Is religiosity genetic?

by Marcus Loane


In the previous article I argued that we all have traits that may lead to adopting religious beliefs. They were a tendency to humanise the non-human (anthropomorphism), a longer childhood than other species (relationship with parents) and fear of death. There are probably more.

Our ancestors were hunter gatherers who lived in groups. Once religious ideas had emerged (such as a sun god, river god or moon god) and a group of early humans believed them, any genetic tendency to disagree with the rest of the group could have led to ostracism or even expulsion from the group. Therefore those with any genetic tendency towards scepticism or going against the majority would have been less likely to survive and produce children to inherit those same traits - it would have been much harder to survive alone than in a social group. In this way conformity, gullibility and a tendency to believe in magical ideas could have been selectively bred into us. If you had those tendencies you were more likely to survive and have children who inherited those tendencies.

In short, there is a hereditary selective advantage to membership of a group united by a common belief and purpose.

Marcus Loane