Why are religious people so fertile?


Of course, most children back then died young, but that’s a different evolutionary process at work…

On average, religious people have more children than non-religious people. Now, that’s a sweeping generalisation, of course. However, statistically it seems to hold good, to different degrees, for all the societies that I’ve seen examined.

But why? It’s an important question. A common answer is that this is evidence that religion is evolutionarily advantageous. The idea here is that religious belief in some way facilitates having lots of children (perhaps by making you a nicer, trustworthy person), which gives you a head start in the race to pass on your genes to the next generation.

It’s a view that I think is plain wrong.

I think the link is not with religious belief and fertility, but rather with conservative family values and fertility. And, crucially, I think that link is a recent innovation.


Here’s some new research to back that up.

Markus Jokela, at the University of Helsinki, has analysed the changing relationship between personality traits and fertility in people living in the USA who were born in the decades 1920 to 1960 – a period of huge cultural innovation, especially with regard to women’s rights.

He looked at the conventional “5-factor” model of personality, which rates individuals on their extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openess.

He found that three of these traits (extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness) were consistently related (either positively or negatively) to fertility over time.

Written By: Tomas Rees
continue to source article at epiphenom.fieldofscience.com


  1. Gee, think it has to do with the rejection of the relatively new arsenal of effective contraceptive measures that have been welcomed more enthusiastically by those who base their decisions on something else than rigid dogma? 😉

    I pose that religiosity doesn’t increase fertility, but rather that non-religiosity decreases it due to the use of contraceptives.

  2. I think it also has to do with education. The more educated you are:
    a) You are less religious.
    b) You have fewer kids.

  3. Most gods are negative about pleasurable sensations – saying that intercourse must be used solely for conception.
    These gods also dictate that abortion, contraception – & often education – are sinful & evil, so it’s not surprising that the more religious & less schooled among the faithful do produce more children – increasing the power & wealth of their own cult, of course.
    Since Deities often frown on us enjoying other pleasure & leisure activities, while commanding that husbands have dominion over their wives bodies, pregnant women is the common outcome.
    Thankfully, I’ve always been immune to religion viruses, and have shared much enjoyment – along with producing 1 child.

  4. I thought it was commonly understood that the religious have more kids not because they have better fertility but simply because they are tought that not having kids, even if you really can’t take care of them, is blasphemous and you must bonk like rabbits at all times?

  5. My home country Albania was the first declared atheist nation in the world and yet the population grew from less 1 million to 3 million in just 45 years.I don’t know any european country wheres such a dramatic population growth has  happened

  6. whoever came up with the theory that religious people have more children because their “nicer” really has their head up their arse

    in my experience, “niceness”, religiously inspires or otherwise seems to have no baring on reproduction.

    as mentioned already, many religions don’t go in for contraceptive, much less termination

    most religions put having babies as one of the most important things you can do because:
    a. god told abraham he’d have shitloads of sprogs. religion loves self-fulfilling prophesies, look at how many infidels “god” has killed in recent years for example
    b. it means women can have a useful role in society
    c. it shows that even if you did accidentally enjoy sex, you’re taking the punishment for it
    d. religious people are hung up on the idea of “purpose” and in lieu of actual voices in your head telling you lead gods people, reproduction seems to answer this need
    e. religions are by nature tribal. tribal societies always like having babies as it grow their ranks and by extension, power, without invovling outsiders
    f. the fetish of “innocence”. tainted with original sin as they are, somehow they’re
    g. they have old fashioned views on most things, including what makes someone a worthy person. cheldren are a blessing therefore no children is a curse. they prove god loves me
    h. only atheists eat babies

    I have to say, the idea of religion making someone a better person and more suitible for it did make me laugh (more of a whiny chattering sound) but reminded me of this:


  7. My elder sister and I are atheists and we have no children – my younger sister is in the godsquad and has 4 (all indoctrinated) and one of those has one of his own already. It doesn’t prove anything, but it adds to the evidence that religious people have more children.

  8. Conservative and religious people tend to think contraception and abortion are wicked.  Conservative people value having children more than say spending money on travel. That’s why they have more kids. It has nothing do do with their attractiveness as partners.  Almost everybody can get a partner.  What counts is what they do after they find one.  There was no such fertility effect 200 years ago because there was no effective birth control.

  9. Low rate of contraception
    High rate of belief women are for breeding only
    High rate of family promotion with in organized religion
    May have a higher rate of non post secondary educated people who start families earlier
    Arranged marriages reduce time to find mate
    Denial that anything we do including over population is an issue
    More reasons
    More reasons
    More reasons

  10. Not forgetting of course that clever, ie non-religious types, see the problems caused by an ever-expanding population on a planet with finite habitable space and finite resources and think it best not to add to that problem. The religious see the same problems but Hey! God’ll sort it out before it gets too bad. Some selective smiting, lay down a few more oilfields (‘cos that’s how oil’s made y’know), send a truck-load of demi-god sons to do the bread’n’fish trick and it’s all sorted.

  11. Common sense tells us that if we live in developed countries we don’t need to sire multitudinous offspring to tend to our fields. Most religions we founded when this was actually true and they also lack common sense, ta da.

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