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Genes, Determinism and God

Denis Alexander discusses the challenges of behavioural genetics for faith

 

Passing on Faith

 

31st October 2016

 

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What do parents think about passing on their faith – their beliefs (or lack of them) about God – to their children? How seriously do they take it? And what difference do they make?

Conducted in partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, Passing on Faith examines these questions through new polling research and a detailed study of academic research into the subject. British parents, the polling shows, are generally not too bothered about whether their children go on to share their beliefs, although that varies – significantly – depending on the faith of the parents in question, with atheist, agnostic, Christian, and other religious parents having some very different views.

The academic literature, in contrast with this, is clear about the impact parents can have. In the first instance, insights from psychology show that children have a natural propensity towards ‘belief’ of some kind. Building on that, and examining and assimilating the findings of 54 published studies, Olwyn Mark shows that the family and the home is incomparably important when it comes to passing on faith.

The role and faith commitment of both parents, and the integrity, consistency and unity of parents’ beliefs, practices and relationships are all shown to be key influencers on whether believing children become believing adults.

Ultimately, for all the effects that cultural pressures or evangelistic measures will have on determining the next generation of believers (and non-believers), parents and home life will consistently have a resounding impact on the passing on of faith. 

View the full polling data used in this report here.


Olwyn Mark is visiting lecturer in Christian Ethics at London School of Theology, having completed postdoctoral research post within the National Institute for Christian Education Research (NICER) at Canterbury Christ Church University.