This study queried associations of an education-related genetic score with religious belief, and their mediation by the educational process.
Data were from the Health and Retirement Study, nationally representative of U.S. adults over 50. Belief in God as well as in a divine plan for one’s life was examined. Analysis was through linear growth models.
Negative genetic associations were found with baseline between-person variation in both belief outcomes but not within-person change in them. Counterfactually defined mediation analysis suggested partial routing of these influences through educational attainment. Direct genetic effects—arguably indicating propensities for reflection and analytic thought—were also observed.
Religious belief seems modestly influenced by genetic correlates of education. Patterns are consistent with effects on life course divergences in belief—possibly through both socialization and innate cognitive traits—but not on late life change in this outcome. Given established linkages of religion with health as well as with a range of cultural and political factors, results highlight the need for genome wide studies directly examining the genetic roots of belief.