University of Bremen: Religiousness is in the genes, religious affiliation is not

The environment in which a person grows up has a great influence on which religion he / she adopts. Religious acts and beliefs are, however, genetically influenced in part, regardless of the specific religion. That is the result of a study by the University of Bremen.
Our genes have an influence on how strong the level of religious belief is and how often religious practices determine our everyday life. A meta-analysis of all twin and family studies on religiosity since 1999 confirmed this assumption.

In addition, new insights into the system-environment interplay in the development of religiosity over the lifespan could be gained, as Christian Kandler, Professor of Psychology at the University of Bremen explains: “Genetic differences only develop in the course of development. And experience-dependent differences in religiosity outside of the family, which are strongly shaped by the social environment, such as life partners, increasingly come to bear in the course of life. At the same time, the influence of the family of origin decreases with age. “

The religiosity of the life partner in particular seems to play an important role in relation to one’s own religiosity in adulthood. This suggests similarities in the partnership in religious beliefs and everyday practices.

Young people, regardless of home, are susceptible to radical views

The trend is particularly noticeable in the first third of life and means that with increasing self-determination and detachment from the parental home, individual characteristics and preferences with regard to religious views and the practice of religious practices in everyday life are increasingly expressed. If these individual peculiarities are genetically created, this is shown in the fact that the genetic influence on observable differences increases in the course of development. “These genetic differences are very likely mediated by relevant personality traits such as trustworthiness and tolerance,” says Professor Kandler.
The fact that the influence of the family of origin is also decreasing, while the influence of other important caregivers is gaining in importance “can provide explanations for why some young people feel addressed by radical religious views even though the religious background of their family of origin does not actually match them.”

These findings also fit in with the general observation “that more and more young people are turning away from traditional practices and outdated religious beliefs and ideas and want to discard or even reinterpret their family-based religious affiliation,” said the scientist.

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