Women are more religiously devout than men even though they are excluded from positions of leadership in many faiths and denominations, a new study has found. According to the respected Pew Research Center, 83.4% of women around the world identify with a faith group, compared with 79.9% of men – a difference of about 97 million people.
Pew’s report, The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World, points out that history’s most influential religious leaders have been men and that many religious groups allow only men to officiate, or have only recently eased that restriction. “Yet it often appears that the ranks of the faithful are dominated by women,” the report states.
It gathered global data on gender and religion among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and the religiously unaffiliated. Women made up more than half of those identifying as Christians (53%), Jews (52%) and Buddhists (54%); and slightly less than half of Hindus (49%). Muslims were split 50/50 on gender. The biggest gender divide was among the religiously unaffiliated, with 55% men and 45% women.
Among the criteria for measuring religiosity were identification, attendance at services of worship and frequency of prayer. Christian women were more likely to attend religious services than men. However, among Muslims and orthodox Jews, men were more likely to go to the mosque or synagogue, mainly due to religious norms.
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Women are more likely to pray at least once a day than men across almost all faiths, according to surveys carried out in 84 countries. Only in Israel did a higher percentage of men say they prayed daily.
The religiously unaffiliated category included atheists, agnostics and those defining themselves as “nothing in particular”. The biggest gender divide among the unaffiliated was in the US: 68% men and 32% women. In the UK, it was 56%-44%, and in Australia 55%-45%.
The US showed an exceptionally high level of religious commitment compared with other economically advanced countries, with 64% of women and 47% of men saying they prayed daily. In France, only 15% of women and 9% of men prayed daily.
The report suggested a range of explanations for the religious gender gap: “Biology, psychology, genetics, family environment, social status, workforce participation and a lack of ‘existential security’ felt by many women because they generally are more afflicted than men by poverty, illness, old age and violence.”
While pointing out that differences in religious commitment between men and women vary considerably around the globe, the report suggests that “social and cultural factors, such as religious traditions and workforce participation, play an important role in shaping the religious gender gap”.
Source: The Guardian