Why are women more devoutly religious than men?


Whether you agree or disagree with some of the many points Susan Jacoby makes in THIS ESSAY, I think you’ll find it as informative as it is provocative:

The underrepresentation of women in the expanding American secular movement is an uncomfortable issue for many secularists and atheists. Many deny that there is a “woman problem” in organizations dedicated to the promotion of secular values. As an author who speaks about secularism—specifically, America’s secular history—to many different kinds of audiences, I can assure you that there is a problem.

When I speak before non-college audiences—that is, audiences in which no one is required to be there to get credit for a college course—75 percent of the people in the seats are men. The good news is that this is a significant improvement over the situation that prevailed eight years ago, when my book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism was published; at that time, my audiences were about 90 percent male. The bad news is that the gender gap in this movement remains as large as it is, although it’s less striking among people under thirty. The question is why.

The first and most obvious reason is that women, in the United States and every other country, are more religious and more devout in the practice of their religion than men. Public opinion polls show that this disparity affects every income, educational, and racial group—although it is much narrower among the highly educated than among the uneducated and the young than the old. African-American women, regardless of their level of education, are the most religious demographic in this country. This fact alone tells us that education is not the decisive factor, because although black women as a group are better educated than black men, black men are less religious. Space doesn’t permit a lengthy analysis of why women are more religious than men, so I’ll simply say that the greater religiosity of women means that both secular humanism and atheism are tougher sells to women.



  1. The answer is easy and it’s one word.


  2. doc: There’s one problem with your theory. It suggests that men who are devoutly religious are short on testosterone.

    What about a guy like Tim Tebow or the other true believers in the NFL? Are they secretly pansies?

  3. Sinjin Smythe

    Tim Tebow is a pansy! A dopey pansy for sure.

    Not that testosterone is necessarily exactly it but guys in general are more likely to embrace conflict, to fight, to challenge, to express agression.

    Conflict avoidance is shown repeatedly to be more common to women than men.

    Psychologically women are less likely to break with social norms, look at how long it has taken to get the vote, the glass ceiling, et cetera. You may say men were oppressing them and yes they were and continue to today, but that doesn’t mean women could step out from that oppression easily and embrace all kinds of new thinking without reservations.

    Maybe like Bruce Sprinsteen’s preverbial “dog that has been kicked too much, spending half its life just a covering up” it is going to take some time for women to feel comfortable walking away from religion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *