Faith

Why Is There a Christian Gender Gap?

Across the world, Christian women are generally more devout than Christian men, while Muslims and other faiths do not share the same gender gap. A comprehensive analysis of the gender gap in religion across the world, released by the Pew Research Center on Tuesday, found that among Christians women are more likely to attend church weekly, pray daily, and consider religion very important to them.

In the United States, women are more religious than men, according to many different factors. More women say religion is “very important” in their lives (60 percent to 47 percent), more women say they pray daily (64 percent to 47 percent), and more women say they attend religious services at least once per week (40 percent to 32 percent).

The Pew study goes far beyond America, however. The organization collected data from 192 countries, and found that Christian women were more religious than Christian men, while Muslim women and Muslim men often share similar levels of religious commitment. Due to religious norms, Muslim men and Orthodox Jewish men attend services more frequently than women in these faiths, but this does not mean the women are less religious in general.

Credit: Pew Research Center

Credit: Pew Research Center

Across the world, women are more likely to identify themselves as a member of a certain religious faith. An estimated 83.4 percent of women around the world identify with a particular faith, while 79.9 percent of men do so. While this sounds like a small gap (only 3.5 percentage points), it equates to an estimated 97 million more women than men claiming a religious affiliation, as of 2010. In 61 countries, women are at least 2 percentage points more likely to affiliate with a particular faith than men are.

Credit: Pew Research Center

Credit: Pew Research Center

Men in many countries attend worship services more frequently than do women, but that is largely connected to their faith traditions. In the countries where women attend service more frequently than men, Christians make up a majority or a large minority. Among Muslims and Orthodox Jews, men are more likely to say they regularly attend at a mosque or synagogue.

As the Pew Research Center explains, “In Orthodox Judaism, communal worship services cannot take place unless a minyan, or quorum of at least 10 men, is present.” When it comes to Islamic societies, “Muslim men are expected to attend communal Friday midday prayers in the mosque, while women can fulfill this obligation individually, either inside or outside the mosque.” This does not necessarily mean Muslim women are more free however, as they often face restrictions on public movement.

Next Page: Women Are More Likely Than Men to Pray Daily

Credit: Pew Research Center

Credit: Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center only had data on daily prayer for 84 countries, but the trend was in keeping with other measures of religious devotion — a larger proportion of women than men reported praying daily in 43 countries. This was the largest gender gap for the study, as the average share of women who say they pray daily is 8 percentage points higher than men who say the same. Ironically, even religiously unaffiliated women in the United States and Uruguay report praying daily at higher rates than men do!

Credit: Pew Research Center

Credit: Pew Research Center

In 46 out of the 84 countries with available data, there is little difference between men and women in terms of saying religion is “very important” in their daily lives. In the 36 countries where more women than men rate faith as of great importance, however, they lead their male counterparts by large margins. Only in Israel and Mozambique do more men than women consider religion to be “very important.”

Pew Research Center also presented data on beliefs in heaven, hell, and angels in 63 countries. There is much less of a gender gap among those who believe in heaven and hell — both genders equally believe in heaven in 47 countries and they equally believe in hell in 52. Women are more likely to believe in heaven (15 countries), in hell (10 countries), and in angels (14 countries), but more Lebanese men believe in heaven and hell, and more Pakistani men believe in angels.

Next Page: Are Muslim Men More Religious Than Christian Men?

The gender disparity in religious faith predominates among Christians, while Muslim men rate about equally with Muslim women in most measures of religiosity.

Credit: Pew Research Center

Credit: Pew Research Center

Why are Christian women more religious than Christian men? There are many plausible answers, from nature and from nurture. Most likely, we’ll never know for certain, because each person’s reasons for believing the gospel are different.