Whether or not you are religious and believe in God is down to your genes, says Dean Hamer, National Cancer Institute's Gene Structure Regulation Unit, USA. He reckons Jesus, Mohammed (the prophet) and Buddha probably carried the 'God Gene' in them. Church representatives have criticised Dean Hamer's findings.

Church representatives say Hamer fails to understand exactly what faith is and what it entails.

This is not the first time Hamer has come out with controversial findings. In 1993, he said there was a DNA sequence associated with homosexuality.

Hamer claims there is a version of the VMAT2 gene that is a 'God Gene'. The presence of this version of the gene makes the person who has it more religious and spiritual than people who do not.

Hamer has written a book called 'The God Gene - How Faith is Hard Wired into our Genes'.

Hamer studied 2,000 DNA samples. He interviewed 2,000 people extensively (226 questions in each interview). The questions, among other things, looked at how spiritual a person is and what their level of faith in God is.

He found that the VMAT2 Gene was significantly more common among people who believed in a higher spiritual being. According to his research, whether or not your upbringing is religious has no bearing on how religious you turn out to be - but the presence of the VMAT2 Gene version does.

Hamer believes Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus probably had the version of the VMAT2 Gene. He said they all experienced a series of mystical experiences or alterations in consciousness.

Hamer said "This means that the tendency to be spiritual is part of genetic make-up. This is not a thing that is strictly handed down from parents to children. It could skip a generation - it's like intelligence."

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland, Donald Bruce, said Hamer's declarations were nothing more than a publicity stunt as his book is launched. He said God makes himself available to all equally and there is no such thing as a God Gene.

According to Donald Bruce, Hamer had told him a year ago that the term 'God Gene' was misleading.

This is not the first time the Church has disagreed with the findings of scientists. Many years ago, the Church got upset with Galileo because he said the earth went round the sun, he also said the earth was round (not flat).