Gender Differences in Religious Belief

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Critically examine the relationship between gender, religious participation and religious organisation Studies of religious belief verify consistently that the female gender shows greater participation to religion than that of males. This greater commitment to religion described by sociologists such as Bensen applies throughout the course of the woman’s life, and as noted by Glock and Stark, their greater pledge to religion is consistent regardless of the religious organization, whether it be New Religious movements, New Age spirituality, or traditional faiths. Beit-hallahmy and Argyle state that whether it is a matter of private churchgoing or private prayer and regardless of religious belief women appear more religious than men. Religions universally have been found to be deeply oppressive to women, born from ancient teachings indicating their inferiority to men. Writers like de Beauvoir and Sadwai see religion and religious ideology as playing a part in maintaining male domination that is found in many aspects of contemporary social life. In religious scriptures women take the lesser position; De Beauvoir highlights how scriptures in most religions suggest that “man is master by divine right” and Aldridge explains how in the Qu’ran women are legally inferior to men. Why, then, do women pursue a faith which encourages their oppression, more so than the gender with the power to dominate it? Biological factors begin with Miller and Hoffman’s explanation that women take fewer risks than men and as a result seek to conform to a group's religious identity rather than undertake the challenge of authority and autonomy. Men more often reject the religious beliefs of the mainstream and engage in risk-taking behaviors. According to Stark this risk taking inclination in a man to not “think ahead” means that men are less religious because they are willing to take a gamble on there not being an afterlife. However sociologists like Freese and Montgomery debate this argument works on an assumption that everyone makes the same risk assessment when in fact men are just more prepared to take that risk.Roth produced a study which showed there to be a smaller gap between genders in the percentage who believe in an afterlife but a large gap in those who give attendance and prayer to religion, suggesting women just participate actively more than men. Armstrong states that biological differences between men and women gave way to male domination; patriarchal montheism has replaced polysthetic beliefs which promoted the role of the female in society, for which evidence was found by archeologists in the form of old statues of goddesses. He argues that natural male aggression was the tool used to manipulate religion into a patriarchal institution. The socializations built upon this biology, are of men to be strong and domineering, and of women to be passive, obedient, and nurturing, which according to Mol, are the qualities associated with religiosity. Miller and Hoffman establish that gender socialisation makes women more cooperative and caring, and this can leads to many explanations for their greater participation in religion. One is their role of guardians in family life. Bruce states that women’s child bearing and rearing experiences for instance develop their traits as nurturers as opposed to confrontational and goal seeking. Luckmann further explains that women have a greater responsibility for rearing children and participate to a lesser degree in the labor force, leaving them with more time for church-related activities and a greater need for a source of personal identity and commitment. Women are more likely to take on the task of the moral development of their child along with the rest of their duties in socializing a child. There is an expectation for women to be defenders of tradition and Halman and Draulans note that these roles give women a greater focus on the family. Luckmann also highlights how women’s role as a housewife...
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