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Psychology Research Shows Your Genes Play a Big Role in Religiosity


MOST people who are devoutly religious or determinedly atheist believe they've examined the evidence, researched correctly and come to their own conclusions about how the world works.

However, psychologists are now coming to realise you might have less control over this process than you think.

University of the Sunshine Coast Senior lecturer in psychology Rachael Sharman said levels of religiosity - how susceptible you are to embracing religion, rejecting it or falling somewhere in the middle - is actually a genetic trait.

"For reasons we don't entirely understand, some people seem very predisposed to either being very religious or not at all and in fact, the research tells us that's highly genetic," she said.

That's not to say your genetics decide whether you're Catholic or Muslim but how deeply you embrace whichever faith or spiritual philosophy you identify with.

Ms Sharman said researchers have used twin studies to exclude environmental effects, such as one's upbringing, social networks or external tragedies.

"Identical twins share 100% of their DNA and non-identical twins share 50%," she said.

"By analysing twins, they've found quite conclusively religiosity is a genetic trait.

"Even in identical twins separated at birth with quite different belief systems end up with the same level of religiosity whether on one end of the world or the other."

This genetic link was discovered by accident, according to Ms Sharman.

She said researchers in the United States of America were analysing links between genetics and alcoholism, and found the revealing data amongst groups which didn't drink due to their religion. …

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