WHY Women are More Religious Than Men

In my most recent posting on women and religion, I raised the baffling question of why women are more religious … Continued

In my most recent posting on women and religion, I raised the baffling question of why women are more religious than men. Astoundingly, many readers seem to think they know the answer: women must be stupider than men. They cite “studies” indicating that there is a correlation between atheism and a high IQ. These studies are nonexistent, except in the fantasies of those atheists (a minority, I am sure) who, ironically, need to bolster their high opinion of themselves with junk science.

One of the most disheartening characteristics of the blogosphere is the opportunity it offers for people to spout all sorts of nonsense not subject to the fact-checking process of traditional print publications.

What does exist is a considerable body of research correlating low levels of education with religious fundamentalism and biblical literalism, and higher education with skepticism about religion. Two-thirds of college graduates, compared with only a third of high school graduates, believe in some form of evolution. This does not mean that college graduates are more intelligent than high school graduates: it simply means that college graduates have (one hopes) taken a few more science classes. Many public opinion surveys dealing with these issues can be found on the website of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, www.pewforum.org.

Religions that have treated women most harshly have also greatly restricted educational opportunities for women, and it makes sense that women who have had the least opportunity for exposure to secular knowledge would be most likely to believe not only in traditional, restrictive forms of religion but in such psuedosciences as astrology.

Also, religion has always found its most devoted adherents among people who have miserable lives in this world. If you life consists of being smothered by a heavy veil, while being denied schooling and access to a wider world, it’s not surprising that you would hope for something better in the next world.

Susan Jacoby
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  • Bill L

    Susan There is some truth to your last paragraph. It’s a truth that when things seem hopeless one tends to turn to their last hope, God! However thats not the only reason. Women are more in touch with their emotions and a sense of holiness. It may be because men are taught to be tough and ingore anything perceived to be weak.

  • will mcbride

    Sorry, this is completely wrong. Societies where women are more educated and more involved in the work force actually exhibit a greater religios gender gap (see Rodney Stark’s “Exploring the Religious Life”). The best thoery going is that women are more risk-averse.

  • will mcbride

    Sorry, this is completely wrong. Societies where women are more educated and more involved in the work force actually exhibit a greater religios gender gap (see Rodney Stark’s “Exploring the Religious Life”). The best thoery going is that women are more risk-averse.

  • Patrick

    What happens when we consider an organized religion as a large, societally-integrated, philanthropic organization? We know marriages don’t last forever (men die or leave), so women may be left to raise any children alone. Were equal pay for equal work an actuality, raising children would be less problematic. Historically, women have had drastically reduced earning potential. Consequently, women should desire to join large philanthropies as an insurance policy. Financially secure women contribute to the pay-as-you-go fund, while women in financial straits benefit. Given a rise in female earnings, we should see a drop in their religious affiliation as they become increasingly self-sustaining, i.e. self-insuring. The social insurance feature of large religions explains the religion differential between genders and should provide more testable hypotheses than an equivalent internal-belief-state explanation. Religious social insurance has other interesting effects: babies born into religious families receive their insurance benefits first (were parents to die, the church would have raised), so any later conversion to another (non)religion causes consternation as the person got the benefit but didn’t pay; also, American atheists seem unelectable because they were most likely born into a religion, but have since defaulted on their social debt and that shows they don’t really care about the public (note that changing religions seems fine as the insurance uses pay-as-you-go, so the politician is just supporting different people now). All in all, quite the thought-provoking post Ms. Jacoby!– Patrick.

  • Patrick

    What happens when we consider an organized religion as a large, societally-integrated, philanthropic organization? We know marriages don’t last forever (men die or leave), so women may be left to raise any children alone. Were equal pay for equal work an actuality, raising children would be less problematic. Historically, women have had drastically reduced earning potential. Consequently, women should desire to join large philanthropies as an insurance policy. Financially secure women contribute to the pay-as-you-go fund, while women in financial straits benefit. Given a rise in female earnings, we should see a drop in their religious affiliation as they become increasingly self-sustaining, i.e. self-insuring. The social insurance feature of large religions explains the religion differential between genders and should provide more testable hypotheses than an equivalent internal-belief-state explanation. Religious social insurance has other interesting effects: babies born into religious families receive their insurance benefits first (were parents to die, the church would have raised), so any later conversion to another (non)religion causes consternation as the person got the benefit but didn’t pay; also, American atheists seem unelectable because they were most likely born into a religion, but have since defaulted on their social debt and that shows they don’t really care about the public (note that changing religions seems fine as the insurance uses pay-as-you-go, so the politician is just supporting different people now). All in all, quite the thought-provoking post Ms. Jacoby!– Patrick.

  • Patrick

    What happens when we consider an organized religion as a large, societally-integrated, philanthropic organization? We know marriages don’t last forever (men die or leave), so women may be left to raise any children alone. Were equal pay for equal work an actuality, raising children would be less problematic. Historically, women have had drastically reduced earning potential. Consequently, women should desire to join large philanthropies as an insurance policy. Financially secure women contribute to the pay-as-you-go fund, while women in financial straits benefit. Given a rise in female earnings, we should see a drop in their religious affiliation as they become increasingly self-sustaining, i.e. self-insuring. The social insurance feature of large religions explains the religion differential between genders and should provide more testable hypotheses than an equivalent internal-belief-state explanation. Religious social insurance has other interesting effects: babies born into religious families receive their insurance benefits first (were parents to die, the church would have raised), so any later conversion to another (non)religion causes consternation as the person got the benefit but didn’t pay; also, American atheists seem unelectable because they were most likely born into a religion, but have since defaulted on their social debt and that shows they don’t really care about the public (note that changing religions seems fine as the insurance uses pay-as-you-go, so the politician is just supporting different people now). All in all, quite the thought-provoking post Ms. Jacoby!– Patrick.

  • Patrick

    What happens when we consider an organized religion as a large, societally-integrated, philanthropic organization? We know marriages don’t last forever (men die or leave), so women may be left to raise any children alone. Were equal pay for equal work an actuality, raising children would be less problematic. Historically, women have had drastically reduced earning potential. Consequently, women should desire to join large philanthropies as an insurance policy. Financially secure women contribute to the pay-as-you-go fund, while women in financial straits benefit. Given a rise in female earnings, we should see a drop in their religious affiliation as they become increasingly self-sustaining, i.e. self-insuring. The social insurance feature of large religions explains the religion differential between genders and should provide more testable hypotheses than an equivalent internal-belief-state explanation. Religious social insurance has other interesting effects: babies born into religious families receive their insurance benefits first (were parents to die, the church would have raised), so any later conversion to another (non)religion causes consternation as the person got the benefit but didn’t pay; also, American atheists seem unelectable because they were most likely born into a religion, but have since defaulted on their social debt and that shows they don’t really care about the public (note that changing religions seems fine as the insurance uses pay-as-you-go, so the politician is just supporting different people now). All in all, quite the thought-provoking post Ms. Jacoby!– Patrick.

  • Patrick

    Sorry about the double-post, my browser (FireFox 1.5) oddly didn’t refresh the page post-submission, so my comment didn’t appear.– Patrick

  • Patrick

    Sorry about the double-post, my browser (FireFox 1.5) oddly didn’t refresh the page post-submission, so my comment didn’t appear.– Patrick

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